Jen: Today we’re excited to welcome Pamela Sherwood back to Romancing the Book. Pamela, will you share a short bio with us?
Pamela: Pamela Sherwood grew up in a family of teachers and taught college-level literature and writing courses for several years before turning to writing full time. She holds a doctorate in English literature, specializing in the Romantic and Victorian periods, eras that continue to fascinate her and provide her with countless opportunities for virtual time travel. She lives in Southern California where she continues to write the kind of books she loves to read.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Pamela: My new release, which came out on October 1, is A Song at Twilight, a historical romance set in late Victorian England, starring Sophie Tresilian, a rising star of the concert and opera stage, and Robin Pendarvis, the man she loved and lost four years before the story begins. (I love music and always wanted to write a book about a professional singer in the Victorian music world, and Sophie was a natural choice for the role as I’d established her as musically talented from her first appearance.) Robin and Sophie were supporting characters in my first novel, Waltz with a Stranger, and their own story developed fairly organically from the situation I put them in there. Sophie, then only seventeen, was seriously smitten with Robin, who had some major secrets that prompted him to keep her at arm’s length. But they couldn’t help falling in love, and in spite of various complications, they began to plan a future–only to have their hopes shattered when Robin’s secrets were exposed at the worst possible moment. When they meet again, they’re older, sadder, and wiser–and thus more interesting, to me!– but they’re also stronger and more determined, which they’d have to be if they’re going to achieve the happy ending they were denied the first time around.
Late in England’s Victorian age, the world is changing–new freedoms, new ideas, and perhaps a chance for an old love to be new again…
A love too strong to let go …
Aspiring singer Sophie Tresilian had the world at her feet–fame, fortune, and true love–until the man of her dreams broke her heart. Now she’s the toast of Europe, desired by countless men but unwilling to commit to any of them. Then Robin Pendarvis walks back into her life …
Four years ago, Robin had hoped to make Sophie his bride, but secrets from his past forced him to let her go. Seeing her again revives all the old pain–and all the old passion. It might be against every rule, but somehow, some way, he will bring them together again…
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Pamela: A bit of both, actually. I start out plotting, because I find I need that general framework at the beginning. It’s like having a map when you go on a long trip. You need to know where you start, where you finish, and which places you want to stop along the way. But once I have the basic itinerary and I’m on the right path, I find I can make some detours. Especially if the detours lead to someplace more interesting than the destination I already planned. If what’s happening on the page as I write excites me more than what I put down in the outline, then I go with what’s on the page. It’s the more organic part of the process–you don’t want to get so locked in to one way of telling the story that you close yourself off to ways that might be better.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Pamela: There’s really only one surefire way to remember those. Grab a pen and write them down! Inspiration doesn’t always conform to schedule, so I’ve stayed up late or gotten up very early to accommodate it. Most recently, I woke up with song lyrics in my head–for a contemporary I’m co-writing–so I got up and immediately set them down on paper so I wouldn’t lose them. By the time I was finished, I was too wired to go back to sleep so I resigned myself to a very early start that day, and went about for some hours feeling satisfied and rather virtuous! Alternatively, without pen, paper, or computer in sight, I’ve shared unexpected ideas with friends–because sometimes they’ll remember when I forget!
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Pamela: Much of my research consisted of immersing myself in the music that was popular at the time of A Song at Twilight. And it amazed me to find how varied it all was. From classical operas by Verdi, Wagner, and the ever-popular Mozart, to the phenomenally popular Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, to music-hall ditties, to unabashedly sentimental Victorian parlor songs–the kind you imagine a family singing around the piano at night. The title of the book even comes from the chorus of one of the latter, “Love’s Old Sweet Song.” And I did my usual reading-up on the late Victorian era, and researched the careers of famous singers like Jenny Lind and Nellie Melba, so I could plot a believable professional arc for Sophie, who’s following in their footsteps.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Pamela: I’m a voracious reader, who will tackle just about any genre except horror. But I’m especially fond of historical fiction, mysteries, fantasy, and romance. So my favorite authors include Dorothy Dunnett, Winston Graham, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Chadwick, Mary Jo Putney, Deborah Grabien, Deborah Crombie, Teresa Grant, Elizabeth Peters, Lois McMaster Bujold, Alan Gordon, Deanna Raybourn, and Ellis Peters. I just finished Naomi Novik’s Blood of Tyrants, and I’m currently working on Anna Lee Huber’s The Anatomist’s Wife, the first in her Lady Darby mystery series.
Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Pamela: Since I write mainly historical romances, I try to stick with names I know are true to the period. You can find many of those in the literature and history of the times. Classical, Biblical, and Shakespearean names have enduring appeal, for example. And it was likewise fashionable, especially if you were of a high social class, to name your children after members of the royal family. There were countless Alberts, Edwards, Georges, Charlottes, and Victorias floating about in the 19th century. Some population censuses will even show you which names were most “in vogue” in a particular era. If I want a name that’s a little more unusual, I’ll turn to songs or poetry. The heroine of my debut novel, Waltz with a Stranger, was named Aurelia, which was a fairly popular girls’ name of the time, but I first conceived of calling her that because of the Civil War era song, “Aura Lea.” The meaning of a name can determine whether I use it as well. “Sophia,” which is period-appropriate, means “wisdom,” a quality Sophie acquires over the course of the story, which helps her to cope with the challenges she and Robin face in their relationship.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Pamela: I have several projects in the works, including a book about Sir Harry Tresilian, Sophie’s oldest brother, who falls in love with a beautiful but mysterious woman who’s renting a cottage owned by his family. And then there’s a novella about Thomas Sheridan and Amy Newbold, the secondary couple of Waltz with a Stranger, who find romance, adventure, and danger when they travel to Newport, Rhode Island for the summer season. I also have a couple of ideas for new series, featuring characters who have yet to be introduced. I hope to find out soon which project will be getting the “green light” first.