Earlier this year I met my idol Jackie Collins. OK, I didn’t technically meet her: she was beamed into the ITV studios from her boudoir in LA (I don’t know if she has a boudoir, but I like to think she does). We were judging Lorraine Kelly’s Racy Reads competition together and it was the biggest thrill to be able to chat with her. I’ve been a die-hard Jackie fan since my teens. When she said she was going to read my books I nearly fainted. My bonkbusters are influenced massively by her indomitable brand of Hollywood glamour, and she is every inch the superstar.
The competition was launched to find a new voice in romantic/sexy fiction, with the winner not only bagging a publishing deal with the mighty Mills & Boon, but also being flown out to LA to lunch with Jackie herself at Beverly Hills hotspot Spago. The standard of entries was extremely high, but fortunately we all agreed on what made a red-hot read. First and foremost Jackie and I were looking for a strong and powerful heroine. A bonkbuster isn’t a bonkbuster unless the lady takes the lead, and I learned that from the best: the women in Jackie’s novels don’t just survive in a man’s world; they totally rule it. Talking writing with the author who inspired me was a dream come true. Even now I have to pinch myself that it actually happened.
When we were little, my sister and I used to faux-autograph Jackie’s paperbacks. We’d pretend we were sitting at her gilt-edged writing desk (or so we imagined), Cinzano in diamond-encrusted hand, surrounded by black-panther ornaments and taking the occasional call from a glitzy A-lister. This is where I must confess to having been exposed to Jackie’s raunch way too young, probably about twelve, before you start thinking I was indulging in this sort of nonsense when I was seventeen (although to be fair, I probably was). She epitomised Hollywood magic; her books made us fantasise about gorgeous heroes and true love, of bright blue LA skies, of glittering swimming pools and star-spangled movie sets. She conjured the exotic for us in a way nothing else did, and proved to me at that early stage the awesome power of reading.
When you find a book or an author you adore, it informs your imagination forever. The universe you create is yours alone. One reader will never see a story exactly as another does, the characters will be different, the settings will change, and this is a wonder to me. Jackie’s were the first books I felt this way about, and I loved getting lost in the worlds she created. I spent whole summers wrapped up in her bonkbusters, unable to tear myself from them. That’s what made me want to write my own.
After I appeared on Lorraine, my sister texted me. The message read: OMG YOU SPOKE TO JACKIE!!!! I CAN’T BREATHE! OUR LIVES ARE MADE! SUCH A LEGEND!!!! JACKIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!! I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Wicked Ambition by Victoria Fox is out on June 7th!