In Sidney Sheldon's latest novel, Are You Afraid of the Dark? the veteran writer takes readers on a trail of intrigue across two continents. The former Hollywood screenwriter and best-selling novelist tells VOA's Mike O'Sullivan in Los Angeles that at age 87, he is not ready to slow down, and is already working on his 19th book.
Some literary critics deride Sidney Sheldon as a writer of potboilers: quickly produced, low-quality novels, written mainly to make money. But even they acknowledge that his books are extremely popular.
Mr. Sheldon has sold 300 million copies of his books around the world, and is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the world's most translated author. His books have been printed in 51 languages and are read in more than 180 countries. His latest, Are You Afraid of the Dark? concerns two women who are running for their lives.
"Someone in the world's biggest think tank is after them. And their husbands have been murdered and now they have to try to find out why, and save their own lives, and get to the bottom of the mystery," the author explained.
Like most of his novels, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is set in exotic locales, including Switzerland, Germany, and other European countries.
"I like to write about foreign places because I think a lot of people are not able to get there," Mr. Sheldon explained, "and I try to write about it realistically because I go there and do the research personally. So they get a feeling that they are there."
Mr. Sheldon started his career writing Hollywood movie scripts, and won an Academy Award in 1947 for best original screenplay for the film The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. He has also written for Broadway, and won a Tony award for the 1959 musical Redhead. He later wrote and produced for television, creating the popular 1960s series The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie.
In 1969, he published his first novel, The Naked Face, and quickly followed it up with the best-selling thriller The Other Side of Midnight.
He says it was difficult to break into the publishing world, despite his earlier successes with other kinds of writing. But once he did, the reading public responded.
His novels are fast-paced. They incorporate a technique he learned in the movies, leaving the action unfinished at the end of each scene to keep the story moving.
He enjoys writing novels more than screenplays, where the story is always limited by the producer's budget.
"As a novelist, I can give people armies, and I can give them villas all over the world," he said. "They can have swimming pools coming out of their ears. It does not matter. I can give them everything, and it costs nothing. It is a page in a book."
The writer works long hours seven days a week, and says he writes because he loves it.
When asked, as he sometimes is, about advice for aspiring writers, Mr. Sheldon recalls the suggestion of author Sinclair Lewis to students who came to a speech on the craft of writing. He told them not to listen to him, but to go home and write.
Mr. Sheldon's advice is the same. He tells would-be novelists: "Just do it."
With his 18th novel now in the bookstores, Sidney Sheldon is hard at work on his 19th book, an autobiography called The Other Side of Me.