Meet Writer Sarah Tormey

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.

Sarah Tormey

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The Journey Begins

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•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?

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•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.

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Peaks

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•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.

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•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?

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•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.
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Valleys

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•Rejection, dejection and doubts can plague any writer at times. How do you deal with the low spots in your writing journey?

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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.”
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The Journey Continues

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•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?

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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!
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Just for Fun

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•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.

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Conclusion

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•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?

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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?
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Learn More About Sarah

Visit her Web site: http://www.sarahtormey.com

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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!

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Dream magnet.

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.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
This entry was posted in Romance Writers of America, RWA Nationals, writer interview, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Meet Writer Sarah Tormey

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Sarah. I’m delighted to have you as my guest.

    I’ve received tremendous support and encouragement from my online writer friends. I spent two years writing in isolation. When I finaled in the 2008 Golden Heart and crawled out of my cave, a whole new world opened up to me, and I’ve been having a blast hanging with my cyber pals ever since.

  2. sarahtormey says:

    Thanks for inviting me to Romance Writers on the Journey! And congrats on being a finalist in the Golden Heart! What a wonderful accomplishment, not to mention great way to meet other authors in the community.

    I look forward to hearing how the online romance writing community has drawn others out of isolation. As writers, it is sometimes quite easy to hide away in our caves.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sarah, I love the revised piece posted on the website. I can’t wait to read the complete revised version of “The Virtuous Courtesan!”

  4. Debbie says:

    Sarah,
    I loved the interview! The writing life sounds so romantic! I love the excerpt on your website. I am eagerly awaiting publication of your first book here in the woods of Vermont.

  5. Kit Donner says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. You have the mental attitude and perseverance to make your dream into a reality. I have often heard that romance authors are the only genre in fiction that really help new authors out. I received a 2 book deal from Kensington last summer and I contacted published authors with lots of questions. All gave generously of their time and knowledge. Everyone is always giving back and I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with new writers. Best of luck, Kit

  6. Becky Petersen says:

    What a wonderful interview! I am looking forward to reading the complete Courtesan and the many new books to come.

  7. Sarah,

    What a great interview! I love the excerpt of “The Virtuous Courtesan”, but you already knew that 🙂

    While kale is definitely not my snack of choice ;), the Nora Roberts quote is the whole reason I started to write in the first place! We’re definitely of a like mind on that one 🙂

    As for support in the community, I have been overwhelmed by how supportive my fellow writers are! Coming from a theater background, I’m used to fierce competition and not-so-supportive attitudes… But I’ve had nothing but wonderful interactions within the writing community. And my critique partners are the most amazing group of gals – I don’t know what I would do without them!

    Happy writing!! 🙂

  8. Kwana says:

    I’m so happy to see my chaptermate Sarah here! What a wonderful interview. I loved the excerpt. My chapter both in person and online has kept me going through the hard times and often given me the fuel I needed to keep going along with my fab critique partners. Love them.

    Best of luck Sarah!

  9. Sarah Tormey says:

    First, thanks to everyone who visited my site to read the revised excerpt.

    Debbie and Becky: Thanks for stopping by!

    Kit: I appreciate your kind, encouraging words. Glad to hear other writers are still helping you as the publication day for The Notorious Bridegroom approaches. What a great review you have posted on your website!

    Jerrica and Kwana: My fellow RWA NYCers, thanks for visiting! I’m glad to hear the NYC chapter has been there for both of you. Nothing helps draw me out of writer isolation like emails from my writer’s loops:) Good luck with your writing!

  10. Tessa Dare says:

    Sarah, congratulations on finishing your revisions and ending up with a manuscript you love! What a great interview. It was so sweet of you to mention my book. I also quit a job to focus on writing before I sold, and while I know that’s not something everyone can afford to do, it really forced me to focus and pursue publication with everything I had. Knowing I was putting my family through financial risk and hardship gave me SO much determination to make it work. That really was what motivated me to not put the book under the bed when the first version started collecting rejections. 🙂 And to start writing a second book before the first sold.

    You have such a great attitude and obvious talent (I love the new prologue – really got my pulse racing!), I expect to hear news of your sale soon!

  11. Lisbeth Eng says:

    Congratulations, Sarah, on following your dream and having the courage to quit the day job!
    Best of luck with your submissions.
    Lis

  12. Sarah Tormey says:

    Tessa, thank you for your encouraging words!

    I firmly believe one of the best things we can do to support each other is to spread the word about books we’ve enjoyed and authors we love. And to that end, I would encourage all romance fans (readers and writers) to pre-order copies of your favorite authors or new authors you are eager to read. I know I’ll be placing an order for the other titles in Tessa Dare’s series and for The Notorious Bridgegroom (love that title) asap!

  13. Lise says:

    Sarah it is great getting to know my RWA/NYC chaptermate a bit better via all these wonderful revelations about your journey. Your anecdotes about writing while having a FT job certainly resonated with me (especially that vacant stare as plot details are zooming around the cerebral track)! You’ve given me a great “zap” of energy and determination to knuckle down – even though I cannot quit my day job, your “stick-to-it-iveness” has inspired me! I’m heading off to your website to read the excerpt – I’ll let you know what I think! Thank you for sharing your journey. The one thing I have to say I have gotten from my on-line community and my chapter-mates is the wealth of knowledge that comes simply from hearing your stories. There is always something important to be learned from others’ journeys – even the potholes!

  14. Erica says:

    Sarah – I was instantly pulled into your story with the excerpt. You have an intriguing rogue in Nathaniel and complicated heroine in Charlotte. I can’t wait to read it all once it is published. The best of luck to you!

  15. Sarah Tormey says:

    Lisbeth: Thanks for stopping by!

    Lis: I love that highly inventive word, “stick-to-it-iveness”! To my mind, all writers no matter where they are on their journey need “stick-to-it-iveness” to create the stories we all love to read. And I wholly agree that one can always learn from another’s journey, sometime especially from the potholes!

    Erica: As always your keen insight into my writing is greatly appreciated as is your friendship.

  16. HarleyBob (Tormey) says:

    A compelling interview, Sarah. Although I may only relate to your young characters from a generational distance, I am so very proud of your creative skills and determination. HarleyBob, your Oregon DIL.

  17. Jessica says:

    The romance community has been an incredible encouragement to me. I’m still amazed at how generous and kind most writers are.
    I love your title and your pic. The stories sound great! 🙂 I hope you get picked up.

    Kale? Apricots? You’re making me jealous. I wish I didn’t despise health food. Seriously. I’d give anything to enjoy a snack like that.

    Congrats on your talk with the agent. That’s pretty cool.

  18. Christine Trent says:

    Sarah, this is *completely* off-topic, but I am intrigued that you have a Burmese cat. I have two Tonkinese (one adult, and one new 4-month old kitten) in addition to two other cats. The Tonk is a cross between a Siamese and a Burmese, and so has the markings of the Siamese and the body structure of a Burmese. They are surprisingly heavy little beasts! Does Puma hang out with you all day while you write? One of my Tonks has his own bed in my writing space so he can watch me. Of course, periodically he walks across the keyboard to ensure I don’t forget that he’s there.

    How fabulous that you have that retreat where you and your husband can get a way from the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn.

    Christine

  19. sarahtormey says:

    HarleyBob: Thanks for reading the interview!

    Jessica: Yes, it is amazing how generous most romance writers are with their time. As for the health food, my husband told me to add that when he read through the first draft of my interview. I tend to snack on steamed kale instead of serving them for dinner because he finally voiced an objection to the plethora of steamed greens threatening to take over his dinner plate each night.

    Christine: Most days Puma sits on my desk under the lamp “sunning” herself and watching me write. There are some times when she will sit on my lap or try to sit on the keyboard. About once a week, she decides that she has had enough of me and disappears into a closet or under the bed to nap for the day as if she needs a break from her busy days as my writing companion.
    It sounds like Puma and Tonks have quite a bit in common:)

  20. Lara Lee says:

    I love your excerpt, Sarah, and am looking forward to seeing your book on the bookstore shelf! It’s great to have a beautiful environment in which to work, and I’m with you, I’m kind of a health food nut — I had to give up the chocolate. I keep raw almonds and veggies close at hand for writing snacks. My cats love to help me write, too, but I have to limit their involvement! 😀

    Great interview, ladies!

  21. Sarah, you have a wonderful positive and optomistic outlook. I fully agree that writing full-time is an amazing experience. Those of us who can do it are truly spoiled.

    You asked what the romance community most means to us. I believe it’s the comradery for me. Just knowing there are others traversing a similar journey to me and persisting helps keep me grounded and determined to keep on writing.

    I’ll be watching for your debut book. Will jump on over to read your excerpt now.

    Thanks Keli and Sarah for another great interview!

  22. Sarah Tormey says:

    Lara: Always nice to find another health food nut and cat lover! I look forward to visiting with you at the Romance Roundtable, another of my favorite blogs.

    Eileen: Thank you for your kind words. And for taking the time to read my except. I look forward to exploring your blog!

  23. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by. I’m sure you enjoyed learning more about Sarah and her writing, just as I did.

    I’ve chosen the winner of the etched steel Dream magnet: Kit Donner.

    Congrats, Kit! I’ll be in touch.

  24. dianneduvall says:

    Hi, Sarah! I enjoyed learning more about you and your journey as a writer. Like you, I’ve received a great deal of support from the romance community: critiques and helpful feedback, commiseration upon the receipt of rejection letters, advice, constant encouragement, congratulations on the ups and sympathy on the downs. I’ve heard that romance writers offer each other more support than writers in any other genre and firmly believe it’s true!

    I hope I’ll see The Virtuous Courtesan on bookstore shelves soon!

    Great interview!

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