Authors in Cafes Writing: Wendy Van Camp

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I started writing my first book at the tender age of five or six years old. I wrote a second novel when I was sixteen. Neither will see the light of day. Although I hold a paper copy of each in my files for my own memories. In college, I got sidetracked from writing books and short stories by filmmaking and television. I ended up working my way up through the ranks from a lowly cable puller to a producer/director of my own television shows. I did a combination of freelance film work in the hot summers and jewelry making in the fall and spring for many years. When one season closed, the other would open up and the two careers balanced each other well. I loved what I did and was proud of the small business I created. Yet, I always regretted giving up on my writing.

I went on a twenty-year hiatus from the written word while I did these others things. It was not until my forties when a story gripped me and would not allow me to rest until I began to write. I thought of writing as a hobby at first, but soon I realized that my work was publishing and that people enjoyed my stories. Within a few years, I was taking my writing seriously and now consider myself to be an author and poet first, illustrator, and jeweler second. If I could go back, I would have told myself to stick to my guns and keep on with the writing. Even if I followed after the shiny dreams of being a filmmaker, I should have not turned in my typewriter. But what is done is done. I will have to try and finish what I can in the time left to me.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Writing itself is not expensive. Most of the tools that I use are low cost and within reach of most people. Perhaps the most expensive part of my writing kit is the two computers I use. A desktop with good graphic cards and plenty of RAM that I use for graphic creation. It helps me create book covers, promos, and other graphics that I use in my work as an author and illustrator. It serves as the hub of my small business. The other is a ThinkPad laptop. It was a refurb from a big box store, but the machine is built like a tank and is still going strong. I used to make due with a $20 Alphasmart digital typewriter for writing on the go, but when I was accepted into an advanced writing workshop several years ago, one of the requirements was to have a laptop.

So in addition to the fees associated with the two-week workshop, I also had to buy a portable computer! I found it awkward to use at first, but as time went by I realized that having a small laptop is an asset and allowed me to write away from home at any stage of my writing, instead of only drafting as I did on my Alphasmart. Now the ThinkPad is my zoom portal in addition to a writing machine. I use it every day.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I have several coffeehouses that I like to go and write in. I find that going somewhere with limited access to the internet helps me get focused. Lately, going to the coffeehouse has not be possible. Instead, I’ve joined a private co-working group that joins together via zoom to write together. I find that having accountability partners has helped me keep on track through much of this year.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I blush to admit this, but currently I have six drafted novels pending revision and editing. I have three more books in my Austen Regency series and three books in my Steampunk Wonderland trilogy. I also have a number of books that are in the plotting stage waiting in the wings for me to get to them, if I ever do. Most of these are in a long series of stories I loosely label as Interplanetary Tales. Part of the reason for this is that I got my start at Nanowrimo. National Novel Writing Month encourages new authors to write a fifty thousand word draft of a novel, but it stops there. There is no training or incentive to finish your work in the program. I spent year after year writing drafts, but when it came time to edit them and turn the manuscripts into finished books, I stalled.

Over the past several years, I have been more focused on learning revision processes and self-editing in order to start finishing my work. Perhaps this is why I’ve grown to love science fiction poetry as much as I do. A collection of poetry is easier to edit once you have all the pieces completed. Then it is more a matter of sorting the poems and putting them into order. And for me, the additional time to illustrate the chapter heads.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

When I write novels, I tend to write them as a series. These ideas have expanded enough that they often need plenty of room to grow. Even if they start out small in the early stages as one book, by the time I get toward the end of the writing process, they have grown enough to flesh out to three or four books. I doubt that my books will ever be part of a single universe.

While I mainly write science fiction, I also write fantasy, memoir, and Austen Regency stories. Each genre is different enough that they will never mesh into one. Which is fine by me. When it comes to my short stories and poetry, it is the opposite of the books. These all tend to be one-offs. Although, in the case of the poems I do tend to write mainly scifaiku and astropoetry, so they seem to be easier to gather into a volume when the time comes.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

Before I became an author, I was an artisan jeweler and certified gemologist. For over twenty years I was a small business owner who traveled to various events to set up my tent or rent a table to sell my handmade wares. I loved the lifestyle. The excuse to travel to new cities, meet new people, and relax in the natural environment when I camped, was as if I was living in an adventure of my own making.

However, metalwork is hard on the hands and my eyesight is not as clear as it was when I was younger. I am finding it harder to make jewelry to my own personal standards and slowly have been retiring from my bench in favor of writing books, short stories, and poetry. In many ways, I still have the lifestyle that I love, but in this art medium of the written word, everything is physically easier.

Dragons or Spaceships?

Spaceships

Tell us about your book: The Planets

The planets have fascinated humanity since the dawn of time. We’ve looked up into the heavens and wondered what these wandering stars are and why they are different from their more stationary cousins. In modern times, humans have sent probes to all the planets in our solar system, sending back tantalizing views from faraway worlds. The planets are woven into our culture and history. They are signposts of our journey ahead.

This collection of 108 science fiction haiku poems (scifaiku) will take you on a journey of exploration showcasing tiny moments of wonder with each of the planets of our solar system.

Come share in the adventure.


Wendy Van Camp writes science fiction, regency romance, and poetry. Her writing blog “No Wasted Ink” features essays about the craft of writing, poetry, flash fiction, and author interviews. Wendy’s short stories and poems have appeared in science fiction magazines such as “Quantum Visions”, “Scifaikuest”, and “Far Horizons”. Her first poetry book is “The Planets: a scifaiku poetry collection” and her Regency Historical is “The Curate’s Brother”, both can be found on all major online book outlets.