Novelist Ida, 105, reveals secret of her success – every one of her books has a happy ending
Writer Ida Pollock has been hailed one of the world's oldest romantic novelists and is still churning out the steamy books – aged 105.
Ida has written 123 bodice-ripping novels during her prolific career – many of them tales of virgins, chaste kisses and dashing male heroes.
She has sold millions of books over nine decades with risque titles such as White Heat and Interlude for Love.
She has millions of fans but has largely avoided the limelight by writing under ten pseudonyms. Ida has written 70 books for Mills & Boon under the names Susan Barrie, Pamela Kent, Rose Burghley or Mary Whistler.
Despite turning 105 last week, Ida is still writing and her latest novel The Runaway is due to be published shortly.
She no longer sits at her typewriter, but dictates to daughter Rosemary, 69, at their country home in Lanreath near Looe, Cornwall.
Ida said: "A romance is never just a romance; there's adventure, mystery and movement.
"You need a grand, dramatic setting – the Swiss Alps were always a personal favourite of mine – and a chance meeting, on a train, a cruise, or perhaps the hero and heroine find themselves shipwrecked on a desert island.
"The men are normally rich, well-to-do – but never vulgar with their money. Young men lack the maturity to take control so an older man is essential to provide the reassurance the heroine needs.
"There's always a fair amount of turbulence before he sweeps in to save the day.
"A happy ending is an absolute must."
Born in Lewisham, south London, Ida began writing thrillers in her teens and finished her first, The Hills of Raven's Haunt, at 14.
After becoming a full-time writer in the 1930s, she turned to romance and penned a string of hits under the first of her pseudonyms, Joan Allen.
At her most prolific, Ida produced 40 books in five years – all based around the timeless formula of naive young heroines spirited away from danger by rugged, older men.
In 1956 alone, Ida had eight romances published under five pen names, each around 70,000 words long – and all finishing with a happy ending.
Ida has only released a handful of books under her own name and still publishes under the last of her alter-egos, Marguerite Bell. A Distant Drum, her most recent novel, came out in 2005.
Ida's memoirs, Starlight, were published in 2009.
Also a celebrated artist and illustrator, she says it takes her about six weeks to write a novel.
Many of her swarthy male heroes bear more than a passing resemblance to her late husband, Colonel Hugh Pollock, a decorated veteran and publisher.
Col Pollock was Winston Churchill's editor and was previously married to Enid Blyton. He died in 1971, aged 82.
Ida said: "I think I was born to write. My mother would put a typewriter on the dining room table and say 'there you go'.
"My first story was published in the Christian Herald and they would pay me five guineas. I wrote my first novel when I was just 14.
"I was into mysteries and thrillers at the time but I eventually I drifted into romance because my mother would always ask me to write 'something pretty'.
"I've never got bored of it because it's something I absolutely love. My books are full of hope and romance rather than sex.
"They are a form of escapism – you can escape the parts of the world that you don't like."
Daughter Rosemary, an editor and writer, has followed in her mother's footsteps and written a number of romantic novels herself.
She said: "I don't think she's ever quite got the recognition she deserves. I've always loved her books and I would read them over and over, especially in my teens.
"I think her passion for writing is what has kept her going so long. She's remarkable."