Jackie Collins: The Culture Brats Interview

You can't have a great novel without a great author. Jackie Collins's straight-shooting style and career management genius can't be overlooked when speaking about her twenty-eight (soon to be twenty-nine) books that have all been on The New York Times Best Seller list, but it's her talent for knowing what sells and how to deliver it in heaping yet delicious and easy-to-digest spoonfuls that has kept her legions of fans returning year after year.

The latest release in a long and brilliant career is the much anticipated The Power Trip, which hits shelves today.

Let's start off with a bang and straightaway discuss your new novel The Power Trip.
I would love to do that.

Our setting is a yacht that's anchored off the Cabo San Lucas coast. Sounds intriguing.
Yes, on a yacht that takes off of on the Sea of Cortez, which is the most beautiful sea ever. I wanted people when they read The Power Trip, because it's so freezing across America, I wanted them to feel that they were on this incredible yacht, eating the caviar, drinking the champagne, going on the white deserted sandy beaches, and seeing this beautiful blue sea. I think I got that across to my readers. I hope so anyway.

It's interesting. It's got all the fantastic elements but a bit of a terrifying situation takes place and you are on this boat the whole time. Trapped almost.
Yes, it's got this Russian billionaire who built this boat for his beautiful supermodel girlfriend and takes it out for her 30th birthday and decides to invite five very affluent couples to join them. The couples are an interesting mix. There is a black English footballer with his designer wife, there is a gay singing superstar and his horrible boyfriend, there is a fifty-something movie star and his twenty-something girlfriend and there is a cheating politician and his hard put-upon wife and then there is Flynn, who is my superhero. All these people are on this boat and then in the middle of the ocean, it gets pirated by Somali pirates and Mexican gangsters. It's all a go! In fact there is a website called thepowertripbook.com where you can see an actual trailer of the book!

I saw it! It's fabulous actually.
I know, it's so fun isn't it?

Book trailers are much more sophisticated and well done than they used to be. It's actually quite high octane with some great beautiful scenery and the compelling music.
I know, I love it. It's so much fun to do something different for a book because there is so much entertainment out there today that you have to make your book stand out a little bit and I think mine does because it's a story that people want to read. They want to read about these characters, they want to see what happens to them because it's based on truth. I was on a luxury yacht myself and we were crossing from the south of France to Sardinia and I remember getting up in the middle of the night and going up on the top deck and talking to the captain. I said, "Where are we?" He said, "Well, we're a few hours out, and it's about five hours of clear water between the south of France and Sardinia." I thought to myself, "Oh my god. Clear water. No land. What if we were pirated?"

That's a little nerve-racking.
I know, and it is happening now. The Somali pirates are getting a little bolder. And in my book, they are working with the Mexican gangsters who import them to do the pirating so it's kind of fun. It was so much fun writing the pirates because I researched it very thoroughly.

Pirates sound like the most fun. Good quality evil.
Exactly, and they live in this little seaside town and they have the most beautiful women and the best cars because they've got all this money coming in now. But they're really tribesmen.

I've read nearly every single one of your books, and I love the fact that they give you a real glimpse into being rich famous or powerful. But what happens when these super rich and powerful get a taste of what it's like to be utterly powerless? In this day and age I think that particular aspect of your new book might resonate in these tough times. Do you think that might be the case?
I think so. And I think I wanted to show that even they are vulnerable. And they are vulnerable. If it wasn't for Flynn, they would've probably been all tossed overboard. He has to save everybody; he's my superhero and my Navy Seal. I loved writing Flynn and I get all these letters and tweets. I'm on Twitter and I get all these messages and tweets going "I just read it and I must meet Flynn, where is he?" He is such a fantastic guy, a real superhero, and I loved writing him. He doesn't really fit in with all the rich affluent people. He's a photojournalist and he's just gotten back from Afghanistan where he saw his best friend get his head blown off by a suicide bomber so he's kind of recuperating and he goes on the yacht because he knows the Russian billionaire. He's done him a favor in the past and that is the only reason he's on the yacht. It's interesting to watch him interact with all these rich famous people. Because they do, they get a sense that they are above everything. I'm sure you've met celebrities who you feel that they are so surrounded by protectors who laugh at their jokes and just make sure everything goes smoothly that when they're in a situation, it's very interesting to see their reaction.

If you're surrounded by yes men and sycophants all the time you probably lose the ability to function properly in normal society but most especially in trying situations.
Yeah, no you can't because you think your special. You think you're so special and they don't realize it's not going to last. As Andy Warhol said, everybody has their fifteen minutes. You look around at all the reality so-called stars today and you say to yourself, "Where are they going to be in five years?" They're going to be thinking, "But I was a star! What happened?" once they are off one of those shows. There are so many of them, hundreds of them now.

Television is riddled with them. Soon it will be littered with the remains of what was once or maybe still will be reality television show people.
You are absolutely right. Now it's the cable channels that have all the great scripted shows on now. I'm a big television addict and there are some wonderful scripted shows so why would anybody watch reality TV? It's just watching somebody's life unfold and if they're not interesting, why would you be interested in them?

I think people who watch it like the voyeuristic aspects of it, or maybe to feel better about themselves?
Yeah, you're right. They want to say, "Ooh, she married him for five minutes!" and "Ooh, I wouldn't do that!"

A way to get us all pumped up about how pathetic our own lives are.
I think people like reading books because it does take them to another place and another world. I've been lucky enough to have them reading my books for many years because they know that I'm speaking or writing the truth. Because I know these characters I write about, I've met them all in some guise or another. I also think people have fun playing the guessing game. They are going to be wondering who is the movie star, who is the singing star, who is the Latin heartthrob, and they like doing that. That's fun for them.

I already did that! I kept saying, "This sounds like a mashup of this pop star and that one." And "Who do you think she melded together for the aging actor?" I'm sure I know who everyone is comprised of now. You do a good job of mashing them up so you can't point fingers directly at anyone.
It is, it's a total mashup and it's so much fun to do because I will take the essence of somebody really famous. I mean, if I wanted to write about let's say Jay-Z and Beyonce, if I wanted to write about them I would take the essence of the characters, maybe describe them as they are, maybe give them a little bit of background, but then I would change them totally because I would want to tell my story, not their story.

Their story is already done.
Right and it is going to play out the way it plays out so I want to make my reader not know what's going to happen next. When I pick up my pen, I have no idea what is going to happen next. I'm writing currently, Confessions Of A Wild Child, which is Lucky Santangelo when she's fifteen.

You are bringing Lucky Santangelo back!
I'm bringing her back as a teenager and when she ran away from school. And if you recall in Chances, her father Gino married her off to the Senator's son when she was sixteen. Now he's just swooped into the south of France and found her living in this mansion with Olympia, the two runaways from school. It is so much fun to write!

I'm so excited!
I think it's going to be like, not a young adult book, because young adult books are for teenagers, but I think all my readers will just love to read it too.

There is a bit of a rabid fan base for Lucky Santangelo. We used to sneak your books around under our Trapper Keepers.
I love it. I bet I taught you everything you knew about sex too.

You really did. I went to Catholic school and I had to go into the girls' room to trade in a rare copy of The Bitch to get Hollwood Wives from the older girls. We were a bunch of naughty schoolgirls.
I've never written like a gynecologist but I've written erotic fun sex.

We loved it. Watching you all these years, we've often said you were often imitated but never outdone. Your books continuously sell no matter what. This industry is so fickle, newcomers have a best-selling book and then fall by the wayside. What would you say some of the keys for staying relevant and long-lasting?
That's so interesting you should say that because I've been doing this for so long and yes, I think one of the things is that I love what I do. I love creating strong women, I love creating all different kinds of characters. When I was growing up, I loved reading Dickens, and he had so many different characters. I like to make my characters very clear, so you know exactly who I'm writing about.

The publishing industry has gone through some massive shifts with a what seems like a glut of self-published and other DIY-type product hitting the market. What do you think of that whole phenomenon and do heavy hitters like yourself get more pressure to produce results because of it?
It's like the music industry, isn't it now? Nobody buys a CD anymore, I can't imagine why they've got all these CDs out there because nobody buys them, they all buy their songs on iTunes.

Regarding writing, there is some real talent out there. My youngest daughter Rory has just written a book called Playing Along. Her name is Rory Samantha Green and it is the most charming book. She self-published on Amazon. It's doing extremely well, she hasn't advertised the fact that she's my daughter but everyone who reads the book loves it and she's getting great reviews. It's completely different from my kind of book. It's really fun and it's very rewarding for me to see her doing this on her own, because you know, you have me as a mother, it's a bit of a weight around your neck.

Yeah, you cast a pretty long shadow, I'd imagine.
Yes, exactly. But she's done it on her own and I'm very proud of her. I have published on ebooks some of my own books that were not out in America. I thought that I'd just do it myself and honestly that has been so much fun. I can design my own cover and put them up there. I've put up The Love Killers, The Bitch, and Chances so they're all up there and people can download them now which is great.

I occasionally miss the tactile comfort of a dogeared copy of a well-loved book though.
Yeah, I love the feel of a book. But the nice thing is you can usually get a book or download. You've got a choice. I'm not used to the Kindle yet; I just prefer to have a book in my hand. I want to look at the author's picture, I want to read about it. I want to pick up that book and put it in my bookcase. I want to keep it, it's something I love for my house.

Not too long ago you took a chance and moved out of your comfort zone and wrote a stage play, Hollywood Lies.
I did! I wrote it with Collette Freedman, a wonderful playwright. We wrote it together and it was called Hollywood Lies and we're still trying to get it on. It is so frustrating, I have never gone through anything like this. We've had three amazing readings.

With super famous people right?
Yes, we did. We had casts of hit Broadway shows read for us in New York and we had two readings here. We had Alfred Molina reading. We had Brenda Strong reading. They were fantastic. The play is so much fun and we still have not found the right theatre to put it on. What we want is a theatre that's going to travel across America. People are going to love it.

You are almost too busy.
I also just did the Lucky Santangelo cookbook which will be out next year.

I think we are clearly at the point where people recognize you as a celebrity author. Does that give you more influence if and when your novels are adapted for TV or film? Like can you say, "I'm picturing Skarsgard or Fassbender for the part of Aleksandr Kasianenko?"
If I do the deal then I can definitely say that because I'm always involved as a producer, but you know it's not called Development Hell for nothing. I have so many people who've gone after the film rights or the TV rights for The Power Trip and the deal never comes through. It's ridiculous. I've had so many meetings and wasted so much time and it's a question of raising the money I guess, but you know they want to do these films about teenaged boys, jerking off in a cupboard. I don't know. We shall see. Hopefully, I'll get another miniseries on.

I really liked some of the miniseries from the past. Hollywood Wives comes to mind.
Yeah, and Lucky Chances was fun. Sandra Bullock was in that. She played Maria, Gino's wife as a nineteen year old. She was great. It was one of her fist big movies.

Love her.
I know! Vincent Irizarry was Gino. He's fantastic. Eric Braeden was in it; we had a great cast.

We did Lady Boss with Kim Delaney, she was wonderful. The last one I wrote and produced was Hollywood Wives: The New Generation with Farrah Fawcett, which was her final movie. Farah Fawcett, Melissa Gilbert, and Robin Givens--she was so gorgeous in that.

I love doing the movies but my main thing is writing books so I'm not going to tear my hair out if I don't get a movie made because I'm writing books. After I'm done with Confessions Of A Wild Child, I'm going to write a book called The Santangelos. It's going to be Bobby, who is her twenty-six-year-old gorgeous son, and Max, her crazy teenaged daughter.

So we are moving on to the next generation.
Yes, the next generation. And then I'm thinking: I don't plan my books, I just sit down and I start to write. I'm thinking that something epic will happen at the beginning of the book but I don't know what it is yet.

You know that millions of writers suffering with writer's block or a lack of ideas are slamming their heads down on their desks right now angry that it all comes out so easily for you.
I've never had writer's block.

So we will never be without. You were a bit of a tearaway as a kid, expelled from school at fifteen. Did you see that as a drastic turning point in your life? Did you ever think of what might have been your alternate existence had that not happened? Would you have gone on to Cambridge and become a scholar?
Oh no. I think that was my destiny. I mean, I think that when I was thrown out of school, and this is going to be the title of my autobiography, Reform School Or Hollywood?, which is what my parents said to me. I chose Hollywood because my sister was here making movies. My older sister, with Harry Belafonte and Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. So she met me at the airport, gave me the keys to her apartment, and said, "I'm off on location, make yourself at home. Here's a list of people if you get into any trouble." Well, it was the year of living dangerously. I was here for a year and in fact I said to her the other day, "Why did I have to go back to England?" I asked if she wanted me out and she said, "Yes." So then I went back to England, but I kept on coming back here and I've always considered America my second home.

You are English through and through, maybe you needed to be steeped in the American culture of ambition, greed, power, and sex to properly marinate your characters?
My first novels were very English: The Stud, The Bitch, The World Is Full Of Married Men. Then I wrote Chances and when I wrote that everything changed. I called it my early Harold Robbins, Mario Puzo book. It was about a gangster who came to America at the start of the last century and rose in great power and it was also the ongoing story of a black woman Carrie, who kind of rose to power around the same time as Billie Holliday so she was in Rikers Island and all these other adventures so that was an amazing book to write. I wrote that book and it was the tenth bestselling book in America for that year but nobody knew who I was. After that, I followed it with Hollywood Wives and then everybody knew who I was.

That novel was the ball out of the park.
Exactly. I'd actually been studying the women here in America and what I saw was that the men had all the power but the women had the power at home. There were these tennis parties and dinner parties and things like that and they controlled the city. They were the ones in control because all the deals were being put together at these private events.

Everyone else who had written about Hollywood had written about a director who couldn't make it or a screenwriter who didn't cut it, all books about people who failed to make it in Hollywood. I actually got into the real nitty gritty of what Hollywood really was and since then there have been so many copycats. Right now there is a show on called the Real Husbands Of Hollywood and of course we've got the Housewives Of Beverly Hills or whatever it is and all of those shows.

I think you should get royalties for that.
I should really, yes. I should do a reality show called The Real Hollywood Wives.

If you found yourself on a luxury yacht off the coast of paradise, you were being threatened by angry pirates, and you could choose a group of celebrities to be stuck out there with under bad circumstances, who are some of the people you would choose?
Jason Statham. Yes, definitely. Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis because I like to be surrounded by tough guys. And a couple of Navy Seals.

I think you need one ass-kicking woman besides yourself.
Oh yes, this is true. Who would we have? Probably Naomi Campbell, because she throws a mean phone.

You are a legend, we love you. Thank you so much for talking with us today and good luck with the book!
Thank you so much, it was my pleasure.

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