"Deadly Embrace," the writer’s 22nd book, draws not only on Collins’ wickedly vivid imagination, but her own experiences in Los Angeles. "I was driving this new Mercedes, putting in the code at my friend’s gate, when this guy appears with an Uzi at the window," she says casually. "He says, ‘Don’t move, bitch, or I’ll blow your bleeping head off,’ and I thought if I wrote that, no one would believe it. It’s too corny. So I wrote it. I hit the accelerator and left him standing there holding his Uzi, so to speak."
But Collins has always chosen a life in the fast lane. "As a girl, I was always climbing out of the window," she says. "My parents said, ‘Reform school or Hollywood,’ so I chose Hollywood." At 15, she was shipped off to live with her movie-star sister, Joan, who tossed her the keys to the apartment, told her to learn how to drive and promptly took off for a location shoot.
She’s loved Hollywood ever since. Every morning, Collins rolls out of bed there, plays a little Alicia Keys or cues up an Usher disc, then puts pen to paper, writing about the brassy, ambitious women who are her hallmark. "I’ve always written strong women. They’re never sitting around waiting for a cold phone to ring," she says.