Hi! I’m Barbara Matteson and I hope you enjoy my first novel, The Perfect Mrs. Claus! A little about me: I am a life-long New Englander, and I live outside of Boston with my husband, son, and black Labrador Retriever. I work on the beautiful Boston Harbor waterfront where I am fortunate to meet people from all over the world. When I am not at work, I am thinking up my next book as I take walks with my dog in the beautiful Fells Reservation near our home. I also love to cook (especially with my crock pot!) and bake. I became a professional writer when Victoria Magazine published my essay The Birds of Winter in the January/February 2022 issue.
Savannah Brady is a midlife widow and is far from perfect. Since her husband’s death, and her son moving to Europe for a job opportunity, Savannah has walked through life zombie-like–merely existing, but not living. When Savannah ambles to her favorite lunch time haunt, Howardson’s Emporium, Boston’s famous department store, she meets one of the store’s employees who will change her life in ways she never thought imaginable, as she is invited to become Howardson’s Mrs. Claus. This new opportunity brings the possibility of romance, all within the charm of a Christmas wonderland, where holiday dreams and wishes really could come true.
The dress was reminiscent of 1950s swing dress, with a long-sleeved fitted top and a skirt that flared from the hips. The top was crushed velvet while the skirt was a gorgeous silk that was soft as a puppy’s fur. The dress was the most beautiful shade of blue Savannah had ever seen, reminding her of a clear winter day after a snowstorm. The dress hugged her in all the right places, accentuating her hips and bust, but without being too tight or revealing. It hit right at the knee, the skirt billowing and swinging with every move, as snow-white faux fur trimmed the hem and tickled her knees. The collar and cuffs had the same trim as the hem, with tiny glistening white seed pearls sewn under and above the trim, giving off sparkles of light, giving the illusion that twinkling stars were sewn into the dress. A rhinestone belt embellished with clear crystals had fallen onto the floor, and Savannah picked it up and fastened it around her waist, making her shimmer like a frozen winter pond. It was a simple design, but the details made it extraordinary.
For as long as I can remember, I had a book in my hand, as did my mother. I would accompany my mother on her weekly trips to the library and while she perused the best sellers, I was sent down to the children’s library to decide which Nancy Drew would be coming home with me that week. In school, writing was the one thing I could do well. I was a failure at math and science, but I truly did love to read whatever was assigned, and I still recall having nightmares from reading 1984! I could never understand why others hated writing book reports, as it was something I truly enjoyed. Over the years, I took courses in children’s literature writing, but nothing ever came of it. As a die hard Christmas movie fan, I was keenly aware that none of the main characters were my age–midlife–so I decided to do something about that and write a book about a woman in her 50s who thought there was nothing more to look forward to until one day while shopping in her favorite store, a chance meeting changes her life.
I wrote the bulk of the The Perfect Mrs. Claus during 2020–and we all know what happened then. At that time, I could not work remotely, so I took my trusty laptop to work with me and during my lunch hour I went outside and worked on writing my book. As I sat in the warm spring/summer sunshine, I had to imagine cold crisp late autumn air, and I hope I was able to invoke the holiday spirit as I wrote in the warm weather!
I do work full time for a tour business on beautiful Boston Harbor, where I actually got a lot of ideas for my next book. I also love to hike in the woods with my dog, go for long walks, cook and bake, and, of course read!
I hold off on the celebrations until I get the green light from my editor that I am truly done! This last time I treated myself to my favorite ice cream–coconut almond chip at my favorite ice cream place.
When The Perfect Mrs. Claus was released we celebrated with a nice dinner. When my new book is published in May, which is my birthday month, I think I’ll go bigger. Not sure what, but it will be good!!
I knew I wanted to write a Christmas book, being a Christmas movie fan. As wonderful as those movies are, there were no midlife women main characters. I wanted to write a book about a woman who was done raising children and was entering into that next chapter of life, and to show that life can be even more wonderful after the 50 year mark.
Oh, most definitely. Savannah Brady was actually named after my dogs–Savannah, my dog now, and Brady, our dog before her. There is a scene at the beginning where Savannah is a child visiting Santa with her cousins, and something happens to her cousin that actually happened to my sister when we were little and waiting in line for Santa. I also use a lot of family names and birthdates. Savannah’s reminiscences about her son Patrick are all based on my son’s, and Matthew’s mother is modeled after a good friend of mine.
Time. When I was writing it, my life was different than it is now, and I was running around at work, then taking care of things at home,and I was bone tired by the end of the day. But those lunch hours were priceless to me and most of The Perfect Mrs. Claus was written then, in addition to getting up at 4:30 on weekends to get in an hour or two that way.
I really enjoyed getting into the psyche of Savannah. She, now in her 50s, has to leave an idyllic life behind–she no longer has her husband, her son has moved, and for the first time in her life, she is truly alone. She is most definitely having a hard time with this, and I think a lot of midlife, empty nest women will be able to relate to Savannah’s feelings of lonliness and at times despair. Sometimes you ned to open up your world a little, and not be so closed, and wonderful things can begin to happen as they did for Savannah. She took a chance and I believe we all should!
I love family sagas. Some of my favorite authors are Rosamund Pilcher and Maeve Binchy, the queens of the “aga sagas.” Luanne Rice is another author who delves deep into family issues as is Anne Rivers Siddons. I also love the gothic atmosphere of Daphen Du Maurier (I’d love to try writing a gothic book some day!). I am also a fan of historical fiction and in my opinion, no one can do better than John Jakes. And I love Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, which I have read several times. I learn something new every time I read it.
I don’t want to give anything away, but I feel the last two paragraphs sums up Savannah’s journey from lonely to loved.
Matthew Buck. He is brilliant at his job, but he has a failed marriage and is still as awkward with women as he was when he was in college. I would tell him have confidence and go after the woman he loves. She is waiting for him.