Barbara Taylor Bradford is living her own very happy ever after
The author’s story is worthy of one of her plots
�Think what you want about Barbara Taylor Bradford – the woman is an institution. She’s 78 and has written 27 books. Twenty-six have been bestsellers. One hasn’t yet been released. It’s coming out in September and Taylor Bradford is coming to this month’s Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival to talk about it.
Taylor Bradford has maintained a top spot in a genre full of twists and turns. She writes a book a year – working through winter at stories of love, loss, making up and breaking up, set on some glamorous and dramatic backdrops. So how has she stayed queen of the genre? It’s all in the character.
“Once I get the idea for the main character, I develop that person and try to develop their story and who she or he is. Then, when I have got the main character, that’s when I start to think, ‘What happens next?’ Then I sit down to work hard at the plot.”
Is it hard work? Surely she is used to writing by now? “Every book is as hard as the first. Of course you learn how to move on the plot, certain shortcuts – you could call them tricks of the trade, But it is hard work – you are still starting from scratch. It’s like someone thinking that it gets easier for an actor once they have played many roles. You’re always starting from scratch and that is hard work every time.”
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If Taylor Bradford’s life was one of her books, it would probably be a bestseller. It’s a charming story of a Yorkshire-born journalist who typed her way to the top of Fleet Street in a time when that wasn’t easy at all for a woman (maybe it isn’t now either). Then, in 1963, she met her movie producer husband, Robert, affectionately known as Bob to her.
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Taylor Bradford and Bob have had their happily ever after. He was executive producer on all but one of the film adaptations of her books and she has dedicated all of them to him since they married. “I think he has made very good movies. When he is making movies, we are not working together.”
But he is working with your story? “Yes, but there are scriptwriters and he has all his movie people to make the film. We are not working together. I trust him with my stories because I know he is going to do a good job. I’m happy with all the movies that Bob has made. I think it is good to work with him because I understand that he is making a movie, not a book. I understand that you can’t have a whole book in a film and I think some writers find it hard because they don’t understand that. Sometimes I like to go onto the set of the movies. Most people think that is very glamorous but it isn’t – it can be boring. Watching actors go over their scenes over and over again.
Taylor Bradford is a friendly and straight-talking woman. Her chat is peppered with allusions to the movie industry – a world she adopted when she married. But there is little pretence.
She never sets out to write a bestseller, she insists, and never expects to have one. “I think people who try to write a bestseller have the wrong attitude altogether. You have to want to tell a story. You have to think that you can’t not write this story. If you have that motivation, you will write something that is good. You really need to tell it the best way you can and hope that it works. I always think, ‘I hope that this book is going to work.’”
It’s refreshing to know that even a 26-times bestseller gets the fear when she sits down to write. Still, she isn’t unaware of what makes her readers happy. “I know what my audience want. They want a Barbara Taylor Bradford book. The more books I write, there are a lot of important parts: a character who the reader can empathise with and likes and someone who they are rooting for is one part and there has to be a lot of emotion. I have about 10 balls that I’m juggling – all these considerations – when I write.”
Writing has been her life for a long, long time. And she’s not about to give it up – she’s starting a new book in October. “I write one a year. Of course I am not going to stop, what else would I do? I’d be bored. That’s the thing – with every new character I am taken on an adventure. As I get to know the character, I very often have all sorts of ideas and it is a great adventure. Doesn’t she need a break? “I take holidays,” she says, “I’m on one now.”
n Barbara Taylor Bradford will be in conversation with Trudy Gold at the Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival at the London Jewish Cultural Centre in Golders Green on September 12. Her latest novel, Letters From A Stranger, is published on September 15 by Harper Collins at �17.99.