Bibliophiles ‘R’ Us

Guest Post: Barbara Bretton

Posted on: August 27, 2009

Barbara Bretton

Today we welcome Barbara Bretton to Bibliophiles ‘R’ Us!

Writers will do just about anything to research a story. Bungee-jump. We’ll climb mountains, swim oceans, talk to dangerous people in dark alleys in the middle of the night, all with the certainty that the Muse will protect us from harm.

And those of us writing paranormals will happily take a walk on the wilder side of reality if given half a chance.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that my writer friends and I all said yes when a mutual friend suggested we experience a past-life regression.

Let me set the scene for you: it’s 8:30 on a cloudy Saturday morning in central Long Island. Five writers, clutching bed pillows to their chests, race across the hotel parking lot toward what promised to be a Big Adventure.

I knew exactly what to expect. We’d be greeted by an exotic-looking woman draped in jewel-toned silk and smelling faintly of something heady and alluring. The room would be dimly-lit. Soft New Age music would float through the air from an unseen source. One by one we would be led through the sun-dappled meadows of our minds and introduced to the fabulously exciting lives we’d lived before we ended up in Ballroom B of the Hauppauge Ramada Inn.

And I’d find out I’d been Cinderella, complete with glass slippers, the perfect past life for a newly-minted romance writer.

Except it didn’t quite work out that way.

The medium was a middle-aged matron named Ann who wore a corduroy skirt, sensible shoes, and glasses that hung between her breasts from a grosgrain ribbon. Garish fluorescent lights beamed down on us from the ceiling. Instead of New Age music, Van Halen pounded against the far wall.

After introductions, we were told to lie down on the floor of the conference room and get comfortable. Comfortable? All I wanted to do was make a run for the exit.

“Okay,” said Anne, “now that you’re settled, let’s do a few relaxation exercises.”

Who was she kidding? I wasn’t there to relax. I could relax in the coffee shop later.

But the exercises worked and suddenly I found myself drifting toward sleep. The medium’s voice snapped me back into the moment.

“Now we begin,” she said. “We’ll start at the bottom . . . your feet . . . see your feet the way they were . . . ”

That was more like it. I knew exactly what I was going to see: dainty feet in glass high-heeled slippers. What else? I mean, I knew deep in my heart that there was a beautiful 18th century English heroine with a score of eager suitors lurking deep inside me waiting to get out.

Imagine my surprise when I saw two enormous work boots instead! I was horrified. Work boots? What in the name of romantic fantasy was going on? Whose past life was this anyway?

If Anne knew things were going terribly wrong for me, she never let on. “Now we’ll see your ankles and calves,” she said.

Oh, great. I saw worn and filthy trousers over thick ankles and we all know that no self-respecting heroine ever had thick ankles. What a disaster this was turning out to be. She worked our way up the body and I got more depressed with every part revealed. No dainty ballgown-wearing damsel for me. I was a man. And an ugly one at that! I was a big, rough-hewn, foul-tempered Swedish coal miner.

Believe it or not, things went downhill from there. She told us to age ten years. “Where are you?” she asked. “What are you?”

I was finally getting married. My wife hated me but she had no choice. She was as homely and old as I was. I saw us on our wedding night and I was a rough and uncaring lover who made her cry. I didn’t care. I sat by the fireplace and smoked a pipe. Even my dog didn’t like me.

“Fast forward another twenty years,” Anne instructed and I see myself sitting by the same fireplace, still smoking a pipe. My dog is dead. My wife is dead. I lost a leg in a mining accident. I am bitter, miserable, and alone.

I wanted my money back. Where were my ball gown and slippers and handsome suitors? This wasn’t at all what I signed up for. Believe me when I tell you I didn’t want to be a one-legged Swedish coalminer with a bad attitude.

What I was, however, was a writer with an even worse attitude. I got so caught up in trying to force the experience to meet my expectations that I almost lost the point of it all.

It didn’t matter if I was Cinderella or a coal-miner. The point was the experience itself. How it felt to lie on the ballroom floor of a Ramada Inn. The sound of my friends breathing next to me. Anne’s soft voice. The strange sensation that came over me as I “saw” things I didn’t expect to see, in a way I never thought I’d see them.

And isn’t that the point of getting out there and doing hands-on research? I should have left my preconceptions at home and just let it happen. Don’t make my mistake when you research your own novel. Live in the moment. Soak up the knowledge. Savor the element of surprise when it comes your way. You never know where the unexpected might take you.


Barbara Bretton is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than 40 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 and have been translated into twelve languages in over twenty countries.

Barbara has been featured in articles in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Romantic Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Herald News, Home News, Somerset Gazette,among others, and has been interviewed by Independent Network News Television, appeared on the Susan Stamberg Show on NPR, and been featured in an interview with Charles Osgood of WCBS, among others.

Her awards include both Reviewer’s Choice and Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times; Gold and Silver certificates from Affaire de Coeur; the RWA Region 1 Golden Leaf; and several sales awards from Bookrak. Ms. Bretton was included in a recent edition of Contemporary Authors.

Barbara loves to spend as much time as possible in Maine with her husband, walking the rocky beaches and dreaming up plots for upcoming books.

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