AllYouCanDreamOur own Barbara O’Neal is with us today; she’s the author of over forty novels, and has won 7 RITA awards from Romance Writers of America and was admitted to the Hall of Fame in 2012. Her latest, THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET (Bantam) was released on March 4, 2014. Her new novel of food, friendship, and the freedom to grow your dreams brings together four very different women longing to savor the true taste of happiness.

TAKE 5: Barbara O’Neal and THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET

Q: What’s the premise of your new book?

Lavender Wills, the 84-year-old owner of an organic lavender farm decides to have a birthday party for herself to find an heir.  She summons her three fellow food bloggers (“the Foodie Four” as they call themselves) to the farm in the lush region outside Portland, Oregon, where each of the women has a problem to work out and they find strength in their relationships with each other. There are a couple of intriguing men, a kitten and a dog, and a vintage Airstream trailer. And food, of course.

Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?

It is a book about second chances and fresh starts and the truth that it’s never too late to create the life you want, and shed the things that are holding you back. I love writing stories about women and their relationships with each other—friends, sisters, mothers and daughters. For many of us those relationships are the bedrock of our lives.

Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenges do you set before them?

Ginny, a former supermarket baker turned quiet superstar blogger, is caught in a marriage and a place she is desperate to escape. She challenges herself  to drive an Airstream Bambi across the country to Lavender’s farm.  Ruby is pregnant and broken hearted and looking for her place in life.  Val, former ballerina and widowed mother of a hostile, grieving, lost teenage girl, is trying to save her child.  And Lavender wants to preserve her legacy, an organic farm that has become important to the organic community.

Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?

One major thread in the book is about how to bring food the table humanely, with grace and conscience.  I wanted to write about why it matters, but this is a very touchy subject. I was afraid it would put readers off, but when I found myself on a real organic farm in Oregon (and even visited the rooms where the chickens are humanely killed!), it was easy.  Lavender showed me the way—there is honor in every step of her journey.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?

Honestly, I loved the farm. I could live there, growing lavender, tending chickens, contributing whole, delicious, fantastic food to the world. It would be a good life.

 Like what you read here? Follow Barbara on her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.