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Jackie Collins: 'Submit? Not the women in my books'

'MY WOMEN are not into submissive sex," announces Jackie Collins, reigning Queen of the Bonkbuster.

Jackie COLLINS: The truth of celebrity lives, she says, is much more bizarre than  her fiction. Picture: Colin Mearns
Jackie COLLINS: The truth of celebrity lives, she says, is much more bizarre than her fiction. Picture: Colin Mearns

She is daintily sipping a ladylike cup of tea from the finest bone china, as we are in her ritzy suite at the Dorchester Hotel, where she always stays when visiting London.

The fast-talking Collins – who has sold more than 500 million copies of her raunchy bestsellers in which her lusty, busty heroines take no prisoners in their quest for a satisfying sex life – is discussing the phenomenon of "mummy porn" and EL James's Fifty Shades of Grey. Or, as it's known in certain quarters, "Fifty Shades of Ouch".

"Look, I create strong, powerful women," says the 74-year-old, who is living proof that nothing succeeds like an excess of sex and who, by the way, looks 20 years younger than she is. ("It's down to lots of make-up, definitely no Botox," she confides.)

"The characters I create would never have their hands tied to the bed. They have too much they want to do with their hands – and anyway I really don't buy into the idea of submissive sex.

"I write about the sort of women who do not get their asses kicked. They are the ones who kick ass," she exclaims, running a manicured hand, adorned with so much bling that I am temporarily blinded, through her glossy chocolate-brown hair. "Although I believe these books titillate people who don't really understand how demeaning submission is, I do think it's great that a woman can sell so many books and that women are discovering sex through novels. The author's bringing lots of people into book stores, so good for her. But these are not my kind of heroines.

"In my book, Hollywood Divorces, for instance, my heroine wore wigs and became someone else, having trysts with men in hotels. To me, role-play is far more exciting – I was very into role-play in my own marriage."

The middle child of showbusiness manager Joe Collins and his strikingly beautiful wife, Elsa, London-born Collins was blissfully married for 26 years to her second husband, Oscar Lerman, a nightclub owner, who died of cancer in 1992.

It was Lerman who encouraged her to write. "You're a great storyteller," he told her. They had two daughters together and she has another daughter from her troubled first marriage to Wallace Austin; Austin was addicted to drugs. In the mid-nineties she got engaged to businessman Frank Calcagnini, who died of a brain tumour in 1998.

She now lives contentedly alone in the Beverly Hills mansion she designed herself but has, she explains, "a man for all seasons and occasions," dating different guys for theatre, parties, dinners a deux and "anything else I might fancy," she says with an old-fashioned look.

"Of course I am still researching my favourite topic, sex," she adds. "Nonetheless, I am a little surprised that some people are finally discovering explicit descriptions of exotic sex in books."

She is the author of The Stud, Hollywood Wives and The World Is Full of Married Men, but the book that made her name in America in 1981 was the seminal Chances, thanks to her ultimate "kick-ass" heroine, Lucky Santangelo, "dangerously beautiful" daughter of mobster Gino Santangelo.

A blockbusting epic, The Santangelos, is promised, as is a prequel about wild child Lucky's teenage adventures. Next year, expect The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook, complete with recipes such as the sauciest meatballs ever tasted. "Those perfect, tight Italian ones," winks Collins, then without missing a beat she adds: "So, yes, I've been doing graphic sex for years."

Indeed, everyone is doing it in her latest novel The Power Trip – her 29th – in which a Russian billionaire, a cross between Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Doronin, and his beautiful black supermodel girlfriend take to the high seas in his state-of-the-art yacht with five glamorous power couples.

Collins make no secret of the fact that she writes about real people in disguise and claims: "If anything, my characters are toned down – the truth is much more bizarre. I capture the essence of real people, but I don't write their story. No one would believe them if I did. Fact is always stranger than fiction. The stories I make up are all mine."

For instance, she says, flicking through a tabloid newspaper, she can make a novel out of a paragraph. "Here's a report that George Michael is cancelling a leg of his tour owing to 'major anxiety'. From that news story, I could write a novel about a troubled pop star – it wouldn't be George's life, but he'd be my inspiration."

She knows Michael well, and whispers: "Let me tell you a story. I invited George to a party at my house. I called to give him directions and I said 'Do you know the park in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel?' Well, of course, that's where he was arrested [for engaging in a lewd act]. He's so charming, he just said, 'Yes, Jackie, I do know it as it happens.' Then I realised what I'd said.

"So, my books are always based on truths, stories I tell my way, which is why I think so many people relate to them. Everyone has a favourite character. Who's your favourite in The Power Trip?" she asks since she's adept at bringing the conversation back to what matters, promoting her latest novel. The hunky journo, I reply. "Isn't he fabulous?" she says. "I fancy him myself."

On board the yacht – which sails to hell and back – as well as the aforementioned maverick hack and his Asian female friend, who happens to be a lesbian – are an ambitious, sex-addicted American senator and his unhappy wife; a drop-dead handsome movie star and his needy ex-waitress girlfriend; a world-famous black footballer and his sulky, interior designer wife; and a male Latin singing sensation with his bitchy, deeply unpleasant English boyfriend.

May I play the game of guessing who everyone is? I ask Collins. She is a vision in an aquamarine jacket (her own design), the exact shade of the pigeon-egg-sized, diamond-encrusted aquamarine pendant by Stephen Webster, nestling in her impressive cleavage, worn with matching earrings (her design).

"Of course," she agrees. The movie star? George Clooney, since he's known to be partial to a waitress? "Or two," murmurs Collins, adding that she loves Clooney. "Such a nice man." The model? Naomi Campbell perchance? "Bianca, the character in The Power Trip, is a combination of people I know, but you could be onto something there."

The hunky journalist is surely Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm? The senator is possibly the disgraced John Edwards, who was involved in a sex-scandal. The black footballer with the sullen wife could be a mix of Ashley Cole and David Beckham, Cheryl and Victoria? And the gay Latin singing sensation is perchance based on Ricky Martin?

"Stop," exclaims Collins. "You are much too good at this. If you don't stop, I am going to hit you with that," she threatens, indicating a vase of roses on the coffee table.

So, since she's a Hollywood A-lister, what's the gossip?

"It's musical beds," she replies. "Every young starlet is sleeping with every young guy. There's the Katy Perry thing happening. She's with John Mayer, who was with Taylor Swift and Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson. I can't keep up."

Wasn't it ever thus? "No, I don't think it was – this is quick-change beds," she replies. Surely the celebrity culture has changed dramatically since she began writing her racy novels? After all, we have the likes of Kim Kardashian becoming infamous for their sexploits rather than their talents.

"Oh, I have a lot of time for Kim," she says. "I'm a huge fan. She's such a savvy businesswoman, very smart. All right, there was a sex tape but she reinvented herself and is now a brand; I like her immensely."

Collins is also an admirer of the Duchess of Cambridge – "she's so beautiful, very classy, very English" – and was saddened when she was pictured topless. "She's handled it extremely well, though, simply ignoring it. That photographer was just a Peeping Tom. If he hadn't had a camera in his hands, he would have been arrested. As for old Harry getting naked in Las Vegas, good for him. He's a young guy having fun and he deserves to since he's now piloting a helicopter over Afghanistan."

Last, I ask about her big sister Joan. "I had a lovely dinner with her and her husband Percy, who is the most wonderful man, at a new Mayfair club the other evening. Actually, she just called. She'd read an interview where they got my age wrong. Joan said, 'Why are you saying you're three years older than you are?'

"Nothing to do with me. God knows I am old enough, thank you. But I always just say, 'Whatever,' since I'm a hovering Buddhist."

The Power Trip by Jackie Collins (Simon & Schuster, £16.99)

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