Authored by Nickie Fleming in Comics and Literature
Published on 03-17-2009
Barbara Taylor Bradford became a world-famous best-selling author with the publication of “A Woman of Substance” in 1979. It tells the story of Emma Harte, a strong woman of Yorkshire who aspires to be successful. This novel was followed by many others and also film and TV discovered her work.
How did it come to this?
For as long Barbara can remember, she was writing. As a young child (four or five) she demanded that her mother read to her constantly. She got her hooked on the classics, like the Bronte Sisters and Charles Dickens. She started to write at an early age and was quite proficient by the time she was eight or nine. When Barbara was ten, she won a contest for something she’d written and actually got paid for it. From that point forward, she knew she wanted to make a career in writing. Consequently, she tried to find a job in the business. At sixteen, she got a job as typist for the Yorkshire Evening Post. Eventually she got promoted to reporter. Being a journalist was exciting, because it taught her to conduct exhaustive research and to create perspective for the reader. This job as a journalist opened her eyes to the world and enabled her to graduate into adulthood.
Before “A Woman of Substance” Barbara had already written three novels, but they were never published. She honestly confesses that they weren’t especially worthy of publication. She did get a couple decorating books published and some children’s books.
She started on Emma Harte’s story in 1978 and put a lot of herself in Emma’s character. The new book was not hard to sell. Back in 1979, selling a book was somewhat easier than it is today. Barbara does remember she felt a little intimidated when she turned in a manuscript of nearly 1000 pages (two full boxes), but that was after she had sealed the contract – apparently her outline was solid and convincing. It had people hooked right away.
She did not expect to become a best-selling author overnight. She knew from the reactions of those who read it that “A Woman of Substance” was going to be enjoyed. But it was still unexpected when the first edition of the hardback sold out so quickly. Not even the publisher was prepared for this. As a result, they printed up a greater number of paperbacks in anticipation of big sales. Whether is was word of mouth or solid promotion, the paperback flew off the shelves at a record pace. Thirty years and twenty five million copies later it is still in print and still popular. Various sources report this book to be among the top ten bestselling works of fiction in history. To this day, Barbara is still amazed at that.
Nowadays, Barbara still is writing. She spends much time at writing and editing, and she tries to read the letters or mails of her fans as much as possible. She writes first for herself, and second for her readers.