The Other Side Of Me Afterword
Of all the varied writing I have done over the years - motion pictures, theater, television, novels - I prefer writing novels. Novels are a different world, a world of the mind and the heart. In a novel, one can create characters and bring them to life. The transition from playwright and screenwriter to novelist was easier than I had expected. And the advantages!
A novelist travels all over the world doing research, meeting interesting people, and going to interesting places. If people are affected by something you wrote, they let you know. I sometimes get mail that is very emotional.
I received a letter from a woman who had had a massive heart attack and was in the hospital, and would not let her parents or her boyfriend come in to see her. She wrote me that she just wanted to die. She was twenty-one years old. Someone left a copy of The Other Side of Midnight on her bedside. She started to skim through it. Intrigued, she went back to the beginning and read the book. When she was through, she had been so caught up in the characters and their problems that she forgot about her own, and was ready to face life again.
Another woman wrote to tell me that her dying daughter's last request had been that all my books be spread around her hospital bed, and she had died happy.
In Rage of Angels, I let a little boy die and I began to receive hate mail. One woman wrote to me from the east, gave me her phone number, and said, ’’Call me. I can't sleep. Why did you let him die?’’
I got so many similar letters that when I did the miniseries, I let him live.
Women have told me that they had become lawyers because of Jennifer Parker, the heroine of Rage of Angels.
My novels are sold in one hundred eight countries and have been translated into fifty-one languages. In 1997, the Guinness Book of World Records listed me as the Most Translated Author in the World. I have sold over three hundred million books. If there is one reason for the success of my books, I believe it's because my characters are very real to me and, therefore, real to my readers. Foreign readers identify with my books because love and hate and jealousy are universal emotions that everyone understands.
When I became a novelist, one of the things that struck me was how much more respect a novelist gets than a screenwriter working in Hollywood. Jack Warner said, ’’What are writers but schmucks with typewriters?’’ A sentiment shared by most studio heads.
One day when I was writing Easter Parade, I was in Arthur Freed's office when his insurance agent came in. We were talking when the secretary announced that the dailies were ready to be seen. Freed turned to his insurance agent and said, ’’Let's go look at the dailies.’’
The two men got up and walked out of the room, leaving me sitting there, alone, while they went to watch a picture I had written.
Not much respect.
I enjoy traveling around the world doing research for my novels and I have fun doing it. In Athens, I was researching The Other Side of Midnight. Jorja was with me. We passed a police station and I said, ’’Let's go in.’’
We went inside. There was a policeman behind the desk. He said, ’’Can I help you?’’
’’Yes,’’ I said. ’’Can someone here tell me how to blow up a car?’’
Thirty seconds later we were locked in a room. Jorja was panicky. ’’Tell them who you are,’’ she said.
’’Don't worry. There's plenty of time.’’
The door opened and four policemen with guns came in. ’’You want to blow up a car? Why?’’
’’I'm Sidney Sheldon and I'm doing research.’’
Fortunately, they knew who I was, and they told me how to blow up a car.
In South Africa, I was doing research for my novel called Master of the Game, which is about diamonds. I got in touch with DeBeers and asked whether I could go into one of their diamond mines. They gave me permission and I had the rare experience of exploring a diamond mine.
An executive of DeBeers told me about one of their mines that was a beach with diamonds lying on the surface, in full view, protected by the ocean on one side, and a patrolled gate on the other. I felt challenged, and figured out a way for one of my characters to get inside and steal the diamonds.
For If Tomorrow Comes, I checked on the security of the Prado Museum in Madrid. I was told it was impregnable, but one of my characters figured out a way to steal a valuable painting from there.
In Windmills of the Gods, I went to Romania, which was one of my locales in the book. Ceausescu was alive at the time, and there was a paranoid feeling in the city. I went to the American embassy and I was in the office of the American ambassador when I said, ’’I would like to ask you a question.’’
He got to his feet. ’’Come with me.’’ He took me down the hall into a room guarded by Marines twenty-four hours a day and said, ’’What do you want to know?’’
’’Do you think my room is bugged?’’ I asked.
’’Not only is your hotel room bugged, but if you go to a nightclub, they will bug you there.’’
Three nights later, Jorja and I went to a nightclub. The maitre d'seated us. The air-conditioning was hitting us and we got up and moved. The maitre d'came running back and put us back at the first table. That was obviously the table that was bugged.
The next day I had lunch at the ambassador's home and I said, ’’I would like to ask you a question.’’
He got to his feet. ’’Why don't we go for a walk in the garden?’’
In Romania, even the ambassador's home was bugged.
For The Sands of Time I went to Spain to research the Basque separatist movement. I had the driver take the two routes that the nuns in the book would take. We ended up at San Sebastian. When my driver pulled up in front of the hotel, he said, ’’I'm leaving now.’’
’’You can't leave,’’ I said. ’’We're right in the middle of doing research.’’
’’You don't understand,’’ he told me. ’’This is the headquarters of the Basques. When they see the Madrid license plates, they will blow up the car.’’
I met with some of the Basques and heard their side of the story. They felt that they were displaced citizens. They wanted their land back, along with their language and their autonomy.
These are a few of my experiences. I am very grateful for them. I love to write, and I'm lucky to be working at something that I care about. I believe that no one can take credit for whatever talent they may have. Talent is a gift, whether it's for painting or music or writing, and we should be grateful for whatever talent we have been given, and work hard at it.
What I enjoy most is the actual process of writing. My business manager once gave me five hundred dollars worth of tennis lessons as a birthday present. A tennis pro came to the house once a week and gave me a lesson.
One day he said to me, ’’We've used up the money. Do you want to continue?’’
I enjoyed playing tennis very much. I started to say yes, and then I thought, I don't want to be here. I want to be in my office, writing.
I haven't been on my tennis court since, and that was twenty years ago.
Four years after Cary Grant's last movie, Walk Don't Run, Cary called to say the Academy was giving him an honorary Oscar in New York, and he asked if I would join him there. I was happy to. His award was long overdue.
I was very pleased to see that over the years, Bob Russell and Ben Roberts had a series of successes.
My brother Richard eventually divorced, and in 1972 he surprised us all when he met and married an attractive businesswoman named Betty Rhein.
In 1985, my lovely Jorja died of a heart attack. It was an unbelievable loss and there was an emptiness in my life that I felt would never be filled.
It was a little over three years later when it happened. I met Alexandra Kostoff and my life changed. She is all the women I had written about - intelligent, beautiful, and amazingly talented, and it was love at first sight. We had a private wedding in Las Vegas, with only family there.
As a surprise, my buddy Marty Allen and his wife, Karon, appeared. The multitalented Karon played a wedding march on the piano that she had written, and the wedding went on.
Alexandra and I have been married now for sixteen wonderful years.
To my great delight, my daughter, Mary, has become a writer. To date, she has had ten novels published. My granddaughter, Lizy, had a novel published when she was sixteen. I expect ten-year-old Rebecca to be next.
My manic depression - today commonly known as bipolar syndrome - has slowed me down the last four years, but it is pretty much under control now with the help of lithium. I am planning a new novel, a nonfiction book, and a play for Broadway. I have just celebrated my eighty-eighth birthday.
I treasure the roller-coaster thrill ride that my life has been. It has been an exciting and wonderful journey. I am grateful to Otto, who convinced me to keep turning the pages, and to Natalie, for her unshakable faith in me.
I have had an incredible career with great successes and king-sized failures. I wanted to share my story with you and to thank you - because you, the readers, have always been there for me. I am deeply grateful to every one of you.
The elevator is up.