Q & A with Novelist Jackie Collins

Best-selling novelist Jackie Collins

Best-selling novelist Jackie Collins

ZAMM.com’s Martin Grove spoke recently to best-selling novelist and longtime Hollywood observer Jackie Collins about her new book “Poor Little Bitch Girl”, which is being published Feb. 9 by St. Martin’s Press.

The Story: “Poor Little Bitch Girl” revolves around three twenty-something women, one hot rich guy, two mega movie stars and a devastating murder.

Denver Jones is a twenty-something attorney working in Los Angeles. Carolyn Henderson is a personal assistant to a powerful and very married Senator in Washington, with whom she is having an affair. And Annabelle Maestro, the daughter of two movie stars, has carved out a career for herself in New York as a madame of choice for discerning famous men. The three of them went to high school in Beverly Hills – and although Denver and Carolyn have kept in touch, Annabelle is out on her own with her cocaine-addicted boyfriend, Frankie.

Then there is Bobby Santangelo Stanislopoulos, the Kennedy-esque son of Lucky Santangelo and deceased Greek shipping billionaire, Dimitri Stanislopoulos. Bobby owns Mood, the hottest club in New York. Back in the day, he went to high school with Denver, Carolyn and Annabelle and connected with all three of them. Frankie is his best friend.

When Annabelle’s beautiful movie-star mother is found dead in the bedroom of her Beverly Hills mansion, the five of them find themselves thrown together. And the secrets from their past have a way of coming back to haunt them.

Jackie Collins (Official Bio): There have been many imitators, but only Jackie Collins can tell you what really goes on in the fastest lane of all. From Beverly Hills bedrooms to a raunchy prowl along the streets of Hollywood; from glittering rock parties and concerts to stretch limos and the mansions of the power brokers — Jackie Collins chronicles the real truth from the inside looking out.

Jackie Collins has been called a “raunchy moralist” by the late director Louis Malle and “Hollywood’s own Marcel Proust” by Vanity Fair magazine. With over 400 million copies of her books sold in more than 40 countries, and with some twenty-six New York Times bestsellers to her credit, Jackie Collins is one of the world’s top-selling novelists. She is known for giving her readers an unrivaled insiders knowledge of Hollywood and the glamorous lives and loves of the rich, famous, and infamous! “I write about real people in disguise,” she says. “If anything, my characters are toned down — the truth is much more bizarre.”

Jackie Collins started writing as a teenager, making up steamy stories her schoolmates paid to devour. Her first book, “The World is Full of Married Men” became a sensational bestseller because of its open sexuality and the way it dealt honestly with the double standard. After that came “The Stud”, “Sinners”, “The Love Killers”, “The World is Full of Divorced Women”, “The Bitch”, “Lovers And Gamblers”, “Chances”, and then the international sensation “Hollywood Wives”, — a #1 New York Times bestseller, which was made into one of ABC’s highest-rated miniseries starring Anthony Hopkins and Candice Bergen.

“The Stud”, “The World is Full of Married Men”, and “The Bitch” were also filmed — this time for the big screen. And Jackie wrote an original movie, “Yesterday’s Hero”, starring Ian McShane and Suzanne Somers.

Readers couldn’t wait to race through “Lucky”, her next book — a sequel to “Chances” — and the story of an incredibly beautiful, strong woman, another New York Times number one.

Then came the bad boys of Hollywood in the steamy “Hollywood Husbands” — a novel which kept everyone guessing the identities of the true-to-life Hollywood characters.

Jackie then wrote “Rock Star” — the story of three rock superstars and their rise to the top, followed by the long-waited sequel to “Chances” and “Lucky”“Lady Boss” — tracking the further adventures of the wild and powerful Lucky Santangelo as she takes control of a Hollywood studio.

Both “Lucky” and “Chances” were written and adapted for NBC television by Jackie, who also executive produced the highly successful six-hour miniseries “Lucky/Chances”, starring Nicollette Sheridan and Sandra Bullock.

In 1992, she produced and wrote the four hour miniseries, “Lady Boss”, which became another huge ratings success for NBC. “Lady Boss” starred Kim Delaney. Next came “American Star” a love story, which the Los Angeles Times described as “classic Collins.”

And then the dangerously close to the truth “Hollywood Kids” — a story of power, sex, danger and ambition among the grown offspring of major celebrities.

In 1996 “Vendetta - Lucky’s Revenge” was published — and became an immediate New York Times bestseller.

And then in 1998, Jackie hosted her own daily television show, “Jackie Collins’ Hollywood”. A combination of fun, style and interviews, Jackie talked to everyone from George Clooney to Jennifer Lopez.

After that she wrote “L.A. Connections” — a four-part serial novel published one per month — “Power”, “Obsession”, “Murder”, and “Revenge”.

In 1999 came “Dangerous Kiss” — the return of Lucky Santangelo in a bestselling novel about relationships, addiction, fear and lust.

In 2000, “Lethal Seduction” became the first bestseller for Jackie Collins in the new millennium. This tale of erotic suspense and glamorous intrigue featured Madison Castelli, a character first introduced in the “L.A. Connections” series.

“Poor Little Bitch Girl”

“Poor Little Bitch Girl”

“Hollywood Wives - The New Generation” became a blockbuster bestseller in 2001, following in the footsteps of the original “Hollywood Wives”. “Hollywood Wives - The New Generation” featured a brand new cast of characters and a totally fresh perspective on how women pursue power, love, sex, and success in Tinsletown today.

In 2003 Jackie produced the TV movie of “Hollywood Wives - The New Generation” for CBS, starring Farrah Fawcett, Robin Givens, Jack Scalia and Melissa Gilbert.

In June 2002, New York flash, L.A. trash and a Mafia don met head-on in “Deadly Embrace”. This sexy tale of dangerous passion and suspense features heroine Madison Castelli and is both a prequel and a sequel to her adventures in the bestselling “Lethal Seduction”.

In 2003 came the bestselling “Hollywood Divorces”, the story of three very different women. Followed in 2005 by “Lovers and Players” — a story of family conflicts, three brothers and their billionaire father, a beautiful heiress, a hip-hop mogul, Russian call girls, illegitimate children and two murders. This all takes place over seven days in New York, and is another New York Times bestseller.

“Drop Dead Beautiful — The Continuing Adventures of Lucky Santangelo” was published in 2007. Lucky is back with a vengeance — bolder and more beautiful than ever! In “Drop Dead Beautiful” she meets old friends and enemies, and deals with her wild sixteen-year-old daughter, Max, who is as stubborn and strong as her Mom. Lucky plans to return to Las Vegas and build an amazing billion dollar hotel complex. But when she does… the trouble really begins.

Next came Jackie’s “Married Lovers”, a powerful look at the ins and outs of marriage in Hollywood and also the story of an under-age Russian girl who becomes involved with several Hollywood major players.

Jackie Collins’ latest novel, “Poor Little Bitch Girl”, is a story about three strong, sexy, powerful women.

After enjoying an early opportunity to read an advance edition of “Poor Little Bitch Girl”, I was happy to be able to catch up with Jackie Collins to talk about her new book as well as her perspective on Hollywood.

Q: You’ve focused on Hollywood for many years and in many best-selling books. Has the movie business changed much over those years?
A: It’s changed considerably. When I wrote “Hollywood Wives”, which was the book that really put me out there, that was in the ’80s and the wives of the talk show hosts and the moguls and the producers ran Hollywood. They really did. The whole intricate social thing with the tennis parties and dinner parties and dinners out and private screenings was all very, very social and deals were made. I don’t think that happens today at all. I think the whole industry today is run by business.

It’s all big business and people who don’t really know anything about the creative process are running Hollywood now. And they have these kind of bad boys who run around thinking, “Ah, this is what everybody wants to see — a 16 year old boy getting laid.” And then along comes a (hit adult appeal) movie like “It’s Complicated” and “Sex and the City” and everybody goes, “Oh. They actually do want to see movies about women over 30.”
Q: Given how Hollywood has changed over the years, does that make it harder for you to write about it? Are there less good things to write about now?
A: Oh no, it makes it much easier. I’m completely fascinated with Hollywood. I have been since I was a child. When I was a kid growing up in London I would have Hollywood pictures all over the walls of my bedroom. I would write fan letters to Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson. I was obsessed with Hollywood. I first came here when I was 15 and I just fell in love with the city. I thought it was the most incredible place and I’ve loved it ever since.

But the fortunate thing for me is I’ve always been an observer and sometimes I feel like an anthropologist crawling through the jungles of Hollywood and watching what goes on. If I was brought up here and went to Beverly Hills High I don’t think I would have the same perspective as I do now.
Q: Is it harder today than in the past to succeed in Hollywood?
A: I think it’s more difficult to get a movie off the ground today than it was. You know, they don’t use the words “development hell” (unfairly) because it is development hell. Whether it is TV or movies, it’s tremendously difficult getting things off the ground now where it was much easier (years ago) and you don’t have those fantastic shining talents that we used to have. It’s all businessmen running things.
Q: Is the glamour gone?
A: I don’t think so. What I think is kind of sad is when you see these awards shows and you see these actresses gloriously decked out and they look fantastic and then you see them in the magazines the next week and they look like hags. It’s like the stylists are running Hollywood. That’s what happens (to today’s stars). They’re completely taken over by the stylists and styled. But you do have the individuals like Angelina Jolie, who always looks fantastic and has that movie star glamour about her. And George Clooney, of course, who has that Cary Grant kind of vibe going for him. So there are still movie stars, but mostly it’s not so glamorous as it was. But then glamour is just an illusion anyway.
Q: How do you mean?
A: I write the illusion of Hollywood. As we know, Hollywood does not exist. I mean, Hollywood is Hollywood Boulevard, which is people trying to make a buck posing as Charlie Chaplin for tourists. Hollywood is really just a state of mind that the world loves. When I wrote my books “Hollywood Wives” and “Hollywood Wives — The New Generation” and “Hollywood Kids” and “Hollywood Divorces”, they were huge hits across the world because everybody says, “I’ve got to go to Hollywood. It’s the most fantastic place.” But, you know, there’s Bel Air and there’s Beverly Hills and all these other places that are not really Hollywood, but that we kind of lump into it. So Hollywood to me is an illusion, but the people in it are fantastic because everybody comes here wanting something. They want to make it.

There’s so few people who are born in Los Angeles. Mostly, people come from New York. Usually, you get these old moguls who come from New York and they’re not very attractive and they want to get laid. So they think they’ll go into the movie business. And writing about them is always a fascination to me because there are so many cliché characters here, too. I took a male friend on a bachelor party the other night. I took him to a strip club and had several ladies with me and him. I wanted to buy him a mud wrestling turn. I walked into this strip club and there was a girl behind the desk where you check your coats and she goes, “Ah, you’re Jackie Collins! I came to Hollywood because of you.” And I thought, “That’s so interesting. And you ended up in a strip joint taking people’s coats!”

I’ve always loved writing rags-to-riches and I think that’s what Hollywood is all about. Hollywood is a rags-to-riches kind of dream scenario. Take the kids in “Twilight”, for instance. Two years ago nobody had ever heard of them. Now Robert Pattinson is the biggest star in the world. It’s the big Hollywood dream. You can be nothing and you can become everything. I wrote about it in “American Star” with a character called Nick Angel, who came to Hollywood with nothing and got everything. I think that’s what the appeal of Hollywood is — the fact that anything can happen here. You can be nobody one day and then you can be on a hit TV show and be a huge star the next. Or you can struggle for years. George Clooney struggled for years in bad sitcoms. And then, suddenly, he’s a movie star.
Q: And people thought of him as being an overnight success.
A: Exactly. I’m sure it took him at least 15 years to be an overnight success.
Q: Now in “Poor Little Bitch Girl” you’re looking at L.A., New York and Washington rather than just the world of Hollywood. Why did you decide to look at three power centers?
A: I was very, very intrigued by the cheating politicians all over America. I started thinking about (Eliot) Spitzer and his liaison with a call girl and then that brought me to the character of Annabelle and I thought, “Who is Annabelle?” Annabelle is the daughter of two Hollywood movie stars. Okay. Babies are so popular in Hollywood now. It’s like the new accessory. It’s like nobody’s ever had a baby before. All of a sudden, the magazines are paying millions of dollars to get a picture of an obscure baby on the cover of their magazine.

So what happens when that baby grows up and you’ve got the movie star parents and suddenly you’ve got an adult daughter and that makes you look older and you don’t want that. So the character of Annabelle came to me. They shipped her off. They said, “Okay, we’ll give you everything you want, but why don’t you go live in New York? Why don’t you just get out of our lives.” I wanted to write about the fact that she was a Beverly Hills kid and yet she ended up running call girls in New York, which I think can easily happen. In fact, it is based very lightly on somebody that I do know that has kind of encompassed that life style and the fact that she will occasionally indulge. It’s almost like she’s getting revenge against her parents for being so famous.

The murder idea came to me because of all the things that we’ve seen here from Phil Spector and Robert Blake and O.J. and all of that. There have been so many famous Hollywood murders. And I liked that idea. And then, of course, I started thinking about politicians because of cheating politicians. And then I started thinking about the case that happened in Washington a few years ago — the Chandra Levy case. And (the character) Carolyn also went to Beverly Hills High. And I thought, “It’s great. I’ve got these three girls. They all went to Beverly Hills High.

You know, I love writing strong women. Denver is really strong and positive and single and attractive and fun, smart — and so she came to mind. And then, of course, Bobby Santangelo Stanislopoulos , who is Lucky Santangelo’s son. Lucky is my most famous character. I wrote two mini-series about Lucky (“Chances” and “Lucky — Lady Boss”). I wrote 10 hours of prime time for NBC. She was played in one of them by Nicolette Sheridan and in the other one by Kim Delaney. And her mother in the first mini-series — this is a bit of trivia — was played by Sandra Bullock. She was four years old when her mother was murdered. So there’s her mother floating in the swimming pool covered in blood. She (Bullock) was very appealing. I remember everybody on the set was always saying to me, “You know, that girl’s so great.” That was in the ’80s.
Q: So you’ve blended those three great power centers.
A: And tied them together with the fact that all of them went to school together at Beverly Hills High. I always write about Las Vegas, too. Las Vegas and Hollywood are my two most (favorite locations). Whether I try to stay away from them or not, I cannot stay away from them.
Q: With the changes that we’ve seen in Hollywood, do you think the movie business still has a future?
A: Oh, absolutely. Some really good films get made — like “Up in the Air” (which) I thought was fabulous. And in between all the teenage stuff and the bad boring movies that are whatever it is “2,” “3,” “4,” we do get good stuff. There are still good filmmakers out there who want to do good work. It’s just more difficult for them to get a movie made because you can either make a movie for $2 million or it’s got to be $80 million.

I am producing a movie in Paris that’s going to start shooting at the beginning of February. It’s called “Paris Connections” and it’s directed by Harley Cokliss. I’m producing it with Amber Entertainment (the new L.A. and London based company launched by former New Line executives Mark Ordesky, who produced the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Ileen Maisel and Jane Fleming and documentary and TV producer Lawrence Elman with financing through Tesco, the supermarket chain that’s Britain’s biggest retailer). It’s (about) one of my characters that I’ve written about in three books called Madison. It’s a romantic thriller. We’re shooting it direct to DVD. I think that’s the future.

I know how people love to buy books and they love to have books in their libraries. Why shouldn’t they buy a movie that’s directly made for them that they don’t have to go out and pay a lot of money (to see in a theater) — unless it’s “Avatar” — and they can just have fun with it and pass it amongst their friends. The average family today, if they go out to a movie and take a couple of kids (with) the popcorn and the chocolates it’s going to cost them 80 bucks. A premiere DVD is going to cost them $25.
Q: Did you write the screenplay?
A: I wrote “the bible” (the story notes to work from in writing the screenplay).
Q: You’ve written screenplays based on your books in the past. How do you feel about writing screenplays?
A: I wrote 10 hours of prime time for NBC. I wrote “Lucky Chances” and “Lady Boss” I love writing screenplays. The frustration is the development because, you know, you write a screenplay and then 10 people have their opinions. As a book writer, I don’t like (writing that way). I write it and what you see is what you get. But I do like writing screenplays. In fact, the next movie I do (I’ll write) because they’re thinking of doing a series of these movies. I will definitely write the screenplay, myself.
Q: It’s sometimes said that people no longer get excited about seeing stars on the red carpet at the Oscars because they see these same stars on lots of other red carpets and on all sorts of TV shows covering Hollywood all the time. Is this a problem?
A: I think we are over-saturated. There’s far too many awards ceremonies so they’re not that special any more. I think the People’s Choice Awards, the Golden Globes and the Oscars would be enough for anyone. But all these other ceremonies creep in. You see the same people over and over and they’re so stylized. It’s not that much fun to keep watching it because it becomes boring — like there’s too many magazines about Hollywood now. But I don’t think Hollywood’s going to go away any time soon. I think it’s still the golden ticket and everybody wants it.
Q: And hopefully they’ll all want to read your new book when it comes out Feb. 9. I’m sure you’ll be out there spreading the word!
A: I will be on the “Today” show on February 9th with the lovely Matt Lauer and I’ll be on “The View” the next day. And then (on key talk shows like) Wendy Williams and Craig Ferguson and Chelsea Handler — and it’s going to be fun!