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"KAREN BROWN INTERVIEW" Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Pension Private - Sils-Maria Switzerland - Karen Brown's Guides Karen Brown's Charming Inns & Itineraries books are illustrated with handsome drawings like this sketch of the Pension Privata in Sils-Maria, Switzerland.

Q. Getting back to your books, what's the difference between your Charming Inns & Itineraries and Charming Bed & Breakfasts guides?

We now have three companion guides that focus on the B&B category. This is partly because the Inns & Itineraries books for France, Italy, and England were getting too big and cumbersome. The B&B owners are another reason for the new guides. They told us that some readers didn't understand the difference between a bed-and-breakfast and a five-star chateau--for example, the fact that a B&B normally won't offer room service, direct-dial phones, or a restaurant. In countries where the bed-and-breakfast and agriturismo movements were well established, it seemed a good idea to have separate books.

Q. I understand that you're an innkeeper yourself. How did that come about? And does being an innkeeper have any effect on your work as a guidebook author?

I'd always had a dream of owning an inn with the kind of personal service that you get in Europe. One day, when my husband and I were staying in a gorgeous place in Belgium, my husband looked at the owner's children playing and said,"Wouldn't this be a  wonderful way to raise kids?" So we built the Seal Cove Inn [see photo on page 5] in Moss Beach, California, about 30 minutes south of San Francisco. We worked seven-day weeks, but our schedules were flexible enough so we didn't have to put our children in day care.

I think owning an inn gives me a better appreciation for what innkeepers do. It makes me a little more forgiving, but it also helps me know what to look for because I've been behind that closed door. And I love seeing both sides of the business.

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