Sunday, January 15, 2012

Georgette Heyer:Biography of a bestseller

One of the first things I learnt as a teenager who wanted to be an author was that if you wanted to learn about authors and how they truly worked read an in depth interview, in particular read a Paris Match interview. The advice was fine as far as it went. But some authors were notoriously private. Georgette Heyer being a prime example. She didn't do interviews and hated the whole author as a personality thing. Up to this year there has only been one biography by Jane Aiken Hodge which I kept meaning to find and read.
One of my Christmas presents from my husband was Jennifer Kloester's new biography of Georgette Heyer. It has been a thoroughly splendid read. As a working author, I can really identify with some of Georgette's struggles. I found it interesting how she reworked some of her short stories into novels and how long it took her to discover her *true* voice. I was also interested to learn the background to her novels. I already knew about her fantastic approach to research and had made several educated guesses to various influences on her plotting and therefore was pleased to learn more.
I found it interesting that she wanted to withdraw from publication several of her early books. Thankfully she was unable to suppress These Old Shades as it is one of my favourite  of her books. I loved reading about her struggles and how sometimes characters wouldn't come. It is also interesting to see her unique problems. for example, the naming of characters was important to her and once a name was settled on, she had difficulty in changing. Bath Tangle posed a particular problem as she discovered late on that she had used a real title for the hero and had to change. 
Kloester also explores Heyer's world view and how that influenced her writing. For example, Heyer didn't really believe in women working outside the home and so did not really explore this facet of Regency life. Heyer also had a tendency to layer her own Edwardian viewpoint and sensibility into the Regency world she portrayed. It is one of the things about being a historical novelist -- in many ways you are holding up a dark and shadowy mirror to your own time.
If you are interested in how authors work or where ideas come from or indeed some of the struggles authors go through when they are trying to manage their career, Kloester's biography is a good place to start. If you happen to be a Heyer fan, then you are in for a real treat.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical. Her next book will be His Unsuitable Countess (August 2012 UK and US) You can read more about Michelle's books on her website


Pat Cochran said...

I am so happy to hear of this biography
of Georgette Heyer. She was one of the
early historical romance authors whom I
read in my younger days. I look forward
to reading this book - it's now on my
TBR list!

Pat Cochran

Di said...

I've still got my stash of Georgette Heyer books that I've had since I was a teenager (won't say how long ago that was). When I've made a dent in my TBR pile I'll be re-reading them. I'll have to look for this book to get a different point of reference to her stories.

Kaelee said...

I've heard about this book already and I'm going to ask for it for Valetine's Day. I have almost all of her stories in a box in my basement.

Michele L. said...

Believe it or not but I haven't read any of Georgette's books. Your blog sure is interesting though so I am going to see if I can dig up some of her books. She looks like a movie star!

marybelle said...

Over the years I have read quite a few Georgette Heyer books. They are treasures.