“I always wrote as a little girl and my mother was a voracious reader who taught me to read at the age of four. I remember being the only child in my kindergarten class that could read because she instilled a love of books in me. At ten, my mother read one of the short stories I had written. She had me recopy it on a nice piece of paper with no ink blots or scratches. She sent it into a children’s magazine that was always looking for contributions. Nothing happened for weeks. I went on playing outside climbing trees and falling out of trees and then one day a letter came…”
The letter that came in the mail was acclaimed novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford’s first payout from the children’s magazine of ten shillings and six pence. It was that letter and the support from her mother that set the tone for Bradford’s career that has made her one of the wealthiest women in Great Britain. “It was Hemingway that said ‘You can’t call yourself a writer until you are paid for what you write.’ So, I became a professional writer at the age of ten.”
In her adult life, Barbara started out as a journalist and went on to be very prolific. This career moved the Leeds born visionary to New York City where she met her husband Robert Bradford, film producer. It was there that she began the arduous, yet rewarding, process of writing her first and most famous novel, A Woman of Substance.
A Woman of Substance is a story about a woman named Emma Harte who singlehandedly created a retail empire with the provincial beginnings of being a Yorkshire servant girl. “People thought that I based Emma Harte on someone and would ask me who she was based on, but I invented her. She was driven, strong, and sometimes hysterical. At the core of my books, there is always a strong woman overcoming all the odds, in different careers.” It is that aspect of her writing that has kept Barbara’s readers engaged. Her relatable characters are introduced with humble beginnings and become the embodiment of heroines through their personal growth and self-actualization. “I think that is why people like my books. They can inspire them to have a life and a career, and beat the odds.” Barbara has beaten her own odds with all twenty six of her novels being worldwide best sellers.
Her books have sold more than 89 million copies worldwide and have been written in over 31 different languages. Barbara has been the recipient of many awards and honorary doctorates. She was given the Order Of The British Empire (O.B.E.) by Queen Elizabeth II on the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours list for her contributions to literature. Her original manuscripts are archived at the Brotherton Library at Leeds University, alongside the works of the Bronte sisters.
While Barbara has formulas to the structure of her novels, she relies primarily on her natural creative abilities to achieve success. “Writing can’t be taught. Nobody can give you an imagination. You cannot be a novelist if you can’t imagine things that never happened. My characters existed because I created them. I suppose it is the natural ability I have always had, that assisted me in writing fiction. When I was writing A Woman of Substance I would get calls from my editor. She would ask if I was alright, and I would say everything is fine. But I would not accept her help. She asked ‘Are you having problems?’ And I replied “Yes, many! If I take your help now, what will I do if you are not my editor for my second book? So I didn’t want to rely on anybody and I struggled through A Woman of Substance doing only what I knew to do. I love what I do, and I have always worked. I have always been optimistic and I have been determined to keep going no matter what. That is how I stay grounded.”
Barbara remembers the words of her mother as the key to her success. “I have the kind of character that allows me to do my work as best as I can. My mother said that you can do anything you want in life if you are prepared to work hard. After years of being a journalist and being in my early forties, fame didn’t matter. Doing the work and having the acclaim is wonderful, but you always have to remember you are only as good as your last book. I didn’t get swayed or ruin myself by playing the star. I never played the star, ever.”
Barbara has recently shared her wisdom with Northwood University to raise money for the Loel Scholarship fund. Northwood University is committed to the most personal attention to prepare students for success in their careers and in their communities; it promotes critical thinking skills, personal effectiveness, and the importance of ethics, individual freedom and responsibility. Private, nonprofit, and accredited, Northwood University specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education at three full-service, residential campuses located in southern Florida, mid-Michigan and northern Texas. Adult Degree Programs are available in eight states with many course delivery options including an online option. The DeVos Graduate School offers day, evening and weekend programming in Michigan, Texas, Florida and Switzerland. The Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity and Enterprise in Midland, Michigan specializes in creative thinking and innovation development. International education is offered through study abroad and in Program Centers in Switzerland, China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Barbara Taylor Bradford, a woman of substance, continues to inspire others to create success in their lives with the continuation of her literary legacy.
For more information visit Barbara’s Website
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