Featured Romance Author
When I decided to write
an article about romance and romance books, I wanted to hear from a woman.
. . a southern woman. . . a “down-home” woman who would tell it like
it is. Then, a friend at the newspaper told me about Virginia Brown,
a very successful author of almost fifty romance novels who resides in
Memphis. If she doesn’t know about
romance in the South, who would, I asked myself?
So, I called her up and
she graciously agreed to speak to me about the subject over coffee.
“Talking is something I’m very good at too!” she said over
As we sat down together
at a bookstore in downtown Memphis, Virginia, in her billowing sweater and
dark-framed glasses looked the part of a writer.
With her lovely smile, she was obviously comfortable with her
environment and straight forward in her conversation.
I asked the most important question first: “Virginia, what things
are romantic to a Southern woman?”
“I can only speak for
myself,” she answered, “as Southern women are as diverse as flowers.
What works for one, repulses another.
Most Southern women seem to agree, however, that a man must have
the traits of loyalty and honor to be romantic.
How he chooses to show his love for his heroine can take many
forms. One thing that never
fails to endear a man to me is kindness to animals.
A compelling romantic gesture is the gift of a single red rose.
That gets me every time!"
Do you think that
the South is a more romantic place than the rest of the country?
As I was born in the
South,” she explains, “I consider it the most romantic, of course.
I lived in Jackson, Mississippi in my childhood, and reared my
children in Southaven, and the South is where I prefer to live.
Who can resist the heady fragrance of magnolia blossoms, and the
delicate lace of Spanish moss? And
of course, those sultry summer nights.
Also, I find Southern men to be more chivalrous for the most part.
Maybe it’s their slow drawl, as if they have all the time in the
world to speak just to you. So many men still open doors for a woman, and I find that to
be gallant and romantic. I
just haven’t found that many men in the North who take the time to open
Well, how does one
then become a romance writer, or write several romantic scenes within
certain chapters of a book they are presently working on?
I would suggest any new writer learn the basics.
I’ve judged a few contests and have always been surprised by
those who submit their work without a clue as to the basic rules of
grammar, punctuation, and presentation. One writer wrote 400 pages, single- spaced, without a single
indented paragraph or chapter break!
As for including
romance, I have to allow my characters to set the tone and mood of the
moment. I find it very
difficult to “force” a romantic scene, and it always rings false to me
if I override my better judgment and do so. Each story is different.
What works in a romantic scene for some characters will not work in
have to 'be'
that character. If
I’m in the heroine’s point of view, I immerse my self in her emotions,
how she views the hero at that point, and how she would react to him.
If I’m in the hero’s point of view, I must approach the scene
from how he would feel toward the heroine.
If he is struggling against his emotions, I must incorporate that
into his actions, for instance.
You write romance
for a living. How does romance differ from mainstream in approach to the
There is a certain
amount of freedom allowed in mainstream that doesn’t work in a romance.
In a romance novel, it’s based on the premise of ‘boy meets
girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” or vice versa.
The romance novels of the 70’s and 80’s, often referred to as
‘bodice rippers” -- a term detested by those in the romance industry,
by the way – had heroes and heroines that were allowed to be unfaithful
to each other as long as they ended up together.
That would 'kill'
a romance in most markets today.
In a mainstream, those situations are dealt with differently and
acceptable. Romance readers
demand and expect fidelity between the two main characters.
Within the context
of romance writing, how does your technique differ from others in the
As Virginia Brown, I
wrote books set in the Old West, the Regency era, about pirates, and one
novel set in ancient Ireland. As
Juliana Garnett, I write exclusively about the medieval era.
I love that time period. When
I’m writing a medieval, I immerse myself completely, with medieval music
on the stereo, or a video playing Gregorian chants, or a video of the area
where the novel is set. When
I travel to England on research trips, I take hours of video of the
terrain, castles, churches, even flowers native to the region.
It really does help convey the mood, I think, and I’ve had
readers write to tell me they felt as if they were seeing it quite
vividly. That makes it
What is your next
medieval book about?
My next Medieval is for
Berkley. I’ve recently signed with them again, and am delighted to
be working with an editor I’ve worked with before, Gail Fortune.
My current work in progress is titled THE
KNIGHT. The story line is
“In 1184 my hero,
Stephen Fitzhugh, is paid to find the Holy Grail.
He travels to Glastonbury where it is rumored to be hidden.
There he meets Gillian, the niece of the former abbot, Robert of
Winchester. Although the
abbot has died, he left behind a cryptic message pertaining to the
location of the Holy Grail. Stephen
and Gillian search for it together, but for very different reasons.
His motives are mercenary, while hers are more spiritual. Together they embark upon a journey of danger, intrigue, and
the discovery of lost souls and love.”
You have a
mainstream in progress also. What
In 1980, a story idea
came to me. It involved a young boy from Mississippi, a coon dog, and the
class struggle in a small Mississippi town.
Over the years it has evolved into a more complex story dealing
with the elements of race, bigotry, and murder.
And of course, there is a love story intertwined when the young boy
comes of age and returns to his childhood home. Now that he is successful, will he win the love of the girl
who was always out of his reach as a child?
Or will he rekindle his love for the girl of mixed heritage who had
been his only childhood friend and confidante?
When murder comes to Parks, Mississippi, he discovers that the old
hatreds have only been simmering beneath the surface all these years, and
that he is a target for murder.
One last thing.
I think this is such a good true story about you – tell us about
your ‘shopping trip’ years ago!
Well, I had been writing at night and on weekends. (A year) and
many rejection letters later, I met romance author and NYT bestseller
Janelle Taylor at a Southaven Kroger store.
She told me I needed an agent, and was kind enough to introduce me
to hers. That agent signed me to her agency and sold my first book
within a few months.
her first romance novel in 1984, Virginia Brown has written nearly 50
romance novels. Many of her
books have been nominated for Romantic Times’ Reviewer’s Choice,
Career Achievement Award for Love and Laughter, and Career Achievement
Award for Adventure. Her
works regularly appear on national bestseller lists.
Having written under several different names about historical eras
such as the old West, Regency-era, and the American Civil War, she now
writes under a new pseudonym, Juliana Garnett, to focus upon the medieval
A native of
Tennessee, Virginia spent her childhood traveling with her parents as a
“military brat,” living all over the US and in Japan. This influenced her love of travel and adventure, which is
reflected in her work.
Twice a year,
Virginia visits England to research her novels, and includes Scotland in
her travels. She feels this
adds a new dimension to her work, and enables her to more authentically
impart the true flavor of the geographical and historical sites.
In addition to
appearing on the nationally syndicated television program What’s Hot,
What’s Not, Virginia Brown has been interviewed by Jane Pauley on
the Today Show, and regularly appears on local television and radio shows
in addition to coverage by the press.
She also experienced a first for a romance writer by appearing on
the cover of Memphis, the magazine.
Virginia is the
mother of four grown children, and now enjoys her menagerie of dogs that
includes a fat beagle, two part-chows, a hound and five cats.
As the grandmother of three lovely children, one of her greatest
pleasures these days is visiting with Justin, Christina, and Gaby.
Presently, Virginia writes medievals for Berkley Books. Her next medieval novel, The Knight, is due to be released in May, 2001.
writing as Virginia Brown
writing as Virginia Lynn
writing as Emma Harrington
writing as Juliana Garnett
Article is by
Robert L. Hall - raised in and currently living outside Memphis, TN.,
writes crime mysteries and tales of a youth with adventures in
horsemanship. His books are Mid-South based.
Mr. Hall also is a contributing writer for the on-line journal, When Falls the Coliseum , a self-described “Journal of
American Culture (or the lack thereof)” at www.wfthecoliseum.com.
musician with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis
and Master of Music degree from Florida State University, he is staff
pianist at Trinity Baptist Church in West Memphis and has taught music
courses at three institutions of higher learning.