Many people want to write a novel, but only a few actually do it. Denise Hunter decided to be one of the “doers” 25 years ago, and put pen to paper while her young sons napped.
“My grandfather had died and suddenly the brevity of life became very real to me,” she says. “I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and regret not having tried.”
Hunter was a voracious reader and knew what she liked – “I wrote the book I wanted to read” – but she didn’t know the mechanics of novel writing, so turned to the Allen County Public Library to research her new craft.
She was drawn to small-town love stories about people struggling with real-life issues. Implicit in a romance novel is the promise that heartaches will be resolved by the last page.
“I didn’t have any idea if I had real writing talent,” she says. “I ran my book by a local editor who told me I should get started on a second book. That encouraged me.”
Barbour Publishing purchased her first book and that led to 37 titles and counting. The 38th will be released April 13, “Bookshop by the Sea,” set on the North Carolina coast.
Hunter’s clean prose, swift-moving plots and sympathetic characters have earned her several writing awards. Three of her stories have been adapted into Hallmark screenplays. But she says the best thing about her career is the fact that her three sons didn’t know she had one.
“I did all of my writing while they were sleeping or at school,” she says. “It was great for me to have my own thing, but on a schedule that allowed me to keep the kids my first priority.” With a chuckle, she recalls the day her youngest son, then 13, asked for help with schoolwork.
“I told him, ‘OK, after I finish this thing on my website.’ He said to me, ‘YOU have a website?’ This was at least 14 years into my career, and I thought, ‘Maybe I should let the kids know that I do this thing.’”
Today the boys are grown and Hunter enjoys her empty nest with husband Kevin. Natives of southern Ohio, they moved to Fort Wayne in 1989 so Kevin could pursue a job. Denise studied commercial art in college, but stopped her studies to clear her plate after their second son was born.
“This is a wonderful place to raise a family,” she says. “We look back and have no regrets. Fort Wayne will always be home.”
She also has a home in the Christian romance genre, and no plan to shift lanes.
“I hold a Christian world view, so that comes through in my stories, but not in a super overt way,” she explains. “I’m not a preacher, I’m a storyteller. The story is king. Maybe I have a character who really needs to forgive someone but is finding it difficult to do so. Forgiveness is a Christian principle.”
Now, happily situated at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Hunter considers herself fortunate to work with book editors and film producers who share her outlook. “The Goodbye Bride” is her most recent book adapted by Hallmark. It aired in 2019 as “Christmas On My Mind.” Christmas stories have the highest viewership of all Hallmark films.
Although Hunter has visited film sets to observe production, she spends most days at a Fort Wayne coffee shop churning out “at least six good pages” per day.
Why a coffee shop?
“If I’m home, I feel like I should be throwing in laundry or making dinner.”
Book sales climbed during the chaos of 2020.
“People are looking for escape,” says Hunter.
Readers find comfort knowing troubles will be resolved by the final page of a Denise Hunter novel, no matter what sticky messes characters have gotten themselves into.
“All of us carry around wounds of some kind,” says Hunter. “Maybe someone grew up with a very controlling parent or was abused as a child. We all end up with some kind of wound and my goal is for readers, when it’s applicable, to see themselves in my characters and to see those characters get past the hurt and land in a healthier place.”
Learn more about Hunter’s work and sign up for contests and monthly giveaways at DeniseHunterBooks.com. ❚