Charlie Daniels is, in her own words, one very feisty lady. After reading her sometimes hilarious, often harrowing autobiography Priceless: My Journey Through A Life of Vice, it’s not hard to see why.
It’s fair to say that Priceless – first published in 2006 and out this week on e-reader – is not for the faint-hearted.
Charlie, who was born in Sheffield, charts the good times and the bad – prostitution and becoming a madam brought her wealth; she was courted by the tabloid press as the infamous Champagne Charlie.
She also describes being co-erced into prostitution, being kidnapped, beaten up, raped and imprisoned for stabbing a woman in the eye.
There is a distinct lack of self-pity, just a very raw and brutally honest account of an extraordinary lifestyle.
It was while in prison that she discovered a passion for writing, scooping a literary award while behind bars for a story which went on to form one of the chapters of her book.
“It would have been a shame not to do something more,” she said. “It started off as an arsenal of little stories – the difficult part was threading it all together.”
A central question in the book is can a prostitute be a good mother; equally some wondered whether she could also be a good writer. But Charlie is adamant that there was no ghost-writing – just advice on pulling the stories together to form a whole.
“People often ask me if it was a cathartic experience; it was and it wasn’t. With such as the rape chapter, and also the ones about my foster father leaving, and the stabbing, it took me to a very dark place... At first I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t go back to those really dark moments.
“But a healer and writer I knew helped me to go through a very powerful process to reach something that was so raw, such an open and live wound.”
If re-living her most harrowing experiences brought Charlie some peace, ‘outing’ her rapist on Facebook brought her satisfaction.
“Someone suggested I ‘friend’ him on Facebook,” she said. “He was friends with a lot of women on there and I thought they deserved to know what a dangerous person he was.
“He’s never done time for rape, although he has been prosecuted for violent crimes.
“Afterwards I was inundated with messages of support, and from women who had also been assaulted by him.”
Charlie’s former profession unsurprisingly made maintaining a normal loving relationship all but impossible; the closest bonds she formed were with long-term clients. Now however she has been in a healthy relationship for around a year, and is loving it.
But a sequel to Priceless is not exactly in the pipeline.
“Everyone said I should do a sequel,” she said, “but I don’t believe in them. I’ve got a bigger legacy to leave.
“I’ve actually been working on a novel about women who are missing or murdered; something to give them a voice. I get really angry when serial killers are given cult status and get nicknames such as the Crossbow Killer. They get off on the hype, they’re looking for the ultimate prestige.
“I want this book to be about the victims but it’s hard, every sentence has to be just right because it’s their story that I’m telling.”