Q What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A When I was young and I was on my own with my son and I didn’t have a lot of money. My mum said to me, Monday morning post yourself a fiver second class post and it’ll come on the Friday, so you’ll always have a fiver for the weekend.

Q Did you do it?

A Oh of course I didn’t! I was so poor. I never forget how poor I was. And you know what, I’ve still got every friend I had at school. Well, I got expelled from Grays Convent High School.

Q For being caught reading a Harold Robbins’ novel..?

A Oh sweetheart. You wouldn’t believe… And then I went to Aveley Secondary Modern. There were a lot of nits in those days. I’ve got to say though I still love Thurrock and Essex. A lot of my friends still live there.

Q Do you have any writing rituals?

A I write for 16-17 hours at a time. I’m a typical Essex girl, I keep nightclub hours darling, I always have.

Q How did you start writing?

A When I had my Chris I lived in Tilbury. We didn’t have television, we didn’t have carpets, I’d moved into a hostel, so when I put my son to bed I used to sit and write in exercise books and entertained myself. I could write in a pub love. The book’s in your head. You know the best compliment I’ve ever had was from one of my oldest friends and she said you’ve never changed Martina, you just drive a better car. And I think that is a great compliment.

Q And what car do you drive nowadays?

A A Bentley. And a Range Rover. And I’ve got a Mustang. I like cars. The Mustang is a really, really unique colour, it’s like a really strange pinky/red. The only one of that colour.

Q Where’s your favourite place in Essex?

A There are so many to choose from, but one of my favourite places is the Boatyard in Leigh. It’s beautiful. Great food. I used to live on Benfleet Road. It was beautiful. It was like a footballer’s wife’s house. Had an indoor swimming pool, the lot. I loved it. When I moved over to Kent my daughter thought we’d gone poor. She said to me, Mummy have we gone poor, and I said not really, no!

Q What do you most like about Essex?

A The great things with Essex people is what you see is what you get. We don’t take any prisoners and that’s what I think I love most about it all. We still have the East End humour. Most of us came out of the slum clearances you know. Do you know what annoys me with Essex girls? People forget that more women pass exams in Essex than anywhere else in the UK. More women in Essex own their own prestige cars than anywhere else in the country and more women in Essex own their own properties than anywhere else in the country. They like to make us out as stupid and foolish, but the last time I saw a white pair of stilettoes was on Lady Diana.

Q Where do you get your ideas from?

A I’ve always got ideas darling, every day. Oh my brain never stops, it gets on my nerves. Honest to God it does. Anyone else hears a noise in the house they think, oo the heating’s creaking. I’ve two serial killers and three rapists coming up the stairs, I have. That’s the way my mind works!

Q Are any of your characters based on people you know?

A I’ve never, ever used anyone I know, except for one time, Ozzy who was in the Take, I did base him on Eddie Richardson and Eddie is an old friend of mine. His sister is my best friend and I did the foreword for his book, the Last Word. I do use friends’ names though. Just to make them laugh. One of my friends was a madam, she loved it.