Hope Ramsay was born in New York and grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina. Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina. Hope earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Buffalo, and has had various jobs working as a Congressional aide, a lobbyist, a public relations consultant, and a meeting planner. She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart, and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes. She has two grown children and a couple of demanding lap cats. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar.
NR: What events led you to want to become a writer?
HR: I was about six years old and in second grade. It was November and I had to write my first ever term paper about the Pilgrims. I have a vivid memory of writing that paper — holding one of those big fat red pencils in my little hand, and writing on that newsprint that comes with the big double lines. I remember going on and on about the trials the poor Pilgrims faced in their long, ocean voyage to the New World. I think I wrote four pages detailing all their adversities. My mother said she didn’t think I needed to write such a long paper, but I was having too much fun to self-edit. When the paper was finally finished, and copied out neatly on better paper, I announced that I was going to be writer when I grew up.
I never waivered from that declaration, although my writer’s road meandered through songwriting, speechwriting, public relations, and marketing before arriving at the destination called Last Chance, South Carolina.
NR: How old were you when you wrote your first book?
HR: I am a big one for setting goals. So in high school and promised myself that I would write my first novel before I reached the age of 30. I managed to achieve this goal just months before reaching my third decade. The book was a traditional fantasy that started with “it was a dark and stormy night.” Not a very good book, but a great achievement. About two months after finishing the novel I gave birth to my first child. The typewriter — yes I wrote the first book on paper with a typewriter — was put away for a number of years, and when I was ready to write again, the typewriter was an anachronism.
NR: I also come from a large extended family, what did you love and not love about spending summers surrounded by your big family?
HR: I was the kid in my generation who came along kind of in-between. My first cousins were way older than I was, and my second cousins were way younger than me. So when I went to South Carolina there were very few young people to hang out with. So even though it was a big family, it didn’t always feel that way to me. There was a noticeable absence of children my age.
Because I had few young playmates, I spent a lot time in the company of adults. That had its good points and bad points. My aunts, uncles, and older cousins taught me things that I don’t think I would have learned if there had been kids around to play with. So when the church ladies gathered to make curtains for my older cousin’s new house, I came along and learned to sew a straight seam on a sewing machine — even though I was only about eight at the time. My uncle, the butcher, let me help make sausage one time — that was an experience, too. And I heard stuff that I probably wasn’t supposed to hear, too. In a lot of ways my character, Haley, is based on that experience. She is often in the company of much older people, and like me, she sometimes stands apart and observes.
NR: Are we going to get to find out more about Dash and his back story? ( I have to admit he is one of my favorite characters in Last Chance.)
HR: Oh bless you! I love him, too. In fact, I have to work hard to make sure he doesn’t steal every scene he’s in. I hear from a lot of readers who’ve fallen in love with Stone Rhodes, but, to be honest, Dash is probably my most favorite male character — ever.
We’ll see more of him in the forthcoming books, and he figures pretty prominently in the third book, Last Chance Beauty Queen, which I’m writing right now. If the Last Chance stories are successful, I’m hoping Forever Romance will be interested in another series and I’d like to give Dash a book of his own.
NR: On Novel Reaction each month we do a books to movie challenge where we read the book and watch the movie and discuss it. Which is your favorite book to movie and why?
HR: To Kill a Mockingbird, is probably my favorite. I just love, love, love this book on so many levels. It’s the quintessential southern story, but more important, when I first read the book as a child I completely identified with Scout, the book’s narrator. In a lot of ways I saw myself as Scout, and Jem as my older brother, Randy. Some of the adventures Jem and Scout get into were completely consistent with the adventures that Randy and I got into during our summers in the South. So To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time keepers.
Usually, when a book reaches this status with me, I loathe the movie adaptation. But in this case, Gregory Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch was so amazing that it probably tops my list of performances by an actor in a movie. Harper Lee wrote the quintessential American hero, who uses words and love instead of weapons and hatred to change the world. Gregory Peck played him to perfection.
Thank you Hope for stopping by and answering our questions. To Kill a Mockingbird is also one of my favorite books-to-movies, I tear up every time I watch when everyone on the balcony stands up in respect as he is leaving the courtroom. While I am looking forward to the rest of siblings stories I am eagerly awaiting Dash’s story. (hint, hint, Forever Romance)