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The Mills & Boon family were extremely sad this weekend ...
Power Games by Victoria Fox
Are you brave enough to play?
The first books I ever properly fell for were bonkbusters. As a teenager I spent many a long hot summer devouring the classics; glossy 80s extravaganzas by Collins, Cooper and Conran. These novels proved to me that reading was about more than turning pages: it was about total immersion. Bonkbusters are completely escapist. They’re delicious, sweeping, impossible-to-put-down fantasies in which anything goes. A good one will transport you utterly into someone else’s life, to a far-flung place and time.
I knew I had to try writing one of my own. After studying English at university I took a job in publishing, and kept searching for a bonkbuster like the ones I used to adore – the sort of book that would keep me up at night, racing through the pages, desperate to get to the end but at the same time never wanting it to finish. I figured, since I knew exactly what I was looking for, why not have a go myself? An editor friend suggested I show my writing to a literary agent, and the next thing I knew she agreed to represent me. I quit my job and set about writing my first book, Hollywood Sinners.
I’ve never looked back. Being an author is the best job I can think of. I’ve always wanted to do it, because I’m happiest when I’m alone with my imagination, knowing I can create any world I’m brave enough to think of. As a child I wrote some really awful little stories on scraps of paper pilfered from my dad’s office, stapling them together and scrawling a bar code on the back, as if someone might legitimately want to buy them. The other week I unearthed one called 'Under the Bed', inspired by a twelve-year-old phase of loving Point Horrors (mini slasher dramas aimed at the less discerning tween: Sweet Valley meets I Know What You Did Last Summer). On the cover was a blood-drenched hand emerging from beneath a mattress, and the lead character was a high school American jock called Casey. Was it Casey’s hand under the bed? I don’t think we ever found out, because I never finished it. Maybe I will one day, if I can see through my cringe.
Holding my first published book was a major highlight. When I received copies of Hollywood Sinners I felt completely overwhelmed at how this funny experiment I’d scribbled for months in my office was now suddenly all grown up. I still see my books as those stapled-together forays (I’d need a bigger stapler now though).
A more recent high-point was meeting my idol Jackie Collins. I still have to pinch myself when I read that. Earlier this year Jackie and I were judging Lorraine Kelly’s Racy Reads competition together on ITV, in search of a new writing star for Mills & Boon. Getting to chat with the Queen of Bonkbusters was incredible. I really felt then as if I’d made it, and safe to say that if I could go back and tell this to my fourteen-year-old self, she’d never in a million years consider it. I’m a big believer that if you know what you want and you work hard for it, you’ll get there.