Bankrate: Did you always want to write novels?
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?
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?
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?
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.