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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)
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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?"