By BETHANY WIEGAND
For Marta Perry, the accomplishment of having 50 books published took her a little bit by surprise.
"The 50-book marker sort of crept up on me - I only realized this was book 50 when someone else pointed it out! I suppose that moment of holding the new book in my hands isn't quite as exciting now as it was with the first book, but it's still a thrill," Perry said. "I'm just as touched when someone takes the time to tell me she enjoyed my book, and I still have that moment of panic when I start writing a new book."
For Perry, a resident of Main Township, outside of Bloomsburg, writing has been a passion since she was young, beginning at age 8, when she discovered her first Nancy Drew mystery at a local library.
"Most girls finish the story and want to be Nancy Drew. I reached the end realizing for the first time that some person actually wrote the stories I love and that maybe I could do it, too. I was the kid who always had her nose in a book, and my mother was constantly telling me to go outside and play. So I'd take my book with me and climb up to a seat in an old apple tree where I could read without being disturbed," Perry said. "I created endless stories in my head and revised the movies I saw to suit my own imagination."
Perry held on to her dreams of being a writer, but thinking that it could never be a career, she moved on, earning her bachelor's degree in education.
After marrying her college sweetheart and moving to Bloomsburg, Perry taught for several years. While working as a church education director, Perry wrote short children's fiction that she used for Sunday school. She submitted a story to the Herald Press, and after a third submission, her story was published.
"After that, I was completely hooked," Perry said.
From there, Perry began writing more short stories that eventually were published to magazines like Woman's World. "I eventually reached a point at which it seemed right to focus my attention on the novel I'd always wanted to write," Perry said.
Perry started writing romance novels as well.
"I sold one children's book and two romantic suspence novels to different publishers before finding my niche with Love Inspired, a division of Harlequin Books which publishes inspirational romance fiction. I have written both romances and romantic suspence novels for them," Perry said.
Perry's most current publication, and also her 50th book, is titled, "Naomi's Christmas," which came out in October. Perry said it is book No. 7 in her Pleasant Valley series, telling the story of Naomi Esch an Amish character that had been introduced in Perry's earlier books.
Perry said she was inspired to write of Amish living after being a native of Pennsylvania and being exposed to the Pennsylvania Dutch community. She had friends that were Old Order Mennonites as well.
"Some Amish characters walked into a scene in the book I was writing and seemed to fit very well. I did wonder what my editor would say, since this pre-dated the current interest in all things Amish. Her reaction was very positive and the book was quite successful. The company eventually asked me to write a three-book Amish series for a trade book series they wanted to start, and I agreed," Perry said. "I loved writing the books, but unfortunately the company then decided not to risk departing from their current format."
After the dissapointment of the Amish series not being published, Perry did not lose hope. She happened to be attending a fiction writer's convention and found an agent with Berkley Books where Perry began her Pleasant Valley series.
For aspiring writers, Perry said to read constantly.
"Read everything, and eventually you'll find the sort of story that you not only love reading, but you'll love writing. And write constantly. Write every day, even if you're only recording your dreams. I feel that every beginning writer has to do a great deal of writing to get down to the stuff he or she is meant to write - to find the stories only he or she can tell," she said.
Books by Marta Perry, including the Pleasant Valley series are available at any major bookstore, including Walmart, and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.