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: http://bmafb.blogspot.com
Romancing the Yarn: http://romancingtheyarn.blogspot.com
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org 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?)
UPDATE (8-14-09) FROM BARBARA: 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
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Contest ends August 15 at 11:59 PM Hawaii Time