My Mentor: Barbara Taylor Bradford on Cornelius Ryan

'He took an interest in me because he thought i was very talented'
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The Independent Online

I first met Cornelius Ryan when I was a young woman working on Fleet Street. He was Irish, a newspaper man and a war correspondent on The Daily Telegraph. He went on to write some wonderful books about the Second World War - The Longest Day, The Last Battle and A Bridge Too Far, all of which were made into films. I was in my late twenties and he must have been in his forties.

My experience on Fleet Street was tremendous. I was, first, on Woman's Own as the fashion editor, then the London Evening News and a newspaper called The London American. Working on Fleet Street was wonderful because it gave me that sense of meeting a deadline - you couldn't turn the story in next week if it was a news story. It gave me an appreciation of making sure you've got your facts right, because, otherwise, readers are going to write in and tell you you're wrong.

Connie, as I called him, took a journalist's point of view towards his books. He interviewed everyday people about what they were doing. He took an interest in me because he thought I was very talented. This was a real pro saying, "Barbara, you can do it. You have talent. I like what you've written."

He was the first person, apart from my mother, I had ever talked to about wanting to be a novelist. He was kind enough to take interest in a younger person. He encouraged me to write something every day and it was his confidence in my ability to write that gave me confidence in myself.

Connie died of cancer in 1974. I stayed friends with him right to the end.

We were both in America by then, and I used to love visiting him at his home in Connecticut. He had a room there dedicated to writing which was full of fascinating things.

He was, in a way, every writer's dream mentor, because he took an interest in me, believed in me, and wanted me to succeed.

Barbara Taylor Bradford's 'The Ravenscar Dynasty' is published by HarperCollins on 2 October