Reuters

Author Bradford lives romantically, writes copiously

20Nov2002 FEATURE:
By Aleksandrs Rozens

NEW YORK, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Shadows grow long over the East River on a chilly autumn evening as novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford dims the lights of her sumptuous Manhattan apartment.

She gestures to a massive neon orange red Pepsi Cola sign shining brightly from the opposite bank of the East River into her windows, chuckling: "That is my bit of pop art."

In her library with a mantel decorated with English Minton china, the author of "A Woman of Substance" and other novels settles into a divan and outlines plans for a new book featuring her most famous character, Emma Harte, to be delivered to publishers in December.

Her latest book, "Living Romantically Every Day," a guide to kindling and maintaining romance, was published this month, but there is no time to rest on laurels.

That book is, Bradford says, a guide for women on "how can I do something to spoil him?" It includes recipes from meals featured in her various fiction books, a top ten list of romantic films as well as a primer on caviar.

"It is not a book you are going to pick up and read from page one. It's a kind of a helper," Bradford said in a recent interview about "Living Romantically Every Day."

The book is not a work of mere fantasy but draws on her 40-year marriage to film producer Robert Bradford.

"If a woman works and she comes home at night and feels like I do when I've sat here at that typewriter, she doesn't have to rack her brain. People are overtired. You go blank sometimes," Bradford said.

18 BOOKS, 39 LANGUAGES

Fortunately for her readers, going blank is not a problem for Bradford when she sits down to write. In a roughly 23-year career, she has published 18 books that have sold 70 million copies in 90 countries and 39 languages.

Women are her main audience, but she does get some fan mail from men. Her characters often are successful businesswomen with a taste for romance. In stories filled with plot twists, her characters must overcome obstacles to win love.

Most of her novels are massive tomes and the upcoming Emma Harte book likely will be some 600 pages.

The Harte character debuted in 1979 with Bradford's first novel, "A Woman of Substance," the chronicle of a tenacious Yorkshirewoman's rise from poverty and her success as a businesswoman. While she died in one of Bradford's books, the new Harte story -- tentatively titled "Emma's Secret" -- will look at chapters of the character's life that not have been closely detailed in previous Bradford works, specifically during World War II in Britain.

"I have had a lot of demand from readers," said Bradford. "They have written: 'You've killed Emma. A big mistake. Why did you do that? Why did you do this? You should not have done that. You have to bring her back!'"

The answer about how best to bring back Emma came from Bradford's husband, who has brought many of Bradford's stories to life for television.

"My husband said there is a part of 'A Woman of Substance' that is from 1939 to 1945 which, whilst they tell you everything that is happening, is told in narrative exposition rather than in seeing Emma in action. So, he said: 'Write it in those years,'" Bradford recalled.

SECRET TO MARRIAGE

As she shows a visitor her writing room, Bradford's two Bichon Frise dogs hop into the divan next to her and fix their coal black eyes on her. The dogs are ever-present as Bradford works. She starts her day at 6:30 a.m. and works until 3:30 p.m., a schedule set when as a teen Bradford worked as a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Bradford's office is equipped with a typewriter and computer. The computer serves for research while the typewriter, an electric IBM, is where Bradford conjures her stories.

Bradford, who grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire, started as a typist at the newspaper and then wrote sketches of local life for the paper, which catapulted her into a full-time reporting job. As a reporter, Bradford caught an early tram for some of the morning duties that included making "the calls," visits to hospitals, police stations and morgues for bits of news.

Prior to writing novels full time, Bradford was fashion editor of the magazine Woman's Own. She moved to the United States after marrying her American husband some 40 years ago.

During the interview, the aroma of a dinner she is supervising for her husband wafts throughout her home. Of her long-lasting marriage she quips, "I was born married to him. You do understand that?"

Does she offer any secrets in her new book for helping women survive a 40-year marriage?

Bradford smiles: "He travels a lot."