Camy Tang joins us to talk about her Historical Romance novel, Prelude for a Lord, written under the pen-name Camille Elliot.
Beth: Prelude for a Lord is your first Historical Romance novel. Briefly tell us about this book.
Camy: Most of the men in Lady Alethea Sutherton’s life have failed her in some way, and as a result, she no longer trusts men. With her father and brother both dead, she is living in Bath with her aunt and waiting for her 30th birthday to claim her inheritance and move to Italy in order to master the violin she loves, which women are not allowed to play in England.
However, she is alarmed because she suspects someone wants to steal her violin, left to her by an Italian widow who had been a surrogate mother to her. She is forced to ask for help from Lord Dommick, known for his expertise in music and violins especially, to understand why someone wants this particular violin.
Suffering from waking nightmares from his time spent fighting the French on the Penninsula, Lord Dommick is desperate to disprove the rumors of his madness and reestablish his reputation for the sake of his sister, who has her comeout in London in the spring. He agrees to help Lady Alethea, because if he succeeds, a music patron will assure his sister’s social success.
Beth: Other than time period, what are some of the biggest differences and similarities between writing historical fiction and contemporary? Along the same lines, from the reader’s standpoint, what will they find that’s similar and/or different between your contemporary and historical novels?
Camy: I can’t seem to write anything without both suspense and a little humor, so there are those elements in Prelude for a Lord which readers will recognize from my romantic suspense novels. However, I wrote with a very different “voice” for my debut Regency novel in order to fit the time period. I’ve been reading Regency novels since I was 13 years old, so it was a joy to be able to write in a genre I love so much, and the story just seemed to flow out of me.
Beth: Lady Alethea is a musician in a time when ladies are not to display passion when it comes to the instrument they play. First off, what are some reasons why women were not to display emotion and how did you discover this in your research? Also, what in your research lead you to be able to present such an accurate portrayal of the difficulties that Alethea faced, not only as a musician, but also as a woman?
Camy: One thing that I enjoy about modern-written Regency novels is that they often portray women struggling to rise above the strictures of the society and culture of the times. The emancipation for women movement is still many decades away, so women who want to fight their expected roles in society find themselves isolated and misunderstood.
For women musicians in the Regency era, it was not so much passion as propriety that limited a woman’s choice of musical instrument. The act of lifting your arms to expose your underarm (such as when you play a violin) or the act of lips and mouth in blowing (such as for a woodwind instrument) were considered highly improper and scandalous, especially for gently-bred young ladies. It was like exposing your underwear in public.
On the continent, there were some women who did play those instruments, but they were mostly the orphans or students at specific Italian schools. I created my heroine’s friend, Lady Arkright, as one such orphan from a famous real-life school where the composer Vivaldi taught for many years. Women who were solo performers of instruments like violins were very rare and did not begin to come to England to perform until later in the 1800s.
When I wrote my heroine, I knew I wanted her to be a musician but did not realize the limitations on women musicians until I started doing more in-depth research. There isn’t much on women violinists until the mid-1800s, which is past the time period of the Regency era. But I could imagine my heroine not being willing to accept what was “proper” for her station and instead giving in to her passion for music. It made her scandalous, which was slightly mitigated by her rank (which often covers a multitude of social sins). It was challenging but gratifying to write about a woman who ignores the dictates of society in order to do what she is most passionate about, her music.
Beth: Let’s talk about where it all began. What made you want to become a writer? Was there a book that always stuck with you or any specific authors that inspired you to write?
Camy: I absolutely loved to read, but the one book that made me want to write was Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. After reading that trilogy, I began creating my own world and characters and putting them down on paper. I actually learned to type on a computer in order to write my story on our family’s personal computer, an Apple IIe!
Beth: If you could tell pre-published Camy anything, what would it be?
Camy: Trust in the Lord and follow God’s leading in all your writing, no matter how crazy it might seem.
Beth: Let’s talk about your writing process. What does that look like for you? Favorite writing snacks, foods or beverages? Do you listen to music while you write or need absolute silence? Any quirky writing habits?
Camy: I have a snack closet. It’s the reason I can’t lose weight! I tend to snack a lot while I’m writing because it seems to help me think. I usually plot a book out before I write it, although each book is different and I sometimes have wildly different writing processes depending on the manuscript.
Beth: What’s next for you? Do you see more historical romance books in your future?
Definitely! I have 3 more books planned to follow Prelude for a Lord in the Gentleman’s Quartet series, and I also started a new series, Lady Wynwood series, which I’ll be self-publishing.