Lovely to feature this interview with Julie Klassen (originally published in Woman Alive), who just won the fiction award for the Minnesota Book Awards with her book The Secret of Pembrooke Park. This makes me happy on many levels, not least because Minnesota is where I grew up but also because I was a reader of her book when it was in manuscript form, reading it through quirky Anglican eyes!
When I look back, I see how God graciously led me to become an editor. I learned so much from working with other editors and talented authors – things that taught me not only about writing but about how to craft a full-length novel. I am thankful for my years with Bethany House Publishers. But, I am also thankful that I could hang up my editorial “red pen” and focus on my writing. Two benefits I’ve especially enjoyed are having time to read for pleasure and developing friendships with more authors.
I think many of us, regardless of our place of birth, are swept away by the romance and chivalry of Jane Austen’s time. In fact, when I visited the Netherlands last year, I met with members of the Jane Austen society there. And last autumn I attended the annual meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America with attendees from several countries. Miss Austen (and Mr Darcy) fans are everywhere!
I have loved all-things-British ever since I read The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre as a young girl. But like so many women, it was seeing Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice that inspired me to read all of Jane Austen’s novels and cemented my love of the Regency time period. I find it a romantic time – with gentlemen in tail coats and tall boots and women in those lovely gowns, the courtly balls, and the chivalry where the mere touch of gloved hands during a country dance sparked romance. Sigh. It was also a time when church attendance and family prayers were commonplace. (After all, Jane Austen herself was a clergyman’s daughter.) Whatever the reasons, I am thankful so many readers are drawn to the era as I am.
When I am up for an award, I am always anxious when awaiting the big moment. Of course it’s a thrill to win, but that emotion is rapidly overshadowed by amazement and gratitude. I believe God has given me this gift, and I’m so thankful to be able to use it for His glory.
When I first visited the UK, while other tourists were visiting the London Eye or Buckingham Palace, I dragged my long-suffering husband to places like the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. After all, I was researching my second novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter. On our second trip, when researching The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, we focused on visiting houses with their servants’ areas intact, such as in Bath or Newport. We also visited Devonshire and Cornwall where I pinpointed the setting for The Tutor’s Daughter.
I finally have “a room of her own,” as author Virginia Woolf described as necessary for fiction writers. For years, I simply wrote wherever I could find a quiet place – the dining room, while the kids watched TV in the living room, or tucked upstairs in our bedroom. Indeed, I wrote my first several novels without my own room, so I don’t know that I agree with Virginia Woolf, but it sure is nice having my own space.
Julie Klassen is an award-winning author of historical fiction. She enjoys travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps and coffee with friends. She lives with her family in Minnesota.