Martina, 55, lives in Kent with her daughter Freddie, 17. Her son, Chris, 36, ives nearby with his wife, Karina, and three children, Lewis, 17, Natalia, seven, and Chris, four. Whenever they can, they go to their adjoining houses in the mountains of Northern Cyprus. Martina has written 21 novels, with 13 consecutive number-one bestsellers.
‘I come from a big Irish Catholic Family who moved out after the slum clearances of East London to Essex. My Mother’s Mother, Nanny O’Laughlin, came for the weekend and stayed for 11 years. She taught us to read and write before we went to school.
I always wanted to be a writer. When I was young, I’d say “I’m going to have an Autumn wedding” or “I’m going to have a sports car and a flat.” Then I saw a documentary on the writer Jackie Collins and she had a walk-in wardrobe- and I was like, “OMG.”
I wrote Dangerous Lady when I was 21 but I put it into a cuboard for ten years. I thought you had to be educated or famous to be a writer. When I was moving house I took it out of the cupboard and reread it- I thought, “This isn’t bad. I might buy this.”
I nearly always write from the criminal’s point of view because I think they’re more interesting. I love books by Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Dashiell Hammett, but I couldn’t write about the same character all the time, it’d get on my nerves.
My writing day starts at 10:30 at night. I open my laptop and that’s it through the night, most nights. I sleep for a few hours during the day. A book a year is hard, but once I get going, the time just flies. I always say I’m the luckiest person in the world because I’m with the people I want to be with – and if they get on my nerves, I can kill them!
The idea for The Good Life came from the Tony Bennett song of the same name. It says that if you fall in love, you have to kiss the good life goodbye and settle down and be a regular person. I already had the idea of Cain, a powerful wrong’un banged up in Parkhurst, and two women, his wife Caroline and his mistress, Jenny. So I collated them all into a rounded book and it worked out really well.
Read Fanny’s full interview with Martina Cole in the February issue of w&h – on sale now
‘The Good Life’ by Martina Cole (£14.99; Headline) is out now