Pamela Sherwood’s debut novel, Waltz With A Stranger, recently hit store shelves. Pamela dropped by the virtual offices to answer a few questions about her first release, so please give her a warm welcome! After the interview, enter for your chance to Waltz with a Stranger!
[Pamela Sherwood] Hello, everyone, and thank you, Julie, for having me at Manga Maniac Café!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you! Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Pamela Sherwood] Historical enthusiast, lifelong reader, & writer of “romance plus”: romance + mystery/adventure/family saga, the stories that made me fall in love with the genre.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Waltz With a Stranger?
[Pamela Sherwood] Set in late Victorian England, Waltz with a Stranger is the story of twin American heiresses–one beautiful and ambitious, one crippled and shy–and the man caught between them. Amy, the ambitious twin, intends to make a brilliant marriage to an English lord, thus improving her “new rich” family’s social status. Aurelia, the shy twin, has come mainly as a companion to her sister. But one night, while hiding in the conservatory during a ball, she meets a handsome stranger who coaxes her out of her shell by asking her to dance. For the first time since the riding accident that scarred and crippled her, Aurelia feels beautiful and desirable. After a year abroad to recover her health, she returns to England–and finds to her shock that her dance partner is now an earl, and engaged to Amy.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Pamela Sherwood] I’ve long been fascinated by the transatlantic marriage market, in which wealthy American heiresses married financially strapped English aristocrats, bringing new money and new vigor to the “ruling class.” Some of these marriages were deeply unhappy, but others developed into enduring love matches.
I’d toyed with the idea of writing such a story, but I’d always assumed that, if I did, there would be one hero and one heroine. When I began plotting out the first chapters, I never expected the hero to walk out of the ballroom, where the ostensible heroine was holding court, wander into the conservatory, and meet the actual heroine dancing by herself in the moonlight. But there they were: James, Aurelia, and Amy–a triangle in the making.
Another important influence was Tennyson’s poem, “The Sisters,” in which a man inadvertently courts identical twins, with tragic results. The story stayed with me, over the years, and after James and the Newbold twins sprang into being, it attached itself to them as though they were made for each other. Three decent people, making a powerful amount of trouble for themselves as they try to reconcile their desires with their sense of honor. The resolution in Waltz with a Stranger is much happier than in Tennyson’s poem, however!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Aurelia?
[Pamela Sherwood] Loyal, resilient, and determined.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Aurelia had a theme song, what would it be?
[Pamela Sherwood] She has one in the novel: “Aura Lea,” a popular love song written in the 1860s. The song gave her her first name. Although if we’re considering a more modern song relevant to her situation, I’d have to go with “This Must Be Love (For I Don’t Feel So Well)” from the musical The Boys from Syracuse–the heroine, Luciana, has just realized to her horror that she’s fallen in love with the man she thinks is her sister’s husband!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing James won’t leave the house without.
[Pamela Sherwood] Other than his clothes? Money–he worked for his living before inheriting an earldom, and he understands better than most gentlemen how important it is never to be caught short of funds.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in James’ pockets?
[Pamela Sherwood] A cigar, a flask, or the address to a brothel!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Aurelia’s greatest regret?
[Pamela Sherwood] Riding too recklessly one certain day three years before the story begins–disaster for her and her poor horse.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Pamela Sherwood] Poetry–sometimes a line or an image sticks in my mind, and then comes out in an unexpected way. Or the poem tells a story that I want to explore further, or wish to approach from a different angle, as with “The Sisters.”
Music. If poetry supplies me with ideas, music provides me with emotional fodder. A song will evoke a particular mood or atmosphere that I want to recapture in my writing.
Random details that my imagination seizes upon. And those can be pretty much anything–an obscure historical fact, a bit of trivia, an unexpected insight that, on tweaking, germinates into a plot.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Pamela Sherwood] Privacy, relative quiet, and an uninterrupted stretch of time.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Pamela Sherwood] In the romance genre: Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne. I love the world of Napoleonic espionage as she portrays it, which is as much John LeCarre as it is Ian Fleming. She doesn’t downplay the grunt work of intelligence gathering, and her characters–male and female–are ferociously competent and vividly drawn.
Out of the romance genre: Book of Days by Deborah Grabien, a contemporary mystery set in the music world. She captures the excitement of live performance, the no less potent thrill of musicians playing and creating together, and the details–glamorous and mundane–of life as part of a touring rock band.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Pamela Sherwood] Just one? I’m not sure that’s possible! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been turned on to reading. That’s what happens when you have a mother who’s a teacher and former children’s librarian! But I remember being enthralled by Beatrix Potter’s books and Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child when I was a kid, so my passion for reading may have started with those.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Pamela Sherwood] Read! Or cook, because that is a creative process too, in which you’re working with concrete objects that don’t shift and morph constantly (unlike writing!)–and if you get it right, the results are delicious!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Pamela Sherwood] My website at pamelasherwood.com
My twitter addy; http://www.twitter.com/pamela_sherwood
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
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