Sunday, January 18, 2004 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

... Barbara Taylor Bradford
Phill Snel / Maclean's / The Canadian Press
Barbara Taylor Bradford says her books are so popular because of her spirited characters.


The Emma Harte Saga:

- A Woman of Substance

- Hold The Dream

- To Be The Best

- Emma's Secret (released in North America this month)

- Unexpected Blessing (not yet released)

- Just Rewards (not yet written)

Back to the substance
Bradford writes another chapter in the saga of the Harte family

By Kelly Shiers / Features Writer

Emma's Secret, by Barbara Taylor Bradford (St. Martin's Press, $34.95)

Internationally renowned bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford may owe her writing career to her father's promise that when he became rich, he'd buy her a pony.

"It never happened, so I didn't get the pony," she says, her British accent still pronounced more than 30 years after moving to the United States with her husband, film producer Robert Bradford.

But it was that paternal promise that became the inspiration for her short story, Katie and Her Little Horse, which a children's magazine bought for the grand sum of seven shillings and sixpence.

At 10, just three years after she began "scribbling," she was a published writer. And she was hooked.

Although her career would detour into journalism for a time, her aspiration was always to become a novelist.

In 1979, she did just that, taking readers by storm with her debut novel, A Woman of Substance and its main character Emma Harte, the indomitable woman who overcomes all odds and becomes a woman of substance, both in wealth and character.

Harte quickly became a beloved heroine. A Woman of Substance sold 25 million copies worldwide and remains on of the 10 bestselling novels of all time.

Two more books, Hold the Dream and To Be The Best, chronicling the lives of Bradford and her family, would follow.

Twenty-five years later, Bradford has returned to the Harte family saga with Emma's Secret, newly released in Canada and already a bestseller in England and Australia.

"There was such a demand for me to write about the Hartes again and to bring Emma back that I dreamed up the idea of Emma's Secret, using the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren (introduced in) To Be The Best," she said during a telephone interview from her New York apartment. "I really had to wait for them to grow up."

Bradford now has 19 novels, all bestsellers, to her credit, with sales of more than 70 million in 90 countries. Ten, including A Woman of Substance, have been turned into TV miniseries, produced by her husband. Plans call for Emma's Secret also to become a miniseries.

Her success, she believes, comes in part from those spirited characters she creates.

"I think I write about the kind of woman I admire," she says.

"I like women who are strong and bold and brave and they go out there and conquer the world. . . . They have integrity and they behave in an honourable way.

"I want to write about decent women who have goals and ambitions and women who have a sense of humour in this terrible world that we live in."

Of course, as any reader would know, that doesn't preclude a villain or two in every story.

"I love all my characters, even the bad ones. Bad people are easier to write. . . . They can be mean and nasty and hurt people and say terrible things, so you can kind of flow with it."

Bradford distinguishes herself from romance novelists by the subject matter she tackles - pointing out that she's written about terrorism and the Holocaust - and because of the long, complicated and often business-related tales she pens. And she doesn't call herself a woman's novelist.

"I would say I write mainstream fiction. A lot of people would say, 'Yes, mainstream fiction for women,' but I (disagree because) I have male readers."

Bradford says readers know what they're getting when they begin one of her novels.

"When you pick up a Barbara Taylor Bradford, you know it's going to be about family relationships, marriages, divorces. There's going to be a lot of drama about business and personal relationships. You know what you're going to get and it's reassuring."

Fans should also be reassured by Bradford's plans for the future. The Hartes' story will continue after Emma's Secret with Unexpected Blessing (which Bradford is now working on) and Just Rewards (which she has not yet begun.)

And there are other books in the offing, including a three-book saga about another family and two other trilogies, one set in the Edwardian period and one for young adults.

"I've got my work cut out for me," she laughs. "I've got a very fertile imagination and I love working. And what would I do if I didn't write because I've written since I was 10 years old?"

Copyright 2004 The Halifax Herald Limited