Hope Tarr has dreamt about writing romance novels since she was twelve years old. Sadly, earning a Master's Degree in psychology and a Ph.D. in Education really derailed her romance writing--and reading. In 1993, she finally made peace with the truth: she didn't really want to analyze people or teach them. She wanted to write about them!
Accordingly, she put her textbooks aside, shoved her business suits in to the back of her closet, and purchased a small pink paperback entitled HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE AND GET IT PUBLISHED. She's never looked back.
Her first book, A Rogue's Pleasure, debuted in 2000 and was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards for Best First Historical Romance. Two more historicals will be released this year, My Lord Jack in May and Tempting, her first lead title, in September.
Hope's historical romances combine opulent historical detail, sizzling sensuality, and compassion for all creatures great and small.
Suzie Housley: My Lord Jack is a full-length historical novel with many twists and turns as was your first book, A Rogue’s Pleasure. Can you tell me how you came up with the stories for these books?
Hope Tarr: I like to joke with my husband and friends that I have a “rich interior world,” but the truth is I get my ideas or at least the seeds of them, from observing daily life. Life is wacky. Life is wild. So many times there’s been an event I’ve either witnessed or experienced firsthand that has been so incredulous, so cliched, or so downright weird that afterward I’ve thought to myself, “Boy, if I submitted this to my editor in a book proposal, she’d never buy it as believable.”
So many of us today grow up worshipping the god of science, grounded in the belief that life follows a straightforward, linear, predictable path. Frankly I don’t see much evidence to bear this out. Success, for example, more often than not seems to come from taking two steps forward, and then one step back and so forth. Behind just about every “overnight sensation” is a good dozen years of sweat and labor and just keeping the faith.
The plots for my books, in a sense, mirror this way I have of looking at the world, at life, with the exception that, in fiction, I can’t abide loose ends. Real life is messy and unpredictable but in our books, we owe it to readers to tuck in all those frayed edges and loose plot points before we type The End. Fiction, be it romance or mystery or science fiction, is meant to be a vacation from real life, not a replica.
And world view aside, every author’s
process is different. (Talk about twists and turns!). For
me it’s the characters that come to me first, long before the story
structure ever asserts itself. In the case of My Lord Jack, I
was haunted for some time (a year or more) by “Jack”—this sort of earthy
yet ethereal Scotsman who lives alone and by his own code of honor,
which follow the Natural Law far more than any manmade laws. By
the time I sat down to actually “plot” the book, I knew everything about
this special being—his favorite color and his worst fear, the way he
smelled, even the pattern of calluses on his hands and the shape of
Suzie Housley: Hope, do you have any plans to write sequels to any of your novels and, if so, which ones?
Hope Tarr: I’m so happy you asked this because my work in progress, Until I Hold You Again (tentative title) picks up where my first book, A Rogue’s Pleasure, leaves off. That said, Until I Hold You Again isn’t a sequel in the true sense, but it does feature continuing characters from the first book. It’s the love story of Robert Bellamy and Phoebe Tremont, two secondary characters from A Rogue’s Pleasure who kept badgering me for a book of their own until I finally gave in. The story proper takes place six years after A Rogue’s Pleasure with Robert returning to England after a long and ill-fated absence. Believing him to have drowned at sea, Phoebe has just allowed herself to be persuaded to leave off mourning and resume living again (as in agreeing to wed another) when a swarthy and very familiar looking “stranger” turns up in the midst of her engagement ball.
Until I Hold You Again is a story
about opportunities lost and found, regret and renewal, and learning
life’s lessons the hard way—including that hardest lesson of all: learning
to forgive. And both Anthony and Chelsea, the hero and heroine
of A Rogue’s Pleasure, will be making cameo appearances, so readers
will have a chance to see them again as a passionately in love married
Suzie Housley: What was your profession before you became a writer?
Hm, this is both a very easy and a very hard question to answer, but
I’ll try. My educational background includes a Master’s Degree
in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Education, and for a number of years I
worked as a research/program evaluation consultant in the Washington,
DC area. But my childhood dream was always to be a novelist and
a romance novelist in particular. I penned my first romance, an
historical set in Tudor England, between the ages of twelve and thirteen.
Finishing that “book,” all ninety pages of it, felt like an enormous
accomplishment at the time and looking back I suppose it was.
Even though I tucked away my creative writing for a good ten years after
college, I think on some level having completed a manuscript in the
past put the starch in my spine to have at it again only this time successfully
and as an adult.
Suzie Housley: Tell me how you go started in your career as a writer. Who or what influenced you the most in choosing a career in writing?
Hope Tarr: I read my first romance novel, an historical by the late great Victoria Holt, when I was in the sixth grade. I can’t recall now which of her many books that one was—I’ve read them all, some several times. But what I do recall quite clearly was that feeling of being transported. Uplifted. Of turning the pages one after the other even as I forgot that I was reading in the first place. It was magic—and I was hooked.
As a child, I was always more of a bookworm than I was an athlete. Summer vacations were sojourns for sitting out on my parents’ screened in back porch and reading to my heart’s content. I was voracious. On Saturdays year-round, I’d beg my father to drive me to our local library where I’d spend hours prowling the shelves for historicals by Victoria Holt-cum-Jean Plaidy-cum-Phillipa Carr, Anya Seton, Nora Lofts, and Daphne du Maurier. Anything I hadn’t read before constituted “new,” and each book read only fed my appetite for more.
It’s not the mediocre books but
the great books that inspire us to write. I’ve yet to meet an
author who ramped up to write because she’d read a so-so book and thought
she could do as well or better. By the same token, I doubt there
are many authors who didn’t start out as passionate readers. This
love of books--not just of the stories told but of words used in the
telling—seems to be in our blood from the very first.
Suzie Housley: What authors, if any, influenced your desire to write? If not writers, was there anyone to encourage you?
Hope Tarr: There were—and are—so many mentors ranged along the path that listing them all would be a near to impossible task. My parents were always my biggest fans. I remember writing a short story in the fourth grade that had something to do with pirates and they were just beaming with pride that I’d used the word “lad” instead of “boy.” I had a fourth grade English teacher, Mrs. Cahill, who swore I’d be a writer when I grew up.
And then I had a fabulous high school English teacher, Sandra Durfee, for my eleventh and twelfth grade years at St. Paul’s School for Girls in Brooklandville, MD. I’ll never forget our class reading James Joyce’s The Dubliners and how she guided us through uncovering all the subtle metaphors and hidden “epiphanies” at the end of each story. She was also my guidance counselor and both inside and outside of the classroom she always, always encouraged me to pursue my writing. She was and is a fabulous listener, and I always felt heard when I spoke to her of my feelings—important to any young person but especially important for nourishing that sensitive artist’s soul <VBG>
When A Rogue’s Pleasure came out
in 2000, I had one of my first author events at a bookstore local to
her. Sure enough, she turned out with several other faculty and
staff from the school to cheer me on. Signing a copy of A Rogue’s
Pleasure for my high school mentor was a truly special experience.
Suzie Housley: What is the best/worst part of being a writer in the romance genre?
Fiction writing—period—is the very best job in the world (not that I’m
prejudiced <g>), but the downside is that it can become isolating—if
you let it. I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) in 1997
and am currently a member of two local chapters, Washington (DC) Romance
Writers and Virginia Romance Writers. These groups are great resources
for honing not only the craft of writing but also for the professional
socialization of the writer because writing is, after all, a business—your
business. And above all, these groups are just so much fun.
The friendships I’ve made since 1997 are like little treasures you hold
on to in good times and bad.
Suzie Housley: When did you first start writing? Tell me about some of your trials and tribulations on the road to being published?
Hope Tarr: As I said, I was working as a research/evaluation consultant and though I was good at what I did, I experienced a growing sense of restlessness. I didn’t exactly hate my job but I didn’t exactly love it, either. The Washington, DC area is a peculiar place with a professional culture and value system that rewards those who work 24/7. In New York City, for example, people work and work hard but then they play hard, too, whereas in DC people work and work and then they work some more. And I was one of them.
It was October 1993 and I’d just completed a particularly grueling project and, amazingly, I took a whole week off to regroup before ramping up for the next work marathon. But the problem with never having any leisure time is that, once you do, you’ve no idea how to spend it, what to do. For the workaholic, the temptation to structure “free” time in to a series of never-ending tasks is enormous.
Fortunately on this occasion, I resisted and instead took myself out of the house to wander around a shopping mall in the middle of the afternoon. Not unsurprisingly, I ended up in the bookstore. In the reference section, I spied a small pink paperback entitled, How to Write a Romance and Get it Published and somehow just seeing those words on the book’s spine sent all those “forgotten” hopes and dreams about being a writer rushing back to me. I bought it, read it from cover to cover, and a few months later launched my first adult attempt at a novel, a Regency set historical.
I would love to be able to say that that book became A Rogue’s Pleasure, my 2000 debut, but of course that would be a lie. First novels are notoriously horrible and mine was no exception. But the important thing was that, though it took me three years, I did finish that book. By the time it was completed, I’d made just about every mistake possible and, in the process, learned so much about what **not** to do that when I started on the manuscript that was to become A Rogue’s Pleasure, I couldn’t help but get some things right. <G> In the interim, I joined RWA, met my wonderful agent Jenny Bent at a WRW sponsored writers’ retreat, and finished book #2. In May 1999, we sold A Rogue’s Pleasure to Berkley/Jove and the book, which came out in November 2000, launched Jove’s new Seduction romance line.
This year, I have two more books
coming out, both with Berkley/Jove. My Lord Jack in May is the
fourth book to come out under Jove’s new Highland Fling line of Scottish
romances. And then coming in September is Tempting, my first lead
title and a Victorian set My Fair Lady story with a very special twist.
I have excerpts from all of my books posted online at www.hopetarr.com
so if you’re reading this interview, please take this as your invitation
to visit me online and read the first chapters “on the house” so to
Suzie Housley: What do you want your readers to take away with them after they have finished reading one of your books?
Hope Tarr: Hope—and not just because it happens to be my first name. Life is wacky, life is wild, and yes, life can be hard, too. And at times unfair. And, as the tragedies of September 11th attest, sometimes senselessly cruel. Mind numbingly tragic.
And yet there is goodness, too, and beauty and the cleansing that come from standing up to the behemoth and beating it once and for all. For me, the timeless essence of the romance novel, the hopeful message these stories maintain, is of a man and a woman who confront and ultimately conquer a tremendous obstacle, first as individuals and ultimately as a couple. And emerge the stronger for it.
Love, of course, is the impetus for this growth, this reaching for wholeness. Love is what gives the power to heal and the courage to do whether that “doing” involves rescuing a baby from the burning building or the bruised and battered child within.
It’s often said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Personally I find myself fascinated, awed really, by the ability of some persons to not just survive a traumatic event but ultimately to flourish. Traumatic events that occur in childhood pack a double punch for at no other time in our lives are we so vulnerable, so innocent, and so raw. To rise up from out of the ashes of something horrible and undoable that happened when we were young, and then to build something good and clean and new requires a tremendous courage, a faith that not everyone possesses in equal measure.
But the hero and heroine of a romance novel are, above all, survivors. And there’s something inherently heroic about a survivor. In My Lord Jack, my hero Jack Campbell must cope with, and ultimately overcome, the trauma of having witnessed his mother’s murder. Likewise, my heroine, Claudia Valemont must confront her own demons as well, not only the terrors of Revolutionary France but also her past life as the mistress of an abusive aristocrat.
In Tempting, my September release,
Simon Belleville’s frosty façade owes to guilt at having failed
to protect his sister from a terrible attack. Small wonder, then,
that he keeps the world, and everyone in it, at arms’ length—until he
crosses paths with a certain lovely waif too badly in need of protecting
to be ignored.
Suzie Housley: Is there anything you would like us to know that we have not discussed?
Hope Tarr: Well, er… YES! There is one accomplishment of which I’m very proud and which certainly comes in as a very close second to the pride and joy I derive from my books. I am a lifelong animal lover. More than five years ago, working in concert with The Prevent a Litter Coalition (www.palc.org) I launched a national grassroots campaign for the U.S. Postal Service to issue a commemorative postage stamp to increase Americans’ awareness of the pet overpopulation problem and to urge them to “Neuter/Spay” their pets. Nearly 200,000 Americans sent their letters to the Postal Service on behalf of the proposal, including more than fifty politicians from both the major parties, celebrities, veterinarians, breeders, and plain old animal lovers.
I’m thrilled to announce that not
one but TWO “Neuter/Spay” stamps will go on sale nationwide this September
2002 and remain on sale for a full year. Even better, printed
on the stamp selvage will be a national Call to Action: a toll-free
bilingual telephone number (1-888-PETS911) and website (www.pets911.com),
both maintained by Pets 911 at no cost to the public and which link
to a national directory of spay/neuter resources. Finding spay/neuter
services in one’s own community becomes as easy as typing in your zip
Suzie Housley: How can fans contact you?
Hope Tarr: Oh goody, I get to plug my new website, www.hopetarr.com. <VBG> My friend and colleague, Sara Khurody-Downs, designed it, and I’m just so proud of the wonderful work she’s produced. In addition to the site’s fresh new look, we’ve added a number of new features, including a special link to Amazon.com so that anyone who wishes to buy my books—and support my volunteer work for the animals--can do so in one easy step. When you purchase My Lord Jack or A Rogue's Pleasure through Amazon.com by directly linking from the book images on the “Purchase” link page, 15% of the purchase price of these books (or 5% of any other Amazon.com purchases) will go to fund my volunteer work with the non-profit organization, Prevent a Litter Coalition, (PaLC), Inc.
And coming soon will be my new online newsletter hosted through yahoo groups. Rarely more than one message a month (promise!) but a great medium for keeping everyone abreast of my book signings and other scheduled appearances, latest releases, and just plain ole’ good news.
You also can also write to me at PO Box 7666, Fredericksburg, VA 22404.
Thank you all—and happy reading!
Chelsea Bellamy finds herself facing a troublesome dilemma when she receives a ransom note informing her that her brother Robert has been kidnapped. She knows she must do whatever it takes to raise the 500 pounds required to gain his freedom. She asks the assistance of an old family friend. He agrees to provide her the much-needed funds in exchange for a higher price - her virtue. Knowing she will not compromise herself, she searches for another means to raise the money. She asks her trusted servant Jack, who was a Highwayman before becoming her servant, to teach her the tricks of the trade so that she can become a prosperous Highwayman. Her first few hold ups are met with surprisingly little resistance until she unexpectedly robs Viscount Montrose and his fiancée Olivia. She knows by the look in the Viscounts tantalizing eyes he is not so easily duped; he can easily see through her cleverly made up disguise.
Anthony Grenville, Viscount Montrose, has reached a point in his life where he finds himself bored. When a 'one-eyed' Highwayman abruptly robs his carriage, he welcomes the excitement. Upon closer examination, he learns the Highwayman is not the person "he" pretends to portray. Reluctantly, his 'Lady Robin' forces him to part with his valuables and escapes into the darkness of the night. He is determined to located the mysterious robber and uncover her secrets. In her, he sees a spark that will not be easily contained.
In Hope Tarr's debut novel, she has revealed a talent that immediately captures her reader's attention. Every page is filled with speculator dialogue that cries out to be savored and enjoyed. I predict this debut novel is the fuel needed to quickly explode her name into becoming a permanent fixture in the romance world.