Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Julie Klassen is here!

by Stephanie Morrill


What a treat it is to have Julie Klassen here with us today. JULIE KLASSEN!!!

I fell in love with Julie's writing when I read The Apothecary's Daughter, which I've mentioned pretty frequently on here.

At last September's American Christian Fiction Writer's conference, I spotted Julie and she graciously answered all my dorky writer questions. ("In The Apothecary's Daughter, when Lily said this..." "If Lily had money, do you think Marlowe would have...?")

Not only is she a talented writer, she's a sweet, wise woman. And today she's here! Yay!


Julie, all your current novels are set in the regency time period, plus I know you're a big fan of Jane Austen. If you had the chance to have tea with her and ask a couple questions, what would they be?

So...am I going back in time, or is this meeting in heaven? :)

Here are a few things I might ask Miss Austen:

1. Can you believe your books are more popular than ever 200 years after they were published?
2. If you have seen the movie versions of Pride and Prejudice, which actor best captured your image of Mr. Darcy?
3. If you could write one more book, what would it be?



Oooh, good ones! I've just finished your latest The Maid of Fairbourne Hall.


To escape the dangerous attention of her stepfather's nephew,  Margaret flees London society. She winds up working as a maid for two former suitors...
Margaret is a different type of heroine than your previous novels, and her goals in the first scene aren't exactly the type to win her admiration from the modern female. Yet I still felt drawn into the story and interested in what would happen to Margaret. What about her character do you think "works"?

I know what you mean. Margaret (a bit vain, self-centered, and scheming) doesn’t start out as a very likeable character. To counter this in early chapters, I gave her a younger brother and sister of whom she is very fond. While we may not approve of her actions, we understand that part of Margaret’s motivation is to protect and provide for her siblings. And of course, as the story progresses, Margaret changes quite a bit through the humbling circumstances she finds herself in, and having to work hard for the first time in her life. Along the way, she learns she has been wrong to judge people by appearances and becomes a kinder, more self-sacrificing person.

It's a really well done character arc. I enjoyed my time with her and watching her grow.


Many of the writers here at Go Teen Writers write historical fiction. What kind of resources do you use, and how did you go about finding them? 

Books: I have tubs of tabbed research books (hubby is building a big new bookcase for me as I type this). I locate and buy many used books through Amazon. A few I am able to find at local libraries or through Google books online.

Internet: There is so much good information on the web these days (though you have to be careful to verify what you find). There are also many helpful web sites that deal with different aspects of various time periods. For example, I visit specific sites to learn more about Regency clothes, carriages, customs, slang, etc. I also use etymonline.com to verify that words I write in dialogue were in use in my time period.

Loops/organizations: I belong to a loop of American Christian Fiction Writers who write historical novels set in non-American settings. I also belong to the Beau Monde chapter of Romance Writers of America, which offers Regency classes, online newsletters, and an email loop where I can ask other members research questions.

Julie, something I love about your books is the peek into different roles during the regency period. Like in The Apothecary's Daughter, there was so much cool medicine history. In The Silent Governess, I learned a ton about the unique place a governess had in the household. How do you handle research as your writing? Do you do the bulk of it before? Do you research as you go?

Even though my books are fictional, many of my story ideas have their basis in historical reality, so I do find new research material for each new book/occupation/location before I begin writing. But I don’t read these books cover to cover before I begin--or I’d never get a book finished! I read some ahead of time to gather the basics, then I do spot-research later when I come across something I don’t know (which is often!), like: Did they have injections (shots) then? Did they use this word? How long would it take by carriage to get from point A to point B? How much money (pounds, shillings) would a certain item or service cost back then, etc., etc., etc. But eventually, you have to lay aside the research and write!

Is that the way you handled research in the beginning as well when, I assume, you were still learning about the general culture of the Regency era?

Yes. When I started writing, not only was less information readily available online, but I knew so little (and had never even been to England), so I had to check nearly everything (and still didn’t get it all right, no doubt). I have gained a more general knowledge of the time period, so yes the writing is somewhat easier. If only my memory were photographic (or I had thought to index/organize my research from the beginning), writing would be a LOT easier. As it is, I still find myself rechecking things. However, now I feel less “alone” in trying to figure things out. These days, I rely not only on books and the internet, but I also have several other author-friends who write Regency, and are happy to share their knowledge in a pinch. Plus, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to England twice now, which really helps me visualize and research the settings.

If you could send a message back in time to new-writer Julie, what are 3 pieces of advice you would offer her?

Great question! I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before. Let’s see:

1. You can’t--won’t!--please everyone. Make sure you concentrate on pleasing God with what you write.

2. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. There will always be authors who write better and sell better. Do the best you can with the gifts God has given you.

3. Keep you rear in chair and write already. What are you waiting for? :)


Julie, it was such an honor to have you as a guest. And congratulations on your latest Christy award nomination!


If you want more information about Julie's books (and if you haven't read them yet, you definitely do!) you can read descriptions and excerpts on her website.

Julie said she'd try to pop in and say hello sometime today, so make sure you leave a comment welcoming her to Go Teen Writers. And if you had the chance to ask a favorite author one question, who would it be and what would you ask them?

31 comments:

  1. Yay! One of the first to post! :) It was so awesome having you hear, Mrs. Klassen. I read "Girl in the Gatehouse," a couple of months ago, and LOVED it. I stayed up way too late reading it, but I just couldn't put it down. Definitely on my keeper shelf. ;)

    I have so many favorite author's I don't know if I could pick just one, but one of my favorites is Kristen Heiztmann. Her characters and plots are almost always flawless. One of the questions I would ask her is "How do you develop your characters that they seem so real? What are some things you do to go deeper into their motivations, feelings, and desires?"
    *Sigh* just thinking about her stories makes me want to write.

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    1. Hi Clarebear, Thanks! Glad you enjoyed The Girl in the Gatehouse. I've enjoyed several of Kristen Heitzmann's books, too. I believe she'll have new book soon--related to her former books, The Still of Night and A Rush of Wings. Something to look forward to!

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    2. The Still of Night is one of my favorite books of hers! I'm really looking forward to the next one! :)

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  2. Wow! Congratulations on your award nomination! Super exciting.
    How do you choose serttings for your books? And how do you check the words that you use and find the history behind them?

    Thank you so much!!

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    1. Hi there, and thanks for the congrats on the award nomination for The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. To check words, I type them into the web site www.etymonline.com and read the origin of the word. Pretty interesting stuff. As fas as settings, I like to pick villages I have been to in England, or use old maps and Google Earth to research and select settings I haven't visited.

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    2. Thank you so much for leading me to this site! I have been wondering how to chech historical context and such! And, I just love words. I enjoy knowing the background behind them and how they have changed over the years. Like the word snob. That word certianly took a few turns in it's meaning!

      Oh my, my. I am going to have waay too much fun with this site.

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  3. I wish I could have tea with Jane Austen! My goodness. She wrote what are considered some of the best romances in literature, and never even married. Not to mention the fact that she was a literary genius.

    If I could ask any author a question, it would be C.S. Lewis. I'd probably just ask him for advice - I wouldn't be able to decide on any other single question!

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    1. Now, in answering Stephanie's question, I forgot to say thank you for posting here, and for your own excellent advice. I need to bookmark this post for help and inspiration!

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    2. You are very welcome, Allison. And yes, tea with either Jane Austen or C.S. Lewis would be an amazing experience!

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  4. Awesome post, even though I don't write historical fiction.
    Favourite author? I'd be kind of scared to meet Ernest Hemingway: he doesn't seem like the nicest dude. If I could meet an author, I'd probably share tea and biscuits with Suzanne Collins or JK Rowling. Or Steven Moffat, who is the head writer for Doctor Who.
    For Mrs Collins, I'd ask her if there's any one special technique she uses to paint such vivid detail.
    For JK Rowling, I'd ask her if I could please, please read her a poem I wrote about the Deathly Hallows.
    For Steven Moffat, I'd ask him basically how I can get where he's gotten. Is it just lucky breaks, or is there something I can do to worm my way into the system and become a writer for the BBC? :D

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    1. Thanks, Micah. When you land that job with the BBC, let me know. I'd love to have the BBC adapt my books to film someday! :)

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  5. Awesome post! I dabble between many genres, so this was cool. Welcome to Go Teen Writers, Ms. Klassen! I would probably ask Eoin Colfer or J.K. Rowling their number one piece of writing advice.

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  6. This was a great post! I enjoy reading historical fiction, but I doubt I'll write it.
    First I would tell my favorite Contemporary Christian fiction author, Dandi Daley Mackall, that her books 'Winnie the Horse Gentler' and 'Horsefeathers' changed my life and future. Then I would ask her what her inspiration for Winnie was, and how come she wrote both series so alike each other.

    Then I would invade Micah Eaton's meeting with Steven Moffat so I could meet the genius behind Doctor Who! ;) I would ask him how you get hired as a writer for BBC shows like Merlin and Doctor Who, because that sounds like an awesome job!

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  7. Oh, this was such a fun read! I love this genre and I have a couple of Klassen books on my bookshelf (looking forward to getting my hands on Maid of Fairbourne Hall soon!). :) Thanks for the research tips, Mrs. Klassen, that encouragement to just write and spot-research as I go is what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Rea. Yes, in the balance of research and writing, sometimes you have to tell yourself, "Less input, more output!"

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  8. Thank you so much for this post, Mrs. Klassen! I love reading (and writing) historical fiction and I will certainly keep your research tips in mind.

    Although I have many favorite authors, I have to say that I would ask J.K. Rowling for any writing tips she has and how she had the patience and creativity to write seven wonderful books!

    Now I am off to check out each of your books!

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    1. Thanks, Jill. Hope you enjoy the books.

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  9. Thanks for this post, I really should read your books, they sound really good :)

    And, which author to ask... all of your questions for Jane Austen sound perfect. And I'd probsbly ask J.K. Rowling and Kristin Cashore how they put so much depth into their characters :)

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    1. Ha, I was going to say JKR and a say a similar question. :P I guess I could ask her about worldbuilding and we could share notes. :p

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  10. I love your books, Julie! Can't wait to read your new one. :)

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  11. Great post, thanks! I can't wait to get my hands on some of your books! In the post, you said that you use a lot of reference books. Could you tell me the titles of some of them? And how do you find random bits of information on things like how long it would take to get from A to B by carriage? It's not exactly something you can type straight into Google (or can you?). And how do you tell if a website is likely to have accurate information?
    Ask my favorite author a question?! *eyes pop out of head* I don't know who to choose! I'd like to ask JK Rowling how she keeps her books (which are so long and full of detail) absolutely enthralling. And I'd like to ask Rick Riordan the same thing, I think, only add how he keeps such fast-paced books from feeling rushed (which is how my writing usually turns out). And while I can't think of any questions for Jessica Day George, I'd like to tell her that her Dragon Slippers books are so wonderful that even my brother loved them (and their main character's occupation is dress-making - now making that exciting (or at least bearable) to a boy takes talent!) I wouldn't mind learning how she does it ; )

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    1. Too many references to name here, I'm afraid. (If you read my books, you will find the quotes at the beginning of the chapters are from many of these resources.) And you're right that you have to double-check information you find on various web sites. Yes, you can google how fast various sized carriages/# of horses traveled and figure out travel times from there. I also had the opportunity to visit a carriage museum in England, which helped a lot.

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  12. I'd ask Jane Austen how she came up with such complex characters as Lizzy, Elinor, and Captain Wentworth :)
    And Julie, I've never read your books, but they sound completely awesome!

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    1. Thanks, Lydia. Considering you are a Jane Austen fan as I am, I think you will enjoy the books.

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  13. I'm working on a contemporary fiction novel right now, but I'd love to get back into historical fiction sometime, and it was great reading about your research process! Thanks for sharing with us, Julie - and congratulations about the Christy award!

    Hugs!

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