By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer

Nanette Virden has published “The Secret of Emma Pryce,” which is the first in a trilogy of young adult fantasy romance novels.

It’s a story of a young girl coping with her sophomore year in high school, her challenges, quests and romance — and a family curse.

The story takes place in the Santa Ynez Valley, and readers will find many familiar establishments mentioned throughout the book.

Virden was diagnosed with a seizure disorder in her youth, while living in Torrance. In 1986, she moved with her parents to the more tranquil Santa Ynez Valley.

“At the age of 10 I started to have grand mal seizures. I was shy and withdrawn growing up. I felt like an outcast in high school, but English class was where I found the perfect way to overcome those obstacles,” Virden said. “I used the experience I had from having unexpected seizures along with my love of fantasy to form the framework of my book.”

With her teachers’ encouragement, she began writing short stories and poetry. Over the years, she has continued to find writing a great way to conquer her shyness and says it is a “great therapy.” She has been seizure-free for the past 15 years.

“I’ve always been interested in fantasy — actually, fantasy is what got me through my seizures as a child. Fantasy, mythology and folklore have always fascinated me,” she continued. “I love to read and I’m a fan of comedies and historical movies and television programs as well.”

Virden developed the ideas for her Emma Pryce series in 2010.

“One day I thought, ‘I’m going to write a book,’ so I went upstairs and got a pencil and paper and started to write about a teenage girl, Emma, who is coping with her sophomore year in high school, the loss of a dear family member, and the romantic feelings she is having for a certain boy.

“Just before her 16th birthday she begins to have strange dreams and warning signs that something was going to happen to her on her birthday, something that would change her life forever, in a way she never could have imagined. And it’s all because of a family curse. She tries to escape from it but eventually has to face the reality of the situation,” Virden explained.

“I gave it to friends to read and they said, ‘This is really good.’ My acupuncturist then offered to find me an editor. The editor read the first chapter and she said, ‘This is good,’ and then gave me a little advice.

“I started making the changes she’d mentioned and the 12 chapters soon grew to 36 and now comprise three volumes,” Virden mused. “It was necessary for me to go back and edit those portions that didn’t move the story along, even though I loved them. … The first book has 19 chapters and a prologue. What started off to be a single book has now become a trilogy, according to my editor.

“I have a great editor and publisher,” she said. “They are very helpful. I listen to them and respect their advice and take it, mostly. But when I insist on something, they listen to me as well.”

Research for the Emma Pryce series included a trip to Ireland, where Emma discovers the secret behind the curse.

“I had initially found Emma in Ireland searching for the family curse, but I realized that I couldn’t write about what I didn’t know,” said Virden. “So in 2011 I took a trip to Ireland. What I saw was fantastic. It fed my imagination, therefore my story line. I also studied Irish languages and folklore.”

Themes from Virden’s own life permeate her stories about Emma, from residing in the Santa Ynez Valley and Los Olivos areas, to home, family, close ties with friends, appreciation of nature’s bounty, and her love of animals. Those elements mirror Virden’s own close relationships with her sister, who did the graphic work on the cover of her book, and with her brother who lives in Long Beach.

Now retired, Virden spends time writing, being with her family, and caring for her pets. She volunteers her time and efforts to “Support the Troops,” a group that sends supplies to members of the military.

Volume I of the Emma Pryce series is now available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Goodreads, and locally at the Book Loft in Solvang.

Volume II in the trilogy is in early editing and is expected to be out by the end of the year or in early 2020. It will be about Emma’s journey in Ireland and titled “The Secret of Irish Rose”

For more information, email