Barbara Taylor Bradford was born and raised in Yorkshire, England. A voracious reader since childhood, she took her first job at the age of 15 with the Yorkshire Evening Post and by the age of 18 was the newspaper's women's page editor. Two years later, she headed for London and became a reporter for the London Evening News, Today Magazine, and other publications.
After meeting her husband-to-be, Robert Bradford, in 1961, she relocated to the United States. Continuing in journalism, Barbara created the syndicated column "Designing Woman," which ran nationwide for 12 years. Children's books and 8 works on decorating followed.
In 1979, Barbara Taylor Bradford published her first novel, A Woman of Substance, introducing the Emma Harte saga and beginning a string of bestsellers, including Voice of the Heart, Power of a Woman, and The Triumph of Katie Byrne. Her work has been published in more than 90 countries in 40 languages, and total sales of her books now surpass 75 million.
Barbara now lives and writes in New York City, where she lives with her husband, Robert. In addition to her work as a writer, she is active in a number of major charitable organizations, including the Police Athletic League, Girls Inc., City-Meals-on-Wheels, and the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation.
Author biography courtesy of St. Martin's Press.
Good to Know
Back to Top
Queen Elizabeth bestowed the Order of the British Empire on Barbara in October, 2007. The news was announced on the author's website with the following headline:
"BTB Gets Her OBE from QEII."
Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Bradford:
"All 20 of my original manuscripts are stored by the prestigious Brotherton Library at Leeds University in England, next to the works of the Brontë sisters."
"My first job was working as a typist for the Yorkshire Evening Post at the age of 15."
"When I'm not writing, (which isn't often) I love to read. Biographies are my favorite genre, though I do like to read fiction to see what others are putting out on the market. Authors whose books I always make time for are Patricia Cornwell, Mary Higgins Clark, and Bernard Cornwell."
"I love to travel whenever possible. Paris is my favorite city to visit, though some of my favorite holidays are spent back in England."
"My husband, Bob, has a vote for the Academy Awards, so I get to see a lot of movie screenings."
"I'm involved in a number of charity organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. From the Police Athletic League and the Literary Guild in America to PACT (Parents and Children Together Again) in the U.K., I devote a fair amount of time to these causes. And as an advocate for world literacy, I am a member of the Madison Council to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C."
Back to Top
<In the winter of 2005, Barbara Taylor Bradford took some time to talk with us about some of her favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë -- I've always considered this the best book ever written in the English language. Being a Yorkshire girl, the Brontë sisters were towering figures and the most famous writers to emerge from the north of England. I grew up idolizing both of them, though I'd say Wuthering Heights is the standout among all their works.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë -- I first read this book when I was about 12 or 13 years old. It was a favorite of my mother's, and she bought me a copy. I remember finding the novel strange, mysterious, extremely dramatic and compelling. Most of all, it was very touching. As I grew older, I came to understand that it was a story of revenge, and not a great love story, as so many think it is.
I became addicted to the books of the Brontë sisters -- Emily, Charlotte, and Anne. Often, my mother would take me to Haworth, where the sisters grew up with their brother, Branwell, at the Haworth Parsonage. Their father was the parson. This is a museum now; my mother also took me over the wild, windswept moors to Top Withens, supposedly the site of Wuthering Heights, which is of course, the name of the house where Catherine Earnshaw lived. It is not a place. I grew up in Yorkshire, and Haworth is about two hours from Leeds, the city of my birth. This book, more than any other, influenced me and my writing. I believe Emily Brontë to be one of the great geniuses in the English literature. So influenced am I by the Brontës, I invented a play called Charlotte and Her Sisters, which I used in my novel The Triumph of Katie Byrne. Katie is an actress and appears in the play, but before this happens, I "take" her to Haworth to visit the parsonage and to wander the moors. What is so extraordinary about this book is the fact that Emily Brontë used two narrators to tell her story. Also, Heathcliff is the great Byronic hero. Even today, I still find it "unputdownable."
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens -- My mother, the voracious reader, took this book out of the library for me, and I read it when I was about ten -- and many times since, I might add. Charles Dickens is, in my opinion, one of the greatest storytellers of all time. He was a bestselling novelist, and he told rip-roaring tales full of suspense, detail, atmosphere, emotion, characterization, and great truths about the times he lived in. He not only wrote wonderfully plotted books, but sought justice for the downtrodden and the feeble. He was another great influence on my writing, and in a way my mother "force-fed" his books to me when I was growing up. I had read most of his novels by the time I was around fourteen. David Copperfield is my favorite because it literally has everything to please a reader -- emotion, atmosphere, adventure, danger, and hope. It is the story of a boy from babyhood to maturity, and I enjoy a book that tells the span of a life. Because of Dickens, I grew to love this type of book, and in fact, I wrote one called A Woman of Substance, which follows the span of the life of Emma Harte. But I must admit, I've enjoyed other books by Dickens, including A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, and The Old Curiosity Shop.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier -- I read this book when I was a teenager growing up in Yorkshire, and from the moment that I picked it up I couldn't put it down. Daphne du Maurier is another of my favorite writers, and in this novel, she creates an aura of mystery and suspense from the very first line, "Last night I dreamt I was back at Manderley." It is indeed a most suspenseful book, and there are moments when one believes it is a murder story as the mystery of Rebecca's death grows. There are some wonderful minor characters, as well as the narrator, who is unnamed throughout the novel, and the male lead, Maxim de Winter. Evocations of Cornwall, where du Maurier lived, are wonderful. And the plotting is superb.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- I have always regarded this book as the all-time great American novel in the popular genre. It has literally everything anybody could want in a novel about America and its people: the Civil War, the Reconstruction period, one of the greatest heroes of all time, Rhett Butler, and naturally the provocative, delicious and beautiful Scarlett O'Hara. The novel is told with great verve, and one is immediately pulled into the book because of imaginative storytelling by the author. It seems to me to be an ageless book; it's just as readable today as when it first came out. Another classic!
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway -- I read this book when I was working as a journalist, and I was instantly captivated by the magic of the great Hemingway. He captures a particular world of expatriate Americans, living in Europe at a certain period of time, like no other writer ever has. His characters instantly come alive on the page, as do the bull fighting scenes in Spain, and all of the other macho action. After reading this book, I went on to devour everything Hemingway wrote, and I remain one of his greatest fans today, frequently rereading his works. He is inimitable, and nobody writes a declarative sentence like he does.
Early Reagan by Anne Edwards -- This author is one of my favorite biographers. She always writes with clarity and individual flair, bringing to life her subjects in a very unique way. After President Reagan's death, I reread this book again and was instantly involved in his early life, his growing up, working as a radio announcer, movie star, and finally, politician. The biography reads like a novel, and Ronald Reagan is brought to life on the pages in the most remarkable way. Anne Edwards makes the reader live along with the person she is writing about. No mean feat.
The Grail Quest Series by Bernard Cornwell -- I consider Bernard Cornwell to be one of the best popular writers of historical fiction today. This series is composed of three books, The Archer's Tale, Vagabond, and Heretic, and they all tell the story of Thomas of Hookton, an English archer at the time of the Hundred Years' War between England and France. Cornwell's research is impeccable, and no one can write battle scenes as he can. He is an indisputable master of historical fiction, and his books are thrilling.
The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George -- I have always loved the Tudor period of English history, and Margaret George is one of the true experts on this age. I found her book about one of England's most compelling kings a treasure. And what a remarkable tale it is. To tell Henry's life story in his own words is challenging, but she pulls it off. Brilliant research, and historical facts linked with vivid storytelling make this book a marvel.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman -- This is a series which begins with The Golden Compass, goes on to The Subtle Knife, and ends with The Amber Spyglass. Pullman is a genius. His story of a girl, Lyra Belacqua, is simply superb, and I read the entire series one book after the other, in a week. Written for children in the 10-12 age group, it is nonetheless a series that will captivate adults as well. The writing is fantastic, and this is one of the best fantasy-adventure stories I have ever read. At the end of the last book, I wanted more, and I can't wait for the next Philip Pullman. No one should miss this current series, though. It is fantastic.
The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates -- I believe that this author is one of the great writers of our time. She is fearless, engaging, breathtaking, and brave of heart. She paints verbal pictures of life, shows us so much of the human condition, and her imaginative powers are extraordinary. This story of a family, of a marriage and the children from that marriage is wondrous. I couldn't stop reading, and how I missed this book when I had finished it. One of this year's great reads for me.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
My top ten in order are:
Lawrence of Arabia -- This extraordinary epic, produced by Sam Spiegel, Directed by David Lean, and introducing Peter O'Toole to the screen, is my number one favorite. Aside from being historically correct, it is a dramatic and stunning film. And it has a cast of stars that is unbeatable: Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, and Omar Sharif, to name a few. Winner of seven Oscars!
Gone with the Wind -- This is a true American epic, directed by Victor Fleming and with the most glamorous cast of leading stars, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. This too is historically correct, and it has great sweep and drama. A classic, even today -- and it won eight Oscars.
Casablanca -- This film is on everyone's list of favorites, and has been for over two generations -- with little wonder. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claud Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre are the stars. The story of diverse individuals who settle in Casablanca after fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, it won an Academy award for best picture and established Bogart as a great romantic lead. Intrigue, romance, drama, and suspense are a surefire combination here.
Dances with Wolves -- This film belongs entirely to Kevin Costner, as it should. It is one of the greatest performances and has become a modern classic. The sweep and scope are breathtaking. It won several Oscars, including Best Picture, and has a wonderful score by John Barry. Kevin Costner is one of my all-time favorites.
Zulu -- This amazing adventure is action-packed, based on British history. And historically, it is entirely correct. Stanley Baker and Michael Caine star as British officers who stand bravely with their comrades to defend Rorke's Drift, a small British encampment in Africa. There have never been battle scenes like this, and the two male leads are superb. Baker and Caine hold off an oncoming horde of 4,000 Zulus with just 105 men. A spectacular film with the foreword spoken by the inimitable Richard Burton, it never fails to hold one spellbound.
To Catch a Thief -- This Alfred Hitchcock thriller features the remarkable Cary Grant, who stars with Grace Kelly. Grant plays John Robie, a reformed jewel thief once known as "The Cat," suspected of being behind a new rash of robberies in the ritzy hotels on the French Rivera. His aim is to clear his name. Grant is, as always, absolutely wonderful -- handsome, charming, debonair, and witty. He pairs up with the beautiful and talented Kelly. The scenes on the Riviera are extraordinary and helped win an Oscar for best cinematography.
To Kill a Mockingbird -- That all-time great Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his performance as the southern lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Harper Lee. The film, directed by Robert Mulligan and produced by Alan Pakula, is a masterpiece because it so brilliantly captures time and place, and most of all, a mood.
Doctor Zhivago -- David Lean's magnificent film of Boris Pasternak's novel is another masterpiece. It stars Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine Chaplin, Ralph Richardson, Alec Guinness, and Rod Steiger, to name a few. The film is a mixture of one man's story to survive the Russian revolution and an enormous panorama of a nation convulsed by war and destruction. David Lean always films in a sweeping, lyrical style. Dr. Zhivago won a number of Oscars, including color cinematography, Robert Bolt's screenplay, Maurice Jarre's memorable score, plus art direction, set decoration and costume design. I consider this epic filmmaking at its best.
The Godfather -- Based on Mario Puzo's bestselling novel, this movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola is another epic and a masterpiece. The director paints an extraordinary and often chilling portrait of a Sicilian family's rise to power in America through crime. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton are fabulous. It took ten Oscars and ranks as an all-time classic, with two outstanding sequels.
The Lion in Winter -- Another of the screen's greatest masterpieces. Directed by Anthony Harvey, it stars Peter O'Toole, who gives a truly monumental performance and King Henry II of England, and Katharine Hepburn is electrifying as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's wife who battles him about his successor to the throne. Other stars include Timothy Dalton and Sir Anthony Hopkins, who made his screen debut as Richard the Lionhearted, the couple's oldest son. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it won Oscars for Hepburn, John Barry's musical score, and James Goldman's brilliant screenplay. This timely, magnificent production is full of panoply, color, suspense, drama, and brilliant performances.
Some of these are great love stories. A few are based on classic books I read as a child. I have many fond memories of going to the cinema with my mother and being enthralled by seeing these films on the big screen. They just don't make movies quite the way they used to -- although today's special effects (Titanic) are amazing.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
Frank Sinatra is my absolute favorite singer. I don't have music on often while I'm concentrating on writing, but I love to listen whenever possible. My husband, Bob, and I also love attending Broadway musicals. A favorite opera singer of mine is Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I love biographies, especially figures I grew up idolizing. Biographies would be my favorite gifts to receive. As for giving, it depends on the person to whom I'm giving the gift. Sometimes I'll buy a decorating book for friends moving into a new place. I am also one who loves to cook when time allows, so frequently, I'll send cookbooks to those that share my culinary enthusiasm.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I am strict about keeping to a writing schedule, especially when working against a deadline. I'm usually up and at my desk by 5:30 a.m. and typing away until lunchtime. After a short break, I'm back at it until 4 or 5 p.m. I mention typing, because I do type all my manuscripts, not on a computer, but on a Lexmark typewriter. As a creature of habit, I prefer creating in the same manner that I've done it for 25 years. Under my desk while I write are my two little bichon frise dogs, Beaji and Chammi. They love to sit close to me, even when I'm lost in a fictional world somewhere in my imagination.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I wrote four unfinished novels before starting A Woman of Substance. Making the jump from journalist to novelist was not an easy step. For me, the hardest part was coming up with a character that held my interest from start to finish. I was quite lucky in that I was never rejected with A Woman of Substance, or any book since. Of course, I did have to significantly shorten my first book to a manageable 901 pages. The original manuscript was notably longer. It took two years of editing and polishing before publication. I've never looked back since.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Discipline is essential. Keep to a dedicated writing structure and constantly work to improve your craft. If you don't continue to build your writing skills, you will never get to the level being sought by agents and publishers. Even if you have a full-time job elsewhere, set aside a few hours every night where you can devote yourself to writing. Discipline is also crucial in getting yourself an agent. Learn to accept rejection as just part of the process. Don't dwell on the negative. Savor the opportunities to have your work seen. If you aren't a disciplined writer, your chances of getting published are minimal.
Back to Top
|Barbara Taylor Bradford Home
Good to Know
|In Our Other Stores|
Signed, First Editions by Barbara Taylor Bradford|
|A Woman of Substance, 1979|
|Voice of the Heart, 1983|
|Hold the Dream, 1985|
|Act of Will, 1986|
|To Be the Best, 1988|
|The Women in His Life, 1990|
|Everything to Gain, 1994|
|Dangerous to Know, 1995|
|Love in Another Town, 1995|
|Her Own Rules, 1996|
|A Secret Affair, 1996|
|Power of a Woman, 1997|
|A Sudden Change of Heart, 1999|
|Where You Belong, 2000|
|The Triumph of Katie Byrne, 2001|
|Three Weeks in Paris, 2002|
|Emma's Secret, 2003|
|Unexpected Blessings, 2005|
|Just Rewards, 2005|
|The Ravenscar Dynasty, 2006|
|The Heir, 2007|