Contemporary romance author, Varina Denman, talks with Beth about about her debut novel, Jaded, her favorite books, and what makes a romance in entertainment work for her.
Beth: I found Ruthie from Jaded such a relatable character. What characteristics that she exhibits are similar to you or others that you know? What happened first – “meeting” Ruthie the character or “finding out” her story? What, if anything, is based on real-life events?
Varina: The story of church hurt came before Ruthie and the other characters. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve known of a handful of friends whose families were shunned by the church, either officially or unofficially, and the plot for Jaded grew from those tiny seeds. Even though nothing so dramatic ever happened to me personally, when Ruthie came to life on the page, she and I were remarkably alike—quiet and somewhat introverted. However, through many edits, I was able to get to know Ruthie as the woman she needed to be, and she gradually became more talkative … and stubborn.
Beth: While reading Jaded I was very drawn into the small-town atmosphere. Where is the setting of the story based on? How do you think you were able to harness such a strong sense of place?
Varina: For most of my life, I’ve lived in an urban area. However, my high school years were spent in a small town, very similar to my fictitious Trapp, Texas. I think my ability to describe the intricacies of small town life spawns from the fact that I didn’t live there very long. That may sound strange, but my short time in a rural community stands in sharp contrast to the rest of my life, and those memories will forever be imprinted clearly on my mind. I have a feeling if I attempted to write an urban story, it would be somewhat dismal. In my regular city surroundings, I no longer “see” what is right before my eyes because I’m so accustomed to all of it. Trapp lies in West Texas, approximately where the town of Post sits, but much of its personality comes from my hometown of Grandview, in North Texas. As for the residents, those people are in both towns … and every town and city in between. 🙂
Beth: On your website you said that you didn’t write until age 42. What was it that prompted you to put pen to paper (hands to keyboard?) and decide to write?
Varina: I’m a homeschool mother of five, and for several years my main source of entertainment was reading. I had always been a reader, but during those years, I began to read voraciously. Over time, I began to think I might be able to write something like what I was reading. I still can’t believe I ever even tried because all throughout my school career, I detested writing assignments. I guess that goes to show you never can tell.
Beth: I also read that you get up at 4:30 AM in order to write – what are some other writerly habits and quirks that you have?
Varina: Ha! That 4:30 AM alarm is a fluid concept that has shifted closer to 5:30 and at times, even surged toward 7:00. But the main thing is that I work around my crazy schedule and fit in writing time wherever I can find it. I work best in complete silence which doesn’t happen too often, so ear plugs are my best friend. My kids are now old enough (teenagers) that they understand my need for writing time, and they are more than happy to leave me locked in my office.
Beth: As a romance author, what is it that makes a romance, either in book-form or on-screen, work for you?
Varina: The happy ever after! Oh, and the tension between the hero and heroine. And the depth of the story that brings them together. And the realness of it all. Hmm. I guess there’s a lot I look for in a good romance, but basically, it’s that sigh that slips from my lungs several times as the plot unfolds.
Beth: What is your favorite romantic story? What is it that makes it your favorite?
Varina: Pride and Prejudice is by far my favorite romance, either in book form or any of the movie adaptations (though my fave is the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle). I love the way Jane Austen pushes the characters together then tugs them apart. And the way they just can’t seem to get together … until they do. The character growth of Eizabeth and Mr. Darcy makes it all so so perfect.
Beth: The third book in the Mended Hearts series, Jilted, releases this summer. Give us a small glimpse of the future, if you can – are there more books in this series to come? What is in the works?
Varina: Jilted completes the Mended Hearts series, playing out the romance of Clyde Felton (the ex-convict) and Lynda Turner (Ruthie’s mother), but I’m already working on ideas for a new book. Even though my next story will be different characters and a new place, I’m sticking with a small town setting. This one may be near Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. I just love my Texas!
Melissa, thank you so much for inviting me to Straight Off The Page. I’ve enjoyed being here, and I’m thrilled to learn that you’re a fellow Texan. Just a couple hours away from me!
To find out more about Varina and her books, visit her website or connect with her on FaceBook.