In the genre of romance novels, a happy ending is a guarantee. However, the journey takes readers through the ups and downs of real life. That reality with a soft landing is why Denise Hunter’s stories draw readers in and quickly turn them into loyal fans. “My sweet spot is romance. I write about love. I’m compelled to dissect it, figure it out and celebrate it,” says Hunter.
Hunter’s successful writing career is like her stories. Her own “happy ending” has come after lots of hard work and perseverance. “Being a writer requires resilience,” she says. “I’ve had rejection letters from 15 or so publishers and agents.” But eventually the tide turned. She has written for several publishers, including HarperCollins Christian Publishing for the past 10 years.
The foundation of Hunter’s life and writing is her faith. “I was practically born in the church nursery in Middletown, Ohio,” she says. At 17, she met her future husband at their church. Three years later, they married and shortly thereafter moved to Fort Wayne for his job. She began attending IPFW to finish a commercial art degree, eventually changing her major to secondary education. She worked until their first son was born in 1992 and then became a stay-at-home mom.
Always a creative person and an avid reader, Hunter had contemplated writing a novel but never pursued it. “My impetus to write came when I traveled back to Ohio to visit my gravely ill grandfather. Thankfully, he had lived out his dreams. During the drive home, I felt God telling me to take my dream to write a book off the back burner and give it a go.”
Two weeks later Hunter started her first book, Stranger’s Bride. Two years later, in 1998, it was published. In March 2016 (18 years later) she released her 28th book, The Goodbye Bride.
“When I started, I had no idea if I had any talent. My first manuscript was certainly not my best. I probably read 100 books on writing. When I got stuck at a plot point, I discovered being an avid reader gives you a gut instinct of what to do next.”
Where do her prolific story ideas come from? “A variety of sources,” says Hunter. For her latest novel, a quote on Pinterest caught her attention: “She didn’t know who would go or who would stay, so she pushed them all away.”
“The motor in the story is usually a protagonist issue—something from childhood that needs to be fixed to have a healthy relationship,” says Hunter. “If the motor doesn’t grab me, I don’t want to write the story. In Stranger’s Bride, the heroine’s abusive past causes her to take fear into her love relationship. In The Goodbye Bride, the heroine had been abandoned in the past, so is terrified someone will leave her again.”
Hunter’s success formula has always been simply doing the work. “As a mother with three young children, I wrote when the kids were napping. It took discipline because I’d only write one or two pages per day. When the kids were older, I wrote in the car during baseball practices. My first few books were written that way,” says Hunter. Her boys are now 17, 20 and 23, and she writes regularly at Bon Bon’s Coffee Company in Georgetown Square.
Where should those new to Hunter’s books begin?
“The Chapel Springs Series features a large close knit family in the fictitious town of Chapel Springs, Indiana, based on the town of Madison, Indiana. The Summer Harbor Series set in Maine is another reader favorite,” says Hunter. Other book series are set in Nantucket, North Georgia and Montana. “I pick areas where readers might like to visit because reading a story is like going somewhere in your mind.”
A few of Hunter’s award-winning books include The Wishing Season and Mending Places. The Convenient Groom, which is a finalist for the RITA®Award (the biggest award in Romance literature), will air as a Hallmark movie June 2016.
Hunter’s books are unashamedly romantic. “Lately there’s so much focus on the physical relationship. Unlike the current drift towards erotica in romance literature, my books are more focused on the emotional journey. I love that my readers can pass my books on to their daughters,” says Hunter.
The phrase “labor of love” aptly describes Denise Hunter’s successful career and plot lines, and “happily ever after” gives away the endings. However, Hunter’s creativity and writing skill make each book unique. And fans keep coming back for more.
Summer Harbor Series
Falling Like Snowflakes - Amazon Bestseller List
The Goodbye Bride
Just a Kiss - Coming September 2016
Chapel Springs, Indiana Series
Barefoot Summer - Inspirational Reader’s Choice Finalist
Dancing with Fireflies - Christian Bestseller List
The Wishing Season - Carol Award
Married ‘til Monday
Surrender Bay - Holt Medallion Winner
The Convenient Groom - RITA® Finalist and a Hallmark movie premiering June 2016
Seaside Letters - Book of the Year Finalist