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Wendy Haley is a typical suburban mom who writes bodice-ripper romance novels, murderous suspense stories and bloody vampire tales. She lives in a comfortable upper-middle-class home in a tree-lined Western Branch neighborhood. Haley's first-floor study/office is lined with books, but the shelves aren't filled with cookbooks, gardening tomes, how-to-raise-kids books or how-to-exercise-and-reduce-stress volumes. Haley's library is filled with Norse and Greek myths, legends and folk tales, the adventures of Conan the Barbarian, horror novels and books on real-life murders, crime detection and killers.
Haley writes romance novels for Zebra Books under the nom de plume Wendy Garrett and suspense-/-mystery and horror works for both Zebra and Berkley books under her own name. She knows she won't win the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel Prizes for literature, but her stuff sells and it “pays the bills.'' Like only a very small portion of aspiring authors, she is able to make her living entirely by writing.
Haley has lived “all over the East Coast'' and in many cities, including St. Louis, Lynchburg, Houston and New Orleans. She attended the University of Missouri in St. Louis.
When she sold her first novel in 1991, she was confronted by the first hard reality of dealing with a publishing house: The title of a book comes not from the author but from the editor. “Sweet Southern Caress? I thought I was going to die,'' she said with a laugh. After that came Arizona Lovestorm,'' which was followed by Love's Magic Spell. With each successive novel, Haley said, she could see her stature in romance fiction grow as her name grew in size on the covers. The title of Sweet Southern Caress was in type twice as big as Wendy Garrett. On the next one, the title shrank a bit and her name grew, until the name Wendy Garrett commanded the cover along with a picture of a sensual, embracing couple.
“The hardest to write is suspense,'' she said. “They have the most intricately plotted stories, and you have to deal with the real ugly aspects of humanity.''
Her first suspense story, Shadow Whispers published in 1992, is a page-turning murder mystery set in Norfolk's Ghent neighborhood; her second, 1993's Shadow Vengeance, is set in Texas; and her third, Dead Heat, is a suspenseful tale of arson and murder set in Western Branch and Portsmouth.
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