Sue Lawley's castaway this week is Britain's most popular writer of historical fiction Bernard Cornwell. His work has sold more than five million copies in nine languages. His most famous character is the rifleman Richard Sharpe - an embittered, slightly villainous career soldier whose fortunes are followed through the late 18th century and early 19th. Cornwell's journey to writing was a long one. He was born in 1944 the illegitimate son of an English woman and Canadian airman. His mother was forced to give him up for adoption when he was a few weeks old and, after a short spell in an orphanage, he was brought up by an Essex couple who were members of the religious group The Peculiar People.
He trained first to be a teacher and then joined the BBC as a researcher on Nationwide. He had a successful career in television but, when he met the woman he wanted to marry, he had to leave it all to join her in America. Refused a Green Card, he reassured her that he would support them both by writing historical novels - an ambition he'd held for years but had yet to realize. On the strength of the first book, he was offered a contract for an entire series and, eventually, his character Richard Sharpe was brought to life by Sean Bean.
[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]
Favourite track: Flower duet from Lakme by Delibes
Book: A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys
Luxury: My boat - but not to escape
|Interviewed Guest||Bernard Cornwell|