The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Friday, November 4, 1994               TAG: 9411020189
TYPE: Cover Story 
                                             LENGTH: Long  :  215 lines


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.

Driving one of those ubiquitous ``mommy'' vans, the 41-year-old author regularly taxis her 6-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter to friends, various school activities, the mall, the movies and her daughter's cheerleader practice.

She dotes on her children and, like other suburban moms, helps baby-sit other kids in the neighborhood when their parents have other appointments or errands to run.

The inside of her home is spotless and has the air of a typical loving family. Two family cats roam at will.

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.

This is the library of someone who makes a living churning out popular fiction.

Wendy Haley does it and does it well.

So well, in fact, that the Friends of the Chesapeake Library will present her as its speaker at its annual ``Author's Dinner'' Friday.

Walk into any national chain book store or newsstand from Chesapeake to Charleston, Portsmouth to Portland or Norfolk to Norwalk and there in the romance, suspense and horror sections you'll find Wendy Haley's work.

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.

The New York City-based Zebra and Berkley books are mass market book publishers, offering a slew of titles each month to booksellers across the country for mass market consumption.

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.

``I think only 5 percent of writers make a living at it full time,'' said Haley, who possesses the same gleam in her eye a 14-year-old has when reading her first Nancy Drew mystery. ``So I guess I'm in unique company.''

Her books have gotten good to glowing reviews. One of her latest creations, ``This Dark Paradise,'' the first volume in a mainstream vampire series, was recently released in hardback in England to critical acclaim.

``I've been lucky,'' Haley said, ``I've gotten favorable reviews and good critical response. I have not been reviled in print, yet.''

In fact, Haley said she reads all reviews of her books in earnest, hoping to glean some constructive criticism that will help her with future books.

In Haley's world, there's always a future book, always a new idea for another heartfelt emotional conflict to flutter the heart of a romance novel fan or make the blood run cold in a mystery/horror buff.

Haley said she comes up with ideas for her novels from vast amount of books she has read throughout her life.

``As a little girl I loved to read. My whole family read, and we read everything,'' she explained. ``I liked fairy tales, science fiction and mysteries. I read `The Iliad' and `The Odyssey' and then went to Nancy Drew. I moved up to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Elizabeth Peters. When I was little, I also used to make up all these stories. But then I would only draw them.''

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, majoring in English for three years until a mishap changed her outlook on life.

``I was involved in a motorcycle accident,'' she said. ``I only got banged up, but it gave me a sense of my own mortality. I decided to leave school and live a little. I decided to live in the real world.''

While in the ``real world,'' Haley worked at a number of different jobs, including secretary, office worker, temporary worker and commodities broker. She got married at age 27 to an engineer, then separated after 13 years of marriage. She lived in Norfolk for a couple of years and eventually moved to Western Branch.

During all this movement, discovery and experience, Haley said she never stopped making up stories.

``But I wrote all of these stories, these daydreams, in my head,'' she said. ``Finally, it became imperative to write them down. The stories had to come out.''

And out they came.

Haley considered her first novel, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy, as one of her most important even though it never sold.

``I had this story in my head. I couldn't not do it,'' she said.

The story swelled into a 250-page novel. After it was revised and rewritten 12 times she sent it off to several publishers. She got one rejection slip after another. But that didn't faze her one bit.

``Rejection is a necessary part of writing,'' she said. ``It takes a long time to perfect your craft, and then you have to hit the right editor at the right publishing house at the right time. And you have to keep sending it and sending it. I know people, good writers, who send out manuscripts year after year, and they still get rejection slips. I read somewhere that Jack London kept a collection of them. I think he collected over 700 rejections. I still get rejection slips.''

Haley said she learned some valuable lessons from that first book. She knew it was missing some essential quality. So, she dove into a second one. But that one never really worked either.

``That second one should have been a trilogy,'' she said. ``But my third, a romance novel, `Sweet Southern Caress,' finally sold.''

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.

``I mean, `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 now with the recent publication of ``Carolina Dawn,'' a romance set in the Great Dismal Swamp, the name Wendy Garrett commands the cover along with a picture of a sensual, embracing couple.

Although she prefers mystery, horror and fantasy, Haley said 50 percent of sales in the fiction market are romance novels. She said her romances sell best, and she's now established in the genre in such a way that her newest titles now appear in the front end of the Zebra monthly catalogs as opposed to the back. In addition, she's about to be interviewed in ``Eclipse'' magazine, a national publication devoted to the romance genre.

Believe it or not, Haley said, romance novels have many ``very varied'' styles and take place in all periods of history. There are time travel romances, ethnic romances and even romances for senior citizens published in large type.

Haley said hers are very sensual.

``I'm a very visceral writer,'' she said. ``People in my novels fight, love, hate and have sex. I pull no punches with anything. My style is raw and emotional. I'm not a cool writer. My characters have powerful emotions and convictions.''

She said that bold style and raw emotion spill into her suspense and horror stories as well.

``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, this year's ``Dead Heat,'' is a suspenseful tale of arson and murder set in Western Branch and Portsmouth.

Whatever type of novel she writes, Haley said the method is always the same.

While watching television with the kids, she'll start with a vague premise in her head and jot down the characters in a notebook.

``I get my ideas from everywhere,'' she said. ``I like to talk to people in supermarket lines, anywhere. And then I watch movies, read books, do things. I take regular life and then put a spin on it.''

Each character ``has to do things, have goals'' which she fleshes out. Then she develops a plot and finally types out a 10-page synopsis.

``From there, I can sit down at my computer and write out the book,'' she said.

When the manuscript is finished, she sends it off to the publisher. If it's accepted, it takes about a year from original manuscript to published novel.

The work is edited for overall style and content and then edited line-by-line for grammar and syntax. Cover and promotional art work has to be created, the novel is type-set, galley proofs are sent back to Haley, who must check each word carefully. The proofs are then sent back to the publishing house, which decides on a release date and marketing campaign.

``Even if your story is great, many factors still decide how well your book sells,'' she said. ``There's packaging (a bad cover is the kiss of death), what space your book is placed on the shelf (if your book is placed between two famous authors, who are they going to buy?) reviews and many other factors.''

Haley said authors generally get 6 percent of the book's cover price. About 30,000 copies are printed for an average book.

``You never get your money all at once,'' she said, rolling her eyes. ``The money is a long time coming. I only get royalty statements twice a year. Try coming up with a household budget on that.

``It's a very uncertain living. Why do you do it? Because you love it. The joy is in doing it. I would still write anyway, even if I didn't sell. This is not what I do; this is what I am.'' ILLUSTRATION: Staff photos by STEVE EARLEY

Wendy Haley [color cover photo]

Haley works on a manuscript in her study, surrounded by books that

give her story ideas, such as Norse and Greek myths, folk tales and

books on real-life murders and crime detection.

Haley's ``This Dark Paradise'' was recently released in England.

Western Branch resident Wendy Haley will speak at Friends of the

Chesapeake Library's annual ``Author's Dinner'' on Friday.


Novelist Wendy Haley of Western Branch will speak at annual

``Author's Dinner,'' sponsored by the Norfolk County Historical

Society and Friends of the Chesapeake Library, Friday at the

Greenbrier Country Club, 1301 Volvo Parkway.

Dinner tickets are $25. A cash bar opens at 6:30 and dinner will

be served at 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit both sponsoring


More information is available by calling 484-5959 after 3 p.m.


Suspense/horror fiction under the name Wendy Haley: ``Shadow

Whispers,'' Zebra Books, 1992; ``Shadow Vengeance,'' Zebra, 1993;

``Dead Heat,'' Zebra, 1994; ``This Dark Paradise,'' Berkley, 1994.

Coming up: ``These Fallen Angels'' in February by Zebra and ``White

Light'' in July by Berkley.

Romance under the name Wendy Garrett: ``Sweet Southern Caress,''

1991; ``Arizona Lovestorm,'' 1991; ``Love's Magic Spell,'' 1992;

``Western Enchantress,'' 1993; ``Carolina Dawn,'' 1994; and coming

up, ``Hers Forever'' in November. All are published by Zebra.

by CNB