She was the first author to have back-to-back-to-back novels on the New York Times Bestsellers list. She was acknowledged as the first “brand-name” novelist. She even created the foundation for current book tours. Jacqueline Susann accomplished so much in her lifetime and established herself as a voice of the 60’s. Honestly, as a culture, we should be talking about her more.
You may have heard of her novel, Valley of the Dolls. After all, it is one of the best-selling works in publishing history. Not to mention, the film adaptation of the novel featured the iconic Sharon Tate. Interestingly, Jacqueline did not like the movie, even though it has been coined a “cult classic.” The director took a lot of creative liberties that ultimately created a story other than the original. Jacqueline’s plot remains favored by the masses. It has been over 50 years since publication and copies still sell (31 million and counting).
The novels that followed Valley of the Dolls were The Love Machine and Once is Not Enough (in that order). These hit the #1 spot as well. But, even with the high success of her later works, her favorite work was one of her earliest. It was titled Every Night, Josephine!. The book chronicled stories of her and her poodle. The book tours for this piece would’ve been something to see. Jacqueline took Josephine along for meet and greets; reportedly, they sported *adorable* matching outfits.
The way Jacqueline promoted her novels was extremely unique at the time. Many authors back then had their nose to their typewriter and let the book fend for itself in the market. Jacqueline, on the other hand, did not shy away from radio or television appearances to open up conversations about her work. Her earlier days as an actress helped her to be comfortable in front of the spotlight. Jacqueline explained her novel marketing simply: “A new book is just like any new product, like a detergent. You have to acquaint people with it. They have to know it’s there.”
Between novels, Jacqueline was growing as a personality and voice. Many saw her and her main characters as one in the same. Critics could be brutal as well as interviewers. Her confidence and eloquent confrontation battled right back. Often she is described as “sassy and entertaining”; I think there is truth to that after watching archived interviews.
If you see just a snippet, you can get a sense of her strength, her confidence, and her overall energy. To add to the context, during the time of this interview Jacqueline was fighting breast cancer and had been for years. She was very aware of her own mortality.
Near the end, the interviewer asked her “what would you do if you only had six weeks to live?”. She answered, “it wouldn’t only be six weeks”; she would prove to God why he should give her twelve.
I have no doubt that she ensured he listened.
Rest In Peace. Jacqueline Susann, 1918-1974.