Violetta Armour, an Ahwatukee resident for 28 years, has always had an affinity for books.
First, it was as a young reader, then the owner of an independent bookstore in Ahwatukee and now as an author of several books – including her newest, a sequel to her debut novel.
The vivacious septuagenarian’s newest book is “Still With You,” the sequel to her 2015 hit “I’ll Always Be With You,” which introduced the Kostoff family at the moment of a fatal car accident that killed the father, Stan, during a driving lesson with his son Teddy.
Her first novel, which gained wide acclaim through reviews and novel competition wins, had the family moving to Middleburg, Indiana, where they settled to escape the sad memories of Phoenix, the site of the tragedy.
The small Indiana town was where Stan grew up and his mother Baba still lived. In both books, secrets in Stan’s past emerge as his family of four attempts to start life anew.
The sequel wasn’t anything Armour had planned to write, but she said she was often asked what happened to her characters.
“I missed them (the characters) after I stopped writing, and people kept asking me what happened after the book ended,” Armour said.
“I’d left some things unanswered at the end of ‘I’ll Always Be With You’ but that’s life. We don’t always get answers.”
With encouragement, she brought the family to life again, setting the opening against the backdrop of 9/11, as two characters visit New York City for a Peace Corps information meeting in one of the Twin Towers that fateful morning.
As in her original novel, multiple voices enrich the storyline and allows glimpses into various eras and backstories.
In “I’m Always With You,” historical details that illuminate the novel involve the chaos in war-torn Bulgaria, immigration via steamship to Ellis Island and the tumult of the 1960s.
All are woven into the family’s story set in current time, and both books include recipes from Baba’s Bulgarian kitchen. Baba’s character and her recipes are drawn from Armour’s mother.
Armour, whose maiden name is Bektesh, is a first-generation American of Bulgarian/Macedonian heritage born in Gary, Indiana, where her grandfather immigrated and lived in the 1920s.
She describes her growing up in the 1950s as “typical ‘Happy Days’ teen years.” She was editor of her high school newspaper and graduated from Valparaiso, University – also located in Indiana.
She earned her teaching degree from the University of Colorado, and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.
Her husband Don Armour grew up on a Colorado ranch and after 32 years of married life, passed away in 2017. And yet, through a character in both her first novel and sequel, his legacy lives on.
“In my first book, I have a male character who’s about 80 who interacts with Teddy. In this new book, he continues to interact with the teenager, sharing his memories of growing up on a ranch in Colorado,” she smiled. “I’d encouraged Don to write his memoirs and now his story is in this new book as the character George.”
In the interim years between the first and second novels outlining the lives of Teddy, his mother Mary, his deceased father’s mother Baba and Rosetta, Stan’s high school flame, Armour crafted her first mystery novel.
She fell in love with that genre as a child reading and attempting to emulate in her first fiction stories penned into her black and white composition book which she recently rediscovered.
“A Mahjongg Mystery” was released in 2018 and Armour said two more mystery books are in the works.
“It was suggested that I do a trio of mysteries and my second book, ‘S’mores Can Be Deadly,’ is almost done. The third in the trio is ‘Pickleball Passion’ and that’s due to my passion for pickleball. I play five days a week at Pecos Park and the Y, I’m in a league and find pickleball people are so much fun.”
Armour is well remembered with Ahwatukee locals for her independent bookstore, Pages, that opened in 1993 and was located at 40th Street and Chandler Boulevard.
Also well remembered is the bookstore’s feline mascot, Footnote.
“One day I’d bought an earthenware bowl and set it down, and Footnote climbed in, slept and continue to sleep in it. We kept getting bigger bowls,” laughed Armour.
Another legacy of Pages Bookstore is the ongoing book club, Pageturners that decades later continues to meet. One of the original members, Dianne Gubrud, has been attending since its inception.
“I met Vy at Pages Bookstore in 1993, and began to work for her in 1994. I stayed until the bookstore closed in 1995,” said Gubrud, an Ahwatukee resident with her family since 1984.
“Our original Pageturners book group began in 1994 with Nevil Shute’s ‘A Town Like Alice.’ We were a small group of about eight consisting of friends and Pages customers but the discussion was incredible, and deservedly so,” she said, adding:
“Page Turners was Vy’s vision and we all reaped the glories. The group still meets once a month with members taking turns to host in their homes.
“It’s no surprise Vy evolved into a skilled author. Her life experiences helped her to create the characters in her books and that is what makes her writing so endearing,” Gubrud continued. “‘I’ll Always Be with You’ comes from the heart and soul of a woman who can transform her beauty onto the written page.”
Armour is an avid proponent of self-publishing, an avenue pursued after amassing her first 25 rejections.
She’s received numerous awards for her debut novel and her mystery book.
A mainstay of her marketing is speaking at area book clubs and writer’s conferences.
“Marketing the book is very different than writing the book,” she said. “You have to be your own cheerleader.”
A children’s book, “Granddad, Golf and Me” was the lone foray into children’s lit for Armour, a mother of five, grandmother of seven and great grandmother to four.
“I think I’ll continue writing for adults,” she said.
For more information on books written by Armour as well as her contributions published in two of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, see ViolettaArmour.com