British Icon novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford shares her words of marital wisdom as well as why being blonde, Botoxed and busier than ever is good for the soul.
Interviewing your idols can be a tricky business – often they actually disappoint by being utterly lacklustre or, worse, arrogant – they can fall short. But when I chat to my inspiration, the legendary author Barbara Taylor Bradford, 83, OBE, it’s simply a joyful all-too-short experience. She is everything I imagine her to be (totally fabulous) and wise, witty, warm, conspiritorial, passionate and outspoken. She truly embodies the term “A Woman of Substance” – the novel of which propelled her career into the starry book-to-screen stratosphere where she has resided for decades. No mean feat.
She shares her views on work, marriage and personal style and why “The Donald” hopefully won’t disappoint.
J: Steven Spielberg says “everything about me is in my films”, is that true of you and your novels?
BTB: Yes I think that is true – it’s unconscious though – obviously you can’t be every character but, as an opinionated novelist, I think a few of my lead characters may be versions of me.
J: You started as a journalist, firstly in Yorkshire then in Fleet Street, has that helped you be a good novelist?
BTB: Absolutely. Knowledge of facts is essential – as a journalist you have to answer: Who, Where, What, When, How and Why and you have to get these right. You also get used to interviewing people about their lives – what shapes them, their dramas, their tragedies. You develop instincts about what makes a great story. These are all the foundations of a great novel. You also understand deadlines so you become a better novelist after being a journalist.
J:But, are novelists born or made?
BTB: You are born to be a novelist or not – you simply cannot teach imagination. In order to come up with a story, characters, plot you have to invent them. You also have to be a great liar – by that I mean you are inventing events that never happened – with plenty of drive and ambition. Look, lots of people write well but you cannot create a whole world if you are lacking in imagination – for me, characters, settings, drama simply pops into my head.
J: As a novelist how do you describe your personal genre?
BTB: I don’t write simply romance but I do write family sagas and they have to have the ring of truth to succeed. I am methodical in my approach – it all starts with character then plot then where is the problem? What’s the drama? If there’s no problem, no drama there’s no story.
J: Whose work do you admire?
BTB: PD James and Daniel Silva who wrote The Black Widow – spy novels, thrillers, excitement draws me in.
J: At 83 with your huge success, you longer need to work – so why do you?
BTB: I do not know what I would do if I didn’t write – I have to keep my mind active – I have just finished my 31st novel, will finish my 32nd shortly and am planning a brand new four part novel saga. I write every day on an old fashioned typewiter in my apartment and whilst it is solitary it is not lonely –I have all these people in my head! I do not believe in retirement and am certainly not a lady who lunches.
Barbara has been married to her producer husband Robert for 53 years, they live in New York and don’t have children “you cannot have everything in life”. In this week where most people file for divorce, I asked her how she maintains a happy, strong and fulfilled marriage.
J: 53 years is a rather spectacular achievement what’s your secret?
BTB: I am very private and totally loyal to the man I am married to.
J: Do star signs have anything to do with it?
BTB: You bet! I am the daughter of two Geminis so was brought up by four people. I am a Taurus and my husband a Gemini – same as the Queen and Prince Phillip!
J: How would you describe your connection?
BTB: We are both only children –we understand one another deeply. And we like as well as love each other. I feel very lucky.
J: So how do you grow old together happily?
BTB: Yes him to death and do what you want to anyway!
ON STAYING STYLISH
J: Describe your attitude to style?
BTB: Glamorous always – I dye my hair blonde, do Botox, wear high heels – and I intend to always
ON DONALD TRUMP:
BTB: I met him years ago – his wife Ivana was a great fan of my books, he was very polite, charming and generous. Yes he can be crude and vulgar but he’s a clever businessman.
ON JOAN COLLINS:
BTB: We’ve known each other 50 years and we’re the same age, we share a similar attitude to living life to the full.
- True Entertainment is launching The Barbara Taylor Bradford Season running from next Monday 16th January 2017 for two weeks starting with A Woman of Substance at 11am.