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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guest Author Sara Ramsey, on the allure of Glitter and Virgin Widows

YOU GUYS. I feel just like Barbara Walters right now. My very first Lady Scribes interview, and the lovely Sara Ramsey has agreed to be my victim...er...guest! If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Sara or tweeting with her, you have missed out. This girl is a riot.

And she's super talented! She won the 2009 Romance Writers Association's Golden Heart Contest, for unpublished authors, and finaled again in 2011. Both of those novels, Scotsmen Prefer Blondes and Heiress Without a Cause, are now published as e-books. They are the first two novels in her series Muses of Mayfair, which revolves around a secret club for women who want to pursue artistic passions frowned upon by society, in Regency England.

(On a personal note, I just started the first novel, Heiress Without a Cause, and I'm totally hooked. I can see that I will be spending much time jumping on Sara every time she pokes her nose out on Twitter and shouting "Why are you here?! Go write me a book!")

Anyway, after studying the hard-hitting interview technique of various veteran political reporters, I felt I was ready to ask Sara some questions- and what do you know? She answered them!

Welcome to Lady Scribes, Sara! We are thrilled to have you join us today. I'll start with an easy question- what draws you to write historical fiction?

TheRegency in particular appeals to me because I’m intrigued by all the rigidsociety rules – and I particularly like finding fun ways to break them. I’vealways loved history, and writing historical fiction allows me to shamelesslyindulge in research books and trips to London/Paris/wherever else I intend toset a book.
Ialso like the fantasy of historical fiction. I wouldn’t actually want to livein an earlier time period, since I don’t care to die in childbirth or let myhusband own me. But the fantasy of falling in love while wearing an endlessparade of perfect gowns and never having to do a single bit of housework ispretty awesome.

I agree. Relaxing all day with friends while wearing fabulous clothes beats cleaning grape juice off the tan carpet, hands down! Can you tell us who, or what, some of your influences are?
JohannaLindsey was my first influence, and I try to work one usage of the word‘manroot’ into every book I write in her honor (odd homage, I know). My othertop influences are Georgette Heyer (for the delicious dialogue), Robin McKinley(not a romance writer, but her heroines are uniformly kick-ass), Patricia A.McKillip (also not romance, but her prose is luminous and jaw-droppinglywonderful), Julia Quinn, and Stephanie Laurens.



Oh, I love Julia Quinn- she is a particular favorite of mine, and has had a huge impact on me as a reader and a writer. I love her writing, because her heroines always seem so relatable. If you lived in fictional Regency England, what kind of heroine would you be?

I’dlike to be a formidable duchess, but I’m pretty sure I’d be a bluestocking. Abluestocking with a fabulous wardrobe, though – I love books, but if I had anopen tab with a modiste, I would be dangerous.

I think I'd be a bluestocking also, the kind that finally meets the rakish hero, then trips and spills punch all down the front of his trousers. Sigh. It's fun to imagine ourselves in these situations, but writing the actual stories can be so much harder, and sometimes less fun. Do you have a writing process?


Process...hahahahaha...sob.With both HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE and SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, I wrote majorchunks (an entire book for SCOTSMEN; half a book for HEIRESS – twice) andscrapped them/started over once I’d figured out the plot. I’m knee-deep intothe third book now and so far it shows no signs of going sideways and throwingitself over a cliff, but I suspect I’ll rewrite most of it eventually.
Onthe more basic level, I write most of the first draft longhand, since I can’tcheck Twitter from a piece of paper.And I tend to plot at least a few chapters ahead, although it doesn’t alwayswork. When I’m at the end of a draft, I often go away for a few days and spendthat time rereading the manuscript, gathering my thoughts, making rewritenotes, etc. – I find it helps me to focus if I give myself a few days to spendalone with my draft (and a few hours to have any rewrite panic attacks inprivate!).

That sounds like a great idea- just being alone with the manuscript, so you can curl into a ball and weep and eat chocolate...um. I mean, so you can get those rewrites done in an efficient manner. Too bad the novels don't write themselves! I know I asked you who your influences were, but I'm curious to find out who some of your favorite heroes and heroines are. (Personally, I adore that wasteral Lord St.Ives, from Lisa Kleypas's Devil in Winter and Sookie Stackhouse, from Charlene Harris's "Dead" (True Blood) series.)


Favoriteheroine: Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first heroine love – you could tell shewas spunky and rebellious, and I adored her. Otherwise, Prudence from THEMASQUERADERS by Georgette Heyer, or Penelope Featherington from ROMANCING MR.BRIDGERTON by Julia Quinn.
Favoritehero: Maybe Devil Cynster from DEVIL’S BRIDE by Stephanie Laurens? Or HugoDarracott from THE UNKNOWN AJAX by Georgette Heyer – a little odd, since I lovealphas and he’s more of a beta (or an omega? He’s a total enigma, but pulls offan amazing con at the end of the book). Or Aragorn from LORD OF THE RINGS. Ilove reluctant heroes. I particularly love reluctant heroes played by reluctanthotties like Viggo Mortensen.


Reluctant heroes are fantastic- so much conflict, within themselves and with everyone around them. Laura and Penelope are very similar, but Aragon and Hugo are so different! But it would be so boring if we stuck with just one type, wouldn't it? However, I am going to ask you to pick between some choices. (Yes, this is a test. No, I'm not going to tell you what it means. I'm just going to say "Hmm" and "REALLY? I see" a lot.)

Day or Night?

Night,as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows. If the rest of the world wouldcooperate, the day would start at 10am and end at 2am. Our fascination with thesunrise is just a holdover from when we were pre-electric barbarians.

Vacation: Beach or Mountains?
Beach!I grew up in Iowa and feel more kinship with the waves than I ever will withpeaks and forests and other view-obstructing abominations.


· Dog or cat? Orferret?
Probablya cat – I like dogs too, but cats fascinate me. No pets for me right now,though – I travel a lot, so I’m waiting until my lifestyle is less disruptivebefore committing to a new best friend.


Secret Baby or Virgin Widow?
Virginwidow all the way! Secret babies scare me.

Dissolute Rake or Hardened Spy?
Ooh– tough. I love a hardened spy like Daniel Craig’s take on James Bond, but Ithink I would have more fun with the dissolute rake.



Hmm. Actually, forget that last question. Why can't you have both? Oh, I guess that would make you the Scandalous Widow instead of the Bluestocking, though... All right, Sara. I've been taking it easy on you. Now I'm going to do my best Babs impersonation and get to the real nitty gritty.



I’ve heard J.Lodemands everything in her dressing rooms to be white- even the flowers andcandy. Are there certain things that you needto be able to get the creative juices flowing?
Glitter.Lots and lots of glitter.
Justkidding. I need something caffeinated at all times, a fountain pen filled withan ink color that suits my current mood, and some little toy (even a bent paperclip) to fidget with while I work through plot issues. That makes me sound kindof diva-ish, but I’m not quite J-Lo yet!



· Do you have anyadvice for writers just starting out? I'll take whatever advice you'd like to dish out!
Thismay not be popular – but don’t obsess over advice from other writers. Ipersonally take ‘look before you leap’ to an extreme, and when I was firststarting out, I read everything I could about writing and the industry. Myshelves are full of writing/craft books; my Google Reader has dozens ofagent/editor/writer/craft blogs queued up every morning.
Butno two processes are alike, just as no two voices are alike. You’ll find yoursthrough trial and error, which is why the advice to write and read as much aspossible holds water. I still get cranky sometimes when it seems that everyoneelse is doing #1k1hr (a hashtag on Twitter for people who are sprinting towrite a thousand words in an hour) while I’m scrapping a scene and restartingit for the fifth time. But my process works for me, and comparing myself to the#1k1hr crowd is a straight descent into teeth-gnashing madness. Find what worksfor you, and ignore what everyone else is doing!



I'm not sure my Barbra Walters thing is working. I'm not seeing tears yet. At least, not on Sara's side- I'm a little leaky over the "scrapping a scene and restarting it a fifth time" part. I think I've scrapped the beginning of my current novel 8,000 times!

(Okay, Olivia, go for the real emotional stuff. Think, think. Ah HA!)

· If we playedRock, Paper, Scissors right now, whatwould be your first choice, and why?

NormallyI would say rock, probably because I’m lazy and can just leave my fist in therock shape. But with a bunch of writers who are predisposed to paper...I mightgo with scissors.

Ooo, sneaky. I like it. Can you tell me one thing you'd like to cross off your "bucket list"?
Nowthat I’ve crossed off blogging with Lady Scribes? ;)
Iwant to visit all seven continents. I’m only missing South America andAntarctica – if I plan it right, I can hit them both on the same trip!

That sounds amazing. I'd love to do some traveling, but I have two small children and it just doesn't seem doable right now. However, as soon as we boot them out at eighteen, I plan to make a run for it. Ireland, Scotland, China, Russia and France top my personal list!
It was so lovely of you to be my very first...interview, for Lady Scribes. Thank you so much for coming! Can I ask you one more question? Just one. Okay- if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you settle?




Hmm.I actually love San Francisco – unexpectedly, since I never thought I wouldstay here. I also lived in India for six months and Ireland for three (andUkraine for a year when I was twelve),so I’ve been around a bit. But if I get stupid rich someday, I’ll buy atownhouse in London – like any good Regency writer, I could spend months at atime there, even if it’s too far from my family to move there permanently.

Oh, London. Le sigh.

When I coerced Sara into providing me with this fun opportunity to get to know her better, she also very generously offered a copy of her novel to one lucky reader today! It's super easy- just leave your email address at the end of your comment, to qualify.

Sara currently lives in SanFrancisco, where she lives on an appalling diet of tea, trail mix, andChampagne. You can find her on Twitter (@sara_ramsey), Facebook, or at www.sararamsey.com.


Do you have a question for Sara? Go ahead, ask her anything about glitter, writing feisty heroines and what one does at 4am while all the lame people sleep. She's an expert!
Sara currently lives in San Francisco, where she lives on an appalling diet of tea, trail mix, and Champagne. You can find her on Twitter (@sara_ramsey), Facebook, or at www.sararamsey.com

43 comments:

  1. Hahahaha! "I love books, but if I had an open tab with a modiste, I would be dangerous." Too funny, but I think I'd be the same.

    I haven't had a chance to read your books yet, the TBR pile is huuuuge. Does your scotsman wear a kilt, I do love a man in a kilt. :)

    yvonnedvn AT yahoo DOT ie

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    1. Hello Beebs! I really, really wish I had an open tab at a modiste - as soon as I wrote that answer and realized I didn't have one, I was sad.

      Unfortunately, my Scotsman (Malcolm) doesn't wear a kilt. He wears a plaid blanket at one point, if that helps?

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    2. That may depend on what he's wearing under the blanket.:) I love the scottish accent too.

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  2. I write most of the first draft longhand, since I can’t check Twitter from a piece of paper.

    I do the same thing, but then I made a terrible mistake. I got a smartphone. So yeah, I can now check Twitter while writing on paper. (I don't obsessively check Twitter so much as my email, though.)

    Fun interview, Olivia!

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    1. Yes, the smartphone is the devil. There have been a couple of times when I took the extreme step of popping my sim card out of my smartphone and into an old dumbphone so that I could still get calls without being able to check twitter. My self-control is apparently that abysmal.

      Thanks for stopping by, Ashlyn! Didn't Olivia do an awesome job with the questions?

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    2. Thanks, ladies! It's easy when you know you can have fun with someone. I think if I had to do a super serious Anderson Cooper interview I would bomb. :D

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  3. Great interview. Although I have to disagree. The day begins at 7am and ends before 11pm. 2am should not be seen by anyone.

    I can't wait to read your books.

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    1. Hi Beth - we can agree to disagree on the start of the day :) I'm awake at 7:30am answering comments, so it's *possible* for me to be up now - I just don't love it. Thanks for your comment!

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    2. Ha! If I didn't see 2 am , I'd never get any writing done! The day begins at 9:30, and ends between 2 and 3 as far as I'm concerned :)

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  4. Great interview, Sara! And I love your advice to new writers. I think we get too easily cowed by what we "should" be doing and that can sidetrack you from what will actually make you a writer--just writing! And, I am just stopping by to give a shout out to another Georgette Heyer fan. :)

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Lily - and I always love to find another Georgette Heyer fan! And now I must go take my own advice and write my way (sloooowly) without getting distracted by the sprinters on Twitter :)

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  5. That is a wonderful interview. My question would be since you are in the Bay, have you ventured out of the area to other parts of the state?

    countessofmar@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi Melody - I love your email address! As for your question, I've done some exploring of California. I've been up to Tahoe several times, which is fun in summer and winter even though I don't ski. I suppose Monterey, Carmel, and Santa Cruz are sort of still Bay Area, but I've been to LA a couple of times, San Diego twice, and both Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes. The big gaping hole in my California adventures is anything north of the Bay - I must go see the redwoods! Do you have any other recommendations for me?

      Thanks for the comment!

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    2. My best friend lives in Berkley, so that's the only place I've actually ever been in CA! But, I'm looking forward to trying the central part of the state this July, at the RWA national conference

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    3. Ok I love San Diego. That's my favorite place. I also love San Simeon where Hearst Castle is. I live in the central coast and it's not bad. I haven't been to bay area in a long time. I Sacramento too. Cali is a fun area to visit.

      I like my email address. It has to back to when my friend would make a story line. It was short for countess of marcel. Good times. Good times.

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    4. I haven't been to Hearst Castle yet, but I would really love to go - it's on my list!

      I can't share any real details or it would give the person away, but for years one of my friends had an email address that she used just for email from me, and it was "mrs[name of someone we both knew who was ridiculous]@hotmail.com". It always made me laugh. We still sign that person's name at guest books around the world when we check in - s/he's the most well-traveled person ;)

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  6. Hi SARa my question why you hate secret babies? And of course what you loves to do around 4 am in the morning :DArethazhenATrocketmailDOTCOM

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    1. Ha - I don't hate the babies themselves :) But the idea of keeping something like a pregnancy secret isn't my cup of tea (even though there are sometimes legitimate reasons for keeping it a secret - but some of them can sound selfish if not done well).

      That said, I did love love love HONEST ILLUSIONS by Nora Roberts back in the day - two magic performers/robbers, with a secret baby twist. It may have been my first Nora book, and I still love it (despite the secret baby, who was heartbreakingly wonderful).

      As for 4am - it either involves my nook, my journal, my computer, or (on weekends) the hardiest of my friends and a recovery period at a 24-hour diner :)

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    2. Nora does the Scret Baby thing very well- she's done it a few times, I think. I would think it would be impossible to write 200 books and *not* have a few plot repeats, lol...

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  7. That was a fun interview! Hmm, I don't have a question, at least not this early in the morning. I am also a night owl, so I have not had enough sleep yet today. 4hrjc(at)mchsi(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for the comment! It's too early for me to be answering comments, so if I sound like a madwoman, I apologize :)

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  8. Great interview Sara and Babs...I mean Olivia! ;) My question is how do I get all that glitter out of my kindle now that I've downloaded your books? ;)

    Congrats on the books and I wish you much success!

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    1. lol - thanks so much, Marquita! I doubt if glitter is covered under the warranty, but if it gets too distracting, let me know and I'll send you some screen wipes :)

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  9. Sara, thank you for dropping by Lady Scribes! The interview was as fun as I suspected it would be. Can I ask if you have any hints on what the next Mayfair Muses novel will entail?

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    1. Olivia, thank you so much for hosting me! You are a fabulous interviewer!

      The next Muses book is The Marquess Who Loved Me, and it should be out this summer (if I can stop procrastinating on Twitter ;) The heroine is Ellie, the widowed Marchioness of Folkestone, who is a painter and sort of a patroness of other artists (although I can't say more without giving away secrets). Her first lover was the cousin of the man she ended up marrying instead, and he's inherited the title - so you can expect some major drama when he finally comes to claim it!

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  10. LOL great interview Olivia! You totally rocked it, girl! Watch out Barbara!

    Sara, it's so nice to have you here at Lady Scribes! Great answers! I'm definitely a night person as well and don't even talk to me before 10am. I don't answer because my brain isn't functioning before then.

    I have a question for you, what music if any do you listen to while writing?

    Thanks for joining us today! It was great to get to know you better. Love your covers btw, they are simply gorgeous!

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    1. Thanks so much, Suzie! The covers are courtesy of Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs - I love her stuff, and definitely felt like I got lucky with my covers!

      As for music, I alternate between listening to music that fits the character/story, and more instrumental stuff that doesn't distract me. I made a playlist for the book I'm working on now, but I often just pick one song and listen to it on repeat while I write - it keeps me in the mood without distracting me whenever the song switches. My theme for my current WIP heroine is "She's Always A Woman" by Billy Joel, so that's getting a lot of play right now. Otherwise, oddly, I often listen to the soundtrack from "How To Train Your Dragon" - I love it, and it's upbeat/emotional/vaguely historical enough without being distracting.

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  11. Sara ~ I love, love, love San Francisco. But since you're there... if someone could only spend one day in the city, what would you recommend they do/see?

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Ava! That's a really tough question, particularly since most of my activities involve eating/drinking, which isn't everyone's idea of an active vacation :) But I'd do some combination of:

      - Hang out on the Embarcadero overlooking the harbor and explore the specialty food shops and farmers market at the Ferry Building. If you're interested in Alcatraz, do the boat ride/tour there - it takes ~3hrs and you need to book in advance, but it's really cool.

      - Wander toward downtown, detouring to check out Chinatown

      - If you didn't spend 3hrs doing Alcatraz, check out SFMOMA (Museum of Modern Art). Either before (for lunch) or after (for high tea), hang out at Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens - it's across the street from SFMOMA, and their teas/foodstuffs are incredible (if a bit spendy).

      - In the evening, get a feel for a different side of SF and have dinner at one of the trendy restaurants in the Castro or the Mission, followed by drinks at any of the trendy bars in the city. Bourbon and Branch is a speakeasy-style bar (reservations required - they give you a password to get into the speakeasy) that makes awesome cocktails. Or do a shot of Fernet, the official shot of San Francisco - it's an herbal liquor that tastes like organic cough syrup and fire, but for some reason SF accounts for half the world's consumption of it. Or, if you don't drink, you could have coffee at Four Barrel or Philz or Blue Bottle, or catch a show at the SF Ballet, Opera, or Orchestra.

      Really, I just want to do all of this today - but I'm gonna have to focus instead :) If you're ever in town, let me know!

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  12. Welcome to LadyScribes, Sara! I'd love to hear about your time in India. What was the best thing about living there? The worst?

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    1. Hi Deb - thanks so much for welcoming me! India was fabulous. I spent six months there in 2005 when I was working for Google, so I had a bit of a different experience - I lived in an apartment with several coworkers, and we were extremely well taken care of. We had a driver, a cook, a housekeeper, and a 'house boy' who ran errands - which all felt surprisingly weird and uncomfortable, but it gave me some first-hand experience with having servants that I'm able to fall back on when writing my Regencies!

      I'd say the best was living in a completely foreign (to me) culture. I've traveled a lot, but India's one of the few places where I've gone and realized that I could probably spend my entire life there and never really understand it. The culture is thousands of years old, and even though the speed of change is amazing there right now, the underlying foundation sometimes feels immovable.

      The worst was probably not having freedom to do anything on my own. I couldn't drive, public transport was mostly nonexistent (or disgusting), and while we had drivers, I had to share with other coworkers - which meant nearly any errand had to be coordinated and shared with someone else, and India is so populated and crowded that there was never really any peace. That much group time was hard for me, since I'm a borderline introvert. By the time I got back to the US, I was really dying to get in my car and go anywhere alone!

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    2. It sounds wonderful and frustrating at the same time!

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  13. Hey, I'm a journalist and I also thought that was a great interview. But then Sara is always fabulous! Love the idea about writing longhand so that the computer won't distract. May have to steal that.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Rebecca! Olivia did do a great job, didn't she? I highly recommend longhand - I feel stupid doing it sometimes, since I could write 'faster' on the computer, but it's not faster if I check twitter every three minutes :)

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    2. Thank you, Rebecca! Scott Pelley better watch his back... I'm coming for him. ;D

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  14. I enjoyed the interview and although I haven't read your books yet I do have them on my wish list. I like a hardened spy but had rather have a dissolute rake.
    kelly_mann@hotmail.com

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    1. Kelly, thanks for stopping by! Check your email from five days ago - you won a $20 Amazon or B&N giftcard from the giveaway on my blog last week :) When you get back to me, I'll send it to you right away. Hopefully that gets your weekend off to a good start!

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  15. Hi Sara, I loved the interview and I'm so jealous that you've traveled all over. It's not only the money for me, it's having someone to travel with. I'm just not adventurous enough to travel alone to another country. I love the title Scotsmen Prefer Blondes, and here I always thought it was redheads. :D

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

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    1. Hi Barbara - thanks for the comment! I hope Scotsmen don't just love blondes - I'm a brunette, and I'd still like to find a Scotsman for myself ;)

      I'd rather travel with someone, but I will say that traveling for work made me more comfortable traveling alone. I was super lucky to work for an international company that sent me on business trips a lot - most of my travel outside the US was tacked onto business trips. It definitely helps if you're not paying the airfare!

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  16. Hi Sara! I'm a write on paper (and edit, which is a total pain in the rump) kind of gal as well. Not always, but for whatever reason, I seem to write better that way.
    Great interview, Barbara, er, Olivia. ;}

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    1. Hi Andris! I edit on paper too, and you're right, it is a total pain. But it's way easier to see what I need to change and keep track of everything if I'm marking up my manuscript with a pen. Glad to know I'm not alone in this :)

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    2. I wound up printing out an entire manuscript with the beta notes on it from a critique partner, because it's just easier to "see" when it's on paper, for me. I have terrible handwriting, though- I'd never know what I wrote, hahaha!

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  17. Glitter on the floor, glitter everywhere...standard language, eh?

    ericajmcfarland@gmail.com

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