Wendy Van Camp is an author and blogger extraordinaire. We met through the Facebook Group, Fantasy Sci-Fi Network, where authors of both genres get together to share publishing information and news of interest to each other, as well as to readers at large. If you are a reader who is interested in either of these genres, you will do well to stop by https://www.facebook.com/FSFNet Fantasy Sci-Fi Network News on a regular basis for updates. Also, please follow us via the #FSFNet hashtag on Twitter.
(1) Her blogs are filled with rich, insightful interviews with an array of wonderful authors and
(2) Her own writing is crisp and polished. Even though she is still laboring to complete her first novel, her short story and novella length works shine with a polished professional style that’s a pleasure to read.
This is how Wendy describes herself:
My name is Wendy Van Camp. I write science fiction, fantasy, memoir, Scifaiku poetry, and dabble in regency romance. My work has appeared in literary and science fiction magazines such as “Shadows Express”, “Quantum Visions”, “Serendipity”, and “Far Horizons”.
I’m married to a wonderful guy and have a furbaby that I spoil. I collect fountain pens, inks and notebooks like other women collect shoes. I love riding all the great bicycle trails we have here in Orange County, California and cruising PCH with the moon roof open in my car on sunny summer days. I’ve been an artisan jeweler for the past 19 years and a certified gemologist since 2011. I have the diploma to prove it!
Wendy, tell us about your recent release, “The Curate’s Brother.”
Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I love all her books, but Persuasion is my favorite. I started to read fanfiction based on Austen’s novels and eventually, ideas for a story of my own developed. “Letters from the Sea” was a Nanowrimo project in 2011 that told the story of how Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot met and proceeded to a storyline where events took a different turn for the characters. I was never happy with the novel and set it aside for a few years while I worked on other projects. However, the first chapter of the book where Edward Wentworth viewed his brother’s romance kept calling to me. Eventually, this became the bud that bloomed into “The Curate’s Brother”.
Can you elaborate? Tell us about the essence of the story, if you will, and a bit about the plot.
The Curate’s Brother is a short novella about the relationship between the two Wentworth brothers as seen through the eyes of EDWARD WENTWORTH. It follows their romantic antics over one summer in 1806. This story could be seen as a prequel to Jane Austen’s famous novel “Persuasion”.
Edward Wentworth lives a quiet, structured life as a curate in the regency era village of Monkford. He spends his days ministering to the sick and downhearted, which he considers his life’s calling. His comfortable life is shaken when his elder brother, COMMANDER FREDERICK WENTWORTH arrives on his doorstep for a visit. Frederick has returned to England after seeing action and commanding his first vessel, a prize ship won in the West Indies. He is awaiting orders and has the hope of commanding a ship of his own by the end of summer. His only goal is to pass the time with the only family he has left in England until his next assignment.
At first Edward is glad to see his brother. They have not spent time with each other for years due to his brother’s naval service. They are opposites in many ways. Frederick is bold and likes to take risks. Edward is shy and over-aware of social implications. When his brother flirts with SALLY MARSHALL, an outgoing beauty that Edward is used to viewing as “a child”, the young curate becomes aware that his viewpoint of Sally is sorely outdated. His peaceful life is full of turmoil as he observes Sally flirting with men at public assemblies and realizes that he does not like it.
Meanwhile, Frederick finds himself a celebrity in Monkford. Word from the London papers paint him as “the Hero of San Domingo”, where he won a commendation for his quick thinking in action. The men want to hear the story of his exploits, but Frederick would rather dance with the ladies. The Commander takes an interest in shy wallflower, ANNE ELLIOT. He pays no heed to Edward’s warnings that the girl is the daughter of a baronet and well above his station. Edward fears that no good will come of a union between his brother and the girl due to her family connections.
At the end of summer, a letter and a package arrive that will change everything for the two brothers. Which way will prevail, the bold action of the commander or the quiet manners of the curate?
What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?
Once I decided to turn that single chapter into a full story, I ended up developing new characters and a romantic plot for Edward. I completed research into the regency period to learn about the culture, common phrases of speech and settings. It was the lack of research that had hampered the original novel. I had been almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy writer before I attempted this project and had not realized that research was a key element in the genre of historical romance.
When I brought the first effort to my critique groups, they all hated it. A few of the men refused to read it because it was a romance and I was told to forget the story. However, one of my critique members told me that she could see a clear plot in this disaster of a draft. She told me, “You are around 10K words short. You need to find those words.” This writer wrote historical romance herself and was more familiar with the tropes and structure of a romance story than the other members of the group. She inspired me to continue. I ended up finding those 10K words. When I brought the new extended version to my critique groups two weeks later, the members loved it and I was told that I had hit the tone of the regency genre on the spot. One month later, it was available on Amazon as my first ebook.
Criticism and rejection of the kind you encountered would have caused many authors to shy away from that project. I admire your courage and tenacity. Now that this novella is published, are you working on anything else?
My other large writing project is a steampunk science fiction trilogy loosely based on characters from Alice in Wonderland. There will be three or four volumes to the tale and a few short stories to support the main novels.
Alice dreams of romance, and when her handsome prince arrives, she follows him through the looking glass into a world of Victorian steam-powered engines, a mad queen, an assassin, and a charming rogue. Will she have the courage to be the heroine that Wonderland needs and find her heart’s desire?
This series is the story that returned me to writing after a long hiatus. The characters grabbed me and would not let go. I am relatively new to the steampunk sub-genre, but it has proven to be great fun with the steam-powered tech and Victorian period customs and dress. The novels are in revision and I hope to release the first volume soon.
It seems as though history even permeates your science fiction. Since you seem to like taking on challenges, and you’re moving from shorter works to something full length, may I ask what is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?
For all writers, the biggest challenge is to get in the chair and start writing. When you are a writer, it means that you write every day. I admit that I do schedule writing days off for myself, particularly when I am on the road working jewelry events, but when I’m home, I write something for either a story or my blog every day. Otherwise you blink and two weeks go by without anything to show for it.
What are you planning on writing in the near future?
I am working on series of sequels to “The Curate’s Brother”. There will be a Regency Christmas story set in Kellynch Hall and I have rewritten “Letters From The Sea” to include not only more details from my period research, but fleshed out the storylines of both the main characters. None of these will be format romances. Instead they will be character driven stories with romantic elements. All of the new regency projects are in revision. I hope to have one ready to publish by the end of this year.
The Write Stuff’s visitors enjoy all sorts of genres, so I’m sure many also hope you’re on track to complete them. A bit about you now. Do you have another job outside of writing?
I am an artisan jeweler and have owned my business for 19 years. I create jewelry from semi-precious stones, sterling silver, copper and handmade art glass. My work has a Celtic theme, but with contemporary style. I sell my jewelry at Highland Games, Science Fiction Conventions, and Concerts. I currently do not have a webstore and frankly I am not sure if I want one. While jewelry is my day job, I am more focused on shifting into being an author these days. I suspect that I will be making jewelry for years to come, but gradually I will be making items for myself and friends instead of it being a business. You can typically find my jewelry in the art show at conventions where I am also with my books.
Describe a typical day.
I start my day in my home studio/office. I check email, do my basic daily marketing for the blog and tend to any questions that have come in via email. Then things shift depending on what I’m working on. If I’m drafting, I take my Alphasmart Neo to the local coffeehouse and draft a good 2K words or more. I don’t come home until I reach my quota. If I’m editing, I will work at home in my office since I use Scrivener for revisions and editing software for copyediting. I like to take a long lunch break to walk the dog or ride my bicycle mid-day and when I return, unless a story is grabbing me, I’ll work on house projects, make jewelry on my bench, or even cook a gourmet meal for dinner. When I’m feeling particular naughty, I’ll even read a book! After dinner, I return to my office and this is when my true creative time is. I create my best stories late at night. I’m not sure why. At least my husband seems to accept my night owl behavior.
What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?
I’ve always been a self-starter and highly creative, even as a small child. My parents wanted me to be an engineer when I was growing up. I spent two years studying engineering in college before I realized that, while I find science fascinating, the life of an engineer was too structured for me. I shifted into television production, writing and eventually into being a metalsmith and jeweler. My schedule is always in flux and I travel due to my work. All of which I love. I’ve been fortunate that my jewelry and writing have been accepted by the public and the sales of which allow me to continue doing what I love. The travel and adventure is what keeps me motivated.
Do you have any pet projects?
I love to sketch and draw zentangles. There is something relaxing about sitting outside with watercolor paper and drawing repetitive shapes to form the completed artwork. My sketches are not worthy of sale, but I enjoy the tactical feeling of pen to paper and it gives me an excuse to use my fountain pens and fancy inks. It is good to turn off all the screens and enjoy the simple things in life.
Zentangles sound like fun. Now, before I share an excerpt from “The Curate’s Brother,” let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, answer these five questions:
What would your best friend tell me about you?
My best friend would tell you I’m a creative workaholic.
The one thing I cannot do without is:
The one thing I would change about my life:
Taken more risks sooner!
My biggest peeve is:
Men that automatically assume that women are “beginners” at anything professional or technical.
The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:
I especially liked your last answer, Wendy, and I want to thank you so much for stopping by.
Here is the excerpt I promised, at the end of which you can find links where to purchase her novella and where to keep in touch with her.
From “The Curate’s Brother”
Stepping out into the soft morning sunshine the following Sunday, Edward found his accustomed place to one side of the doorway of the Monkford church. His Vicar took the other. A mother and father followed by four children were the first to depart. The father stopping for a moment with the Vicar to chat before the family set off to walk home. This was his first day at church since his brother arrived. That Frederick wanted to come to service and see what he did for his living, pleased Edward.
“Good day, Mr. Wentworth.” The voice was soft, feminine and familiar.
“Thank you for the biscuits, Miss Marshall. It was kind of you to bring them to the cottage.”
The girl blushed, the ringlets of her hair giving a pleasant bounce as she dipped her head. Was this the young girls that brought biscuits to his doorstep or help organize the contents of the poor box after services? That memory did not fit the girl standing before him now, wearing an adult frock and a bonnet to protect her complexion. He found the juxtaposition of Sally the child and the adult clothing of the newly come out Miss Marshall to be disconcerting.
Miss Marshall’s attention shifted and her eyes grew wide. Edward noticed his brother, wearing ill-fitting cast offs from the church in place of his naval uniform, had come to join him. He was giving Miss Marshall a casual grin that warred with his feral appraisal that swept over her form. The girl’s eyelashes fluttered and she blushed. Edward felt a wave of discomfort start in his gut and flow to his chest.
“Would you do the honor of introducing me to your fair companion?”
Miss Marshall looked at Edward with expectation and a flash of excitement. He prevented himself from grimacing. “Miss Sally Marshall, may I introduce my brother, Commander Frederick Wentworth of his Majesty’s Royal Navy. Frederick, this is Miss Marshall, the daughter of the village apothecary.” Sally gave a polite curtsy to his brother’s bow and the introduction became complete.
More families streamed through the open double doors of the church, filling the narrow porch. Sally dimpled and said, “Welcome to Monkford, Commander. Will you be staying long with us?’
“As long as the admiralty allows, Miss Marshall. I am awaiting reassignment.”
Miss Marshall’s smile diminished, but she rallied. “Mr. Wentworth, you simply must bring your brother to the assembly next week.”
“You have not mentioned an assembly, Edward.” There was a good natured prodding in Frederick’s voice.
He faced his brother. “I am sure that I would have in time.” Turning back to Sally, “We will both attend, Miss Marshall, you can be certain.”
The girl gave a clap of her gloved hands and this time her winsome smile included both men. “What delightful news. I look forward to telling Papa.” More people were crowding the narrow entry. The girl gave a quick curtsy to the brothers and continued down the steps where her family was waiting.
“What an amiable girl. You have been holding out on me, Edward. I wonder what other delights Monkford will hold.”
“Frederick, Miss Marshall is a respectable girl and the daughter of a friend. If you intend to ruin this girl’s reputation…” A hand from his seafaring brother on his shoulder stopped him.
“I am returning to sea soon enough. I have no intention of starting a complication here. Come, greet your parish. Say no more.” Edward studied his brother’s face and saw no guile there. He relaxed. One after another, the people exited the church, pausing either with himself or with the Vicar across the way.
There did not seem to be a preference by the people of Monkford between the elder Vicar and the Curate. Though Edward was a scant two and twenty years of age, he was as respected as the Vicar. At least, until the baronet’s family from Kellynch Hall exited the church.
Sir Walter Elliot wore a puce frock coat and appeared well groomed, to the point that his coiffure would be the envy of women. His silver headed cane gleamed in the morning light. An elegant woman of similar age followed along with two young women. The first girl had elaborate braids, perfect skin, and a dress of the finest cut and quality. The other was pale, exhibiting fragility. She wore the sprig muslin of an innocent. Sir Walter never stopped to speak to Edward, a mere curate. He would only acknowledge the Vicar when he and his family came to church.
He heard a catch of breath behind him. “Who is that beautiful creature, Edward?”
Edward glanced back to learn who his brother was speaking of and realized he was looking at the baronet’s daughters. “Miss Elliot is the belle of Somersetshire. She is Sir Walter Elliot’s eldest daughter. Reputed to be the heiress of quite a fortune.” There was much speculation about whom Miss Elliot would settle on. Perhaps a man of wealth and title would be able to tempt the golden haired beauty. Sir Walter was in excellent health and while Miss Elliot was quite eligible, neither father nor daughter was in a hurry to find a match.
“No, no, not the fancy one. The one behind her with the brown hair, the lady’s companion? Pretty little thing she is.”
“That is no companion. Miss Anne Elliot is Sir Walter’s second daughter.”
“She is like a pocket sprite, you could just scoop her up and put her in your…”
“Frederick, please. There are people about.”
Across the way, Anne Elliot had noticed his brother’s regard. Her pale face colored a becoming pink and she looked away.
“Such a shy one. It might be fun to draw her out.”
“Frederick, did you not pay heed? She is the daughter of a baronet. Come to your senses man.” While their father had been wealthy enough to buy Frederick’s commission in the navy and to sponsor Edward an education at Cambridge, they were of the merchant class, no match in status for someone of the peerage.
His brother followed the girl’s progress down the steps as Sir Walter led his party to the carriage that waited at the end of the lane. “Brother, you will learn that sometimes risk has its reward.” Anne Elliot entered the carriage and a footman closed the door. His brother turned from the girl and gave Edward his full attention. “Why are you convinced that I have come to cause your doom? Do you think so little of me?”
Edward deflated. “No. I suppose I keep thinking of you as the twelve year old scamp that insisted he was for the sea until father gave in to your desires. I do not know the man that has come back to England. At least, not yet.”
“Fair enough. We need a shakedown cruise to clear the decks between us.” Frederick moved behind Edward to allow more of the parishioners to exit the church. “I hope that we both prove to each other’s satisfaction.”
Book online sales links:
Links to Wendy’s website, blog and online social accounts:
Website/Blog (No Wasted Ink): http://nowastedink.com
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/wendyvancamp