FERGUS FALLS -- During her child-raising years, Gunta Stegura was a prolific writer, pounding out four romance novels over a 15-year period that ended more than a decade ago.
But it took a brush with death from a series of cancer battles to convince her to publish, the Fergus Falls author said in an interview this week.
Her first novel, "For Your Love," arrived at area bookstores in recent weeks and another is on the way.
"I was very ill with cancer and thought I was going to die," Stegura recalled, "and realized that I had never shared my manuscripts with anyone."
But she recovered and a return to good health prompted the 54-year-old cancer survivor to search out a publisher for her works.
She found McCleery & Sons, a vanity press based in Fargo, N.D., which brought "For Your Love" into print, with plans to publish Stegura's second novel in the near future.
Stegura said she decided on the self-publishing route because "the chances of getting published by a traditional publisher were about as good as winning the lottery."
"I went to a seminar with others who had self-published and learned how they went about it," Stegura said, "and I thought it was something that would be within my reach. The lottery is not."
Stegura said she started writing about 25 years ago because her mind was filled with stories and characters begging to get out.
"For Your Love," her first manuscript, was inspired by Stegura's love of the Southwest, where she lived at the time with her husband, a military man, and the couple's children.
An avid fan of romance fiction, Stegura said she "thought if they could do it, so could I," adapting the genre's fast-moving action style as her own.
A historic romance, "For Your Love" tells the story of a young woman, disappointed by love, who flees to the Southwest in the 1840s where she encounters a Native American tribe that changes her life.
Three other novels followed "For Your Love" over the next 15 years, but Stegura left the manuscripts on the shelf until her five-year bout with cancer changed her mind.
Born in Germany in 1948 to Latvian parents, Stegura immigrated with her family to the United States when she was 2. She spent her childhood in Ohio before moving to the Twin Cities as a seventh-grader.
Stegura settled recently in Fergus Falls to be close to family who had moved to the area several years ago, she said, adding she hopes to one day draft a novel based on her parents' experiences in Latvia during World War II.
In the meantime she is promoting "For Your Love" at book-signing events throughout the area, including a recent signing at Book World in Brainerd. The novel is available at several area independent bookstores, as well as on amazon.com, she said.
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