Best-selling author Barbara Taylor Bradford answers my questions about her life, her work, her projects… Love, success, family secrets…
Hello Barbara! Thanks for answering my questions and welcome on “Veronika asks”! Could you please say a few words about yourself to our readers?
I am a bestselling author of 22 novels, including: A woman of substance, Remember, Emma’s secret and the Ravenscar Dynasty. My books have sold more than 80 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 90 languages. Ten of my books have been produced as TV movies, or miniseries. I was inducted into the writers Hall of Fame of America in 2003.
If you could describe yourself with three words…
Love to Write.
You’re Taurus, aren’t you? They are thought to be patient and determined but quite jealous. Do you match this description?
Determined, yes. But not the jealous type. I own a good deal of patience most of the time.
You started working as a journalist when you were sixteen years old. How did it start?
I began working as a typist in the typing pool for the Yorkshire Evening Post. My parents wanted me to go to Leeds University, but I wanted to break into the newspaper business. I wasn’t a great typist, though I did get treated surprisingly well as the only woman in a male dominated newsroom. My first several articles were actually published under other peoples names. eventually it was discovered that I had some writing talent and the news editor hired me as a reporter.
You started a brand-new family trilogy, the Ravenscar Dynasty. Tell us more about it!
The Ravenscar Dynasty is a modern novel, told in the modern vernacular, and set in the early part of the 20th Century. However, I have, to a certain extent, based my protagonist Edward Deravenel on the English medieval king, Edward IV. Born Edward Plantagenet, the Earl of March, he was the eldest son of the mighty Duke of York and his Duchess. Edward’s father was a prince of the blood and a royal duke, head of the royal house of York, rightful heir to the throne of England.
When Edward’s father was killed in the Battle of Sandal Castle in Yorkshire in 1640, during the Wars of the Roses, Edward assumed his father’s heredity title and became Duke of York. He continued his father’s heredity title and became Duke of York. He continued his father’s fight to win back the throne from his cousin, Henry VI, Duke of Lancaster, the Earl of Warwick, later known as the Kingmaker.The throne of England has been usurped by the House of Lancaster from the House of York some sixty years earl9ier, and it was in 1461 that Edward Plantagenet took that throne back when he defeated Henry VI and became king that same year.Aside from “borrowing” the exceptional good looks of Edward Plantagenet, and his height of six feet four, unusual for those times, I have used some aspects of his character and personality in the depiction of Edward Deravenel. Significant events in the life of the medieval king are used in a modern form as the basis, in part, of Edward Deravenel’s story.
Your first novel is “A Woman of Substance”. How did this idea come to you and why did you “decide” to write a novel?
I attempted to write four different novels prior to « A woman of substance » to no avail. This was in the mid 1970s. Although I was a good writer at the time, my approach was all wrong and I never could complete any of those stories. It was around that time that I read an interview with the writer, Graham Green, who told Time Magazine that “character is plot.” Till then, I was trying to write stories first and fill in the characters. Suddenly, I had this idea for Emma Harte: a strong woman who endures a difficult upbringing to become a woman of substance. The character was my story. everything fell into place after that.
Could you say you’re like Emma Harte?
I’ve always been determined to success, not unlike Emma. and I did emerge from a modest upbringing to become a successful author. So from that standpoint I would say I am like Emma. My hardships were much different than Emma’s.
Which one of your books would you advise for a first read? Which one is your favorite?
« A woman of substance » is my most popular book. I’m told that it is one of the ten bestselling novels of all time. It is also the begining of the Harte family saga, which are now a series of six books. My personal favorite book (of those I’ve written) is called “The women in his life.” This is based loosely on my husband’s escape from the nazi’s as a child.
There are so many realistic characters in your novels! How do you describe so well every character’s personnality?
As a newspaper woman, details were crucial. We worked on a tight deadline and there was little margin for error. This proved a strong foundation for my career as a novelist. Only now, instead of taking detailed notes about a living subject for an article, I write up detailed sketches of all of my characters before writing a book. To me they are living, breathing beings in my imagination
Did you write novels in a genre other than romance? If you didn’t, would you like to try?
Although my books have strong elements of romance, I do not classify myself as a romance writer. I really write popular women’s fiction. Many of my novels also contain mystery, suspense, current events and a great deal of History.
You have 22 books published, all bestsellers! Is there a secret?
If I had one, I wouldn’t tell you! But seriously, I don’t have a recipe for success other than hard work, diligent research and some good luck.
What every aspiring writer would like to know: how do you usually work (when, where…)?
I set a strict writing schedule when I am on deadline. I usually start in my home office at 6am. I work straight through until lunchtime. Around 1pm, I usually proofread my morning’s work before going on to the next chapter. I never work much past 6pm. I am at my best during the morning/afternoon. I type my novels on an IBM Lexmark typewriter, not a computer. The computer is only for research. I am a strong creature of habit.
Do you have some advice for aspiring writers?
First and foremost, you need to be serious about your desire to become a published author. It takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort and dedication to hone your skills and produce a work worthy of publication. But like anything else, if you possess the talent and the determination, you will likely succeed.There are two excellent monthly publications geared toward helping aspiring writers. One is called The Writer; the other is called Writers Digest. Both magazines contain a wide array of articles for writers of all levels. You wrote a book called “Living Romantically Every Day”.
Is it so important for you to bring Romance in today’s life?
That book, « Living Romantically » is a lovely coffee table book that I did a few years ago for a holiday item between novels. It’s a sweet little book about finding ways to keep a relationship successful. So many people had been asking me about the secret to my 35+ year marriage to my husband, Bob. I finally decided to write a book that described many of the ‘secrets’ to our success. And yes, it’s the little romantic gestures that are needed in any relationship to keep things exciting.
What would you do if you had to start over and choose a new job?
I’d probably be a decorator. Before my novels I wrote a few small books about interior decorating.
What do you think about eBooks?
I’m really not much of a technology person. I’ve never read a book on a computer screen, or printed out a book from a website. I’m old fashioned and prefer to read my books bound and in one piece. I do like the concept of audio books. And I have listened to the reading of some books on occasion.
You were born in England, but you now live in New York. What do you love most about New York?
New York City has been my home for forty years. I love the excitement, the dining, the entertainment, the pace, and the opportunity to help others. My husband and I helped found the New York Pops Orchestra. We’ve made so many friends here in New York. It’s also the center of the publishing world.
You’ve found $100 in your pocket, how will you use that money?
I’d probably go to a bookstore and pick up some books. I love to read in my spare time. History and biographies are two of my favorite subjects.
What about your projects?
The « Ravenscar Dynasty » is the first in a trilogy. The second book in the series will be called « The Ravenscar Heir ». I am writing it now and it should be out before the end of this year (November).
“Tea or Coffee?”
Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Flip a coin here. I love to go out, though a good book can take you anywhere.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? I’m not much of a hiker so I’ll go with beach.
Country or City ? City. I like the excitement of a big city. It energizes me.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else)? My favorite movies are biopics like « Capote », « Ray » or the Johnny Cash film from last year.
Shy or Easy-going ? Certainly not shy!
Serious or Funny ? A little of both. I have a good sense of humor.
Traveler or not ? Travel is a must. I take a holiday every Summer for a month or so.
Sporty or Couch Potato? I once played tennis, does that count?
Leader or Follower? I try to be the one to make most of the plans amongst my circle of friends. I like to take charge.
TV show: 20/20
Book: Anything by Patricia Cornwell
City: New York (also West Palm Beach, Florida)
Music: Tony Bennett
Place to write: My home office
Motto: “Character is plot.”
Thank you, Barbara!
Visit Barbara’s website http://www.barbarataylorbradford.com/