Next week, the Maui Writers Conference will again lure wannabe novelists, playwrights, screenwriters and journalists to the Valley Isle. The 1996 session, the conference's fifth, will take place Labor Day weekend. Last year's conference drew more than 1,200 people and thus far, more than 800 people have registered for this year's sessions. Among the noteworthy participants are Ron Howard and Jackie Collins, who are featured below.
"My God, I am so fortunate, aren't I? I love to write and am successful at it. Quite amazing really."
Collins, the author of 16 best sellers that translates into 190-plus million books sold, isn't boasting. She really is amazed, but the secret to such remarkable success is "quite simple."
"Write exactly what you want to write and put your heart in it. I never think about writing something else than what I do, or going another direction because it may sell better.
"I sit down and create characters I want to write about, that I could love, I'm interested in. Then everything unfolds for me."
So, to thine own self be true, is it?
"Yes, that's it," Collins says without a hint of chuckle. "Sounds simple doesn't it."
In case your literary tastes have not ventured into Collins-land, the 50-something writer's tomes began in 1968 with "The World is Full of Married Men" followed by "The Stud," "Sinners," "Lovehead," "The Love Killers," "The World is Full of Divorced Women," "The Bitch," "Hollywood Wives," "Lucky," "Hollywood Husbands," "Rock Star" and "Lady Boss."
There are several other reasons for Collins' success, not the least of which are the strong women characters she creates, and erotic rather than mechanical sex.
"Male authors seem to write their sex episodes like a gynecologist," Collins said, laughing. "I try to make mine incredibly erotic, and sometimes funny."
She's also proud that she writes about "great married sex."
"In books and films you never ever get great married sex. Married couples are never having fun. They're always getting divorced, having affairs, hate each other. That really isn't accurate."
One of Collins favorite characters is Lucky Santangelo, the Mafia princess turned movie mogul in her books, "Chances," and "Lady Boss." Collins has just finished her third Lucky novel, "Vendetta: Lucky's Revenge," to be published in February by Harper-Collins.
"Women got fed up reading novels where women are either in the kitchen or the bedroom. Lucky is out there doing everything a man can do, even better."
Collins also has taken a cue from Lucky. Four years ago in Beverly Hills, while she and other women friends were in a car, a man with an Uzi accosted them.
"He was holding that gun two inches from my nose and screamed, 'Don't move bitch or I'll blow your (expletive) head off.'"
Collins was so incensed by his "tone of hatred" she slammed down on the accelerator and sped off.
"I know that action was what Lucky would have done. She's quite ballsy you know."
Collins was kicked out of her English high school at 15 for smoking.
"I hated school; it didn't teach me anything. I couldn't wait to get to America because I knew I was going to write American books."
Collins emphasizes she doesn't write as a business but disciplines herself as if she's running one.
"Don't sit down and write a story about a lawyer just because John Grisham did it and a lot of money, or write about sex because I do it, or about gangsters because Mario Puzo does it. Write what you really want to write and love writing."
Lest you think Collins is a pampered best seller, guess again.
"I'm always saying things like I wish I had a wife. I'm doing all the things that I don't imagine Harold Robbins ever doing, like answering the doorbell, fixing stuff in the house, cooking meals for everyone."
Here's how Collins creates:
She writes in long hand. "That's real writing. If you're writing a book you have to be in touch with your characters. You can't do that with a computer. I like the physical process of handwriting. It gives me time to consider changes. I like crossing things out, putting little arrows in here, doing little inserts."
She begins writing early, about 7 a.m. and continues to dinner at about 5:30 p.m. "I like to fall out of bed and go straight to the desk. I may have coffee or something but I don't usually eat until the evening. I try to write in bursts: three weeks straight then take off two weeks."
She starts new books with the title and main character in mind. "That gives me the theme and from one character come the other ones. I've just started a new book 'Married Lovers' and I have this one woman in mine and now I know so much about her. All the other characters are falling into place."
Her characters come from life. "Usually it's someone I've seen, met, someone in the newspaper, a public personality. I write from observing people. Then I write what I think they're like. Unfortunately, I am always incredibly accurate. I always change the names to protect the not so innocent.
Her stories are never finished. "I write about people's lives. I could pick any one of them up again and continue with that person's life. I could go on forever because someone's life is never over until you die."