Wendy Van Camp and I met at the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane a couple of years ago. We are both members of Broad Universe, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres. We’ve read together several times.
Wendy writes science fiction, regency romance, and poetry. Her writing blog “No Wasted Ink” features articles about the craft of writing, poetry, flash fiction, science fiction book reviews, and author interviews. She is the author of the regency romance novelette, The Curate’s Brother, with more novels in the pipeline. Wendy’s short stories and poems have appeared in science fiction magazines such as Quantum Visions, Altered Reality Magazine, Scifaikuest, and Far Horizons. She won an Honorable Mention for one of her short stories at the Writers of the Future Contest in 2017. Wendy collects fountain pens, inks, and notebooks like other women collect shoes. She has been an artisan jeweler for over twenty years.
Did something in the real world inspire The Curate’s Brother?
In many ways, The Curate’s Brother and its forthcoming sequels were inspired by a vacation I took in London over a decade ago. Memories of the beautiful mosaics on Lord Nelson’s grave, the scents and sights of Hyde Park from an afternoon stroll, the cluster of royal graves in Westminster Abbey–and more–brought home to me how much British history has influenced my culture. This combined with my reading of Jane Austen’s novel around that time. Persuasion was not only the first book of hers that I read, but the first romance novel I ever read. I fell in love with this story about second chances, the characters, and the idea of romance as a part of the story. While I consider myself a science fiction and fantasy author, the call to write an Austen-inspired historical became overwhelming.
What is your favorite scene in The Curate’s Brother?
One of the reasons that I love to write is the joy of pairing two distinctly different personalities and watching how they come together. Many times, this has romantic elements, but in The Curate’s Brother, the main pairing is two brothers who come back to an understanding of each other after a long separation caused by war.
One brother is Commander Frederick Wentworth, who has come home to England while he awaits his next assignment. Frederick is declared the “Hero of San Domingo.” He suffers from PTSD, but his risk-taking and bolder personality have not been vanquished. He is ambitious and eager to find his first command.
Frederick arrives on the doorstep of brother number two, Anglican curate Edward Wentworth. Edward is a quiet, educated man. He likes his world to be orderly and peaceful. His calling in life is to help the poor and needy. Edward understands the undercurrents of social convention and works within that system.
So here we have the bold commander who likes to take risks and break the rules and the quiet curate who has trouble overcoming his shyness. Edward remembers his brother as a tween hothead being sent off to become a midshipman in the Navy and is not quite certain of the man that now stands before him. All Frederick wants is to flirt and dance with the ladies until he is recalled to sea.
What was your writing process like as you wrote your book?
Originally, The Curate’s Brother was a single chapter in a novel called Letters From The Sea, a Nanowrimo project from 2011. I struggled with Letters From The Sea, because I did not realize the amount of research needed to properly write a historical novel. I spent the next two years studying the romance genre, Regency England, and the details of battles and events the characters might have experienced as real people.
When I felt that I was ready to tackle the project again, I wanted to write a smaller work as a test of my knowledge. The first chapter of Letters From The Sea was the only one written in Edward Wentworth’s point of view. I removed the chapter from the book and transformed it into a short story.
When I submitted the story to my critique group, they all hated it. A few of the men refused to read my story outright because it was a romance. The others, being science fiction writers, did not enjoy the romantic and historic elements. They wanted spaceships and aliens. However, one of the members told me that she could see a clear plot in the disaster I had submitted. She wrote an outline of the plot she saw and told me, “You are around 10K words short. You need to find those words.” This writer inspired me to continue.
I developed new characters and a romantic plot for Edward. The short story became a novelette. Two weeks later, I brought the extended version to a new critique group, composed of writers of all genres. Everyone loved it. Several people said they thought the story was ready to be published. I was told that I had hit the tone of the Regency genre on the spot. One month later, the novelette was available on Amazon as my first ebook. I was a first-time author, but quickly gained several four and five star reviews that helped to propel my early sales.
Letters From The Sea is still on my to-do list. It will become the third and fourth book of my four-part Regency series.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
I discovered a small science fiction and fantasy author group that pooled their promotional clout. Although my book is a Regency romance, I have enough short stories and book reviews in the science fiction genre that they allowed me to join them. Much to my surprise, five or six members offered to interview me as an author or review The Curate’s Brother, although it was not in their genre. This created a mini-book tour that, along with my scheduled appearances at conventions and art shows, bolstered the sales of my first novel. I still belong to the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network to this day.
What do you have planned next?
Book two of my Regency series–the sequel to my first book–is Christmas in Kellynch. The novel is near completion and should be out by the summer of 2018. Anne Elliot ends her engagement to Commander Frederick Wentworth and he storms out of England and her life. She must face the consequence of bowing to persuasion. Can the gentle attention of Charles Musgrove give her new hope or will her heart remain steadfast to her lost sailor?
Next, I’ll begin work on a new novel based on my original short story, Martian Dancer. In the grand tradition of Robert A Heinlein’s juvenile novels, this coming-of-age story is about a Martian girl who goes to the big city to find fame and fortune but instead discovers something even bigger to dance for.
Would you summarize The Curate’s Brother?
The Curate’s Brother is a novelette 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 novelette could be seen as a prequel to Jane Austen’s 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. 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?
It’s available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.
Please follow Wendy:
Her blog No Wasted Ink: http://nowastedink.com
Her Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/author/wendyvancamp
Fantasy & Science Fiction Network: http://fsfnet.com/