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 She won the 2009 Romance Writers Association's Golden Heart Contest, for unpublished authors, and finaled again in 2011.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