Do it and

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By EL­IZ­A­BETH GRICE

IPow­er­house author bar­bara Tay­lor brad­ford ex­plains why she still gets up at 5am to write de­spite be­ing 78 and, ahem, ‘quite rich’. N a cloud of palest aqua­ma­rine, her neck and ears dec­o­rated with pearls the size of cher­ries, the grande dame of the block­buster takes her place at the cen­tre of the Dorch­ester Ho­tel’s mid-morn­ing deal-mak­ers and gos­sipers. Bar­bara Tay­lor Brad­ford and the lux­u­ri­ous Lon­don ho­tel are made for one an­other. They are both sump­tu­ous and well-pre­served, with just that de­li­cious whiff of ir­reg­u­lar­ity un­der the gloss.

“You know, I am not a jaded per­son,” she says. “I am pleased when some­thing nice hap­pens. I am thrilled when I get this.” She rests a jew­elled hand on her lat­est novel, Let­ter From A Stranger, where her pink, em­bossed name is big­ger than the ti­tle. The books just keep com­ing, and so do the roy­al­ties. This year, she was re­ported to be worth £181mil (RM897.8mil). There are five more nov­els queu­ing up in her head, clot­ting her note­books, all as­sured of mil­lions of read­ers. “Suc­cess is very ephemeral,” she says, ig­nor­ing 32 years’ ev­i­dence to the con­trary.

“Bob (her Amer­i­can hus­band and tire­less pro­moter) al­ways says: ‘You’re only as good as your last book, Bar­bara.’ I’ve got my feet on the ground. I’m not a flib­ber­ti­gib­bet.”

In­deed, no. She is 78, but her York­shire work ethic is as rav­en­ous as ever, and so is her sense of en­ti­tle­ment.

“I work hard for it,” she says. “I would say to any­one who wants to crit­i­cise me: fine, but you get up at five o’clock ev­ery morn­ing and sit at a desk all day and throw your guts into a book and wait to see who’s go­ing to take pot shots at you and then go out on the road to pro­mote it.

“I’m not guilty at all. I think I’ve earned it, frankly. I haven’t stolen it from any­body.”

She seizes her tum­bler of water and holds it up to the light. “See that? It’s half full, not half empty. I’ve been blessed with good health, great par­ents, and a re­ally won­der­ful part­ner who has never been threat­ened by my ter­ri­ble am­bi­tion – I am wildly am­bi­tious even now. He has al­ways given me that space to work. I some­times call him Bis­marck be­cause he tends to be bossy, but then he calls me Napoleon. We are both bossy peo­ple, but we get on all right. We have been mar­ried for 47 years.

“I tend to get a lit­tle shrill when peo­ple are in­ef­fi­cient. He tells me to calm down. I say: ‘I am not un­calm!’”

Bob Brad­ford is some­where up in their suite, read­ing. Bob is a suc­cess­ful film pro­ducer in his own right who has man­aged Bar­bara’s ca­reer since she struck gold with A Wo­man Of Sub­stance in 1979, and has made 10 of her books into films. He has an apho- rism­rism for ev­ery sit­u­a­tion and his pres­ence is con­tin­u­ally in­voked.

“I think a lot of fuss is made in this coun­try about age,” she says. “I don’t feel 78. Bob says: ‘You’re go­ing to bury ev­ery­body.’”

When “bitchy women” make snob­bish re­marks about her fic­tion, Bob says: “I love you, your friends love you, the read­ers love you, and the rest of the world doesn’t mat­ter.”

Not that Tay­lor Brad­ford, with 86 mil­lion books pub­lished in 40 lan­guages and 90 coun­tries, has any need to bother her pretty, honey-coloured head about lit­er­ary snobs. “I tell you what does im­press me a lit­tle bit,” she says, run­ning her finger down the long list of her nov­els on the fly­leaf. “It’s when I see this. I think: how did I do it?”

The an­swer, of course, is ob­ses­sive hard graft. She gets up at five, makes por­ridge and goes to bat­ter the hell out of her IBM type­writer. “I’m very fast. I love pa­per. As I re­type, I edit.”

Her re­gal pent­house in East 52nd Street in New York City re­sem­bles a mini-Blen­heim Palace, but she slaves away in her of­fice as if it were a gar­ret. At 5pm she stops, show­ers, puts on some make-up and slips into a kaf­tan to greet Bob, aged 79, from work. What a trooper.

There were two mis­car­riages and no chil­dren. Could her out­put have been so colos­sal if she had been a mother?

“Yes, be­cause I would have had a nanny. I be­lieve in nan­nies. You have to have drive, you see. You have got to want to get up ev­ery day and do it. And do it right, which I do. I write pop­u­lar fic­tion and I’m proud of it.”

Tay­lor Brad­ford is mag­nif­i­cent in her cer­tain­ties. In print, she may sound like former Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet “Iron Lady” Thatcher (one of her hero­ines) at full throt­tle, but her man­ner is open, friendly and un­crush­ing. She looks peachy and well-main­tained. Is she vain?

“Yes,” she fires back. “I want to look good. I’ve had Botox in the past and I’ve had fillers and I use all the creams. I re­ally don’t care what peo­ple think be­cause it’s no­body’s busi­ness but mine, and that’s what I feel about the money, the suc­cess and ev­ery-

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