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Getting To Know ...

Diane Perkins is a writer of historical romance novels who lives in Burke. She has published five books, and her most recent is "The Marriage Bargain." She is a long-time area resident, the winner of many romance writing awards and this week's People Profile.

Years in the community:

My husband and I bought our first house in Burke in 1978 and our current house in Burke in 1984, so we’ve been here 27 years.

Family:

My husband is Jim Perkins, a systems analyst for the Library of Congress. We have a daughter Meagan, 24, and a son Dan, 22, both living on their own.

Education:

I have a bachelor of arts degree in English, and also a master of arts in clinical psychology and a master of social work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Current job:

I had a whole career as a county mental health social worker, first working as a child therapist and then working with the elderly. But about 10 years ago, I began pursuing an impossible dream — to become a romance novelist. I joined Washington Romance Writers (WRW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Through these organizations I learned the craft of writing.

RWA and its chapters, such as WRW, offer writing contests for unpublished Romance writers, the final judges being editors and literary agents. I entered lots of contests and often did very well. In 2003, I entered the Golden Heart contest, RWA’s national contest. My first Regency Historical Romance (a romance set during the Regency era in England, 1810-20, when George III went mad and his son was declared Prince Regent) made the finals. Then the judging editor phoned me and bought the manuscript. If that wasn’t a prize enough, the book went on to win the Golden Heart. "The Mysterious M," written under the name Diane Gaston, was released by Mills & Boon, the UK branch of Harlequin, in July 2004.

After I sold that first book, I retired from my mental health career and became a full-time romance novelist. After two years, I have five books to my credit and I’m writing for two publishing houses. My latest is "The Marriage Bargain," which will be in bookstores this October. And that first book, "The Mysterious Miss M," will be released in the U.S. in November.

Achievements:

My first Warner book, "The Improper Wife," was a Romantic Times Book Club Reviewers Choice nominee, and a finalist in The Readers Choice Awards, The Award of Excellence, and the Orange Rose contest.

Activities/interests/hobbies:

Through my interest in Regency England, I have started collecting prints from the early 1800s, fashion prints and prints of London. I also collect books dealing with the time period. My biggest treasure is a set of the 1815 La Belle Assemblee, a ladies magazine.

Favorite local restaurant:

Spartan’s in Burke. When we want to get a quick bite to eat, we always seem to wind up at Spartan's.

Community concerns:

I am very concerned about the eroding of mental health resources in our community and the shrinking of social services to the poor. As a result, many people are suffering needlessly who once were helped. I think mental health and social service initiatives should be given more public support. The people who need the services, however, are not good advocates for themselves. It seems to me that society as a whole has lost its social conscience regarding those more unfortunate. I hope that the tragedy of the Katrina and Rita hurricanes has opened our eyes to the plight of America’s poor and disenfranchised.

What brought you to the area?

When I was in college, my father, an Army officer, retired in Falls Church. After college, I met my husband in the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, where we both worked as psychiatric aides. His parents lived in Burke so we were very familiar with the area when we were looking to buy a house. We moved into one of the first developments in Burke Centre.

Community hidden treasure:

Besides the fact that it is beautiful here in the Springfield/Burke area?

What comes to mind is a crazy notion, but one of the things I always liked about this area was that there were multiple ways for me to drive to work. Unlike places like Reston or Centreville with more restrictive access, I always had choices of how to get around traffic when I was making that commute everyday!

Personal goals:

Most of all, I want to continue to write high quality books that readers will enjoy, but someday I’d really love to see a book of mine on the bestseller list in the Washington Post’s Book World.

Do you know someone who should be featured in the Connection's People Profile? Send your nominations to Jon Whiten at jwhiten@connectionnewspapers.com or call 703-917-6422.