Acclaimed Parker author has humble backstory

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Within weeks of beginning her career as an author, Jen Turano’s friends had her convinced she should be on Oprah’s couch discussing the finer points of her latest book.

While publishers didn’t immediately see it that way, the up-and-coming historical romance writer has found herself much closer to the coveted sit-down than she ever imagined. Turano, 48, has developed a devoted audience, selling tens of thousands of books worldwide since November, a near-impossible feat for an unknown author. This month, she is celebrating the release of her third novel, “A Talent for Trouble.”

Things didn’t start out so easily. The decision to change from department store manager to stay-at-home mom hit her over the head, literally.

“I worked in retail for years,” she said. “One day, a lady hit me in the head with her handbag because I wouldn’t take her return. That’s when I hung up my heels forever.”

Her transition into the literary world a few years later wasn’t quite as violent. Eschewing the traditional children’s tales, the Parker mom made up her own stories for her then-9-year-old son. His rave reviews led the duo to create their own book about smelly lizard creatures called “Fanglers,” and the reaction from Turano’s Parent-Teacher Organization friends boosted her confidence.

Turano was slightly deflated by the lukewarm response she received from agents, many of whom offered critiques, but no representation. Not knowing which direction to go with her writing, a friend suggested a little-known book called “Twilight.”

“I said, ‘I can do that!’” Turano recalls saying after reading Stephanie Meyer’s story.

What she didn’t anticipate was the level of competition for such material; publishing companies were being flooded with sci-fi/fantasy manuscripts. Turano changed genres once again when she discovered historical romance. Shortly after her father passed away, Turano plunged into writing and penned a 170,000-word women’s fiction saga. Upon receiving advice to pare it down by 90,000 words and direction to improve her author point of view, she took off.

In a three-week period, she wrote another book, “Almost a Lady,” and received 18 requests from interested publishers who wanted to learn more. Her initial discouragement all but evaporated.

“I didn’t realize it was odd for agents to contact you,” she said. “Most people don’t hear back.”

Turano was cleaning the shower when, out of the blue, she came up with the outline for all four books in her first series. That series has earned her acclaim from prominent bloggers, and most recently, a spot on Book List’s Top 10 Romances for 2013 for her work on “A Most Peculiar Circumstance,” the second installment in the series. She is now writing the fourth and final book of the series, “A Match of Wits,” due out next year. She despises house cleaning, but admits it’s her source of inspiration.

“If something’s not working and I need to change it, I pull out the vacuum,” she says.

Turano writes for the “inspirational market” and has a “faith-element thread” in her novels, but they are not religion-based and simply tend to “appeal to people who want to share the book with their daughter and not be embarrassed.” She refuses to include sex scenes.

She landed a contract for the first two books, which proved her ability to draw an audience, and quickly signed on for two more. She is now considering a third offer from her publisher, Bethany House.

Turano’s books are available at Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and various Christian bookstores. To download a free, 20,000-word novella called “Gentleman of Her Dreams,” go to the Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites. For more information, visit www.jenturano.com.

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