Sidney Sheldon's switch to novels from screenwriting came about almost by accident. He explains, "I had a story idea that was so introspective that you really had to know what the protagonist was thinking. I decided that the only way to write it was in the narrative form." Despite his fears of venturing into unknown territory, Sheldon wrote The Naked Face, which he sold to William Morrow Company after being turned down by five different publishers. The book was a critical success and earned him an Edgar Allan Poe Award.
The Other Side of Midnight, Sheldon's second novel, was a huge hit and firmly established him as a best-selling author. His subsequent works, including A Stranger in the Mirror, Bloodline, Rage of Angels, Master of the Game, If Tomorrow Comes, Windmills of the Gods, The Sands of Time, Memories of Midnight, The Doomsday Conspiracy, The Stars Shine Down, Nothing Lasts Forever, Morning, Noon & Night, The Best Laid Plans amd Tell Me Your Dreams have soilidified his position as one of the top best-selling authors alive today. With over 300 million books in print, Sheldon's novel are published in 51 languages in 180 countries worldwide.
When asked to explain his universal appeal as an author, Sheldon reflects on a visit he recently paid to Morocco. "As my guide and I walked through the throngs of people in an outdoor souk, we noticed several groups clustered around various entertainers performing their acts. However, there was one fellow who really caught my attention. He was just sitting and talking quietly to the crowd which was seated around him. My guide informed me he was the village storyteller. And I thought to myself, That's what I am--the village storyteller--except I'm lucky enough to be able to tell my stories to millions of people around the world."
"I enjoy the challenge of writing novels more than any other type of writing I've done," reflects Sheldon. "As a novelist, I'm able to go into much greater detail than when writing a film or TV script. When you do a movie or television show, you have hundreds of collaborators. In my books, I can't rely on an actor's facial expressions and actions to bring my characters to life. I have to go into much greater depth and give them personal histories and emotional dimension, if they are to be believable. There are no set directors or movie cameras to supply the visual settings. My descriptions have to be more than 'Greece; twilight; a convent' I need to provide the word pictures which will flesh out and enhance the story's plot."
Researching each of his books in great detail, Sheldon often will spend a year of traveling in foreign countries, observing their customs and mapping out locales. "My wife, Alexandra, is an enormous help to me," Sheldon says. "She's a great photographer and her pictures are valuable reminders of the details of places we have been." Sheldon notes, "Accuracy and authenticity are very important to me in my novels, because a reader can always tell if an author is 'faking' it. If you read about one of my characters eating a meal in a restaurant in some exotic part of the world, you can bet that I've had that very meal in that same restaurant. Caring about details makes the difference between a fair book and a really good one."
Sheldon admits to working in an unusual way. When he begins a novel he has no plot in mind, only a central character (i.e. female criminal attorney). Dictating his first draft to his secretary, Sheldon works six days a week, from early morning to late dinner time. "As I begin to talk, the novel comes to life," states Sheldon. "I feel that the story is given to me--I don't know where it comes from, but when it starts to roll, the characters take over. They tell the story, and I just get swept along."
"It takes me several months to finish the first draft. My secretary types it, and I go back to page one and start rewriting. This version can number anywhere from 1000-2000 pages at a time, ripping all the scenes apart, getting rid of and creating new characters. Two months later that draft will be finished and I'll start all over again. I do that for 12-18 months, doing up to a dozen different rewrites. My publisher doesn't see a word until I bring him the final draft."
While Sheldon's sales figures keep climbing, he admits that the books get harder to write all the time. "Each of my novels has been doing about 25% better than the one before it," he observes. "But I don't like to take anything for granted. I feel a real responsibility to my readers. I don't want them to be disappointed. I want them to have the excitement of having read an adventure story that involved interesting characters--to enjoy reading my books and find each one a unique experience."
The Naked Face (1970)
Sheldon's first novel received an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America and was filmed by Cannon Films as a major motion picture starring Roger Moore. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
The Other Side of Midnight (1974)
Marking Sheldon's explosive debut on the bestseller lists, this novel held the then all-time New York Times record of 52 weeks on the charts. Frank Yablans produced a film version starring John Beck, Susan Sarandon and Marie France Pisier. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
A Stranger in the Mirror (1976)
Sheldon's third novel was a bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, and was as a two-hour television movie at ABC by Aaron Spelling. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
Also a #1 bestseller, Bloodline, a Main Selection of The Literary Guild, was made into a Paramount Pictures film starring Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazara, Michele Phillips, and Omar Shariff.
Rage of Angels (1980)
Going to #1 on the bestseller lists the week before its official publication date, it stayed at the top for 18 weeks and on the lists for 42 weeks. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
The miniseries rights were sold to NBC-TV, and Sheldon served as executive producer of the two-part adaptation which starred Jaclyn Smith, Armand Assante and Ken Howard. Rage of Angels was the number one rated show in the Nielsen ratings the week it aired.
Master of the Game (1982)
Sheldon's sixth novel, a Main Selection of The Literary Guild, shot to the #1 position in its first week of publication, stayed there for 11 weeks and remained on the New York Times list for more than 40 weeks. The publication of the paperback version (with a million first printing) in the summer of 1983 made it a dominant presence on both soft and hardcover lists simultaneously.
The miniseries adaptation was bought by CBS-TV for a record sum in 1985. Starring Dyan Cannon and Harry Hamlin, it was the top-rated program in both its initial showing and its rebroadcast.
If Tomorrow Comes (1985)
A Main Selection of The Literary Guild, number one on the hardcover list for 18 weeks and a decisive paperback smash as well, the CBS miniseries starred Madolyn Smith, Tom Berenger and David Keith.
Windmills of the Gods (1987)
Advance orders for Sheldon's eighth novel were the heaviest in publisher William Morrow's history. The novel debuted at #1 two days prior to its official release date. The first printing was 750,000 and three additional printings brought the total to almost a million copies in hardcover during its first few months of sales. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
Sheldon served as executive producer of the two-part, four-hour 1988 CBS-TV miniseries, which starred Jaclyn Smith and Robert Wagner and was filmed on location in England, France, Tunisia, Yugoslavia and the United States.
The Sands of Time (1988)
Advance hardcover orders exceeded one million, with the novel debuting on the New York Times bestseller list even before official release date. More than 3 million paperbacks were initially released in the United States in December 1989. Tribune Premiere Network, a division of the Tribune Entertainment Company, produced a television miniseries adaptation starring Deborah Raffin and Michael Nouri. Tribune (1992). A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
Memories of Midnight (1990)
A follow-up to Sheldon's first blockbuster hit, The Other Side of Midnight, his tenth novel had a record first printing
for publisher William Morrow of 1.1 million copies and immediately went back for additional printings. Debuting at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list, it hit #1 just one week after its release. Tribune Premiere Network, a division of the Tribune Entertainment Network, produced Memories of Midnight as a four-hour miniseries which aired in the fall of 1991. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
The Doomsday Conspiracy (1991)
Sheldon's international best-selling thriller deals with a Navy Commander, who, while investigating a crash of a highly classified NATO weather balloon in Switzerland, becomes hunted by an unknown lethal force. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
The Stars Shine Down (1992)
Sheldon's #1 bestseller is set in exotic locations and follows the rise of a self made
female tycoon, whose entire empire is put in jeopardy by the vengeance of a discarded lover. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
Nothing Lasts Forever (1994)
Sheldon's best-selling novel centered around the frenetic world of a big San Francisco hospital, where events catapult three women doctors from life-and-death decisions of the operating room to the tension packed fireworks of a murder trial. CBS Television produced Nothing Lasts Forever as a four-hour mini-series starring Vanessa Williams, Brooke Shields and Gail O'Grady. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
Morning, Noon & Night (1995)
Sheldon's novel deals with blackmail, drugs and murder in one of the most respected families in America. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
The Best Laid Plans (1997)
Spent 10 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and sold over 1.8 million copies. The explosive story of the beautiful and ambitious Leslie Stewart, who learns that for some men power is the greatest aphrodisiac, and of Oliver Russell, the handsome governor of a small southern state, who reaps the hellish fury of a woman scorned. A Main Selection of The Literary Guild.
Tell Me Your Dreams (1998)
A Main Selection of The Literary Guild and of the Doubleday Book Club. Sweeping from London to Rome, from Quebec to San Francisco, this bestseller from the world's reigning master storyteller is so much more than a mystery. It is a searching, riveting, and, finally, triumphant foray into the dark, wild depths of the human heart.
The Sky is Falling (2000)
The incomparable storyteller is back with another dazzling blockbuster guaranteed to enthrall fans everywhere.
When five members of America's most illustrious family are all killed in separate accidents in less than a year, Dana Evans, a beautiful young anchorwoman for a Washington, D.C., television network, becomes suspicious. Investigating the deaths, the determined journalist uncovers a trail of blood that takes her to half a dozen countries around the world in search of a killer. In a startling turn of events, Dana becomes the hunted, and the terrible secret she's learned puts her and her young son into dire jeopardy from which there seems no escape.
A dynamite thriller filled with the trademark elements that have made his previous works phenomenal bestsellers, The Sky Is Falling is Sidney Sheldon at his sizzling best.