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Gloria Van and a New Passion Later in Life by Grace Olson

Later in life, Gloria Van began her writing career after she retired from her regular job. She was a communications consultant, where she taught people how to deal with conflict and work better together. She was also an office manager for an engineering firm. At first, she was in marketing. Ms. Van started college later in life as well.

Something interesting happened to Ms. Van in those years. She had a conflict with a coworker. The coworker verbally attacked her, and Ms. Van didn’t know how to deal with it or respond. “So, I switched my whole focus in college to communications instead, which was where I needed to be,” explained Ms. Van, “and I’ve learned so much about dealing with conflict.”

Ms. Van didn’t think about writing stories until her kids started asking her about stories of her life. It was then that she started writing stories for her family. “It expanded,” said Ms. Van, “into more than just stories. It was starting to become a book.” She called her book Musing and Munching, a memoir of her life and a cookbook. Later, during a gym session, a woman came up to Ms. Van and said, “We need a history written of this town. You know how to write a story. When are you getting started?” Ms. Van was taken aback by this statement, but she eventually wrote the history of her hometown. “It turned out just fabulous!” Ms. Van mused. “It’s called Memories of Lake Elmo.” After her experience with the history book, Ms. Van interviewed people in the hospice care facility that she volunteered in and wrote stories about them. One of the stories is about her husband, which turned into the book, Darkness in Paradise. It is about her husband’s childhood in war-torn Indonesia during the Japanese occupation in World War II.

Now, she is writing primarily fiction. “I love fiction!” Ms. Van said. “I’m writing mysteries now.” Her first novel, Danger in Deep Lake, has won two awards, and her second, Death in Deep Lake, was published and released soon after. The third book in the series, Trouble in Deep Lake, is the newest addition. She is currently working on the fourth novel in the cozy mystery series. The series is about McKenzie Ward, who left her hometown in Minnesota years ago, but returns home when she hears of her father’s strange death. She follows the clues and discovers secrets, which run contradictory to the town and the people she thought she remembered so well.

As for Ms. Van’s favorite moment in the writing process, she says it’s the actual writing part. The unexpected twists and turns, seeing the story come together, having something unplanned fit right in as if it were meant to be there. She loves it all. She especially loves finding unexpected plot points and events that fit into the story in a way she didn’t think about before. “Sometimes, they make the story better because they were unplanned aspects of the novels,” said Ms. Van.

Ms. Van has written so many books. I asked her what her favorite line was from any of her books, and she answered with a line from her newest release, Trouble in the Deep Lake. In the scene surrounding her favorite line, a young boy with Down syndrome gets kidnapped. The boy sees this man talking in a stern voice to a doctor. The angry man takes some French fries from the doctor’s plate, and the little boy says, after witnessing the sequence of events, says, “I wouldn’t eat his fries.” “I love that line!” Ms. Van said after the long laughing session we shared.

As a child, Ms. Van had always been a voracious reader, but writing was something she hadn’t even considered until later in life. “My mother taught me the gift of reading,” said Ms. Van. “I was a very shy child, so I spent a lot of time alone reading books. I love reading books.” Her favorite book as a child and she loves it still today, was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. “They made a movie of the book,” said Ms. Van, “and I was not impressed with it. The movie was not well-made at all. It spoiled my memories of the book.” Of course, the book is always better than the movie, so Ms. Van’s spot on.

As for the final message Ms. Van wants to leave her readers with, she said, “I write to entertain. I want my readers to be entertained by my stories. And I want them to be comfortable reading my stories. I think dirty sex makes some people uncomfortable. So there is no icky sex or F-bombs in my books. I leave some things to the imagination.”

As for my favorite question to ask, advice that they’d give to a young writer, Ms. Van answered with, “Read. Read as much as you can. Another great thing to do is either join a book club or start one yourself. In a book club, you read books that you normally wouldn’t choose for yourself. It expands your mind.” I’ve always wanted to join a book club, but I can never find one. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Or perhaps I need to start one. And reading is an easy thing for all writers to do. Fit time in wherever you can, even in a busy schedule. Ms. Van says so.

Ms. Van and I had a great conversation when I interviewed her. She and I are similar people, and we both love writing fiction. She writes books in one of my favorite genres, mystery thriller. She has a lot of writing experience, and I love that she found a passion later in life with her writing career starting after retirement. It’s so inspiring that a person’s life doesn’t have to end with their primary career. I learned so much from her, and I hope you all did, too.

Happy reading!

You can get Gloria's book Trouble in Deep Lake at

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