Swooning over Sean Connery and asking Angelina Jolie the un-askable question, Martel Maxwell’s career as a showbiz reporter at The Sun provided the perfect material for her debut novel – Scandalous … so as she prepares for the release of her next book, we caught up with her to find out if truth really is stranger than fiction …
Your first book – Scandalous – is about a showbiz reporter … how much of it is based on your own experiences?
An awful lot. Basically Max Summers is the fantasy version of me. Me without the cellulite. I draw a lot from my experience as a showbiz reporter at The Sun, which I did quite a few years ago. The stories that readers thought sounded too ridiculous to have happened really did – just how far I’d go to get into a party or the things I saw ‘kiss and tell’ girls do to get into the paper. That said, there’s a bit of artistic license as it’s not intended to be memoirs. It’s fiction with a lot of insight into what really happens on London’s showbiz circuit.
We’re eagerly anticipating your next book – what can we expect from it and when can we get reading?!
I’ve almost finished it. Again, it’s a romantic comedy but nothing to do with showbiz. It’s set in London and also the remote Highlands of Scotland, giving two completely different settings and moods. The main character is Natalie and she has everything, then very quickly nothing. It’s about how she achieves her dreams. It’s a bit like the films Calendar Girls, Brassed Off or The Full Monty – the coming together of a community with a lot of humour.
TV presenter, reporter, novelist – it all sounds very … busy! What’s your top tip for feeling your best with a hectic schedule?
I can be as lazy as the next person. I always seem to be more productive when I have a lot to do. So I’ve come to realise that when I do have quiet time with television or radio work, I have to be super disciplined – not waste two hours on Twitter and Facebook and juicy tabloid stories when I get up. Making lists AND sticking to them I find a good way to get through things. I also find that if I make myself go to the gym, I feel better and am far more likely to feel motivated and usually sleep better which always helps. Also – and I don’t want to sound like the people I thought were dull a few years ago when I was in full party mode – but what you put into your body absolutely makes you feel good or bad. Feeling healthy gives you more energy to maximise your output, whether that be physically or creatively.
Have you ever been star struck?
Yes. As a showbiz reporter, I prided myself on not being star-struck and asking the questions readers wanted the answers to. When I met Angelina I asked her if the rumours were true she was having an affair with Brad Pitt (when he was still with Jennifer Aniston) and nearly got thrown out of the press conference. The way I see it, celebrities are only human – and most of the time, I’d rather be having a laugh with pals. The exception was Sir Sean Connery who I interviewed one-on-one in his hotel room in New York. That iconic voice, the way his eyebrow raised like it did as Bond in Dr No – I went to pieces and swooned and forgot all my questions. Thankfully I got a grip of myself in time and conducted an interview and we got on brilliantly.
What’s your idea of the perfect day of relaxation?
Being pampered in a calm haven. I have never actually spent a whole day having one treatment after another but think it would be bliss. When I go to the beautician, it’s usually for a dreaded waxing appointment and I always think I should make time for more facials and massages. One of the most relaxing places I’ve been is a hotel-spa called Stobo Castle in Scotland. I go with mum and we have the best time. It’s important to feel like you are away from it all, rather that pop in for a massage in a city salon and listen to the cars outside. Sometimes we go up to the Highlands, to a wee cottage near Lochinver where the air is so pure it takes me aback. No noise, no pollution, jaw-dropping scenery – that’s relaxation!
Do you have a beauty product you just can’t live without?
Quite a few. Shellac nails I love just now – as I go on TV a few times a week, it takes the worry out of making sure I’ve not chipped my nails as they last for two or three weeks and a standard manicure only looks perfect on me for a matter of hours before I’ve smudged or chipped it. I like Crème de la Mer exfoliator once a week – it’s expensive but it lasts a long time. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream (I like the heavy gel) for my lips – an overnight treat as they are really dry. I tend to flit between expensive creams like La Mer and cheaper brands like Oil of Olay – it makes the expensive ones last longer and I’m sure some of the cheaper ones do a great job.
When are you at your happiest?
Cuddled on the sofa at night watching a movie with my husband. Pass the sick bucket right? We’ve only been married since April so ask me again in a year and we might be on separate sofas! I love being surrounded by my family and friends, laughing and having fun. And I feel proud of myself if I’m doing well with work and pushing myself.
Do you have a favourite spa treatment?
I had an amazing facial a few months ago in London where the therapist used gold leaf and analysed my face and made suggestions. I came out with soft skin and was super relaxed. She advised about diet and lifestyle but not in a preachy way. It’s an hour of bliss. Also, you can’t beat a good massage but I like it done quite firmly to ease all the knots in my shoulders. I love the thought of reflexology and reading the body in different ways, but the key is finding a practitioner who is really good. This might sound extreme, but I’ve been to a spa in Thailand numerous times for a complete detox – where I’ve fasted, had a colema (like a colonic but self-administered and less intrusive) for a week at a time. I’ve done it alone, with mum and with a friend. For quite a few years, life was one big party – with free bars every night as a showbiz reporter – so it was my way of spring-cleaning my body as I felt bad about my lifestyle. Now, the Thai massages there were amazing. No nonsense methods that worked … even if they were a little painful at times.
What do you think is the key to body confidence?
It’s all very well saying ‘inner confidence’ but I know that for me, if I’m a stone overweight and wobbling, I don’t feel good about myself. I’ve also been my perfect weight or even a bit underweight but not looked great – because my lifestyle wasn’t making me look terribly healthy. For me, wearing the clothes I want to without trying to camouflage makes me happy – because you feel like the best version of you. But I like to feel and look healthy – and muscle weighs more than fat so I’d rather be a few pounds heavier but look fit from exercise. And I always feel great if my face looks healthy. I wear everything on my face – especially hangovers (I’m sure that’s a recent thing) – so if skin looks clear and my eyes bright, I’m happy.
I look forward to family Christmas dinner made by mum in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, all year. I just want us all there – it’s my sister’s first year at Uni so she’ll be back – having fun. It’s the first year without my granddad as he passed away this year and that makes you appreciate what you have while you have it more than ever. I don’t mean that morbidly – it’s just about cherishing those you really love. On a work note, the second novel will hopefully be winging its way to publishers and a step closer to being on shelves … I hope you like it. I always get back to readers who get in touch … so let me know!
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