Nineteenteen: Like us, you are fascinated with all things Jane, from Jane Austen to Jane Eyre. What drew you to early 19th century England and romance in particular?
Julie: Reading books like The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre at a young age certainly made quite an impression on me and cemented my love of “all things England.” But why the early 19th century in particular? It’s all Colin Firth’s fault. Like many women, I was smitten by him as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC/A&E adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. Seeing it led me to re-read Jane Austen’s novels and in turn, to set my novels in the Regency period.
Nineteenteen: Ah, Colin. Yes, he is known for leading many of us a merry dance. You, however, are known for your impeccable research, which really came through in The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Did you turn up anything unexpected or especially exciting as you researched the book?
Julie: Thank you. I try! Most of the research for this novel revolved around the life of clergymen and Anglican services in the 19th century, but I’m not sure I’d call that exciting. One fun new topic I researched was hidden rooms. Secret rooms, passages, and hiding places were not all that uncommon in ancient manor houses. They came in handy over the centuries when you found yourself on the wrong side of a monarch and wished to keep your head. Or if you, say, needed to hide a priest during the reign of Elizabeth I. One of the places I visited while in England in 2014 was Chastleton House to see its historic secret room. It saved at least one life, we know, when a quick-thinking wife hid her husband there, then offered the search party a lovely meal laced with drugs. While the soldiers slept if off, she sneaked her husband safely past them. I loved seeing a real secret room in person, and it helped me better imagine the one in The Secret of Pembrooke Park.
Nineteenteen: Regina loved the treasure hunting aspect of the story. What inspired you to include that in the book?
Julie: I was first inspired to write about an abandoned manor, and decided to give it a secret room because I had come across them in my research, plus I had a “secret room” behind my closet as a girl growing up (where I kept my Trixie Belden books and posters of teen heartthrobs Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy). But what fun is a secret room, I thought, without the hope of something tantalizing hidden inside? So the idea of rumored treasure was born.
Nineteenteen: And now the really important question: if you were making your first appearance in Regency society, what would you wear?
Julie: Goodness. Since I currently own only one Regency era dress—a pink ball gown with lace at neckline and puffed sleeves—I suppose I would wear that. Though at my age, I would likely be accused of being “mutton dressed as lamb.”
[Editorial note: as you can see from this photo, Julie actually looks rather dreamy in her pink gown.]
Nineteenteen: We know you just turned in a manuscript to your publisher. What's it about, and what's next for you? A little bird told us you might be having more books out, with a second publisher.
Julie: Yes, in 2015 I will have two books coming out. Lady Maybe in July with Berkley/Penguin, which is about a woman whose startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England. And The Painter’s Daughter in December with Bethany House, which is my first novel with the often-requested marriage of convenience premise.
Nineteenteen: They both sound great! Thank you so much for joining us.
Julie: Thanks for asking and thanks for having me here!
If you'd like more information about Julie and her award-winning books, you can find her online at her website http://www.julieklassen.com/ or on Facebook.
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