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Loveland author a modern-day Nancy Drew

Loveland author loved mysteries as a child

By Shelley Widhalm Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

Posted: 08/14/2011 08:24:31 PM MDT

Author Virginia Rose Richter poses for a photo with her dog, Coco, recently in her Loveland backyard. (Photo by Jenny Sparks)

Reading Nancy Drew as a young girl solved one mystery for Loveland resident Virginia Rose Richter -- what she wanted to do when she grew up.

The grandmother of 10 and mother of four wrote "The Willow Lane Mysteries," a middle-grade suspense series featuring two 11-year-old amateur sleuths.

Virginia Rose Richter's website is www.willowlanemysteries.com.

The first book of the three-book series, "The Secret of Willow Lane," tells how the two young sleuths, Jessie Hanson and Tina Adams, set out to solve the mystery of a deceased neighbor's missing will. They want to identify a stranger snooping around the house where the will might be hidden. 

But the girls' desire to use their new detective kit plunges them into danger and sends them running for their lives.

"From the day I read my first Nancy Drew mystery, I've wanted to write novels of suspense for middle-grade readers," Richter said.

Plus, Richter admired Nancy Drew's character for her independence, she said.

"She was a model for the future woman," she said. 

Richter, who published the book as an e-book earlier this year, wrote the story as a cozy, interweaving intrigue with issues that arise within the typical family, she said.

"It's safe to read to children," Richter said, explaining that the issues include sibling rivalry and children keeping things from their parents. "(Jessie) has a way of not telling her parents everything, which is necessary for her to conduct an investigation." 

"The Secret of Willow Lane" is set in a small Nebraska town Richter calls Fairfield, which is based on Aurora, where she lived from ages 11 to 13.

"It is vivid in my mind," Richter said. "It's so strange. ... I haven't forgotten a thing."

As a writer, Richter has an ability to bring readers into the story, said Maryjo Faith Morgan, a member of the Northern Colorado Weekly Writers Workshop.

"You feel comfortable in the setting, and you get to know the characters who live in that setting," Morgan said. "To me, that's what makes the story unfold as smoothly as it does."

Richter began writing 15 years ago after graduating with a second bachelor's degree in music from Metropolitan State College of Denver. She couldn't bear to leave school and started taking English courses, she said.

Among her courses, Richter took one in writing for children and started writing her series. She had two goals, writing a book and playing the piano, so she took lessons after her children were in school.

"That's why Jessie plays the piano," Richter said. 

As with music, Richter finds that writing is like "living in this other place," she said. "When I write or play, I forget everything else."

Richter enjoys finding the right word to express her thoughts, she said.

"That in itself is a mystery," she said. 

Richter is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Northern Colorado Weekly Writers Workshop. In fall 2010, she was a winner in the "Loveland Loves to Read" mystery story contest.

"The Secret of Willow Lane" is available as an e-book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The other two books in the series are "The Strangers in the Lane" and "Shadows in the Lane" and will be available as e-books at a future date.

Richter also is at work on an adult mystery, "Lying in Wait." 

"It's mystery, suspense, chase, hiding-out kind of stuff that appeals to me," Richter said.

Shelley Widhalm can be reached at 669-5050, ext. 531, or swidhalm@reporter-herald.com.