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Interview: Barbara Bretton, Author of Laced With Magic

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Barbara Bretton is represented by Pump Up Your Book Promotion, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion.

Barbara Bretton is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than forty books. Her most recent title, Laced With Magic, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. She currently has over ten million copies in print around the world. Her works have been translated into twelve languages in over twenty countries. Barbara lives in New Jersey with her husband.

Thank you for this interview, Barbara.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Barbara: I'm a career writer which means I've spent the last twenty-seven years of my life playing with imaginary friends and getting paid for it. Even better, it means I get to live the life I dreamed about as a child. The word "lucky" doesn't begin to cover it.

I grew up in New York City and spent more time than I'm willing to admit haunting the shelves of the Elmhurst branch of the Queensborough Public Library system. My idea of a great Friday night was a glass of milk, handful of Oreos, and Shefter's Guide to Better Compositions. Nobody was surprised when I said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

The surprise came when I made it happen.

I sold my first book in 1982 to Harlequin American Romance, a new line created by the legendary Vivian Stephens. Love Changes went on to become a launch title, and I wrote happily for Harlequin until 1997 when I decided to concentrate on single title romances and women's fiction for Berkley (Penguin Group).

Do you write full-time?

Barbara: I even write in my sleep. That's the thing about telling lies for a living: when a book is going well, it's a twenty-four hour a day process.

You’ve met an old friend from high school, and you want to pitch your book to him/her in five minutes or less. What would you say?

Barbara: Knit shop owner and sorcerer's daughter Chloe Hobbs felt the Fates finally got it right when she met Luke MacKenzie. And no one could have convinced her otherwise — including the trolls, selkies, or spirits who also call Sugar Maple, Vermont home. But then out of nowhere Luke's ex-wife suddenly shows up, claiming to see the spirit of their daughter, Steffie — a daughter Chloe knows nothing about. In a town built on secrets, Chloe is shocked to discover that the man she loves has a few secrets of his own, secrets that can destroy Sugar Maple and everyone in it.

Love, magic, and knitting (not to mention a starred review from Publishers Weekly). And there won't be a pop quiz afterward. It doesn't get any better than that.

Now can I give you a ride to the bookstore?

Who is your intended audience?  Have you been able to crossover into other audiences as well?

Barbara: I am my intended audience. I write what I love to read and cross my fingers that there are thousands of other women out there who are looking for the same blend of humor and heartbreak and romance. Lately, however, I've seen a marked uptick in the number of male readers who contact me through my website, something that both surprises and delights me. Many of them are knitters who read last year's Casting Spells and became fans of my work. If there's anything better than being discovered by a new reader, I don't know what it is.

Why did you choose your particular genre?

Barbara Bretton: I realized long ago that home is where our stories start. Family is the richest source of material a writer could ever wish for. (I'll bet that some of the most important decisions you ever made were worked out at the kitchen table.) Writing romance novels gives me the opportunity to be in on the ground floor, so to speak. I bring the characters together then step back and watch as love takes over and another family of stories is born.

Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?

Barbara Bretton: I've published over forty-five books and I'm still waiting for them to figure out that I'm a fraud. Writers are strange creatures. We're runaway trains, veering from supreme confidence to abject creative terror in the blink of an eye. A bad review, a less-than-enthusiastic response from an editor — that's all it takes to send my self-confidence plummeting.

I've learned that I write best in a state of blissful ignorance. The less I know about what's going on in the publishing industry, the easier it is for me to sink into my fictional world and stay there until the book is done. I don't need to know my reviews, my sales figures, or my print run when I'm writing. The business side of writing is important, but it isn't nearly as important as the writing itself. I need to protect my ability to write and for me that means keeping the real world outside the door.

Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?

Barbara Bretton: I'm a nomadic writer. My laptop and I have been found in the basement, on the hall staircase, in the living room beneath the twinkle lights strung across the front window, in the guest bedroom, the big ugly green chair in the family room, and (to everyone's surprise) sometimes even in my office.

What kind of research did you have to do during the writing process?

Barbara Bretton: Writers and actors have a lot in common. We both have to immerse ourselves in an imaginary world. When I begin a book I imagine myself slipping into someone else's skin, learning how it feels to move inside their body, think their thoughts, feel their emotions. It may not qualify as standard issue research, but it's definitely an important part of the process. Maybe the most important part.

Of course, there's also the nuts-and-bolts aspect of research that requires lots of reading and, if I'm lucky, a road trip or two. Salem, Massachusetts plays an important role in both Casting Spells and the sequel Laced With Magic which meant 0a lot of reading about the infamous witch trials. I also had a great deal of fun reading scholarly tracts about faery kingdoms. There's always something new and wonderful to learn when you start a book.

Who is your publisher and how did you get accepted by them? Did you pitch your book yourself or go through an agent?

Barbara Bretton: I'm currently published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Group. Trust me when I say that if I had to pitch my book myself, I'd still be making fries beneath the Golden Arches. An editor I knew and admired left a small start-up publishing company in the early 1990s to join Berkley. She invited me to submit something to her and next thing I knew I had a two-book contract to write mainstream contemporary romance. I've been with them ever since.

How are you promoting your book thus far?

Barbara: The Internet has opened a world of promotional opportunities for authors that didn't exist earlier in my career. I cut my promotional teeth during the Loving Hands at Home era of print 'em yourself bookmarks and mimeographed newsletters. We were all learning as we went along, figuring out what worked, what didn't, and what should be relegated to the trash bin forever. You could spend two weeks (and 200 hours) stuffing envelopes with promo material and maybe reach two thousand readers if you were lucky. Now, with the click of a mouse, the entire planet is within reach.

I'm taking full advantage of the Internet for Laced With Magic: blog tour, on-line advertising, website giveaways, podcasts. It's a lot of work but I love interacting with readers and the Internet makes it all possible.

If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?

Barbara: You know all those author's copies that are gathering dust in the corner of your office? Don't hoard them; give them away! Get out there on the Internet and start holding book giveaways. Get your stories into the hands of readers who just might fall in love with you and help build your career.

What’s next for you?

Barbara: I just agreed to write two more books in the Sugar Maple Chronicles so fans of Chloe and Luke have new adventures to look forward to.

Thank you for this interview, Barbara.  Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?

Barbara: I'm everywhere these days. You can find my website at www.barbarabretton.com and my blogs at http://bmafb.blogspot.com and http://romancingtheyarn.blogspot.com. I'm also on Twitter and Facebook as BarbaraBretton. Stop by and say hello!

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