OBS reviewer Valarie brings us a new interview with author Virginia Rose Richter and her first book in the Willow Lane Mysteries ‘The Secret of Willow Lane’, where they talk about the inspiration behind the story, the characters, upcoming projects and more. Enjoy!

  • Read the review for The Secret of Willow Lane here.

Valerie: How did you decide to have the Willow Lane Mysteries take place in the 1980s? If it were set in the present, what would you change about the story?

Virginia Rose Richter: I set The Willow Lane Mysteries in the 1980s because technology was relatively uncomplicated then. (No cell phones, personal computers, digital cameras etc.) Technology changes so quickly now, I feel as if that aspect would ‘date’ the books. If the stories were set in the present, communication would be easier with no land lines etc. but the characters also might be looking down instead of checking out their surroundings to see what was happening.

Valerie: Who was the first person who read The Secret of Willow Lane?

Virginia Rose Richter: My oldest son, Mark Richter, was the first person to read “The Secret of Willow Lane”. He was on a plane and said he worried that it would land before he finished the book. Very gratifying.

Valerie: Who was the inspiration for Jessie? How did you decide on her age and her personality?

Virginia Rose Richter: I suppose Jessie represents me at that age. But Tina (her friend) is my alter ego. Jessie takes chances and loves a mystery. Tina is my sensible sort of nerdy side who always finishes her homework early.

Valerie: How did you decide on your target audience? Are you planning to release any books for older readers soon?

Virginia Rose Richter: The books take place in a small town (Aurora, Nebraska) where I lived between the ages of ten and twelve. My personal freedom was tremendous. Basically, my mother reminded me at breakfast, “Be home at six for dinner.” For some reason, I have total recall of those years.  Thus, I chose that age group for my target audience. I do have an outline for an adult mystery, “Lying In Wait.” But right now I’m concentrating on the Willow Lane series and am writing the fourth book.

Valerie: Can you tell us anything about the next book in the Willow Lane Mysteries?

Virginia Rose Richter: “Strangers In The Lane”, the second book of the series, depicts the young sleuths a few months older. ( I don’t want to age them too quickly.)  Strange voices come through Phillip’s (Jessie’s two year old brother) baby monitor–planning a crime. The girls set out to locate the people speaking on the monitor and to foil the evil plot. Also in this book a handsome new boy moves into the neighborhood. Jessie is smitten.

Valerie: Phillip is such a great brother! How did you create such a realistic, cute character?

Virginia Rose Richter: Phillip is patterned after a grandson, Cole. But I have four grown children, three of whom are sons, and I haven’t forgotten what they were like at Phillip’s age. In my books, I try to show the realistic ups and downs between siblings, but I also want it to be evident that, although Phillip can be a trial at times for Jessie, she loves him very much. In this genre, parents are supposed to fade into the background and allow the story to be about the children. They need to solve their own problems and demonstrate growth. But I do let the parents come in to insist that Jessie treats Phillip with respect and vice versa.

Valerie: What do you want readers to learn after reading The Secret of Willow Lane?

Virginia Rose Richter: This is a difficult question. I don’t think the readers of the books would appreciate my trying to teach them something. But I strongly believe that readers learn through ideas and actions portrayed in fiction writing. The example of Jessie and Tina figuring things out, using their own minds, is a good one. They also do research at the library and sometimes even consult a trusted adult, not always a parent. I guess freedom comes into it.  Wherever one lives, in a crowded city or the open countryside, a child is free to explore through books or his/her own curiosity and imagination. Maybe intellectual freedom and the excitement of that concept is what I’m attempting to convey. I just do it via mystery stories.

Valerie: Have you ever had a detective kit? If so, what are some events that happened because of it?

Virginia Rose Richter: I never owned a detective kit. But I have always read mysteries. Since I finished my first Nancy Drew book, I have wanted to write suspense. I loved Daphne Du Maurier and hung onto her every word as a teenager. I think life is full of mysteries and intriguing  puzzles. I suppose I’ll never tire of them.


Thank you to author Virginia Rose Richter for a great interview!