She published her first novel, A Woman Of Substance, in 1979 which went on to become one of the best-selling novels in history.
Now, 44 years later, she’s publishing her 40th, The Wonder Of It All, the cumulative sales of her books have topped 90 million and she celebrated her 90th birthday in May. Whichever way you slice it, Barbara Taylor Bradford is a literary phenomenon.
“One minute,” she says, talking from her Manhattan apartment, “I was writing A Woman Of Substance and now I have to pinch myself as I look at the first few pages of each new book and see this long list of titles. I’ve already started plotting my next novel and can’t wait to finish my research.”
So, what motivates her? “I often remind myself of something Noel Coward once said: ‘Work is more fun than fun!’”
The latest book completes the Falconer trilogy. James has risen from barrow boy to become a wealthy businessman. But there have been setbacks along the way.
Can he recapture his early happiness? “I’m not going to tell you,” says Barbara, “because I don’t want to spoil the story.” Forensic research and iron discipline are two ingredients, she thinks, for completing a compelling work of fiction.
“I try to be at my desk by 9.30 each morning and pick up where I left off the day before. “I’ve never written on a computer, always on a typewriter, but I wrote The Wonder Of It All by hand as I began to find it hard to focus on the paper in the typewriter.”
Her long and successful career was matched by a happy marriage to movie executive Bob Bradford. When he died in 2019, he and Barbara – they met on a blind date – had been together for 58 years. She felt his loss keenly. “I’m lonely without him. It’s like half of me has been chopped off. He had a great personality and very dry humour. I used to say to him, ‘You make me laugh every day’.
He was my best friend. “I’m trying to live as normally as I can without him. I love going out to dinner with friends and I’m a member of various private members’ clubs.” Although she has dual British/American citizenship, she refers to herself as an Englishwomen living in New York.
So, she wouldn’t ever consider moving back to the UK on a permanent basis? She looks aghast. “Of course not. I can’t. Bob is here, buried in Westchester. And I bought the empty plot next to him so that one day we’ll be lying side by side together again.” On recently celebrating her milestone birthday, she shrugs, “Age is just a number. I follow Winston Churchill’s dictum: KBO (keep b*ggering on)!”
Churchill is one of her all-time heroes matched only by Queen Elizabeth II. “I was so upset when she died.
“She was a stateswoman of substance; truly loved and held with such affection across the whole world because she stood for all that is good and honourable.
“I don’t believe there has ever been another woman in history so universally loved as her.” Does she plan to write her autobiography?
“I have been thinking about that recently. I’d call it An Unlikely Life because that’s what it’s been. One minute I’m working in the busy newsroom at the Yorkshire Evening Post. Then, I’m in the White House having dinner with the President.”
Presumably retirement is out of the question? A hollow laugh. “No, like Napoleon, I shall die with my boots on,” says the indefatigable Barbara Taylor Bradford.
The Wonder Of It All by Barbara Taylor Bradford (HarperCollins, £20) is available to order from expressbookshop.com or call Express Bookshop on 020 3176 3832. Free UK P&P on online orders over £25