Barbara Cartland wrote over 700 books, a great number of them romances, winning her the moniker, The Queen of Romance. Born in 1901 to parents of the leisure class, Barbara's brothers were encouraged in their talents while their elder sister, according to the Edwardian values of the gentry, was supposed to simply watch as the male siblings played first and second fiddle.
Fate, however, realigned the stars to position Cartland in her rightful place. Shortly after she was born, her paternal grandfather suffered a massive financial loss and committed suicide in a fatal stroke of 19th century style honor. Cartland's father, who had just embarked on a political career after a life of polo, hunting, and cards, was utterly annihilated, along with his entire battalion, by the Germans in 1918. Her brothers, one a career soldier and the other a Parliamentarian, both perished in romantic feats of heroism during World War II. With no men left to carry on the Cartland honor, Barbara herself appeared to shepherd her family's name into history. It is obvious that she was far more successful than her brothers or father could have been in that regard.
Already in 1925, Cartland had seen her first novel in print. It's dance-the-night-away London atmosphere gave the young woman an unwarranted reputation as "fast," and Cartland herself inspired interest as a society girl who worked. She was also, to provide for her family, submitting gossip columns and bits of advice to keep London's newspaper copy-setters busy, and for a brief period ran a fashionable store that sold only hats.
For decades, Cartland toiled on her books, dictating novels at the rate of 10,000 words a day. When her own children had grown, she began to travel extensively, the principal result being frustration at not seeing her own novels absolutely everywhere. In 1973, to rectify this situation, she made promises to two publishers to produce ten books each for them within a year. To an American paperback publisher, she set up the release of fifty books, one a week, for a year, to catch up women readers on what had previously been a more limited British phenomenon. With a few years, Cartland was writing more than twenty new novels each year, seeing annual sales in the millions in each of England, France, and America.
In 1979, Cartland persuaded her son, Ian, to leave the family business and run the growing Barbara Cartland Empire. That same year, she sold her 100 millionth book and celebrated her 251st published book.
Barbara Cartland practiced absolute discipline in the writing of her books in this fanatically organized empire. After a light lunch, she would every afternoon lock herself in her library with a secretary who could scratch out shorthand without making a sound. A hot water bottle under her feet and a puppy in her lap, Cartland would sit and stare at the wall and fireplace while spinning stories of romance to the unseen scribe behind her. This would continue for two or three hours until the requisite copy was achieved. Additional secretaries would type the manuscript for presentation the next day, during the afternoon of which the story would continue as if the latest session had never ended.
Her novels are indisputably formulaic and it may even said that they are purposely shallow. But by this writing method Barbara Cartland became the most prolific living British novelist in her time, and the English language's best-selling author of all time.
Few contemporary authors could match her credits; Lauran Paine, an American author, chiefly of Westerns, put over 900 novels to paper; but Spanish romance writer Corin Tellado was undisputed champion, producing better than a novel every week for more than thirty years. Tellado's eventual output is clocked around 4,000 volumes, with sales of more than 400 million copies. Among prolific British authors, John Creasey and L.T. Meade come closest to Cartland's almost unbelievable totals.
So where did Cartland story in her storytelling? Let us indulge in some traveling to a time long before Jigsaw made her famous in 1925. Here is Cartland's first story, written in crayon at age 5.
The Little Slide Maker
Once upon a time there was a little girl and her name was Mary.
Now this little girl was very fond of making slides.
Her father was the village doctor.
One evening the Doctor came home late.
Mr Joe Carter stepped into a slide. Poor old man. He said I hope no slide will be made down Winter Hill or it will be a bad look out for old Betsy Gray.
Then Mary felt very unhappy for it was just down Winters Hill that she had made all her slides. That evening when she had been put to bed she got up and got a spade. When she got to the hill she found that the dirt at the side of the road was quite hard but she found some in a garden at the top of the hill.