Reform school or Hollywood? Millions of fans around the globe are grateful that author Jackie Collins – a self-described wild child once upon a time – chose the latter.
“I was always obsessed with Hollywood and America, even as a kid,” said Collins at a media party for her latest book, “The Power Trip,” an event held last month at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in West Hollywood. “I used to pretend to be American and tell people my father was in the CIA.”
She immersed herself in the machinations and mysteries of Tinseltown at age 15. It was 1952 and she bunked with her older sister, actress Joan Collins, in an apartment complex occupied by movers and shakers in the making. Says Jackie Collins: “I learned how to drive and I was very streetwise. It was a fantastic place and time. I fell in love with LA and I knew it was where I belonged.”
Living à la “Melrose Place” meant there was no shortage of steamy inspiration. Her first novel, “The World is Full of Married Men,” published in 1968, was banned in Australia and South Africa. Her 29 best-selling novels have sold more than 500 million copies and have been translated into 40 languages. Eight of her novels were adapted for the screen, as films or TV mini-series. Vanity Fair dubbed her the Marcel Proust of Hollywood.
In “The Power Trip,” a Russian billionaire and his supermodel girlfriend invite five high-profile couples to accompany them as they embark on the maiden voyage of their luxury yacht – off the coast of Cabo San Lucas in the Sea of Cortez. Luckily for readers, it’s not all smooth sailing.
Said the ever-glam Collins at the event, her emeralds and diamonds shimmering in the soft light: “I had more fun writing “The Power Trip” than I did with any other book. I want you to feel that you’re there, seeing the white beach and turquoise ocean, sipping champagne in pure luxury.”
She also talked about her organic process – writing in longhand and not using an outline. “I start with a title and the main characters, and I figure it out as I go like a jigsaw puzzle or a tapestry. The piece always knits together. I guess I was a-born storyteller because everything falls into place even though I don’t know what’s going to happen. My characters take me on a trip.”
She writes during the day, records a lot of TV shows (faves include “Revenge,” “Scandal,” “Shameless” and “Dexter,”) and, if she has a spare moment, pins guys on Pinterest. Some of her favorite slices of beefcake are: Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Paul Newman, Taylor Kinney, George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. (She also admires Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney as well as Angelina Jolie, Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence.)
Speaking of pinable men, she says, “I have a man for every occasion. I was married for a long time [to Oscar Lerman from 1966 until his death in 1992]. Now I live my life like an affluent bachelor.” Her evenings are typically spent meeting friends for dinner or going to parties or screenings. No matter where she goes, she’s carefully observing the scene. “I’m an anthropologist crawling through the jungles of Hollywood. If anything, my characters are toned down – the truth is much more bizarre.
“I always have so many ideas, there are five books I could sit down and write tomorrow. That’s why, I think, I never sleep.” In fact, she’s developing a play, a cookbook, a book of candid photos she shot over the years and an autobiography.
And she reads. “I love tough male fiction,” she says, noting that she’s particularly drawn to authors Joseph Wambaugh and. Elmore Leonard. Every year she rereads “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo.
That machismo-infused grit often rubs off on her literary creations. One reason Collins connects with so many readers is because she tells stories about tough women. As she says: “My women characters kick ass, they don’t get their asses kicked.”
So does she have advice for a contemporary femme fatale? Of course. “Don’t give up too much on a first date. Don’t wear clothes that are too revealing. Always leave him wanting more.”