A woman of substance: Barbara Taylor Bradford on life, love and writing her 40th novel

The multi-million selling author on how age is just a number and writing her new novel by hand.

This week sees the release of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s new novel The Wonder of It All. It’s the 40th title from the multi-million selling author of A Woman of Substance, which is one of the bestselling novels of all time.

Taylor Bradford’s books have sold more than 90 million copies worldwide, but the 90-year-old tells us that far from taking it easy, she’s already planning her next book.

Famous writer Barbara Taylor Bradford sat at her desk with an old fashioned typewriter in front of herCredit: Caroll Teveras/Bradford Enterprises

“Age is just a number,” Taylor Bradford tells us.

“If you can keep working, do it. That’s what keeps me going. I’ve had two new hips in the last two years so have had to have some time off to recover and do my physio.

“I feel lucky to be surrounded by friends on both sides of the Atlantic and follow Winston Churchill’s missive KBO (keep buggering on).”


Who is Barbara Taylor Bradford?

The journey of a literary legend

She became a global phenomenon after the publication of her first novel A Woman of Substance in 1979, but the author, who grew up in a Leeds suburb, had already proved her own worth, joining the Yorkshire Evening Post at the age of 15 and then becoming one of the youngest women journalists on Fleet Street, at the age of 20.

Taylor Bradford met her husband, the film producer Robert Bradford, moved to the US and has now published 40 books. In 2007 she was awarded the OBE by the Queen for her services to literature.

“I’ve always been a determined woman and have always had a strong drive and do believe being a successful writer is part of my destiny,” she explains, adding that her life is, “like a story from one of my novels but this one is all true.”

Did you know?

Taylor Bradford’s favourite book is Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, while her favourite film is Casablanca.

On being a widow

Life after Robert

Taylor Bradford was married to Robert for more than 55 years. They met on a blind date organised by a mutual friend.

He died in 2019 and she feels his loss keenly, saying: “I’m lonely without him. It’s like half of me has been chopped off.”

She describes him as her best friend, with a great personality and dry humour, but adds, “I’m trying to live as normally as I can without Robert.”

She has a great group of friends who invite her out for dinner and she’s determined never to put a downer on things.

“Nobody wants a widow weeping on their shoulder,” she smiles. “They want a nice conversation and a few laughs.”

On her daily routine

A day in the life of Taylor Bradford

Taylor Bradford has lived in New York since the 1960s, but despite living in the city for so long, she still considers herself an Englishwoman living in New York. “I’ve been here a long time, but I’m not ‘Americanised,” she says.

She tries to be at her desk by 6am, where she works for two hours before she has breakfast which is usually a cup of English breakfast tea, a toasted English muffin spread with peanut butter and a banana.

Taylor Bradford says she is disciplined about her work as a routine suits her best and is showered and dressed ready to restart at 9.30am.

“I have always used a typewriter,” she says. “But I wrote my new book entirely by hand as I find it much easier.

“However, I’m not writing all of that time. I’m mostly thinking, going over research, and editing the work done the day before.”

Lunchtime is a salad or sandwich and she tries to get away by 5pm, saying, “I turn off the lights and ‘go home’.”

She relaxes by putting her feet up with the UK newspapers – she reads the Daily Telegraph, The Times and the Daily Mail every day.

Dinner is either out with friends or she heats up a shepherd’s pie left by her housekeeper.


Did you know?

She may live on the other side of the Atlantic now but Taylor Bradford’s favourite meal is still fish and chips!

On her new novel

What is The Wonder of It all about?

Her new book brings back one of Taylor Bradford’s favourite characters, James Falconer, and is the third historical novel in her Victorian family saga – The House of Falconer series.

James is now a wealthy businessman but he’s had some setbacks and volunteers to fight in the Great War.

Taylor Bradford says: “James must weather both personal and professional storms to find happiness beyond his success. Whether he does, who knows? I’m not going to tell you anymore as I don’t want to spoil the story!”

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On a possible autobiography

What’s next on her list?

Taylor Bradford says she has no plans to slow down. She is about to start plotting her next novel and is toying with writing her autobiography.

“I’m thinking about calling it An Unlikely Life, as that’s what I’ve had,” she says.

“One minute I’m working in the busy newsroom at the Yorkshire Evening Post and the next the world goes mad for A Woman Of Substance.

“Then in another blink of an eye, I’m in the White House having dinner with the President and his wife. My life really has been a whirlwind.”

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her


Phillipa Cherryson is a senior editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV.

Her passion is outdoor fitness. She’s a trainee mountain leader; an Ordnance Survey Champion; she organises walks and instructional events for South Wales members of online community the Adventure Queens and she’s vice chair of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Local Access Forum.

She hated sports at school and only started getting the fitness bug as she reached her 50s. Now she loves mountain walking, trail runs, e-biking, paddleboarding and climbing. She also loves cake.

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