Sara Ramsey Q&A

ARA RAMSEY TALKS ABOUT HER DEBUT NOVEL,
HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, AND WHAT TO EXPECT
NEXT FROM THE MUSES OF MAYFAIR…


Welcome, Sara! And congratulations on the release of your first book!! You’ve set both of your novels, the Golden Heart Award Finalist HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE and the Golden Heart Award Winner
SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, in Regency England. Were Regency novels among the first romances you read?

.
Yes, though the very first romance I read was a western, Brave the Wild Winds by Johanna Lindsey, which I read at age twelve. My family lived in Ukraine for a year while my father worked for an agricultural nonprofit, and I read anything in English that I could get my hands on. As soon as I returned to the US, I devoured every romance my local library carried. Johanna Lindsey’s Regencies were a natural starting point, and from then on, I was hooked on the period.

.

You started The Muses of Mayfair series by writing SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES and then you wrote HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, which has just been published. Time-wise it’s the first book in your The Muses of Mayfair series. Why did you write them “out of order,” so to speak? And when do we get to read SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES?

.
I originally intended for HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE to be the sequel to SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES. However, when SCOTSMEN didn’t get a traditional publishing deal, I put it aside and wrote HEIRESS as the first book in the series. The rationale was that we would try to sell HEIRESS, and then do some rewrites for SCOTSMEN and sell it as part of the same deal. As it turns out, I love having SCOTSMEN as the second book – Amelia, the heroine in SCOTSMEN, plays a key role in HEIRESS that she wouldn’t have been able to play if she were minding her own business as a newlywed. SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES should be out by the end of March 2012.

.
We meet Madeleine in HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, in which her muse calls out to her and she (gasp!) ends up performing on the London stage. Will you tell us a bit about the three friends who are the other Muses of Mayfair?

.
Madeleine is an actress, but at the start of HEIRESS she’s unhappy because she can’t pursue her passion in private – an actress must have an audience, after all! The other muses are able to conceal their identities, even though there’s always a risk they’ll be caught. Madeleine’s cousin, Lady Amelia Staunton, writes Gothic romances under a pseudonym – and there are times in HEIRESS when Madeleine wishes that Amelia had stayed holed up with her characters rather than trying to rewrite Madeleine’s story. Amelia stars in the next book, SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES. The next muse is  Ferguson’s sister Ellie, the widowed marchioness of Folkestone. A painter, her artistic expression has been blocked since her disastrous marriage to her former husband. But his cousin and heir is about to return from a spying mission in India, and Ellie’s encounter with him will unlock everything. They star in THE MARQUESS WHO LOVED ME, which will be out sometime in June. After that comes the story of Miss Prudence Etchingham, a bluestocking with an interest in history. She has been corresponding with other scholars who think she’s a man, but when she gets caught up in an investigation into an ancient artifact of mysterious origin, she’ll find a passion that goes beyond anything she’s read about in the history books. Her book is still untitled, but it should be out by early fall 2012.

.
Who were some of the other stars of the theater at the time Madeleine was on stage? And, in addition
to Shakespeare’s work, what other sort of plays were commonly performed?

.
Sarah Kemble Siddons was the most acclaimed actress of the age; she retired in 1812, the same year that Madeleine made her debut. She was most famous for playing Lady Macbeth, although she played many of Shakespeare’s other heroines to great acclaim. Her family consisted of a number of great actors and actresses, including her brother John Phillip Kemble, and her niece, Fanny Kemble. Dorothea Jordan wasn’t the greatest actress of her generation, but she was one of the most famous, if only because of her long-lasting affair with William, Duke of Clarence, who later became King William IV. She
had ten children with him while acting on the stage, often playing “breeches roles” in which she wore men’s clothing and played a male part. She couldn’t marry the duke and eventually died in poverty, but her children were given titles and/or married well, and her descendents include David Cameron, the current British Prime Minister. There were a lot of plays written every year for the stage. Only a few theatres were allowed to stage drama, but many smaller theatres staged comedies, musicals, and pantomimes. It was also possible to attend opera and ballet performances.

.

What attributes do you share with your protagonists—especially Madeleine and Ferguson—in HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, and Amelia and Malcolm in SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES? Humor? Resilience? Intellect? Feeling disenfranchised?

.
I think all of my books deal with the issue of finding a path that feels true to oneself regardless of society’s expectations. My heroines are all trying to pursue their artistic passions even though they should be thinking of marriage, and my heroes tend to be unconventional and rebellious, too. However, I also feel pretty strongly about honor and loyalty, which makes things interesting for my characters – how can they be true to themselves without betraying those around them? Beyond that, all of my main characters tend to be some combination of smart and funny. They tend to laugh a lot. I guess I feel that no matter how bad things are, there is always something to laugh about, and I think their humor makes them feel more real than if they were dark and brooding all the time. (Although they do their fair share of brooding too!)

.
What compels you to write?

.
I absolutely love to tell stories. I make up stories in my head all the time. I’ll see someone on the street and create a whole back story for them without ever having a conversation. Writing is a better outlet for my storytelling tendencies than making up stories about me. In an effort to keep my friendships, I put my fictions on the page rather than in my relationships. I also think writing is a deep act of connection. Writing lets me connect with readers, makes me feel like my voice has been heard, and gives me a way to show myself to others. It’s also cathartic; even though my characters aren’t autobiographical, I learn more about myself through my writing than anything else.

.
Your writing has been called fun and feisty—is it?

.
Ha! I hope so! It would probably be more accurate to say that my characters tend to be fun and feisty, and their interactions with each other are meant to be entertaining. But my books aren’t entirely light romps – there’s emotional depth in them, too, as the characters learn more about each other and dig deeper into their own souls.
.

Will we see Madeleine and Ferguson again? Are you working on your next book? Do you have anything else being published this year?

.
Madeleine and Ferguson play a supporting role in SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, and may make an appearance in Ferguson’s sister Ellie’s story, THE MARQUESS WHO LOVED ME. SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES is in the final editing stages and will come out in March. I’m working on THE MARQUESS WHO LOVED ME and have written the first part already. It should be out later this year. I have a glimmer of an idea for Prudence, the fourth member of the Muses of Mayfair – if she cooperates (uncharacteristically!), her story will come out in fall 2012.

.
Please recommend a few books to put on my winter reading list.

.
If you read paranormals, the book at the absolute top of my list if Kresley Cole’s Lothaire, which I’ve been looking forward to for years. I predict that it will be the hot paranormal book of the season. In the Regency/historical world, I can’t wait for A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. I’m also looking forward to Anna Randol’s debut novel, A Secret in Her Kiss— it’s set in the Ottoman empire, which is a refreshing change.

.
www.sararamsey.com

.

EXCERPT:

HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, Muses of Mayfair
After the second intermission, there should have been many empty seats as theatre goers went off to other amusements. But according to Madame Legrand, the lead actress was such a success that she kept everyone until the end. The best they could do was stools near the stage. “Madame Guerrier already rivals the best actresses of our time,” she said as she
accepted their money. “You are just in time, too. She is about to kill Claudius.” “She is playing Hamlet himself? Not Ophelia?” Ferguson asked. Madame Legrand nodded, leading them inside. “Strange, I know. But when you see
her, you will wonder how the role could ever be played by another. Even the great Mrs. Siddons’s performances as Hamlet are cast into the shade by her.” That was high praise indeed — Mrs. Siddons was the greatest actress of her generation. His companions snickered. None of them believed that the next star of the stage would be found in Seven Dials. Madame Legrand ushered them to a door near the foot of the stage. The orchestra, which was not blessed with
good instruments or the talent to play them, was mercifully falling silent. As with many other small venues, they
played music under most of the play to skirt around the legal monopoly held by the few theatres allowed to stage
serious drama. After a whispered order from Madame Legrand, a footman picked up four small stools from a
darkened corner and carried them a few feet away from the door, setting them in front of a merchant and his irritated
wife. As they settled into their seats, Ferguson realized he had never heard a theatre so silent. Even Marsham and his
cronies stopped their jokes, shamed into it by a sharp rebuke from the harpy behind them. Most theatres were merely
an excuse for people to congregate, with the audience ignoring the actors on stage—but here, every head in the
house turned in the direction of the “man” who entered from the wings. The actress wore clothing more suited to the previous century, with a well-powdered wig, an elaborate coat, breeches, and high-heeled shoes. Her face was partially obscured by the wig—the disheveled hair of Hamlet in his maddest hour—and the frothy cravat high up under her chin, but there was a definite feminine tilt to her nose. He guessed that they were in for a tedious hour. Her figure was trim and neat, but she lacked the stature to be convincing as a man. But then the actress opened her mouth and he understood why the audience was enthralled. The last act was familiar to him; Hamlet’s lines about the skull of “poor Yorick” would turn to melodrama in the hands of a lesser actor. Yet even though she was small, her voice was rich, warm, and imbued with precisely the right amount of tragedy for the moment. Her French accent was also more convincing than Madame Legrand’s. It was a voice made for whispering naughty desires in the dark, and yet somehow suited to Hamlet’s unraveling sanity. He stared at her as her voice washed over him — then stared more intently as he realized that he was seeing a woman far more clearly than even the fastest society ladies, in their low-cut bodices and dampened chemises, could ever be viewed. She wore padded shoulders to pass for a man, but the flare of her hips and the soft curve of her buttocks in the scandalously tight breeches betrayed her. He looked down, to the slender calves outlined in ivory hose, then to the perfectly trim ankles giving way to diminutive feet within the bejeweled heels. Her damned cravat unfortunately concealed her bosom, but the hint of its swell was there. Even in Hamlet’s madness—especially in his madness— she was a vision.

.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

.

Award-winning Regency romance novelist Sara Ramsey first obsessed over Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden set in England at the turn-of -the-century. She succumbed completely upon reading Johanna Lindsey’s Regency historical novels. She was entranced by this place with history, manners, fashion and mores she loved, but also a time period she couldn’t get enough of. Sara Ramsey was home. She was thirteen. It’s not surprising that when this Anglophile and romance reader decided to write, she followed her heart back in time to Regency England. It may have been unexpected, however, when this Google marketing alumna with a degree from Stanford University in Symbolic Systems gave up her Silicon Valley job to do so. Sara’s first complete manuscript earned her the prestigious Golden Heart Award in the Regency category from the Romance Writers of America and will be published in March 2012 as SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, the second of four Muses of Mayfair novels she has planned. The first, HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, honored as a finalist for the Golden Heart Award in 2011, has just been published, and has been named a barnesandnoble.com Nook First title. Sara was born in Wayne County, Iowa where her family’s roots go back 150 years. She had her first taste of foreign travel when her father accepted a job with an agricultural nonprofit and moved the family to Bila Tserkva, Ukraine for a year. They were the first westerners to visit the town in seventy years. She recalls
their adventure saying “it was pretty crazy, going from a tiny town where everyone knew each other to living in a Soviet-style apartment building in a large city.” Sara next left Iowa for California to attend Stanford and remained in the San Francisco area following graduation. “My entire family lives in Iowa,” she notes. “I’m the only one who left.”
After graduation, she worked at Google in communications and advertising for seven years before electing to write full time. Her work with Google gave her new opportunities for travel, taking her to Hyderabad, India for six months and to Dublin for three. (“Two countries that have obviously had a very complex relationship with Britain.”) Now, with two books written and one in progress, award recognition, and terrific response from early reads, Sara hopes she’s about to achieve her goal—“getting my books in the hands of the most readers at a compensation level that can fund my shoe budget.”

.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

, PHPlist