Friday, January 1, 2016

Why Camilla Randall?

Happy 2016 and welcome to my new blog!

This is a blog for readers of my books who may not be all that interested in the nuts-and-bolts of writing that I talk about on my big blog at

This blog focuses on the Camilla books, but my other novels (which sometimes include cameos by Camilla characters) will also get some attention. You can read about all my books on my books page.

People often ask me why I write about Camillaa character who is so wildly different from me.

Camilla is a formerly-wealthy fashionista with a taste for Chanel bags, high-end designer clothes and expensive, very silly shoes (which she often finds make convenient weapons.)

Me, I'm a child of academia who is more likely to carry a backpack and slouch around in baggy jeans and Crocs.

Camilla is excruciatingly polite and always gives people the benefit of the doubtsometimes many doubts. Me, I tend to use more four-letter words than I should, and I'm skeptical of everything.

Camilla is sort of a Bertie Wooster for the 21st century. She's a comic heroine we can love dearly, even as she stumbles into trouble once again. She couldn't get by without her best friend Plantagenet Smith, a gay screenwriter who isn't exactly Jeeves, but is generally the voice of reason as she careens off into another adventure.

I'm not sure that I chose to write about Camilla as much as she chose me. I first wrote about her in a short story I scribbled in the early 1980s, based on an interview I read in the New York Times with a debutante named Cornelia Guest. Guest has been called the first "celebutante" and was so thoroughly snarked in that article that I felt compelled to write the other side of the story.

I figured nobody could be as brain-dead and self-absorbed as that reporter portrayed Ms. Guest. (And she has proved to be a savvy businesswoman, author and fundraiser. Her book "the Debutante's Guide to Life" was published by Ballantine about 5 years after that interview )

Camilla isn't Cornelia, and I don't want to suggest my character is like herafter all, Camilla lost all her money by the time she was nineteen—but that interview inspired me to write about the debutante who became Camilla Randall, reluctant sleuth.

Camilla doesn't so much explore mysteries as stumble into them, get things wrong, and then solve them in her own quirky, and oh-so-polite way.

The number one book in the series is not the one I wrote first. That was The Best Revenge, which is now the prequel to the series. The Best Revenge was written as a comic coming of age novel, not a mystery, so although there is a mysterious death and Camilla is accused of the crime, The Best Revenge isn't a classic whodunnit.

The book introduces us to a nineteen-year-old Camilla and her best friend Plantagenet Smith, an aspiring playwright. It opens with the scene inspired by that interview with Cornelia Guest.

Like the interview, The Best Revenge is set in the early 1980s, and when Ghostwriters in the Skynow #1 in the seriespicks up on the characters in the second decade of the 21st century, Camilla is in her mid thirties and Plant in his forties.

Yes, that means I've done a little wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff there. I figure there's precedent. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple didn't age very much over forty-something years and Kinsey Millhone only ages about one year for every five in real time.

When I decided to write a mystery series about six years ago, Camilla and Plantagenet seemed to be the perfect Nick and Nora Charles for the 21st century. They are a straight woman and a gay man who stand by each other through the upheavals of bad relationships and unfortunate romantic choices we seem prone to in our era. And like all the protagonists of the mystery genre, they find the people around them have a habit of turning up dead.

You can buy The Best Revenge right now for only 99c at all theAmazons, Smashwords, Google Play Kobo, Apple, and NOOK. It's also available at Page Foundry 

Sample Reviews:

"…while laugh-out-loud funny, [The Best Revenge] carries a message about how we view ourselves and how others' views of us may conflict, yet make us grow."...composer Richard Alan Corson

"Once I started THE BEST REVENGE, I found I couldn't put it down. An engaging Hollywood caper set during the 1980's pits a fashionable New York debutante against a hard nosed reporter who's had a bad day. I don't even know what to classify this book as -- thriller, romance, comedy, drama, whodunit, who's going to do it -- it has everything! 
I cannot wait to read the rest of Allen's work. And definitely put this on your summer beach reading list. You won't be disappointed. "...Regency Romance author Anne Gallagher

Buy this book if you love mystery, adventure, humor, spicy romance, female protagonists, sexually ambiguous confidantes, snippy rivals, reality-immune mothers, Feds who actually know what they're doing, reporters who don't, or the wisest garbage collector since "Dilbert". This is the first book I bought purely because I liked the author's blog post. Her writing gave me complete confidence that I would be in good hands, even way out of my normal genre. And it's probably the best story I've bought this year. My highest recommendation!...


  1. I heartily welcome Camilla to the blogosphere, though I imagine she'll find it a bit less gracious & polite than she'd like it to be.

  2. CS--I fear you're right. Camilla's sensibilities belong to another time. She will find the whole blogging thing a bit rude and tedious. But I think her good manners will prevail.

  3. A great way to start the year! And it sounds like plenty of room for some more prequels to Ghostwriters!

    1. Mark--Thanks! I hadn't thought of writing more prequels. I'll have to ponder that...

  4. Anne, your tales of Camilla were my first exploration of "other" writers after I made the decision to start chronicling. I thought I was being a good fellow, doing my duty... what a joy! There's a positive release in looking at something so different, and of course I was enchanted by the character, her situation and the humor. How I wish I could write something that funny (my heroes only have that grim Batman-humor). Your books totally sold me on the idea of reading broadly not just to improve my writing vision, but just to have a heck of a good time. Writing alone becomes a rut, I'd say. But I didn't know that until Camilla.

    1. Will--I think Camilla is probably not typical of any contemporary genre--more the screwball romantic comedies of the 1930s and 40s. I'm so glad to hear she made you laugh. Grim Batman humor is good too. :-)