An Interview with Sarah Ladd,
Author of The Headmistress of Rosemere
Life is unexpected. Each day holds new surprises — some exciting, others unwanted. What matters most is how we respond to those trying situations. Sarah E. Ladd reminds us the importance of clinging to God to get us through the mountains and valleys of life in The Headmistress of Rosemere (Thomas Nelson/December 31, 2013/ISBN: 978-1-4016-8836-3/$15.99).
Ladd hopes The Headmistress of Rosemere, book two of The Whispers on the Moors series, will encourage readers to look for help in the right place. “I think a lot of people look within themselves to try to find answers to their problems,” explains Ladd. “But if we look to ourselves for solutions, we will be disappointed. Instead, we should take our problems, cares, and worries to God and lay them at His feet. Pray about them. Ask God to make His plans known. When we do this, amazing things can happen.”
Q: The Headmistress of Rosemere is the second book of a series — do you have a common theme or message throughout the Whispers on the Moors series?
I have always loved the Regency period, and I think that a lot of readers (including myself) have a pre-conceived notion of what a Regency heroine should be like. So I really wanted to challenge that – I wanted to explore what would happen if a typically Regency lady went against traditional societal expectations. So when I approached the book in this series I asked myself, “What would a young woman in the Regency period not do?” And the series was born by answering that single question!
Q: Your main character, Patience, is a 19th-century independent woman who is content focusing on her career as a headmistress. More and more women are choosing this route today and having families later in life. Why do you think this is the case?
I think a lot of this comes back to societal framework and expectations. Patience didn’t necessarily choose the path she was on. When the novel opens she is twenty-five, and at the age an unmarried woman during the Regency was considered a spinster. And the responsibilities for running a school were dropped in her lap when her father died and her brother left town—it was not something she planned to do. She rose to the occasion, however, proving her responsibility and integrity.
Women during the Regency women were not expected to choose any other path for themselves besides having a family. Today, things are so different. Women are encouraged and expected to explore their options. Women are no longer considered spinsters at twenty-five. I think it is because of these shifts in societal expectations that most women are waiting to settle down later in life.
Q: Another character, William, can’t seem to do anything right and keeps making mistakes, leaving him desperate for a way out. How should we respond when nothing seems to be going right and we don’t know where to turn?
I think a lot of people look within themselves to try to find answers to their problems. They ask themselves questions like “what can I do differently?” and “how can I solve this problem?” But if we look to ourselves for solutions, we will be disappointed. Instead, we should take our problems, cares, and worries to God and lay them at His feet. Pray about them. Ask God to make His plans known. When we do this, amazing things can happen.
Even though we may not understand the things that are happening in our lives, we must cling to the fact that everything that happens to us is a part of God’s will for our lives. In order to be the person that God intended us to be, we must go through the valleys to learn to rely on God’s strength.
Q: The weather plays a role in the story too. Can you tell us more about 1816, the year in which the book is set?
The Headmistress of Rosemere, takes place during the winter of 1816, which just happens to be the coldest winter on record for England. That year was called the “year without a summer.” Snow fell as late as May in London, and in the Lake District, snow was still on the highest peaks at the end of July. The excessive precipitation and unseasonably cold temperatures was very unusual – which, of course, makes it an enticing story detail!
In April 1815, the volcano Mount Tambora erupted in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). The force of the blast launched ash, dust and debris into the atmosphere. The impact was so significant that temperatures lowered globally and the sun’s rays were blocked, making the days appear darker. The altered atmospheric conditions affected weather and agriculture worldwide, especially in Canada, northeastern United States, and northern Europe.
In The Headmistress of Rosemere, snow and bitter cold is ever present. The icy, still dreariness provided the perfect backdrop for lots of heated tension!
Q: Along with being a writer, you work in strategic marketing and brand management — how to you juggle both?
In my experience, the key to managing two careers simultaneously comes down to two things: (1) setting clear priorities and (2) time management. At the beginning of each week I set some goals and a schedule. Nothing over the top—just a little something to keep me on task for the week. I find that by knowing up front what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by prevents me from procrastinating or getting overwhelmed.
Q: How important is branding for writers, or even small business owners? And what marketing advice do you have for them?
First, let’s take a minute to define what branding is, because it is so much more than what is on your website or business cards. From my 10+ years in marketing, I define branding as an author’s “reputation” in the marketplace. What are readers saying about you? What comes to mind when an agent or another author hears your name? All the strategies and tactics you employ in your marketing should support this idea, and the key to this is communicating clear and consistent messages through your marketing channels. If you are interested in learning more, I have written an article about branding and marketing plans for authors. You can read it here.
Q: What drew you to the write in the regency period? Do you have a favorite classic writer you look to for inspiration?
I have always been a fan of British Romantic literature. Really, I enjoy the Romantic period in general—the music, the art, etc. I have read the literature and the poetry of this era extensively, and since the Regency Period fell during this time, I would have to say those works had a profound influence on me. If I had to pick one author, however, I would have to say Charlotte Brontë, although Jane Austen is a very close second.
Q: Have you had a chance to visit England to research the setting of your books? If so, what details did you work into the story that you wouldn’t have thought to include before?
When I was in college, I went to England and Scotland for a three-week course in British literature. While there, the class visited several of the major literary attractions and studied them in-depth. Even thought I was not writing at the time, the trip had a profound effect on me, and it was truly a life-changing event.
Q: What can we expect to see from you next?
Right now I am working on the third book in the Whispers on the Moors series, which is titled A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (October 2014). I am very excited about this book and can’t wait to share more details!