Erika Goldring/Getty Images
Devan Coggan
May 03, 2015 AT 04:30 PM EDT

Michael Blake, the author and Oscar-winning screenwriter of Dances With Wolves, died Saturday in Tuscon, Ariz., after a long illness, Variety reports. He was 69.

Blake broke into Hollywood writing the screenplay for 1983’s Stacy’s Knights, a film starring Kevin Costner. It was Costner who encouraged Blake to write Dances With Wolves as a novel first, instead of a screenplay. Published in 1988, the book has gone on to sell more than 3.5 million copies and been translated into 15 languages. Costner bought the rights to Dances With Wolves, and the film won seven Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Blake, Best Director for Costner, and Best Picture.

Blake’s other novels include Airman Mortensen, Marching to Valhalla, The Holy Road, and Into the Stars, in addition to his autobiography, Like A Running Dog. He is survived by his wife, Marianne Mortensen Blake, and their three children.

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