Meet Virginia Kelly. Imagine growing up where the Andes Mountains and the lush Amazonian jungle were about a day’s ride away. That’s where Virginia Kelly’s love of the outdoors began. “As a young girl, my family often traveled by car from Lima, where I was born, to an area between the Andes and the Amazon (in Peru),” she said. “Living along the Huallaga River for my first five years, was an adventure.”
“My Peruvian mother’s stories, combined with my American father’s Scotch-Irish background and experiences, created rich and varied cultural experiences. Life in Peru, then a move to the American South at age eleven, then later to Florida, where I now live, inspired many of the settings I use in my writing.”
Some childhood experiences may also have given Virginia a foundation for writing suspense scenes. “I remember crossing the Huallaga River in a dugout canoe. My mother and I were heading back to Lima so there were suitcases, my mother, a family friend—a big man—who insisted on accompanying us, and the man who paddled the canoe. The river is very wide and muddy. The water was very close to overtopping the canoe. It was frightening for a five-year-old,” she said. “And, sometimes the mountain road from Huánuco to the farm was so narrow that I could look out the car window and see nothing but open space below. I think that’s why I’m not fond of heights.”
The move to the United States with her family, provided the bright, inquisitive preteen with new opportunities and a few surprises that she now recalls with humor. “I remember meeting my father’s sisters. These were very cultured Southern ladies…and, I’d never seen grits. My aunt prepared a nice breakfast for us. I asked my mother, in Spanish, what my aunt had done to the rice. My mother told me to be quiet and eat it.”
Virginia completed her Bachelor’s degree from the University of West Florida and earned a Master’s from the University of Alabama, leading to her new vocation. “After I married, and while raising children and pursuing a career as a medical and academic librarian, I read voraciously in an effort to find the types of stories I craved.” Then, life took a turn she hadn’t expected. “A chance meeting with a published romance author at a library conference prompted me to write seriously. I joined the Romance Writers of America and the Kiss of Death Chapter, where I served on the board. I gave presentations on Internet research at several conferences. Writing associations like Sisters in Crime, RWA, Mystery Writers of American, and their local/regional chapters, such as Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers, have provided me with invaluable opportunities for learning.”
The accomplished author has published two series. “The romantic suspense/adventure, To the Limit, became a Golden Heart Contest™ finalist and sold,” she said. “Later, In the Arms of a Stranger was nominated for the National Readers’ Choice Award. The three romantic suspense novels in the Florida Sands Romantic Suspense series are standalone books about Latino siblings living in Florida. The Shadow Heroes series is made up of a novella and four romantic suspense/adventure novels, all also standalone reads. These are set in the American South and in a fictional South American country.”
Virginia’s most recent novel is Running for Cover. She’s regained her publishing rights and is happily moving her career forward as an indie-published author.
What’s next for the adventurous writer? “Besides working on my next romantic suspense, I’m revising a mystery with strong elements of women’s fiction. Tentatively titled Betrayal In Plain Sight, it is the first in a planned series of three books about a librarian living in a very small Southern town. Like me, my protagonist Gabriela Espinosa is Peruvian-American and bilingual. Unlike me, she solves mysteries.” She plans to launch the first novel in 2023 and is hard at work on the sequel.
“I’m new to writing mysteries. I joined a critique group sponsored by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime and am the moderator for one of the online Guppy forums. I also joined Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers and hope to meet members in person someday.”
A wide array of hobbies and interests keep her busy when she’s not at her computer creating new stories. “I love to travel and enjoy hiking adventures. Reading different genres is also a favorite pastime, along with watching British television mysteries. I’m a ‘very amateur’ photographer. Scrolling through Instagram, where I often post, is fun—and sometimes too time-consuming!”
Her Peruvian heritage is a warm and wonderful part of her life. “I enjoy preparing Peruvian lomo saltado, papas a la huancaína, and arroz con pollo, and look forward to a long visit in Lima, to enjoy the flavors of my childhood.”