Catching Up with Jackie Collins

Catching Up with Jackie Collins

'She sucked him dry and then some, and he put up no defense -- or rather, his dick didn't.' If that doesn't make you want to read Jackie Collins's new novel Poor Little Bitch Girl, nothing will! It's no wonder Collins has sold over 400 million copies of her books since her career began over 40 years ago with The World is Full of Married Men.

Growing up in London didn't stop Collins from being enthralled by Hollywood. In fact, she recently admitted that she had an affair with Marlon Brando when she was 15 -- he was in his 30s. Today, Collins, 72, the younger sister of actress Joan Collins of Dynasty fame, has earned her status as a Hollywood icon too. In Poor Little Bitch Girl, she tells the tale of three beautiful women, a secret, a murder and a scandal and through it all -- of course -- there is no shortage of sex.

Out spoke with Collins about the inspirations behind her new book, her previous life as a leopard, and her favorite thing about sex.

Out: Poor Little Bitch Girl is your 27th book. What makes this one different from all of your others?
Jackie Collins: I think all my books are different. It's so funny because I'll go on a television show and they'll say, 'Oh, you've turned out another book.' And I'm thinking to myself, Fuck you! You have actors on all the time who do two or three movies a year and nobody ever says to them, 'Oh you've turned out another movie.'

How long does it take you to write a book?
A year. There's always a year gap before I'm on all of the shows, and I'm going to be on all the shows shortly, and I know they're going to be saying to me, 'Oh, another one.'

And will you give that answer?
What? Fuck you? If I'm on Chelsea Handler I might. I love Chelsea Handler. I think she's fantastic. You've got to watch her. She's so funny and just tells it the way it is, which I find very intriguing. The two best talk show hosts at night are Craig Ferguson and Chelsea. In all of this kerfuffle going on about NBC and Jay and Conan and this one and that one, they never mention [Handler and Ferguson], and they're the two best ones!

How did you come up with the title for the book?
I'm very adamant about my titles because publishers always try to change them. I had written a TV series, which never got off the ground -- because it's not called "development hell" for nothing in Hollywood -- that was called Poor Little Rich Girl. Then I thought, Wait a minute. What if I create this character who is not so nice and is a bitch? Then it suddenly came to me: Poor Little Bitch Girl.

What reaction did you get to that title from your publisher?
"You'll never get away with that in Wal-Mart." I said, 'Wait a minute. Did you not read Skinny Bitch? That was a huge hit last year.' And they went, 'Oh, yes, you're right.' So, they let me use the title.

But in England there was a little -- to use your word -- kerfuffle.
When the title came out we had these fabulous posters on the subway. Then somebody complained. Just some person. Then they withdrew the posters, but they allowed us to put them back up after a day.

Hey, a little controversy never hurt anyone.
I know! And we live in this age -- do you see what's on television today? Did you watch Spartacus? I hope so. It was pretty sexy. And somebody emailed me this morning a naked picture of Madonna with her boy toy.

What did you think?
Not very impressive, I might say. She wasn't naked. He was. You better look this up!

The former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, was an inspiration for this book. Do tell.
He was an absolute inspiration. I've got these characters Annabelle and Frankie -- I loved writing Frankie because I love writing bad boys -- and they're kind of lying in bed and it's at the time of the Eliot Spitzer scandal. They're reading the papers and going, 'How stupid was he? This could be done so well.' That's when they got the idea or rather I got the idea. I was like, 'Who is the schmuck who tells everyone they can't do anything -- they can't have strip clubs -- meanwhile, he's meeting a hooker out of town?'

There have been a few scandals like that over the years.
You know, there was a very famous call girl in Los Angeles quite a while ago who did look-alikes. So, you would be screwing Jennifer Garner, but it would be a look-alike. Or Jennifer Aniston or Angelina. That was kind of interesting. I almost did that.

And what happened?
I thought, 'No. It's New York. I think masks are going to be better in New York.' [Ed note: The call girls in the book wear masks on the job] I thought that was sexy. I really need to get into that further, actually.

In your books or your personal life?
Well, both actually! I have to get into it if I'm going to write about it.

Well, over the years you have said you've dabbled in everything when it comes to sex. Is that true?
Well, I think if you're going to write about it, you have to.

What do you think is the best thing about sex?
Whoever you're having it with. You have to have that mental connection. If you don't have a mental connection, than it's just a physical thing that is just, 'OK, that's done. That's boring.' The whole excitement to sex is the build up to it.

There's quite a build-up to writing your books too. You write longhand and only use a computer for research. Why?
That's the way I've always done it since I was a kid. I love to see the finished results. I've got rather nice handwriting because it was the only thing I was good at in school -- that and playing truant, of course. So, I like to see my books bound in leather at the end of each book. I just can't get out of the habit, and also, it doesn't feel like writing when on the computer.

And to do your research for books, what do you read to keep up on all of the gossip?
I'm a total popular culture junkie. I read so many papers and magazines, and I watch so much television. Everybody asks how I find the time, but I do it while I'm doing other things. I'll watch stuff like The Soup. That brings you up to date on everything. I love The Hills. I love shows like Dexter. I read everything. For instance, US and People and Rolling Stone. I read the newspapers too -- USA Today and The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. It takes me two hours a day just to get through everything. For websites I go on the Huffington Post and the Daily Beast. I take the New York Post every day, which is my absolute favorite newspaper. I think they tell it like it is. Also, there's always a small story in the New York Post that to me is a book.

Now some of these publications have a way of stretching the truth or, at times, even making up stories. What was the biggest lie ever written about you?
There was this hilarious story in one of the tabloids once where they said me and my sister Joan went shopping at Neiman Marcus in my convertible. Well, I don't have a convertible. And they said Joan had a wig on and when I put the top of the convertible up, it chopped off her wig. We had a good laugh about that one.

Speaking of your sister, are you two close?
We're very close. For a while she lived in Europe only. Now she's come back to Los Angeles and loves it here again. I'm so pleased because she didn't have a home here for a while. Now she has an apartment and spends a lot of time here with her -- I think it's her sixth husband, Percy. He is divine. He's the absolute best of the bunch. He's a really great guy. [Ed.'s note: Not that we're counting, but Percy Gibson is Joan's fifth husband.]

I know women, and of course gay men, don't like to talk age. You, however, are 72 years old and look amazing. What is your secret?
Oh, thank you so much! I think the late Mark Twain made a wonderful quote. He said, 'Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

And you don't mind?
No, I don't. When I think of the alternative, my God, I'm thrilled I'm here. I don't chase beauty or look hard on fashion or anything like that. I'm just myself and follow my own style. I think I have great genes. My mother was a beautiful blonde and my father was tall, dark, and handsome like most of my heroes. I have a brother. He is fantastic looking. And an older sister, of course. I don't particularly love hearing my age said out loud because it sounds kind of ancient, but then I think that in my mind I feel 32.

And look it.
Oh, thank you darling. You made my day. I think people who obsess about age are kind of sad because it is so much better than the alternative. I mean, would you like to be gone like Elvis Presley or James Dean or Marilyn Monroe just because they look great? I'm sure they'd rather be around.

There are no signs of you going anywhere or even slowing down. You're working on a new book called Goddess of Vengeance.
Yeah! And I'm bringing back Lucky!

That's going to make a lot of people happy. You first introduced the character of Lucky Santangelo in your 1981 book Chances.
It is absolutely crazy! People tell me they love my books, and then they say, 'Bring back Lucky!' Then they say, 'How old is Lucky now?' I say, 'Well, she's the same age as Madonna and Sharon Stone.'

Will Lucky play a big part in your next book?
She's coming back in a big way. I'll tell you about Lucky. She does all the things women would like to say but don't have the nerve to say. In one of the books Lucky actually kills somebody, but nobody ever says anything about that, which is quite interesting. She did it in self defense. But, it was a revenge move. She killed the man who ordered the hit on her brother, her mother, and her fianc'.

And what is Lucky up to now in your next book?
Lucky owns this huge complex in Las Vegas now. It's fabulous and along comes this fictional Arab prince from a fictional Arab land. Well, you know how a lot of people treat women in those countries. Of course he comes up against Lucky. It's going to be full of great things that women are going to love. Lucky is going to stand up for women everywhere.

If Lucky went up against the character your sister played on Dynasty, Alexis Carrington, who would win?
Well, I created Alexis Carrington, so you can't do that!

You created Alexis?
I'll tell you how I created her. I wrote a book called The Stud, and eventually I produced it as a movie that starred my sister. She starred as Fontaine Khaled, the beautiful, jet-setting nymphomaniac. Get a copy of The Stud and you will see Alexis Carrington. Aaron Spelling saw the movie, stole the character, changed the name and Alexis Carrington Colby was born.

Did he acknowledge that?
Yes, he said it to me often. He would laugh about it, especially when they brought Alexis's sister on the show, a novelist. I said, 'Oh, thanks a lot, Aaron!' I used to find that they would mirror a lot of my plot lines from my books. For instance, they brought on Diahann Carroll, a black sister. Well, Lucky had a black brother. Interesting, huh?

Not to dwell on age, but one of the things that does come from age is wisdom. Looking back is there anything where you say, 'If I knew then what I know now?'
No, because the great thing about the journey of life is that you gain by every experience you have. You have your heart broken. You have your successes. You have your failures. You go through those terrible things that happen to you. I nursed two men through terminal illnesses and that's not exactly a picnic, but I've had fantastic successes with my books. I've probably been writing longer than anybody who is on the bestseller list, which is a great achievement for a school dropout. I dropped out of school at 15.

So, no regrets?
No. I just love everything I've done, and I love everything I'm going to do.

Which brings me to all of the others out there. On your website it says, 'There have been many imitators, but only Jackie Collins can tell you what really goes on in the fastest lane of all.' Love that!
I love that too. It's because every single year along comes somebody and they go, 'this is the new Jackie Collins.' It makes me laugh because it's taken me all this time to be who I am anyway. I write what I want to write. I don't write what a publisher tells me to write. I think that has been the secret to my success. My characters speak like we all speak. They have right from the beginning. My first book, The World is Full of Married Men, was banned all over the world because I turned a double standard on its head. I've always written gay characters too. And they're not there just because they're there. They are there because they are part of life.

The gay community adores you.
I love my gay audience! I did a gay event in Atlanta last year with my book Married Lovers. It was the most fun ever. They were the most fabulous audience. Of course I wore a lot of diamonds for them, and after that there was a Jackie Collins look-alike competition in the bar next door.

Did they look like you?
Some of them.

Now you're going to be a judge on the second season of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Oh! I've already filmed it, and it was so funny. You've got to tune in. It will be on sometime in February. I love Ru. She is so divine to work with. I just gaze at her in admiration. First of all, she's eight feet tall. Santino [Rice] from Project Runway was on the show too. He was great. I sat next to him. Then you have to judge all of these drag queens. They say to you that you don't have to be nice. So, I was a little bitchy about one of them, and then in the commercial break 'she' came up to me and hissed, 'You're such a bitch!'

What did you say?
My mouth dropped open. I was like, 'I'm supposed to be!'

What kind of little girl was Jackie Collins? Was she a bitch girl?
I wasn't a bitch girl, but I was a street-smart girl. I knew a lot of poor little bitch girls because I came to Hollywood at a very early age. I wrote a book once called Hollywood Kids, and it was about the offspring of adult Hollywood stars. They're so entitled some of them. They grow up in kind of a fantasy world and you find them going to clubs at 14 and 16 and saying, 'Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who my parents are?' There's this false sense of "I am somebody." Then there are a lot of suicides, and it's very sad. I don't think I'm bitchy. I think I listen to gossip, and then I change the names to protect the not-so-innocent and write about it. Writing is a great release because you don't have to be bitchy to anybody. You can get back at them with your books just by changing their names.

You have three daughters. What kind of mother are you?
I would like to think that I am their friend and that I was a very strict mother when they were growing up. Now they are three fantastic women. We're all very close. I think in Hollywood you have to be there for your children. You don't give them to a nanny and you don't go off on locations. You don't just say, 'Goodbye, my career comes first.' You put your children first. You put your husband with them and your career second -- always. Some people just end up with a career because they ignore the family. Then the divorce comes and along comes the pretty little women. These women who let their husbands go off on location without them are completely crazy.

It's like, "It's 10:00 ' do you know where your man is?"
Exactly! That's a great title for a book!

I'm sure your books are like your children too in that you can't pick a favorite. But if you had to pick your favorite out of the 27 you have written, which one would it be?
I would have to say Chances. I always call it my early Harold Robbins. It's the book where I created the Santangelo family. It's just a very interesting book, and it's my absolute favorite.

Many of your books have been turned into movies. Are there any books of yours that haven't been put on the screen that you would love to see?
Yeah. The one I really want to do desperately is Hollywood Divorces. It's about three women in Hollywood. One is this very young and hip director. She's like 19. Then there's this one who is like this Catherine Zeta Jones'type actress. Then the third one, who is my favorite, is a Latina movie star and singer. Perfect role for J-Lo! I love J-Lo! I'm such a fan. I love everything she does. I love her fashion. I love her music, and of course I love her husband. Marc Anthony's music is just fantastic.

It's interesting, but you said in a previous life you believe you may have been a panther or a leopard. Do you really believe that?
I really believe that. As I sit at my desk talking to you, behind me is this giant picture of a prowling leopard. I think I was a leopard. I don't know why. I'm just completely fascinated by them. I feel like that may be something from my past. There are different leopards and panthers all over my desk. They're all over my house. I used to wear leopard skin until it became so popular.

You don't follow trends?
No, I won't follow trends; they follow me.

What do you say to the critics who write you off as just another campy author?
My biggest critics are the people who have never read me. They'll just see my name and criticize the picture on the back of the book and dismiss me. Then occasionally I'll have a journalist come and interview me and go, 'You know, I never read you and my editor said I had to interview you, and I read your book, and it's a fantastic story.' They'll be completely shocked. I want to laugh and say, 'I've sold over 400 million books in my long career!' I don't really care about critics because most of them have an unfinished manuscript in their desk drawer. They are rather incensed that a woman has written, especially a fairly attractive one. That really annoys them. They'd rather me have a bun and glasses and never did any publicity.

Since you have written so many books, some assume you just give the idea to someone and have them write it.
Well, that's what James Patterson does, you know?

Oh yeah. Have you noticed he has a cowriter on every book? He gives them the idea and then they write the book. I could make a lot of money doing that, but I wouldn't.

Besides the book Goddess of Vengeance, what is next for you?
I'm doing the Lucky Santangelo cookbook. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a lot of my recipes, but a lot of Lucky's Italian ones. I love making meatballs and pasta.

You're a gourmet --
Yeah, I'm a gourmet -- no, wait, I'm not a gourmet chef! Like I wouldn't call myself a literary writer. I'd call myself a storyteller. As far as a cooking goes, I wouldn't call myself a gourmet. I would call myself a good family cooker.

Out of all of the things you've done and accomplished, what are you the most proud of?
My children.

Poor Little Bitch Girl is available Feb. 9. For the latest on Jackie Collins, visit and follow her on Twitter at @jackiejcollins.

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Tags: Interviews