I thought I was reading another one of those tasteless Hollywood hoaxes on Sunday morning. Jackie Collins dead. One of my favourite authors. Gone.
But then scrolling through Twitter, it became apparent really quickly that this was actually happening. My heart sank.
Sounds dramatic, but let me tell you why I’m still internally grieving.
The first time I picked up a Jackie Collins book I was perusing WHSmith at the airport, looking for an entertaining read to accompany me on my flight back from Dublin. I was 15 and easily bored so the thought of a one hour flight warranted a new book.
I saw Lethal Seduction and rather than think what the plot could possibly be about, I fell in love with the front cover. It was bold and fierce and I just had to have it.
Purchase in tow, I sat down at the terminal gates well ahead of my flight. I will never forget reading the first line.
“What’s the best sex you’ve ever had?”
I instantly closed the book and looked around. Everyone was in their own world, paying me no attention, yet it was like they had all read that line with me. I started to wish I had read the blurb and a few pages before purchasing.
Rather than allow the odd hundred people cop an eyeful of my book, I waited until I was on my flight and found that one hour felt like a couple of minutes.
I can’t remember how many chapters I got through but I do remember falling head over heels for Lethal Seduction’s main protagonist – Madison Castelli. She was independent, a journalist, brainy and by Collins’ description, beautiful – but not in an obvious way.
At 15 and wanting to be a journalist I was in awe. Yes, she’s a fictional character but Jackie Collins had a way of making her sound like an individual you would encounter in real life as oppose to a thought in a far far away land.
By the end of that novel, I was hooked. I purchased the prequel and sequel and then found myself wanting to read more. That was when I came across Lucky Santangelo.
Lucky was a force to be reckoned with and possessed the type of strength one could only wish to have. I loved Jackie Collins for creating her because it proved that you could be strong and feminine. The idea of being strong wasn’t an adjective to just associate with men anymore.
Of course none of us live quite the hectic life Lucky does but Jackie did so much in creating the Santangelos that had both societal and personal effects. She wanted to steer away from the typical image of a homemaker who lived to please everyone but herself. What was fun about that? Instead she gave us adventure, scandal and a yearning to inject some excitement into our own lives – which I have to say, I’ve done.
It wasn’t shameful for women to be dominant, outspoken and brazen. It was acceptable. Female characters who enjoyed sexual freedom may have stirred a lot of conservative individuals, but it revealed a new side to females. Rather than be seen as objects, their satisfaction mattered just as much as men.
Everyone who adored Jackie’s books took away something personal. For me, it was the realisation that being strong was necessary. Lucky’s world of dominating men mirrors our world today. In creating Lucky, Jackie redefined what it meant to be a woman, which presented opportunities to challenge archaic stereotypes and aim for what may have once seemed like the unattainable.
I’ll miss Jackie’s tenacious stories that were so easy to read and succumb to. I’ll miss how her influential characters have somehow accompanied me through the defining years of my life. But most importantly I’ll miss her passion and zest for storytelling. There will never be another Jackie Collins.