"Some critics called the 10 novels I wrote in those years - it was one a year then - outright pornography," says Molly Parkin brightly, "but I never saw them like that. I always preferred to think of them as a new genre: comic erotica. My life at that point was very sexual ..." Her daughter Sophie, sitting beside her, giggles. What a role model of a mother!
Molly, naughtily ageing mistress of the Sixties serial Erotica, is swathed top to toe in layer upon heaving layer of lemon and beige raw silk this evening. Her face is scarcely visible beneath the yellow pillbox hat. She looks like some gorgeous present of indeterminate age for an elderly, unsuspecting suitor. It's the style of dress, as she tells us, that would become any post-menopausal art student. The only slightly jarring note is the pair of scuffed black boots that stick out at the front, angled like Charlie Chaplin's. How old is she for God's sake? As old as her abiding spirit of youthfulness.
She opens the book she's brought along, published by Blonde and Briggs way back in some swinging when. It creeks slightly. There's a picture of her on the jacket, wearing another of those pillbox hats. "The most important thing I learnt when I was fashion editor at The Sunday Times," she says, "was: make the first sentence unforgettable." Molly reads it to prove the point: `"Lick it," he said'.
Then she moves on to Moll, her autobiography which was written after she'd kicked the 30-year booze habit. This one begins: "My cousin Barbara was born with no neck."
Now it's Sophie's turn to introduce Grown Up, her very first novel. Sophie's all dolled up too - but not like some gorgeous Christmas mystery gift from the east. Sophie, in fox-fur drape, black evening gown with dangerously plunging neckline, black fishnet stockings, stilettos, and enough jewellery on fingers, ears and neck to feed the fantasies of thousands, looks like some weirdly loveable vamp. Her book, she tells us, is a fairly difficult and literary one, hem, hem. That's how the publisher wanted it to be. Then she reads out a couple of bits, which includes an excellent impersonation of the squeaky importunate voice of a tiny girl at a dinner table.
Molly's proud as punch. "I feel as if I've passed the torch on to Sophie," she says. She herself doesn't feel the urge to write a novel a fortnight any more, not like she used to in the old boozy days, not now her daughter's hard at it. Her latest passion is an old one: clothes. She's going to start a clothing empire so that everyone will be able to look a little like she looks. It's name will be Molly Coddle Clothes.
And, on balance, Sophie thinks that those 30 years of alcoholism that she had to witness may have been beneficial to her as a writer. "It gave me an internal life because I had to remove myself from what was happening. I wasn't actually there. That way, nothing can ever hurt you. It's a very cerebral way of dealing with things, of course ..."
Molly looked at ease with herself as she listened to these words. "We are Celts," she said. "We have great creativity. When people used to ask me if I came from a literary family, I'd say: Oh yes. My grandfather was from the Valleys, Sam the Post. He was a man of letters."Reuse content