Read Local, Dream Local
By Dabrianna Green | Photos by Caroline J. Phillips
Stephanie Verni strolls through St. Michaels on a crisp late winter afternoon.
Independent author Stephanie Verni has penned three award-winning indie novels, and her inspiration may feel a little close to home. The love affair between Verni and Maryland is evident throughout her works, and she can’t help but capture the essence of our “Little America” throughout each and every page.
From the capital city of Annapolis to the rural Eastern Shore, Verni’s prose serves as an unofficial literary tour guide. She engulfs her readers on journeys of contemporary love, heartbreaking tragedy, and small-town charm.
We caught up with Verni to find out a little more about her work and her locative love.
Shore Monthly: What about Maryland contributes to your renewed inspiration for each project?
Stephanie Verni: I think with Annapolis, where the first book is set, I just had a great upbringing. I had a great family. I loved the area. So Annapolis was my first choice because I knew it well. I could write about the town - I mean, I know it like the back of my hand. One of my friends said, “You captured Annapolis like Sex & the City captured New York City.” So that was a great compliment!
The other two books are set in Oxford (Inn Significant) and St. Michaels (Little Milestones). I just love it over here. Whenever I get a free day to come over the bridge, I want to be here. I’m little by little hopefully convincing my husband that at some point we’re going to live over here when we retire. I just adore it.
I’ve been coming here for 20 years, just coming. Sometimes I get in the car by myself and just come over and stroll. Sometimes I bring friends, but I just love the Eastern Shore. I think Maryland has a lot to offer and we need to bolster what a great state this is, so that’s why I write about it. When I drive over that bridge, my stress just goes away. As soon as I hit the Eastern Shore, it’s just a different pace of life. When I drive on that Baltimore beltway, I yearn for a small-town feel. It’s just quaint and charming. I just love everything about it.
SM: You have quite a cohesive catalogue of fiction influenced by the places you’ve been. Was that a conscious decision?
SV: When I wrote the first book, I didn’t say, “All my books are going to be set in Maryland.” It just sort of happened that way. I write what I know. I’ve lived in Maryland since I was four and a half years old, so it’s what I know.
SM: Your audience raves about your knack for bringing settings to life. Do you intentionally write this way?
SV: Yes. I do. I take a lot of photos. I try to get it right. The last thing I would want is for someone in St. Michaels to read my book and say, “She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t get St. Michaels.”
I really try hard to. When I wrote Inn Significant, I had a woman who lived in Oxford for five years say to me, “Oh my gosh, you captured Oxford beautifully.” So I try to spend the time. I talk to people in the town. I get feedback from people. For me, I have to get the place just as right as I get the characters. I wouldn’t want to let anyone down.
SM: As an indie author, your turnaround time for publishing is unmatched. What keeps the creative juices flowing?
Stephanie Verni with a stack of her books by the water in St. Michaels
SV: I remember sitting in a History of Maryland class in high school. I have a doodle I wrote that says, “I want to be an author one day.”
I don’t know what it was about the teacher, but she told all these stories about Maryland. She was a really good history teacher. I thought, “Someday I want to write something,” so I did. After writing my first book, I just loved that I was finally fulfilling my dream that I thought about in high school. I just want to be a storyteller. Once Little Milestones gets out of my head, something else will pop in. I just love it. I love the whole process. I love seeing the story come to fruition. Even if I have a small audience, I don’t really care. I’m just doing it because I love it!
SM: If you had to pick a favorite of the books you’ve written, which would it be and why?
SV: Hm, that’s so hard. I really love Inn Significant. It had something none of my other books had because I had to do research about the Depression era, so that one pushed me a little bit. I had to look and see what people were wearing. I had to see what a cloche hat was! Like, what’s a cloche hat from the 1930s? If you forced me, I would say Inn Significant because of the history aspect of it. It’s kind of like asking, “Who’s your favorite child?” I like them all for different reasons.
SM: You’ve also co-written a textbook on event planning and edited a commemorative. Are you still open to other paths?
SV: I’d like to get into historical fiction and fantasy. Writing a textbook is the hardest thing I’ve done. It’s unbelievably time-consuming. It takes me hours to do the research. The academic writing is strenuous and not fun for me. I do it, but my other books are fun. Academic writing is work, but I love that I have an academic textbook to show for myself, and I love that we were the first to take communications theory and attach it to event planning.
SM: What can we expect from you next as an author?
SM: What I might do for a little while is write some short stories and see where that takes me. If you write a short story and you really like the characters, it could become a novel. That’s what short stories can do for you. I was watching clips of “Game of Thrones” yesterday and thinking it might be cool to write about a queen and a castle and really cool things about contemporary issues, but in medieval times. I think it might be fun. I don’t know if I could pull it off, but It’s kind of intriguing. I wrote a ghost story in my short stories and I had two people write to me and say, “Could you turn that ghost story into something? It’s a really cool ghost story.” I thought, “Eh - Dickens already did that.”
Be sure to pick up Verni’s fourth and latest novel, Little Milestones.
To stay updated on future releases, connect with her via her website, www.stephsscribe.com.