Sara Ramsey is a local Romance Writers of America chaptermate of mine, so I've been conversant with her career trajectory for several years now. She's a past Golden Heart winner (two of her books have finaled), and I'm really excited that these books are now being released into the wild as The Muses of Mayfair Series (with two more to come after her debut).
WITHOUT A CAUSE is a Nook First pick and will be available
exclusively on the Nook starting January 23. It will release in print and on
all other ebook platforms on February 23. Sara will give away an ebook copy
(any format) to a random commenter on today’s post, and will be stopping by
throughout the day to answer questions.
One title to change his life…
A disgraced son with a
dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile –
until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of
insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone.
Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he
won’t ruin her, even if he desperately wants the passionate woman
trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.
One chance to break the rules…
Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one
glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds
all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s
nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even
setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the
pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.
One season to fall in love…
stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are
determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites
their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams
of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?
HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE is set in 1812. Is there a particular reason you chose that year? Any key
historical event you wanted to include (or avoid!)?
Sarah Siddons, one of the most beloved actresses of her day,
retired in 1812. She doesn’t appear in my book, but my heroine is an actress,
so 1812 is a subtle homage to Mrs. Siddons. Also, the next books in my series
involve bits about the East India Company, the Corn Laws, and Waterloo, so it
made sense to kick off the series earlier in the decade. And I want to avoid
the “year without a summer” in 1816 and the mourning for Princess Charlotte in
1817, since it sounds positively miserable!
How did you become interested in this time
period? What do you love about it?
I fell in love with
the Regency through the romance novels I started reading (way too young, cough
cough) – I started with Westerns and medievals and sheikhs and pirates, but I
always found my way back to Regencies. I think the Regency is so beloved
because it yields all sorts of awesome fantasies, but it’s also more accessible
than earlier time periods and less industrialized than later ones. The clothes
are way more appealing than Georgian powdered wigs or Victorian hoopskirts. The
parties are fabulous, the houses have more privacy than in past centuries, and
the plumbing is on the verge of getting better (yielding heroes whom you can
believe actually bathe every day ;)
The Regency is
also interesting to me because I think it mirrors 21st century
America – wars fought on foreign soils without a lot of sacrifice (from a
rationing sense) on the homefront; extreme divides between rich and poor; and
odd, uncomfortable shifts between vast excess and prudishness. So I think books
set in the Regency give authors and readers a chance to think about modern life
with a glossy bit of distance for those who just want the fantasy.
What do you like least about this period?
Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?
I don’t love the
actual position of women in Regency society. If I lost my entire identity and
all my rights upon marriage, I would either never marry, or find a tottering
old (and titled, of course!) dude and hope for a quick end to him. But current
romance novels tend toward heroines who aren’t meek, well-behaved, obedient
wives. I’m sure strong, rebellious women existed, but I’m also guessing that –
like all the dukes we’ve created – they didn’t exist in the droves that
populate Romancelandia. I try to have my characters behave appropriately for
the period, but I’ll happily admit that my heroines are probably more empowered
than they might have been in 1812.
Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If
ignored the assassination of Spencer Perceval, the prime minister, on May 11,
1812. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in a Regency romance, and I
didn’t know it had happened until I was checking the timeline for the book, so
I decided most readers wouldn’t notice if I didn’t acknowledge it. If nothing
else, we should all just pretend that my hero and heroine don’t care about
current events J
Also, I’m sure there are times when Ferguson should be wearing
pantaloons instead of breeches. But let’s face it – pantaloons just don’t sound
sexy. I’d rather get flak over his pants from the people who know than have
modern readers incorrectly picture him in some sort of frilly bloomers!
Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to
before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find at least
one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*
I found a potential
gaff just this week. My hero’s father and brother die in a murder/suicide,
which the family covered up as a carriage accident. But I didn’t know that
suicide was such a legal issue during the Regency – I knew it was a scandal,
but I didn’t know that a suicide would be punished postmortem by confiscation
of property. Luckily the brother was the suicide and wouldn’t have had much
left to confiscate, but if I had known that earlier, I might have referrenced
Tell us a little about your hero. Something
fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss. Or maybe what
Heyer heroine you could see him falling for?
out as a redhead, but after two different beta readers said they were seeing
Carrot Top rather than Prince Harry, I yielded to public opinion and made him a
dark auburn. And he’s definitely a schemer – he plots to get what he wants, and
since he wants my heroine, you can be sure he’ll contrive some great schemes to
win her. He can laugh at almost anything, so if a plan fails, don’t expect him
to brood for long.
Did you have to do any major research for this
book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t
I knew next to
nothing about British theatre, but my heroine, Madeleine, is an actress, so I
had to do some research there. Madeleine plays Hamlet, and even though everyone
knows she’s a woman, the wig and costuming help to protect her real identity.
The most fascinating bit I learned about the theatre was how often women during
the Regency played “breeches roles” – either roles written intentionally for
women dressed as men, or originally male roles given to a woman. Sarah Siddons
was the first woman to play Hamlet in the late 1700s, but these cross-dressing
roles continued throughout the Regency. I had already planned to have Madeleine
cross-dress at the theatre, but I was extremely relieved when my research
supported my plans.
I was amused to see that you and I share an
obsession with Robin McKinley’s wonderful Damar books (The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword), and that most of your favorites are also on my
list of keepers. Would you like to talk a little about what
makes these particular kind of heroines your favorites?
I’m really drawn to all of McKinley’s heroines because they have
a sort of stiff upper lip – like real people, they get
worried/terrified/overwhelmed, but they just keep going and muddle their way
through with intuition rather than letting all the things they don’t know
petrify them. A lot of my life has felt like that – I may not be fighting
dragons or demon sorcerors, but moving from Iowa to California at eighteen and
pursuing writing were both leaps into the great unknown that I was completely
unprepared for. So I love stories about normal, unprepared women doing
extraordinary things for themselves and their friends.
Care to share a bit about your writing
process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean
up as you go?
process is really, really ugly. I’m theoretically a plotter, but I’ll get
halfway into the book and pants my way into a completely different ending,
which requires multiple drafts to sort out. I tend to do the equivalent of 1.5
rough drafts, since I have to rewrite so much of the beginning to match the new
ending; then I go through a polish draft and a proofreading draft. I’m trying
to avoid scrapping every beginning, but I haven’t been successful yet – if
anyone has any tips, I’d love to hear them!
The Golden Heart. I have to ask about it.
Anything you want to share about your experience (I blathered about mine on my
Regency Golden Heart in 2009 and finaling in 2011 were an absolutely amazing experiences,
and I can’t speak highly enough about the opportunities and confidence it gave
me. It sped up the process of signing with an agent, and the week of Nationals
felt like an extended prom – one where I was the belle of the ball, not hanging
out on the bleachers with my friends (my school was tiny, and prom was in the
gym...so the Golden Heart beats it by a mile).
The best part of
the Golden Heart, though, was meeting so many other great writers from all over
the US, Canada, and Australia. The 2009 group has stayed very active, starting
the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog, and the 2011 group has also stayed in
touch. This was possibly the best way to meet authors I wouldn’t have otherwise
gotten to know, and since they’re all great writers with bright futures ahead,
I feel really, really lucky to be involved with them.
What are you planning to work on next?
I’m finishing up
edits on SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, which is the follow-up to HEIRESS WITHOUT A
CAUSE – it should be out in March. The series focuses on a secret club of
female artists who help each other pursue their artistic passions: HEIRESS
features an actress, SCOTSMEN has an author, and the third book, THE MARQUESS
WHO LOVED ME, involves a painter. If the audience loves these books, I’ve got
three more in the plotting phases; if not, I’ll cry into my wineglass for a day
or two, and then finish the super-secret YA project I keep coming back to
before starting a new Regency series. 2012 is going to be a busy year, and I’m
really excited to get my books out to readers!
Don't forget that Sara is giving away a copy and that she'll be stopping by to answer questions!