Aug 13, 2009

Interview and Contest with Barbara Bretton

The contest portion of this contest has closed. Thanks to everyone for participating!

Please welcome today's guest Barbara Bretton author of Laced with Magic (Berkley, August 2009). She is an excellent story-teller and has a marvelous sense of humor, both things evident in Laced as well as it's predecessor Casting Spells (Berkley, November 2008)

Besides being a prolific writer (more than 40 novels) she loves to knit. Both novels, set in the magical small town of Maple Sugar, Vermont, are filled with offbeat paranormal inhabitants and happenings along with knitting advice and the thrill of all those lovely yarns.

Read a Review of Casting Spells

See contest details at the end of the interview.

PVN: Hello Barbara. Thanks for joining Patricia's Vampire Notes today.

PVN: You have created an amazing world for Chloe Hobbs. Would you describe what makes the small Vermont town of Sugar Maple so special?

Barbara: What a great question, Patricia! Twenty-three years ago my husband and I moved from a working class neighborhood on Long Island to a semi-rural, upwardly-mobile small town in central New Jersey. Just a few miles north of Princeton, our town looked so perfect to my eyes that it gave me the creeps. Don't get me wrong: I loved it here and was glad we had made the move but the bucolic perfection was downright unnerving. There was no litter, no graffiti, no noise, no weeds, no rowdy kids. Bambi actually grazed in my front lawn.

Well, I'm a writer and sometimes my writerly imagination tends to get the better of me. Suddenly I was conjuring up a whole Stepford scenario that had me checking neighbors for signs of animatronic tendencies.

Is it any wonder that years later I created a picture-perfect New England village where things aren't exactly the way they seem?

I have to admit I love the idea of hiding in plain sight. I love the notion that the woman sitting next to me in a yarn shop might be a vampire or that the friendly hardware store owner is descended from a line of werewolves. The world is a big and wondrous place where anything is possible. Sugar Maple is proof of that!

PVN: What is Chloe like? Is she by any chance an alter ego!

Barbara: Have you been talking to my husband? Chloe and I share an embarrassing number of traits. (Except for the skinny one, darn it.) We both love Chips Ahoy, so-bad-it's-good tv, great yarn, ice cream, and a certain 1985 Buick that happens to live in my garage.

Want to know a secret? There's part of me in every single character I've created. (Even the not-so-nice ones.) But for some reason I seem to understand Chloe better than most. I know what it's like to be on the outside looking in, of feeling that you just don't quite fit in with everyone else. Our reasons might be very different, but the underlying loneliness? That's something I definitely understand.

PVN: Do you ever dream of opening your own yarn store? If so what would it be like?

Barbara: Well, there would definitely be magic at work, I can tell you that! No more dropped stitches for this knitter and I would finally be able to master lace work without muttering words not fit for print. Of course I would be independently wealthy and able to stock every yarn from every manufacturer, including the gifted indies, and I'd offer every color. The space would be large and welcoming with over-stuffed chairs and couches, big work tables, great lighting, a roaring fire place in the winter and lovely central air in the summer. And there would be a cat. There has to be a cat. I don't think yarn shops are allowed to operate without feline supervision.

PVN: Vampires do exist in your world. What are there characteristics?

Barbara: My vampires are middle-aged and older. They live in a world where the "hunt" is no longer necessary. Modern technology can take care of their needs with no muss and no fuss. But same as in the human world, the younger generation is looking for something different and are leaving Sugar Maple to build lives that are substantially different from their parents' lives. Which means a return to the old ways.
It's a topic I hope to dip into in future Sugar Maple books.

On a side note, I have a bit of a vampire reputation myself. I'm a night owl by nature. My brain doesn't start clicking until well after dark. My body clock runs totally counter to the norm and always has. Drive by our house at two or three in the morning and you're likely to see the lights burning. I do my best writing just before dawn.

PVN: How many books are planned for the series?

Barbara: I'm delighted to say there are two more planned for 2010 and 2011. Beyond that is anyone's guess.

PVN: What attracts you to the paranormal?

Barbara: The same quirk in my personality that created Sugar Maple. Deep inside this middle-aged body there's a little girl who still believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and elves and even the Tooth Fairy. Even the movies I fell in love with as a child (and love still) contain a big splash of maybe. The Wizard of Oz. Miracle on 34th Street. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. There's something wonderfully appealing about the notion that our reality is only the beginning.

PVN: Describe your writing environment and your writing day.

Barbara: I have a lovely office on the second floor of our house but I can't say too much writing happens there. I'm a "have laptop, will travel" kind of writer. You never know where I'll turn up next. The kitchen. The deck. I've even been known to perch on the staircase and turn out a few paragraphs. I hate the idea of being tied down to any kind of routine or schedule. I know that runs counter to the conventional wisdom about writers and routines but structure makes me itchy.

And it doesn't help that we share our house with three parrots, all of whom seem hellbent on popping the keys off my keyboard and scattering them from one end of the house to the other.

PVN: Which authors have inspired you?

Barbara: I'm an unabashed fan of Bertrice Small's work. (Loved the Skye O'Malley series and her Hetar books especially.) Laurie Colwin's work has been a big influence on my own. Maeve Binchy. Robert B. Parker. Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar and Youngblood Hawke. I was maybe twelve when I read the latter and I was totally swept up into the world of a young and gifted writer who hand wrote his manuscripts (!!) while eager editors willingly typed them up for him. Talk about a fantasy!

PVN: What are your current projects?

Barbara: I'm embarking on Book #3 of the Sugar Maple Chronicles. I can tell you that there will be a road trip involving Chloe, Luke, Penelope the cat, and a Buick stuffed full of yarn.

PVN: Tell us about Romancing the Yarn.

Barbara: Romancing the Yarn is truly a labor of love. Three years ago I contacted a group of published authors I knew who also happened to be writers and suggested we start a blog. I didn't have a clue if it would work or even if we would still be posting to it six months later but I was delighted when they agreed to give it a shot. And here we are, still writing, still knitting, and still talking about it. We have a lot of fun at RTY and give away tons of fabulous yarn. Needlework lovers of any ilk are invited to join us. And even if you don't knit or crochet, stop by anyway. We talk about life and books and writing as well as needlecraft.

PVN: Where can readers find you on the Internet?

Barbara: I'm everywhere these days! Let me list some addresses for you:

Personal blog:
Romancing the Yarn:
Twitter: BarbaraBretton
Facebook: BarbaraBretton
Ravelry: wickedsplitty

My email address is and I'm probably crazy but I still answer all of my own mail. It might take me awhile but I promise you'll hear from me. (Did I mention I have free bookmarks and fridge magnets and book plates available?)

What fabulous comments! I was away for a few days so apologies for delay in reading (and savoring) all of your questions and remarks. Give me an hour or two to add caffeine to my blood stream (yes, I know it's 1:30 in the afternoon but you already know I'm not exactly a morning person) and I'll be back to tackle every single one of them. You guys are great!

And while I have your attention, let's add Casting Spells to Laced with Magic for the winners. They go together, right? Who am I to separate them. A totebag will also be included. AND there will be 5 winners!

Thank you, Barbara!

The contest portion of this contest has closed. Thanks to everyone for participating!

One lucky commenter will each win a copy of Laced with Magic and Casting Spells

To be eligible do one or more of the following:
* Leave a comment
* Ask Barbara question
* Link this interview to your own site or a social network site, and be sure to let me know the URL

If your email is not associated with your ID, please put the address in your response.

Contest ends August 15 at 11:59 PM Hawaii Time


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, Patricia. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail -- I'd have hated to miss this interview. (I love author interviews!)

I've got this posted for you at Win a Book.

Wanda said...

Casting Spells looks great. I would love to be entered for this draw. Thanks.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

elaing8 said...

These sound like great books,I look forward to reading them

CrystalGB said...

Hi Barbara. Great interview. I love your writing. Laced with Magic sounds good. Love the cover.

Patricia Altner said...

Hi Wanda

Just FYI

The book prize is a copy of Laced with Magic the sequel to Casting Spells.

Both books are fantastic reads!

Bitten by Books said...

Great interview! I love the sound of the series and am looking forward to reading it.

If you could have dinner with ANY literary character who would it be and why?

Rachel from Bitten by Books. :)

Thanks to Patricia for another awesome event!

chey said...

Hi Barbara,
Great interview. Casting Spells sounds like a book I'd like to read!

Barbara said...

I would love to win a copy of this book.


Mary K. from L.A. said...

Being an avid knitter (of scarves and hats, mostly) for a few years now, and also being a lover of paranormal novels, this one sounds right up my alley! Please enter me.

Kimberly B. said...

This series sounds so great! I love both paranormal fiction and knitting, so it should be right up my alley. And I visited Romancing the Yarn, which looks like a very cool site. Is there a group on Ravelry?
(Sorry---just my knitting geek coming out!)

Janel said...

I just can't resist a book that deals with knitting. Having supernatural characters hiding in plain sight could produce all kinds of chaos. Sounds like fun! Thanks for the wonderful interview.


barbrafl said...

Thank you for the contest. The book sounds really good!

barbrafl737 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Daelith said...

Love to see some pictures of the parrots at the keyboard. I use to have an African Gray. She kept us on entertained with her antics.

Your books sound wonderful.

Thank you for both you and Patricia for the interview.

(cheleooc at yahoo dot com)

Dena said...

Hi Barbara, I enjoyed your interview. We have a few things in common; I am a night owl and have tried to change it but can't. Also I love Bertrice, she is so sweet and I love how she mixes real history with her fictional stories. I'm going to miss Lara and Hetar. The next one will be the last in the series, boohoo. Your book sounds really good and a bit of a different take on Vampires that I will be checking out.

Valorie said...

Great interview. I have wanted to read this book for a while. :) Hopefully I will soon!

Barbara, Who are some of your favorite authors?



Susan Blexrud said...

You had me at Marjorie Morningstar and Youngblood Hawke. Hadn't thought of those books in years, but you brought back fond memories. I recall being spellbound, and isn't that just the atmosphere we want to create for our readers? Haven't read you, Barbara, but I loved this interview. Your world of characters is fascinating. I'll pick you up on my next trip to B&N.

ddurance said...

I love that your books are taking a paranormal turn. I'm curious though on what prompted your decision to write them.

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

etirv said...

I have never read Barbara Bretton and want to read this new book! Count me in!


Pam said...

I've also never read any of Barbara's books but after reading this interview, I'm excited to give them a read. I also wonder what is hiding in a scene that's too perfect and have that little girl inside who still believes in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.

I'm not much of a knitter myself - I once tried knitting a top that took me so long to finish I grew breasts in the meantime and it no longer fit. And the scarf I attempted became a sleeping bag for Barbies.

Do these 2 books work as stand-alones or if I win (which I hope I do), should I seek out the first book in the series before reading Laced?

melacan at hotmail dot com

SciFiGuy said...

I thought Casting Spells was terrific and I am looking forward to reading Laced with Magic. Wonderful interview Patricia!

tetewa said...

This would be a new author for me, count me in!

Vickie said...

What a fun interview and premise for a book series.
I adore the Skye O'Malley series, too by Bertrice Small. I haven't read her books in forever, but I have very fond memories of wandering out to the back 40 of my Grandma Violet's farm and read her books.
My sister lived in a bucolic little town close to Princeton back in the day. I had my first buffalo wings experience in Princeton...sigh...never had any better since then. And I'd make my sister take me to the town with the water tower of War of the Worlds fame. She used to take care of a house in Cranberry (I love that name).
I look forward to reading your books!
VWinship at aol dot com

Vickie said...

OH! And how do I go about getting a free bookmark or fridge magnet? Maybe a signed bookmark....?

okbolover said...

Added Casting Spells to my wishlist!!! these look like great books! pls enter me in this contest

sensitivemuse at gmail dot com

Pissenlit said...

Ooooh, these sound fun! Count me in, please and thank you!
*runs off to go find a copy of Casting Spells*

donnas said...

Sounds like a great entertaining series.

Do you have any other series ideas in mind or in the works?

bacchus76 at myself dot com

donnas said...

Linked in sidebar here:

Sorry forgot to mention that above.

Llehn said...

Thanks for interviewing Barbara Bretton! Her books sound like something I would love to read!


Cherry D said...

Thanks for letting me know about this interview Pat! I've never read anything by Barbara Bretton yet and she sounds like she has fantastic sense of humor going by your interview. I so need to add her to my growing WishList.

I've blogged about this contest at:

mischivusfairy-spamme2 AT yahoo DOT com

LoveMyCoffee said...

I've added this to my wish list. I love magical and mystical reads.
Please enter me.


Jennifer said...

I'm looking forward to getting ahold of this way or another. Hint hint :)
jenmoon at pacbell dot net.

Barbara Bretton said...

What fabulous comments! I was away for a few days so apologies for delay in reading (and savoring) all of your questions and remarks. Give me an hour or two to add caffeine to my blood stream (yes, I know it's 1:30 in the afternoon but you already know I'm not exactly a morning person) and I'll be back to tackle every single one of them. You guys are great!

And while I have your attention, let's add CASTING SPELLS to LACED WITH MAGIC for the winners. They go together, right? Who am I to separate them . . .

Thanks to all of you! Back later.

Chelsa B. said...

Great interview! And your books sound really good, Barbara!

etirv said...

Hi Barbara! Just curious... have you joined the kindle or e-reader bandwagon?


Kytaira said...

Both books sound great. I love the part about a town that hides in plain sight. And an entire paranormal community that regular humans aren't aware of. I have to confess, Luke not telling Cloe about his daughter will be a hurdle. *(Luke)Lucy you've got some splannin to do!*. I look forward to reading all three books. Will you stop at three in this world?

Pam P said...

I really enjoyed Casting Spells. Even though I'm not into knitting, most of the family is, so that resonated.

80slady said...

be reading both asap! Cannot knit but can crochet :)

Hailey said...

These both sound like awesome books! Please enter me.


Barbara Bretton said...

I'm one of those people who can kill electronic devices just by looking at them. I come by it legitimately: my mother could kill a watch just by strapping it onto her wrist. One after another, I marveled as her watches ticked their last within seconds of touching her skin.

Anyway, that's a long way of saying that electronic communication and I have a long and troubled history. I came back yesterday evening and answered some of your fabulous posts and thought everything was okay until Patricia let me know the post wasn't there.

So I'm back andhopeful and (to be smart) going to do this in multiple posts.

Barbara Bretton said...

First, thanks for all the positive comments and the enthusiasm. I've had so much fun here!

Rachel from Bitten By Books asks which literary character I'd like to have dinner with and why. That's a harder question than it looks on the surface because I'd have to have a dinner =party= to accommodate all of my fictional choices.

Jo March from LITTLE WOMEN because she was the heroine of my young life. She was everything I wanted to be: a writer! Spunky. Independent. Deeply devoted to her family. And published. Oh yes, published.

Patsy Carpenter, heroine of Larry McMurtry's MOVING ON--mainly because she was so well-written that I've secretly believed she's a real person all these years.

Scarlett O'Hara so I could knock some sense into her before it's too late. (Rhett's the ONE, dummy! Can't you see that??)

Dorothy in WIZARD OF OZ because I'm not so sure I'd ever leave the Emerald City!

Barbara Bretton said...

Kimberly B, we don't have a group on Ravelry but maybe we should. I'll ask the other ROmancing the Yarners what they think . . . and if they know how to do it! I might take down the whole site if I try. (See above remarks about electronic woes.)

Dena, I agree about missing Lara and Hetar. I even dreamed about their multiple moons one night! Sunnyis one of my best friends but I become a total fangrrl over her work.

Valorie, I guess I just answered (at least in part) your question about favorite authors. Bertrice Small, definitely. Robert B. Parker. Sue Grafton. Adriana Trigiani. Larry McMurtry. Marian Keyes. Laurie COlwin. I could go on and on.

Barbara Bretton said...

Susan, I'll carry the image of Marjorie Morningstar surrounded by lilacs at the Cloisters with me forever. What a wonderful book that was. Still is, actually.

Deidre, thanks for supporting my paranormal turn. It's really a REturn to a genre I'd explored back in the early 1990s with three time travels I wrote for Harlequin and two paranormals (an invisible man and a healer) for Harlequin American. The idea for Sugar Maple had been dancing around my head for years and finally came together during a dentist visit!

Pam, it's hard for me to judge if the two books (LACED and CASTING) work as stand-alones but readers have said they do so I hope that's true.

Vickie, another Jersey girl! Loved your reminiscences.

And I especially love being "discovered" by so many new readers. You guys have made my day.

etirv, I LOVE my Kindle and am heartbroken that it seems to be on its last legs as of today. (See? I'm lethal to electronic devices.) To have so many books available in such a tiny space is like reader's heaven to me!

terin said...

Oh my goodness. I am so intrigued! by combining these two ingredients. I can't wait to see these books.

Chris said...

I loved Casting Spells and have been looking forward to the sequel!

Amberkatze said...

I can't believe I haven't come across this series before! I am going to add them to my wishlist...maybe I can cross them off the list again by winning ;)

Carol said...

I really enjoy your books! These two look really good!

Carol M
mittens0831 AT

Jessica said...

Sounds like an interesting series to start. I like books with magic.

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

I love the whole magical premise and can't wait to take a peek between the pages. I'd love to cast a few spells myself!!

I posted your contest on my sidebar at

Thanks for the magical contest!

Dottie :)

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Also tweeted your contest for you at @gymmom_027

Fun contest!

Dottie :)

Kate said...

These look like interesting. Please enter me.


Susan Kelley said...

I have to love an author who loves yarn. Not 30 minutes ago I finished crocheting an afghan from my son leaving for college tomorrow. I made one for all my boys in their college colors when they went to college so they could take a little warmth of home with them. I'm looking forward to reading your books.

Beawhiz said...

Yay! A knitter who is also a writer! That describes me! I haven't ever read your books, Barbara, but they're definitely going on my TBR list! I'll mention them to my knitting group, too. We're a bunch of readers in addition to being knitters. : )

Thanks for the giveaway. I look forward to reading your work.

Beawhiz said...

Whoops, forgot to include my email! mykingdomforabook (at)

RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thanks for the great interview with Barbara Bretton.
I hadn't heard of her or her books before and have now put them on my ToBeRead list.
Also I'm now following her on Twitter.
Love & Best Wishes,
twitter: @RKCharron

The Discriminating Fangirl said...

Casting Spells looks really interesting! I'm teaching myself to knit, too, so it's doubly interesting. :)

I tweeted about the contest here:


Leontine said...

What a wonderful interview and Barara, I too love the Sky O 'Malley series by Bertrice Small. I am catching up on reading her Hetar series.

Do you outline your characters or do you let them "talk" to you?

Froggy said...

wow, the books look awesome, would love to enter to win!


Kira R. said...

I haven't read any of Barbara's books but they seem interesting! Count me in.