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How novelist Martina became a national treasure
7:40am Saturday 16th March 2013 in News
CRIME writer Martina Cole is a sponge for every bit of news going.
She scans the newspaper for crime stories and has the news channel on throughout the day.
The constant resource of ideas might be one of the reasons Martina, who grew up in Thurrock, has sold more than 10million books in the UK alone.
She delves unflinchingly into the gangster underworld, revealing violence, betrayal and intrigue.
I catch Martina in the midst of a writing frenzy when I call her at 11am one weekday morning.
“I haven’t been to bed yet,” she admits when she answers the phone in her trademark husky voice.
“I’m a night owl when I have a book on the go. I have never been a great sleeper and so working at night has always worked for me.
“It’s the only time the phone isn’t ringing and there aren’t people, kids, grandkids, coming in and out.”
Martina is a bestselling author of 17 novels. Her latest book The Life is due out in May.
She finds the writing process is all-consuming. “There is no feeling like it when you are on the final draft and the adrenaline gets going,” she says. “After the final paragraph I have a large whisky. I feel so relieved that finally I can rest.” She gets a lot of her ideas from reading news stories.
Martina says: “I am obsessed with news. If I hear a woman has been killed I fill in the rest of the story in my head.
“I’ve spooked myself before. I write the story and get into the characters and then I re-read it back and think God that was violent! “You feel numb to it at the time because the story is writing itself.”
Martina’s route into writing has not been easy or in any way inevitable. At 15 she was expelled from Grays Convent School for reading Harold Robbins’s the Carpetbaggers.
At 16 she got married, divorced at 17 and fell pregnant with her son Chris at 18. It wasn’t until she was 30 that Martina sent off a manuscript called Dangerous Lady to an agent.
She says: “My parents didn’t see my career take off, but they would have been proud. “My mum would have loved the TV shows because she was into films.
“It’s been 30 years but I still miss her. I hear something and think ‘oh I must tell mum’ and forget she’s not around.”
As a young mum Martina lived in a bleak hostel in Tilbury with no carpets. She was a wine waitress and used to take her son Chris with her.
Later she would come home and stuff leaflets into magazines until 4am in the morning. She credits her genes for her good work ethic and strong nature.
She said: “My mum kept it all together and looked after five kids while dad was away. She was a strong woman.
“There is a long line of women like that in my family.
“My nan came over to visit one weekend and decided to stay for 11 years! ”They were all grafters and when things got bad they just got on with it. I have always been like that.”
Martina has clear views on the importance of keeping close friends. She adds: “I’m always suspicious of people who don’t have old friends.
“I’ve got the same group of friends I grew up with and we go on holiday to my place in Cyprus together.”
Talking about latest book The Life, she says: “It’s about a family and the deceit and betrayal and how far that runs. “I think betrayal in family is the worst thing.”