She has been writing bestsellers for 25 years and has achieved sales of over fourteen million in the UK alone. Here Martina Cole chats Essex girls, cockle sheds and loving bad boys…
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET VICE?
Emmerdale! On my life I have to watch Emmerdale, because of Cain Dingle. I’m trying to get up an online petition that he has to take his shirt off in every episode. Whether it will happen we don’t know but we can only hope. My other secret vice is I go to Leigh cockle sheds some times. When my daughter was very little I used to take her down the cockle sheds – she was six months old when she had her first jellied eel. And I still love it down there.
WHEN ARE YOU AT YOUR HAPPIEST?
I think when I’m with my grandchildren probably now, coz I’m getting on a bit. I do travel extensively though.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN ESSEX?
There’s so many to choose from, but one of my favourite places is the Boatyard in Leigh. It’s beautiful. Great food. I used to live on Benfleet Road. It was beautiful. It was like a footballer’s wife’s house. Had an indoor swimming pool, the lot. I loved it. When I moved over to Kent my daughter thought we’d gone poor. She said to me, Mummy have we gone poor, and I said not really, no!
WHAT DO YOU MOST LIKE ABOUT ESSEX?
The great things with Essex people is what you see is what you get. We don’t take any prisoners and that’s what I think I love most about it all. We still have the East End humour. Most of us came out of the slum clearances you know.
Do you know what annoys me with Essex girls? People forget that more women pass exams in Essex than anywhere else in the UK. More women in Essex own their own prestigue cars than anywhere else in the country and more women in Essex own their own properties than anywhere else in the country. They like to make us out as stupid and foolish, but the last time I saw a white pair of stilettoes was on Lady Diana.
Years ago I was at a really posh publishing do and they were telling all these Essex girl jokes and I said, do you know what a Sloane Ranger’s boyfriend wants for Christmas? And they all went, ooh no, what? And I said an Essex girl. I used to say to them, your headband’s too tight.
I had a lot of snobbery at first, but one thing with us Essex girls is you’ll never keep us down.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FROM?
I’ve always got ideas darling, every day. Oh my brain never stops, it gets on my nerves. Honest to God it does. Anyone else hears a noise in the house they think, oo the heating’s creaking. I’ve two serial killers and three rapists coming up the stairs, I have. That’s the way my mind works!
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE ANYONE HAS EVER GIVEN YOU?
When I was young and I was on my own with my son and I didn’t have a lot of money. My mum said to me, Monday morning post yourself a fiver second class post and it’ll come on the Friday so you’ll always have a fiver for the weekend.
AND DID YOU DO IT?
Oh of course I didn’t? I was so poor. I never forget how poor I was.
HOW LONG DID DAMAGED (OUT NOW) TAKE YOU TO WRITE?
A year start to finish, it always does. And I brought back Patrick Kelly and Kate Burrows for the fourth time.
I write from the point of view of the criminal, I’ve always preferred it. But every now and again I fancy doing a police procedural, so this is a police procedural. I enjoy them, but I couldn’t write them all the time. I prefer my bad boys. Oh come on we’re from Essex, you got no choice. We love those bad boys!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
Oh the next one. I haven’t got a title yet, but I will have soon. The storyline’s all down all I’ve got to do now is write it. I write for 16-17 hours at a time. I’m a typical Essex girl, I keep nightclub hours darling, I always have.
WHAT MADE YOU START WRITING?
When I had my Chris I lived in Tilbury and we didn’t have television, we didn’t have carpets. So when I put my son to bed I used to sit and write in exercise books and entertained myself. I could write in a pub, love. The books in your head. I still write in pencil in long hand. And then I transfer it, obviously, to a computer.
DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS?
You know what sweetheart, every author will tell you the same. When I read my books back – when they’re making a film or a series you have to read them back, and every book I’ve ever written I’d love to rewrite and re-edit, but you can’t. It’s done. It’s over. That’s it.
ARE ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS BASED ON PEOPLE YOU KNOW?
I’ve never, ever used anyone I know, except for one time, Ozzy who was in The Take, I did base him on Eddie Richardson and Eddie is an old friend of mine. His sister is my best friend and I did the forward for his book, the Last Word.
I do use friends’ names. Just to make them laugh. One of my friends was a madam, she loved it.
WHAT’S THE NICEST THING ANYONE HAS EVER SAID TO YOU?
One of my oldest friends said to me, you’ve never changed Martina, you just drive a better car. And I think that is a great compliment.
AND WHAT ARE THOSE CARS?
A Bentley. And a Range Rover. And I’ve got a Mustang. I like cars..
FIVE FAST FACTS ON MARTINA COLE
- Martina grew up in Aveley and was expelled from Grays Convent School – she then went to Aveley Secondary Modern.
- She is a patron of the single-parent charity Gingerbread and is a big advocate for women, especially women in prison.
- Her breakthrough came in 1991, when her manuscript for Dangerous Lady was accepted by a literary agent and sold for a record £150,000.
- She married for the first time aged 16, but the marriage only lasted a year.
- Martina once worked as a cleaner and wine waitress.
This feature was first published in the Echo newspaper on Wednesday, October 11, 2017; www.echo-news.co.uk