Wendy Van Camp: Writing a Persuasion Prequel

The Curate's Brother, by Wendy Van Camp

The Curate’s Brother, by Wendy Van Camp


Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, and Persuasion is one of my favorite novels, penned at the peak of her artistry. When I found out that author Wendy Van Camp had written a prequel, The Curate’s Brother, I was full of questions. Happily, she agreed to dialogue with me about the story and to share the results. Join me in welcoming Wendy van Camp.


Silverberry: What drew you to write about Edward Wentworth and from his point of view?


I have read every one of Jane Austen’s novels.  Once I finished Austen’s novels, I started to read fanfiction based on her books. My favorites of these were the ones based on Persuasion.  Eventually, merely reading fanfiction was not enough and ideas for my own Austen variation novel began to form.  The book was entitled Letters From The Sea and was written with alternating points of views from several characters from Persuasion.  The characters of Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot were the most featured throughout the book, but the first chapter happened to be from Edward Wentworth’s point of view.  I ended up not liking the plot of the book and I shelved Letters From The Sea for two years.  Yet that first chapter still called to me.  There was something about Edward that I liked, although I could not put my finger on it exactly.


I decided to make that chapter into a stand-alone short story and the first draft of The Curate’s Brother was born.  At first it was around 4500 words in length and it featured Frederick Wentworth’s summer romance with Anne Elliot, but told through the eyes of Edward, his brother.  My critique group hated it.  However, one of the members, who was a romance writer, had gone through the story and written down all the plot points. She pointed out to me that I did have a solid plot under all the mess, but thought that the story was too short.  I looked over her suggestions and liked many of them, although I rejected the idea of putting the tale into Frederick’s POV.  I decided to start over and rewrite the story, focusing more on Edward Wentworth and his life and pulling back from Frederick to create a better balance.  Instead of a formula romance, I turned the tale into a character study of a shy Anglican curate and his bolder sailor brother.  I wrote the entire new draft in five days. I felt that the longer rewrite, now 14 thousand words long, was a stronger and more interesting tale.  When I returned to my critique groups with the rewrite, the reviews were very positive.  I did a final polish on the story and the result is what you see on Amazon today.


Silverberry: I wonder if you felt trepidation venturing into Austen’s world.


I did not feel trepidation because there are many authors writing Austen Variations today. I am not the first, nor the last author that will be writing stories based on these classic novels.  While it is true that most choose to base their stories on Pride and Prejudice, there are still enough Persuasion based stories that I am not alone.  I am not Jane Austen and in no way do I pretend that I am Jane Austen. My stories are crafted in my own writing voice and written with the conventions that a modern audience expects.  Still, I do my best to tap into the regency time period and bring out the little details of the day into the story.



Silverberry: What do you think makes the original, Persuasion, such a timeless tale?


Persuasion is part of the invention of the romantic writing troupe, Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl Back, that is now commonplace in modern stories. In a way, her novels were ahead of their time and set the stage for modern romance as we know it.  Women characters manipulating behind the scenes and having strong opinions was a new and fresh concept in Austen’s time.  Her characterization is so detailed and well rounded that people can not help but be drawn in even in our time, despite the changes in society that have occurred in the past 200 years.


Silverberry: What kind of research did you do to capture the setting and times?


I am a certified gemologist and have training in antique appraisal.  Part of the focus of this training was the Regency and Victoria eras.  This includes identifying jewelry and clothing of these eras to ascertain if they are genuine or reproductions for insurance purposes and appraisal of worth.


Savvy Authors is an online writer’s guild where I take workshops tailored to the needs of writers. There are always courses about the Regency and Victorian periods, but I’ve taken workshops about how to write combat, write body language, and other relevant topics for authors. These courses are worth the small fee since it saves you weeks of searching the net for the little details that help flesh out your historical writing.  I keep my membership there current.


Los Angeles is home to several major museums of world-class quality.  I visit these museums to view clothing and other items of the period to gain sensory information.  The portrait of the famous regency era actress Sarah Siddons, at the Huntington Library, is particularly stunning.


I have collected a shelf of reference books that were recommended to me by various workshop instructors.  They contain information about the peerage, clothing styles, carriages, furniture and more.  Most of my books are instructional texts whose information is not freely on the Internet.


I do use Google in my research, but I stay away from Wikipedia.  During one of my workshops about how to research for books, it was pointed out that the information found there is not close to the source material.  A better resource online is Project Gutenberg.  They have recently scanned and uploaded magazines and newspapers from the Victorian era that are first hand accounts of the time period.  It is all offered free to the public!


Silverberry: If it doesn’t spoil anything, tell us how you see Anne Elliot in your story.


There are two summer romances going on in The Curate’s Brother.  One is between Edward Wentworth and a young flirtatious woman named Sally Marshall.  The other is between Frederick Wentworth and wallflower Anne Elliot.  I tried to paint Anne as close to how Jane Austen described her at the beginning of her story arc.  She is painfully shy and is not treated with much self worth by her family.  She could easily be mistaken for a hired companion instead of being a daughter of the house.  When Frederick arrives, he brings out the best in Anne and she blooms noticeably to those that know her.  She is young and innocent and this is her first experience with being in love.


Purchase The Curate’s Brother on Amazon:


The Curate’s Brother: http://www.amazon.com/Curates-Brother-Austen-Variation-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B00OU1V45A



Follow Wendy Van Camp:


Blog: http://nowastedink.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/wvancamp

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/indigoskye

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nowastedink

Google+: google.com/+WendyVanCamp

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/wendyvancamp


About Wendy Van Camp:


Wendy Van Camp is the author behind No Wasted Ink, a writing blog. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband and an Australian shepherd. Wendy enjoys travel, bicycling, gourmet cooking, and gemology. She is an avid science fiction and fantasy genre reader. Currently, Wendy has published two short memoirs in literary magazines, a scifaiku poem, and a short regency romance on AMAZON.


Wendy Van Camp, Author of The Curate's Brother

Wendy Van Camp, Author of The Curate’s Brother