The day I was thrown out of school, at the tender age of fifteen, was a happy day indeed! Having played truant for almost all of the previous year (ducking into the subway station, changing out of my school uniform, and spending the day at the movies) I was thrilled at the thought of legitimate freedom.
The only subject that had interested me at school was writing. I used to love making up fun fantasy stories, and charging my schoolmates money to let them read the sexy bits. Ah yes, at that young age sex was the engine that drove my somewhat lurid stories, although once I became a published author I soon reached the conclusion that sex doesn't sell a book, a good story and interesting characters does.
But I digress -- after my rude expulsion from school, I stood before my furious parents who didn't know what to do with me. Have I mentioned that I was a total punk rocker before punk rock even existed? So bad that at one point my parents even burnt my outrageous clothes! They certainly had no desire to allow me to hang around the house all day. At that time my older sister was a successful mini-movie star in Hollywood, making films with the likes of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. "Reform School or Hollywood," my exasperated parents said.
Hmm... I thought for a moment, then quickly said that I wanted to be a journalist -- or if not that, a writer.
Derisive laughter filled the air. My father, a theatrical agent with nothing but show business connections thought it was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard. A writer! No way. According to him I needed to stay in school to follow that kind of path. I needed degrees and a college education. "Besides," he added soberly. "We're a show business family. You're not bad looking -- you can get into the movies like your sister."
The words reform school or Hollywood repeated (soon to be the title of my upcoming autobiography). "Ok, so I'll take Hollywood," I mumbled at last. But in my heart I knew all along that one day I would write books, because that's what I wanted to do more than anything else in life. I might've been a wild child, but I was smart enough to know exactly the path I had in mind for myself.
And what a path it's been!
After an early introduction to Hollywood and extremely brief acting career (I was always cast as the Italian girl -- blink and you'd miss me!) I decided that if I didn't do something about a writing career, nobody else would. So I started to write and write and write, in spite of the discouragement all around. I wrote a slew of unfinished novels, until finally I met the man I was later to marry, and he read the book I was working on, and informed me that I was a natural storyteller and that I must finish the book.
Ah... encouragement at last! It definitely has a way of making one succeed.
So... I finished "The World is Full of Married Men," found a publisher, and 26 best selling novels later, here I am, just about to publish my 27th book -- "Poor Little Bitch Girl."
It just goes to show -- a little encouragement can take you wherever you want to go.
WATCH Jackie Collins's interview on Good Morning America: