Best-selling novelist Jackie Collins has died of breast cancer at the age of 77.
Collins’ wildly popular books included the Lucky Santangelo series and Hollywood Wives and its sequels. Her latest book, The Santangelos, came out this summer; Collins gave numerous interviews about the book without mentioning her diagnosis or any treatments.
PEOPLE magazine reports the English novelist had decided to keep her illness private, and that a few days before her death she told the magazine she had no regrets over that decision.
Collin’s novels, filled with glamour and high drama, sold more than 500 million copies. And her tales of life among the rich and famous in Hollywood were often inspired by real-life experiences.
As a teenager, she followed the lead of her older sister, Joan Collins, and was briefly an actress.
But in an interview with NPR last year, Jackie Collins said she knew movies weren’t going to be her life. “I was always an out-of-work writer,” she said.
“So I wrote a book called The World is Full of Married Men,” she said. “I found that in my teenage years married men would be chasing me everywhere and going, ‘Oh, yeah, well, my wife is different, but you know, she doesn’t really understand me.’ … I wanted to write and turn the double standard on its head.”
Not all her books centered on the Hollywood elite; the Lucky Santangelo series revolved around the daughter of a mob boss. “She’s such a brilliant character because she does all the things that women would like to do, she says all the things they would like to say — and she gets away with it,” Collins said.
In their statement, Collins’ family described a “wonderfully full life” and four decades spent entertaining readers.
“She was a true inspiration, a trail blazer for women in fiction and a creative force,” the family statement continued. “We already miss her beyond words.”