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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Remembering Bestselling Author Jackie Collins

by Cyrus Webb

20 years.

Before 2015 that is how long it had been before I walked the streets of New York. I was 19 years old the last time I was there, and though my intentions were always to come back for a visit or to catch a show, it never happened. That is until June 2015.

So what brought me back to the Big City all the way from Mississippi? Two words: Jackie Collins.

I have been a fan of her books for over 20 years, and have had the honor of interviewing her now 4 times on my radio show Conversations LIVE as well as feature her in the pages of Conversations Magazine. We have chatted, laughed together and stayed connected---but never met. So when I was offered the opportunity to not just discuss her new book THE SANTANGELOS with her over lunch but have some one-on-one time, there was NO WAY I could resist.

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015---just one day after her new book released---I found myself at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York at an event hosted by Socially Speaking and Get Red PR with other fans/bloggers/journalists sitting at the table with the international bestselling author. With over 500 million copies of her books sold, the force that is international bestselling author Jackie Collins became synonymous with engaging stories, sizzling story lines and characters that are talked about long after readers finish her books. 

After an entertaining and engaging conversation about her newest book THE SANTANGELOS she allowed me a few moment to tape a segment for my television show and web-series Cyrus Webb Presents about her career. She was everything you would have hoped she would be: gracious, confident and all too ready to discuss her new book and to listen to us as well.

It was intriguing to hear her discuss the characters she has created, the parallels to pop culture today and even elaborate on her love of creating strong female voices in her books. Unfortunately months after I met one of my favorite storytellers she passed away on September 19, 2015 at the age of 77 of breast cancer. 

As I celebrate 10 years of Conversations Magazine I also honor the legacy and the impact that Jackie Collins had on readers and anyone with a dream. Ever gracious and open about her literary journey, during our conversations she shared not just her own experiences but gave some great advice for those who are looking for the key to living life with purpose and passion. 

JACKIE ON HER FANS:
"I have the greatest fans, the greatest readers. I'm on Twitter (@JackieJCollins), and they talk with me about the characters and the books they love. It has been great interacting with them. 
JACKIE ON THE KEY TO HER SUCCESS:
"I think I write for everybody. All ages, all colors...There's something for everyone in all of my books. I am a true storyteller. That was the gift I was given, to tell stories. My main thrust has always been to write strong women, strong positive women. I think my readers love the women I create. Success (for me) is hearing back from the fans, hearing back from people who love my characters."

JACKIE ON THE REALIZATION (AND FULFILLMENT) OF THE GIFT:
"I think I realized it when I was a kid. I started writing in school and selling my stories to my school mates. I knew then I had a gift of making up a story. I read so much then, spent my leisure time reading books.

"I was expelled from school at 15. At that point you're kind of in limbo, wondering what you're going to do with your life. I wanted to be a writer. My parents said you can't be a writer, you need to go to college. You need to get degrees. When someone says to me you can't do something that's when I say to myself 'Oh yes I can.' I decided to follow the dream, and the dream was to write books. Turns out, people don’t buy books because you went to college. I'm really proud of what I've accomplished."

JACKIE ON WRITING:
"I write what I want to write. I don't plan my books.  I sit down with the characters and they take me on this wild trip." (In her book The Power Trip one of the things she addresses is how issues of race still rear their head regardless of how much a person achieves.) "My brother is married to a beautiful black woman," she told me. "I understand racial tensions that can take place. If I can write about it and change people's minds I am very happy to do that.")

JACKIE ON PUBLISHING:
Her decision to "self-publish" some of her most popular books as kindle reads made news around the world, birthing over 120,000 stories about the decision. When asked about it, this is what Jackie shared about the move and the response from her fans. "All my books are on e-books in other countries, but a lot were not in America. I decided to do it myself, starting with B*tch, The Love Killers and Chances. I have gotten amazing reactions from my fans. They love it, and for me the experience has been very freeing."

During our conversation together on Conversations LIVE I shared with Jackie that though I know people like the immediacy of e-books, I still love the physical copies. She mirrored my sentiment. "I want to have a book in my hand," she told me. "I have a Kindle and iPad, but I don't like reading that way. It is the new thing. I think real book lovers will still buy books, but some like the convenience of having them on Kindle which is why I am making them available to them."

JACKIE ON PURSUING THE DREAM:
"I have a particular message for women. Whether it's making cupcakes, writing books, singing or writing songs, you have got to have something for yourself, something that's yours. Everybody's got to have a passion in life. that's what makes life so exciting."

Jackie Collins will forever remain one of those authors whose work withstands the test of time. Why? Because everything she wrote came from the heart.

Haven't enjoyed the world that is Jackie Collins? Visit her website to see a full listing of her titles including those that have been released as ebooks. www.jackiecollins.com.

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