Few authors can be credited with inventing a genre, but Georgette Heyer is one of them. Her witty and insightful novels set in early 19th century British society created an irresistible world that has been drawing in readers and writers for decades.
I am one of them. My first novel, The Diabolical Baron, had a few hints of the writer I've developed into, but overall, it's so influenced by Georgette Heyer that I should probably pay royalties to the Heyer estate. <G> I cherish the discussions I've had with other Regency writers on Our First Heyer Novel.
Heyer's work and world are continuing sources of fascination, and now writer Rachel Hyland has just published a delicious collection of essays about that work and world. Heyer Society: Essays on the Literary Genius of Georgette Heyer.
Just reading the titles of the essays is mouthwatering, but even better, today we're lucky enough to have as a Word Wench guest Jennifer Kloester, who is probably the world's leading authority on Georgette Heyer. Author of the definitive Georgette Heyer biography, Jen is a novelist in her own right, and a contributor to Heyer Society.
JK: These Old Shades – the first for many Heyer fans I think and what an introduction! I'd never read anything like it and I just loved "Satanas" – Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon. He's sinister, cynical, omniscient and just fabulous. I adored him. That was until I met Heyer's other male leads like Mr Beaumaris (sense of humour), Freddy Standen (hidden depths), Hugo Darracott (my favourite), Miles Calverleigh (master strategist). Avon was soon supplanted by other, more worthy men but you never forget your first Heyer, do you?
MJP: One really doesn't. <G> Sign me up for Hugo Darracott and Miles Calverleigh! Can you tell us a bit about Rachel Hyland, editor and publisher of this essay collection?
JK: Rachel is amazing. She's a huge Heyer fan obviously and she's super smart and dynamic. I love her energy and enthusiasm as well as her initiative in putting together this excellent anthology. Rachel's determined to get Heyer out to an even broader audience and I'm delighted to be able to help. Rachel's inspired me in so many ways and it's a privilege to work with her.
MJP: Who are some famous Heyer fans?
JK: Nora Roberts is a big fan and so is Stephen Fry who unveiled the Blue Plaque at Heyer's birthplace in Wimbledon in 2015. Stephen is a true Heyer fan and such a brilliant speaker he gave a great speech at the unveiling. Queen Elizabeth is a Heyer fan and Lord Somervell bequeathed his entire Heyer collection to the Inner Temple library. I've been told Edmund Hillary was a Heyer fan and I love to imagine him reading her in the Himalayas! So many wonderful Regency authors are Heyer fans too including Stephanie Laurens, Word Wenches own Anne Gracie, Eloisa James, Mary Balogh, and of course the wonderful Mary Jo Putney 😀
MJP: Heyer Society is a lovely book to browse (starting with the pun in the title! Because "Heyer" is pronounced "Higher." <G> ) Are there any essays you particularly enjoyed?
JK: So many – it's a feast of ideas and I loved reading so many different takes on Heyer's novels. I really enjoyed the essay about the suppressed novels – Heyer's four contemporaries – especially as the author, Maura Tan, was new to Georgette Heyer and these novels were her introduction.
The essay on Penhallow is a fascinating read. I love Penhallow so at first I wasn't sure I'd like this essay but read on and you'll see why it's so good. Susannah Fullerton's essay on Jane Austen's influence on Heyer is delightful, as is Clara Shipman's wonderful "Learning! with Georgette Heyer".
Rachel Hyland has contributed three essays to the anthology and I think many Word Wenches fans will totally agree with her thoughts about "Growing Up with Heyer". Oh, I could go on (and on) but I think readers will have their own favourites because there's just so much delicious food for thought and for discussion in Heyer Society: the Literary Genius of Georgette Heyer.
MJP: Jen, thanks so much for visiting the Word Wenches to tell us about this wonderful new Heyer essay book from Rachel Hyland!
Mary Jo, adding a picture of Stephen Fry and the prestigious Blue Plaque honoring the birthplace of Georgette Heyer in London