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PUBLISHED: 08:18 07 May 2014

EXG MAY 14 MARTINA COLE

EXG MAY 14 MARTINA COLE

Archant

Every time Martina Cole releases a book, it goes straight to the top of the best-seller charts and, as Lilly Floyd discovers, this conveyor belt of successful books from the Essex-born author shows no signs of stopping

MARTINA COLE is a number one best-selling crime writer, a successful businesswoman, a devoted mother and grandmother, and an active campaigner for several organisations across the UK.

The Essex-born novelist has just returned from her travels in America, 
but will be leaving the UK shortly as she exclusively reveals she is visiting her holiday home in Northern Cyprus to work on her latest novel. She says: ‘I spend the whole summer over there, as it’s a great place to write and the whole family comes over too. What I can say about the book is it’s called the Good Life and the story starts in the late 1960s. It is about 
a girl who has three men in her life and it revolves on how she deals with everything that comes with it. It’s set in the criminal world in Essex and East London and she is a really great character who needs to be a survivor. I’m just on the last draft now and the hardback copy is due for release in October sometime.’

Martina’s latest crime novel, Revenge, will be available in paperback at the end of April. ‘It’s a powerful, gritty storyline and involves a world of power, money and violence,’ explains Martina. ‘There 
is a good chance this is going to be a two-parter. I’m turning my book Lady Killers into an independent feature film, I’m just doing the scripts for them now, 
so it’s quite an exciting time.’

A variety of Martina’s novels have been adapted for the screen, most recently The Take and The Runaway. ‘I’m always involved, as I expect it to be right,’ Martina adds. ‘I always see the scripts and make sure it’s as near to the story as possible and I also cast.’

All of Martina’s books are instant best sellers, so I have to ask the question, how does she continue to write such successful novels? Martina explains: ‘I have ideas every day and I think a lot. This morning I was just sorting things around the house and I found an old bit of paper where I wrote a storyline down. I’m always writing things down and I have hundreds and hundreds of notebooks.’

Martina was born and brought up in Aveley, the youngest of five children in a large, poor, Irish Catholic family. She attended a convent school where her struggle against authority started — it culminated in two exclusions. However, the one subject she loved was English and it was her English teacher who told her, if she put her mind to it, she had a future in writing.

She finished school at 15 with no qualifications. She then married at 16 and divorced a year later. At the age of 18 she was a single mum, living in a run-down council flat in Grays, struggling to bring up her son, Chris. With little to no money, she would write to keep herself entertained. The mini books she >> wrote were appreciated by her neighbours, to whom she’d give them 
in exchange for a packet of cigarettes.

‘Reading and writing is so important,’ says Martina, who has recently become an official ambassador of the 2014 Reading Agency Six Book Challenges. This campaign is trying to encourage less confident adult readers to develop a love of reading by inviting respondents to pick six reads of their choice and complete a reading diary in order to get a certificate.

This month, Martina will be travelling across the UK to join the Reading Agency’s Learning at Work Week campaign to help get people into the habit of reading again.

She explains: ‘This campaign is about trying to get people to understand the love of books and it’s aim is to encourage people to enjoy the written word, and hopefully appreciate the joy of reading. At the end of the day the more you read the better you get at writing. It really is a fantastic campaign as it has worked well everywhere so far. We have the best education system in the world, and I’m not knocking that, but people tend to fall through the gap. It’s about learning; it’s about the power of reading.’

The novelist also makes time to support prison organisations, including Women in Prison, making visits to Bulwood Hall in Hockley. She also runs occasional creative writing workshops for inmates at Wandsworth and Belmarsh prisons.

‘I have been part of these organisations for more than 18 years,’ says Martina. ‘I’m a great believer that when people go to prison, the least you can do is help them to become a nicer person when they come out. I think this should be important to everybody. I have a lot of prison visits coming up and I want to encourage them to pick up a book and write down their experiences. It’s shocking to see some of the men who couldn’t read or barely write their name, especially the ones who are in there for the long haul. Even if they manage to write a letter, it’s all about communication.’

Despite her many work commitments, Martina still makes time for reading. 
‘I always make time for reading and I can’t go to sleep unless I have read at least a couple of chapters. I read everything and everyone, and I have a book upstairs and downstairs. I can read three books at the same time and pick up the story from nowhere.’

With so many sources of inspiration, the conveyor belt of best sellers shows 
no sign of slowing down yet. n

Martina is doing a regional tour from May 19, visiting Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Wakefield and Manchester and appearing at a mixture of prisons, colleges, libraries and workplaces to help promote 
the Reading Agency’s Learning at Work 
Week campaign. To find out more, visit 
www.sixbookchallenge.org.uk

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