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Fame & Fortune
Barbara Taylor Bradford
Barbara Taylor Bradford
Does her fiction spring from a subconscious sense of nobility?
Celebrity interview

'Woman of Substance' has mysterious past

Bankrate: Did you always want to write novels?

Barbara Taylor Bradford: I always wanted to be a novelist and I never lost sight of that dream. My husband said, "Well, you've always kept your eye on the hole in the doughnut."

Bankrate: You grew up an only child among the service class in Upper Armley. Was there much of the upstairs-downstairs class consciousness then?

Barbara Taylor Bradford: Well, I never noticed it, because I was brought up rather proper. As my biographer said, what other 8-year-old at that time was taken to all of these stately homes by her mother and taken to museums and the theater and force-fed Dickens and taught to put shoe trees in her shoes and all of this stuff? I suppose it was unusual, but it didn't seem even peculiar to me. And yes, I was terribly spoiled. Obviously, she was trying to instill in me something that she had not been able to have, if one believes the story that her mother was the mistress of the Marquess of Ripon.

Bankrate: Your so-called secret life, this alleged noble lineage, came as a surprise to you as well, right?

Barbara Taylor Bradford: People said they always knew there was something strange about Edith Walker, my grandmother. There was always a mystery, and the mystery is, where did she get the money from, not working in those days and bringing up three children? I mean, somebody kept her, some man supported her, whether it was the Marquess or not.

Bankrate: Did your mother ever let on that she knew?

Barbara Taylor Bradford: Never. NEVER. She used to take me all the time to Studley Royal, the house and the park there and whenever we went to Ripon, we went there. And she would always say to me, "My happiest years as a child were spent here." So I don't know. I don't know the answer. My biographer said, "Barbara, you must have known because 'A Woman of Substance' is almost your grandmother's story, and 'An Act of Will' is your grandmother's story." Well, if I knew, it was very deep. I didn't know in the sense that my mother didn't sit me down and tell me. Maybe I heard something when I was very young, I don't know.

Bankrate: We love the idea of the maid who is secretly a princess, don't we?

Barbara Taylor Bradford: Naturally. And, of course, it's a traditional story -- the housemaid getting knocked up by the son of the master of the house, right? And that was the story of "A Woman of Substance," except it was reversed, because Emma Hart became the one who was all-powerful in that book. But I think I just thought of the storyline; I don't think I was thinking of my grandmother because I have no recollection of ever being told anything. In those days, it was shameful to be illegitimate, so I never knew my mother was illegitimate until my biographer told me.

Next: "I learned ... a lot of psychological insight into people."
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