Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE is a best-selling English novelist. Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, was published in 1979 and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. It ranks as one of the top-ten bestselling novels of all-time. To date, she has written 29 novels — all bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic.
We’re thrilled to host Barbara Taylor Bradford as our spotlight author this week. She’s currently celebrating the release of her latest novel, Cavendon Hall. Welcome, Barbara, and please tell us a little bit about the storyline and characters for Cavendon Hall.
Cavendon Hall takes place over a period of 16 years. What do you enjoy about writing a story that spans such a long period? What kinds of challenges does it bring?
I like a span of years because I can tell more about the characters, how they change and evolve over the years. There are many challenges in a 16 year story. The most difficult is making the "time jumps." By that I mean jumping to later years. I usually do this by breaking the book into parts, a deft way to make the characters five years older, lets say, and also to move the plot along.
You’ve written both contemporary and historical books. What do you like most about writing each genre? And are there certain themes that you find repeating themselves in your novels?
I enjoy writing modern stories, telling contemporary tales because they are very much "now." I can zero in on current events and what's happening in the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. The book published before Cavendon Hall, Secrets From The Past, was modern and was about a woman war photographer and her former lover, and what happens to them. But it went back in time to tell the story of the protagonist's past and her mother's life as a famous movie star, her father's life as a war photographer himself. Then again, I love writing my family sagas, which are often historical because there is always so much to tell about a family. Many dramas and much emotion. I enjoy switching between time periods -- the past and today.
Some of our visitors might not realize how early the writing bug bit you. What led you to write at an early age, and what kept you writing novels as you moved up the work-world ladder?
My mother was a voracious reader and taught me to read when I was four. By the time I was seven, I was writing my own stories in my school exercise books, and when I was ten, she sent one of my stories to a children's magazine. They bought it. So I was a paid writer as a child. The day I saw my byline in the magazine my destiny was sealed. I was wise enough as a teen to know I wouldn't be writing novels I had lived life a little, so I became a journalist. I was a reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post when I was 16; women's page editor at 18; when I was 20 I went to work in London on a magazine, later joined the staff of the London Evening News. I consider myself a journalist today, writing for many of the London newspapers, including the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Why do I still write novels? Because I enjoy writing. It very much defines who I am.
You have a list of publishing accomplishments that few authors can match – 29 books that are all bestsellers, more than 88 million copies sold, translated into more than 40 languages, found in more than 90 countries worldwide. How do you keep things fresh after so many books? Where do your ideas sprout from?
I keep myself fresh because I read a great number of newspapers and magazines, watch TV news shows, and the news, and stay abreast of world events on a daily basis. After all, I am a journalist. It's hard to say where my ideas come from for my novels. Usually, a character pops into my head unexpectedly, and I just take it from there.
2014 marks the 35th anniversary of A Woman of Substance, your first published novel, and it’s still a bestseller. Congratulations on that! Share with us the story behind the story.
In the 1970s I knew I must attempt to write a novel; my childhood ambition was to do that. I came up with a number of ideas and in fact, started four novels I did not finish. One day, I had the idea of writing down what exactly I wanted to write about, and came up with the idea for Emma Harte, a woman making it in a man's world of business when women were not doing that. Thus a novel called A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE was born. It took two years, was 1,500 pages long and weighed 16 1/2 pounds. It had to be cut, of course. But it did become my first bestseller.
You’ve been referred to as your own “woman of substance.” How do you interpret that for yourself, and how does that make you feel?
Visitors, come back tomorrow for Barbara’s answer to this and other questions. You won't want to miss it! :-) In the meantime, you can enter for your chance to win a copy of her latest novel, Cavendon Hall. Just leave a comment answering this question:
During what era does Cavendon Hall take place, and where?
Please be sure to include your email with your comment (spelling out ‘at’ and ‘dot’ to help cut down on spam). The drawing will be held on Friday morning.
We’ll see you again tomorrow!