Sarah Tormey writes Regency Historicals. Her “Recipe for Romance: Wit, humor, and a rakish hero determined to risk everything to win the heart of the woman he loves.”
Not long ago, Sarah left her position as a mass merchandise sales representative for Random House in order to write full-time. She’s completed one manuscript, The Virtuous Courtesan, and is hard at work on her second, Courting Scandal.
Sarah, her supportive hubby and her feline writing companion, a Burmese named Puma, make their home in Brooklyn, New York. Sarah enjoys cooking, listening to country music and going horseback riding. She and her husband combine their love of horses and travel, having explored Costa Rica and the French Pyrenees on horseback. She hopes one day to ride through Hyde Park and imagine what the experience would have been like for members of the ton who did so during The Season.
Join me as we learn about Sarah and her writing.
The Journey Begins
•Sarah, you’ve long been a devoted reader of romance, but when did you begin writing it? Was The Virtuous Courtesan your first project?
First, I want to thank you for having me here, and for taking an interest in my journey.
I started seriously writing romance a few years ago. Although, in truth, everything I wrote prior to The Virtuous Courtesan could easily be labeled “false starts” that resembled writing exercises more than actual stories. It wasn’t until March of 2008 when everything began to click. And from that point on, all I wanted to do was get the story in my head down on paper.
By July, when I decided to leave my full-time job, I was desperate to finish The Virtuous Courtesan. On the subway ride to my office each day, I would frantically scribble in one of my notebooks or stare off into space, completely oblivious to the crowded train car, my head filled with questions such as: what would a virtuous twenty-something lady in 1813 London do when her best friend’s wild scheme leads her to pose as a courtesan?
•You took a big step when you left your paid position in order to write full-time. What led you to leave your publishing job, and how has your experience working in the industry impacted your writing?
I loved working in publishing, specifically in sales. It was incredibly rewarding to secure store placement and large orders for the authors I loved to read, to know that I was helping to expand these authors’ audiences and grow their readership. I would look forward to Wednesday mornings when the first day sales for the titles that were released the Tuesday prior would appear in my in-box. My eagerness to find out how many copies consumers purchased on day one, or how many units were sold the first weekend in stores, often sent me rushing to my desk.
However, in my meager spare time when I wasn’t in my office, reading upcoming releases, or traveling to sales calls, I was working on The Virtuous Courtesan. After years of “false starts”, I finally felt as if I was writing something that I loved, a story I could not wait to share with an audience. And thus, I was torn between my exciting day job and my writing.
When I first mentioned the idea of leaving my job to my husband, I never expected his overwhelmingly encouraging response. And then, I floated the idea by my parents, who also thought that focusing on my writing full-time was a brilliant idea. Everyone I spoke to said, if you have the opportunity, why not follow your dreams? Of course, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, but what if I fail?
Now, many months after making the move from full-time sales rep with a rewarding corporate career to full-time aspiring writer, I already feel like a success. I may not have landed an agent or secured a contract yet, but I am so proud of myself for taking the risk, and trying to build a future as a romance author.
Thanks to my years on the other side of the publishing industry, I knew before I made the transition that the romance community was a supportive, encouraging group of writers and readers. I had been to the Romance Writers of America® national conference in the past for my job and witnessed this first hand. Thus, one of the first things I did when I joined RWA® this past fall was to also join my local chapter in New York City and then a few months later, The Beau Monde. Both groups have been very helpful and encouraging as I make my way down this new path that I hope will one day end in publication.
•You’ve completed a manuscript and are hard at work on the second. What was the high point during the writing of The Virtuous Courtesan?
There is one scene in the middle of the story where my hero and heroine are caught in a rather compromising position. This particular scene was an absolute joy to write. I watched the action unfold in my mind and the words simply flowed from my fingertips. It is still without a doubt my favorite scene. And as I was writing it, I thought about how lucky am I that I can sit in front of my computer and write to my heart’s content each day.
•You’ve been busy querying agents. What’s been the most encouraging response you’ve had so far?
In March, I received a response from an agent who had taken the time to read my full manuscript. While she did not offer representation, she did spend about an hour on the phone with me discussing my work. And she agreed to look at a revised draft. Not only was this wonderful news, but her honest feedback and insights about my manuscript proved invaluable. She led me to take new risks and ask different questions when going back through The Virtuous Courtesan. A month later, when I gave my changes one final read, I loved it, every word.
I have heard a number of authors, both published and aspiring, say that a writer should be wary of making changes on account of one person’s feedback. Yet, based on my recent experience, I would say that if an author finds someone, whether it is an agent, critique partner, or even a friend, who drives them to look at their work in a different light, it might be worth at least considering a few changes.
After my conversation with the agent in question, I wrote an entirely new prologue for The Virtuous Courtesan. Looking back at my notes from the conversation, at no point did the agent say that I needed to rewrite or revise the prologue. Instead, the changes were a result of me sitting down with her feedback in the back of mind, and looking at each scene, each chapter and asking myself: do I love this? And, can I make it better?
•I think almost every writer dreams of being able to get away to a special location where she’s free of the distractions of everyday life. For you, that dream is a reality. Please share with us where you go and what a difference your special retreats have made in your writing.
While my husband and I spend most of the year in our apartment in Brooklyn, we also have a home in the Hudson Valley, in the lovely town of Rhinebeck. In a few weeks, we will turn the house over to renters until fall. But until that time this quiet, peaceful home nestled in the forest is my writer’s refuge. Of course, between scenes I should be completing a long list of spring-cleaning projects. Somehow shampooing the carpet does not seem nearly as exciting as what will happen next in my current work-in-progress, Courting Scandal.
•Rejection, dejection and doubts can plague any writer at times. How do you deal with the low spots in your writing journey?
After completing my recent revision of The Virtuous Courtesan and sending it off, I was plagued with doubts. What if the agent hates my changes?
Instead of spending my day glued to my chair watching my email as I waited for the impending rejection, I decided to treat myself to a brief reading vacation. Nothing cheers me up like a good romance novel. Puma (my Burmese cat) and I curled up on the couch with an advanced copy of a forthcoming historical that one of my dear friends from my old job recommended, Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare. I read the entire book start to finish in one day, mesmerized as the story unfolded before me on the page.
When I turned the last page, I thought about Mrs. Dare’s journey to publication. What if Tessa Dare had boxed up her manuscript and placed in under the bed or in a closet for safe keeping when faced with rejection? If she had given up, then I would never have had the opportunity to read Jeremy and Lucy’s story. Thus, when faced with rejection or self-doubt, I hold onto the hope that one day someone will read The Virtuous Courtesan and think: “I’m so glad she did not give up and hide this story away in a box under the bed.”
The Journey Continues
•You’re hard at work on your second manuscript, Courting Scandal? How does writing this story differ from your experience writing the first? What do you enjoy most? Creating the flowing Regency dialogue? Researching the many historical details? Or figuring out those intriguing plot twists that captivate readers?
Lady Amelia Spencer, my heroine in Courting Scandal, was the wild friend in The Virtuous Courtesan, thus I feel I know her quite well. As you can imagine, Lady Amelia can be a bit much to handle at times, but she’s also lots of fun and creates intriguing plot twists with her incessant scheming. And determining the hows and whys of these twists are by far my favorite part of the process!
Just for Fun
•Since you now write full-time, would you give us a sneak peak into your writing space. I’m sure Puma is there purring away, but I’d like to know:
What music do you listen to, or do you need silence?
I love silence. I don’t necessarily need it, seeing as I’ve been known to start scribbling whenever a scene or bit of dialogue pops into my head regardless of whether I’m on a crowded subway car or at home in front of my computer, but I certainly appreciate the peaceful solitude that my new writer’s life allows.
What is in your mug or glass, or is there a can of soda on your coaster?
I always have a glass of water at my side.
Are there any snack foods you can’t resist when you’re creating your stories?
I snack primarily on dried apricots while writing, and sometimes big bowls of steamed greens, such as kale. Not too exciting I know, but I’m a bit of a health food nut.
What are the main resources you keep at your fingertips?
I often have the Oxford English Dictionary website open on my computer just in case I wish to check the date of when a particular word was in use.
Do you have any inspirational quotes or sayings taped to your computer or hanging on your walls?
“I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank one.” ~Nora Roberts
•Is your email program on or off when you’re writing?
It’s usually on, but once I start writing, I forget that it is lurking off to the side.
And have you been known to leave your chair in order to act out scenes you’re writing?
I’ve never acted out scenes, but I did read the entire revised draft of The Virtuous Courtesan aloud to my cat.
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Sarah. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors? What would you like to know?
First, after spending the last month revising The Virtuous Courtesan, I would love to hear your thoughts on the excerpt posted on my website, www.sarahtormey.com.
And second, I would love to learn how the romance community has helped other authors, both aspiring and published, on their journey. Has the online world of romance writers been there to help you when you received an upsetting rejection? Or perhaps, celebrate a first sale or exciting new release?
Learn More About Sarah
Visit her Web site: http://www.sarahtormey.com
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win
Because Sarah has taken serious steps toward pursing her dream of being a published author, I’m giving away an etched steel magnet bearing the word “Dream” in scroll-cut letters.
I’ll choose a winner from those who leave a comment for Sarah on 4/27 or 28 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share) and will post the winner’s name 4/29.
Congratulations to the winner, Kit Donner!
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and April 30. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On May 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)