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The Hunk & the Virgin

  The Interviews
Meet Author
Muriel Jensen
by Cathy Sova
Muriel Jensen is the author of more than 70 contemporary romances. Her strong characterizations and realistic portrayals of people meeting and falling in love have endeared her to readers around the world. We recently caught up with this busy author and asked her about her work and her years of success.

Muriel, thank you for joining us. Tell us a bit about the behind-the-scenes author.

I was born in New Bedford, Mass., met my husband, Ron, in Los Angeles when we were both working for The Times, he in advertising and I in the secretarial pool. We moved to Oregon where we adopted our children, who are now all grown with families of their own. Total count of grandchildren is 11.

We have a 6-month-old black Labrador named Fred Astaire (because he has such cool moves), and three cats - Hillary, Camille, and Shaman.

I like to do cross stitch because it requires no fine embroidery skills, just the ability to count. I hate to cook, love to eat out.

For readers who are just getting to know your work, what is your writing background?

I sold my first book to American Romance in 1983, then eventually sold to Superromance. Have also published two Harlequin Historicals, and one novella in an anthology entitled 'Love by Chocolate' to Berkley-Jove.

I love the lighter-hearted Americans, and the more emotional Superromances. Working on both seems to keep me balanced. (If you can apply that word to a writer.) I enjoyed writing the historicals, but worried constantly about accuracy.

I believe my total of titles sold at this point is 75.

Why did you choose to write romance, rather than some other type of book?

I write romance because I read it voraciously. I read Gothics in the old days and tried writing one, but they require a serious darkness and that just isn't me. Slapstick in a Gothic just doesn't sell. Then I discovered Harlequins in the middle-seventies and loved Violet Winspear, Anne Mather, Anne Hampson, Margaret Way, Lillian Peake. They London office rejected my novel at about the same time Janet Dailey began writing for them as their first American author. I was thrilled for her - and loved her books. I had a manuscript ready when my husband came home with a Wall Street Journal article about Harlequin opening a New York office.

So, how did your first sale come about?

My first sale on March 9, 1983, was an American Romance entitled WINTER'S BOUNTY about a woman unable to have children. On the 'write-what-you-know principle' that idea was borrowed from my own experience and set in Astoria, Oregon, where I live. Debra Matteucci, my editor, called to say she had a 'few revisions.' May I just say that an editor's notion of 'a few' and a writers perception of 'a few' are completely different. I rewrote half the book while working full time in a retail store during Christmas. My husband is a saint and did everything for the children and to maintain the house. It was an ordeal that's been well worth the price. I've often thought since that it would have been so much simpler for Debra to have rejected that book than to have put herself through what it took to guide me to the published product. There is no more noble person in the world than an editor who knows what she's doing.

You've been writing for quite a while. What changes have you seen in the genre over time?

I believe Romance is so enduring because it transcends our everyday lives while still being a barometer of the times. When most women were housewives, romance novel heroines were secretaries and governesses. As women moved to the workplace, heroines did too, eventually becoming CEOs and members of the board. Now Romance reflects our love of small-town life, blended families, heroes who know how to deal with children. Those of us who understand the genre can relate to any woman's struggle to hold together her family whether she's in Manhattan or on a ranch in Texas because we know she does it for love.

Your characters are always down-to-earth; one reader described them as "really good people". To what do you attribute this?

I grew up with good, down-to-earth people. My father was a foreman in a factory, and my mother was a short-order cook. We lived in an apartment over a store in a mill town populated with many other wonderful people. Our neighborhood was filled with French-Canadians and Portuguese, and I can still remember how wonderful it smelled at dinnertime. As I recall, we had few delusions or pretensions because our realitity was pretty spectacular. We were probably fell into the low middle-income bracket, but we were rich in family and friends.

When you start your stories, do you have them all outlined? Or do you let the characters dictate where you'll go with it?

I write about a twenty-page synopsis of what I intend to do because my editor likes to know what I have in mind. Marketing trends are important to know and she keeps track of those. That plan gives me a sense of direction - very important when beginning a book, but I resist planning every detail because - as in real life - the unexpected happens in the process of getting the characters from start to finish and I get a better result if I'm open to surprise.

Do you have a favorite among the books you've written?

A CAROL CHRISTMAS,, an American Romance published, I think, in '89, remains my favorite. I'm very schmaltzy at heart and this contains orphaned children, nuns, Christmas, and two lovers with big hearts. I wrote it to the absolute outside edge of mushy and loved every moment. It's one of the few books I've written that came out just as I saw it in my head. I also like my DELANCEY BROTHERS series for Superromance. Because they'd inherited a winery, it was my opportunity to buy wine and write it off!

What role does the Internet play when writing and marketing your books?

The Internet's an invaluable tool for research. The first time I used an unfamiliar setting for a book, looked up the city on the Internet, e-mailed the Chamber of Commerce and was promised a relocation packet would be put in the mail that afternoon - and I never even left my chair! - I was sold.

I still don't have a personal web site (I know, I know. I'm going to get to it.) but I have a page on and on and know that some readers have reached me through them.

I know that more and more books are purchased on-line and while I ache for the little bookstores (I used to manage one!) I have to appreciate the convenience of the Internet for readers who can't get to a store. I hope all markets survive.

Muriel, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with all your upcoming projects! Readers, you can visit Muriel's websites at or

August 4, 2001

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