At the virtual office of Julie Garwood, the Leawood romance and suspense author, visitors will notice a can of Diet Coke, a suburban brick patio visible through the office windows and — off in the distance — a mist-shrouded castle like those described in romance novels set in medieval Scotland or Regency-era England.
Garwood, with more than 36 million books in print, has learned how to transport readers from their routine, everyday realities to a believable distant one.
“Unfortunately, I get way too many letters from women who have gone through chemotherapy saying that my book got them through it,” Garwood said recently. “It makes me feel good that something I wrote was able to take them away for just a little while.”
One way of making that happen: accurate historical detail.
Garwood pursued a double major of history and nursing at what is now Avila University. When she began publishing historical romances in the 1980s, she made authentic period atmosphere a point of pride.
“I enjoyed the period, the knights and so forth,” she said.
She also learned to enjoy jousting with readers who still sometimes think they have spotted historical errors in her stories.
“It’s always the guys,” she said. “A guy will say, I read this book set in the 12th century, and I found this and that. And then I would write back and discuss my research. That’s made it real fun for me. “
Garwood’s new book, “Sweet Talk,” details a more familiar landscape. It follows the adventures of IRS agent Olivia MacKenzie, who — while trying to bring down a Ponzi scheme — finds herself in the middle of an FBI sting operation.
It meant more trips to the library for Garwood, who immersed herself in the details of investment adviser Bernie Madoff and how he swindled his investors.
“I kept wondering, ‘How did he fool all those smart people?’ ”
Garwood also believes a good read should offer resolution to readers.
“When I started writing, I wanted happy endings,” she said. “And, with everything that is going on with the economy now, I decided I wanted to keep doing that. There are mysteries in my books, but you are not going to have nightmares.”