A Georgette Heyer Moment with Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks

Welcome, Deb Werksman and thank you for joining us today to chat about romance, mystery, and historical fiction novelist Georgette Heyer during our month-long celebration of her work here at Austenprose. As an acquiring editor of Sourcebooks Casablanca, you have become Heyer’s strongest advocate by re-issuing her novels originally published between1921-1975. Why did you choose Heyer and was it a challenge to bring her to a new market?

Our publisher brought Heyer to my attention shortly after we started our romance line and we saw that her books were out of print in the US. She’s such an amazing writer, and so many readers, booksellers, and librarians were raving about her work and lamenting the difficulty of getting her books, that we decided we would publish her entire body of work if we could. We went to her agent in the UK and have been publishing the books as they become available for the US market. She’s so well-known here already that it wasn’t really a new market. The biggest challenge has been that there are too many books to bring out all at once, so it’s taking several years to get them all into print.

Georgette Heyer has been credited as the pioneer of the historical romance genre, yet many of her novels were out of print before you took up the banner and made the commitment to publish them again. Why do you think she fell out of favor, and why was 2007 the right time to introduce her to new readers?

I don’t think Heyer necessarily fell out of favor. The way most romance is published is that one printing in mass-market format is done and then the book goes out of print, and maybe the publisher eventually reprints, or maybe not. So I think her books just quietly went out of print without much fanfare, and readers resigned themselves to buying used copies. This isn’t a problem now with our trade paper editions, which can be reprinted more easily than mass-market format. 2007 was our very first foray into romance fiction and it was the perfect time because Heyer had been off the market for years. There were a lot of readers, booksellers, and librarians who wanted copies of her books by then.

Cotillion was the first Heyer novel that you published in 2007. The day it arrived at the Sourcebooks office must have been a thrill. Out of all of Heyer’s amazing novels, why did you select Cotillion as your Casablanca debut Heyer novel?

The order in which we published our Heyer editions depended to some degree on the order in which we were able to sign them from the estate. Cotillion was among the first group we got, and it was the bestseller and the one most people were demanding in that group, so we made it our first release. It was indeed, very exciting!

What was the first Georgette Heyer novel that you read and can you share your experience with us? What intrigued you about her characters or plots? What made you want to read the next one?

My first Heyer was The Talisman Ring and it made me laugh so hard that I then made my husband read it. I love how Heyer can give you the whole world in a single paragraph–the craftsmanship of her writing is amazing. Her characters are lovable and complex, and she has such a clear understanding of human nature. I was hooked at that point and read every single book after that.

Sourcebooks are known for their beautiful cover art. The Georgette Heyer series is stunning. As a professional bookseller, I have actually heard customers in the store stop and say “Wow!”  What is the design process, and who makes the final decision? Do you have a personal favorite in the series?

Our design department is absolutely brilliant! They started out by gathering hundreds of period images and then worked with our publisher to choose which ones would go on which books. Our publisher has the final say, and since she’s a huge Heyer fan she knows exactly what she’s doing. I don’t have a favorite cover—I love them all!

People often recommend Georgette Heyer’s Regency romance novels to Jane Austen fans. Besides being set in the same era, why do you think that readers see the connection?

I think Heyer is who Jane Austen would have been if she’d lived long enough to write 52 books. Heyer writes about the intricacies of social intercourse, sees the funny side of human nature, delights in the absurd, and her heroes are manly and gentlemanly. Sounds like Austen!

What is your favorite “Georgette Heyer moment” that you can share with new a reader? What is the first question you ask a veteran Heyerite?

We have “Heyer moments” all the time in our office—whenever one of us reads a Heyer for the first time or rereads one, we laugh and sigh and take a few minutes to celebrate how great life is because Heyer is in the world.

Besides this month’s release of Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, will we be seeing more re-issues of Heyer’s novels from Sourcebooks in the future?

Yes, by the end of this year we’ll have 42 of her books in print, including all the mysteries and historical fiction, and by the end of 2011 we’ll have the rest, so going into 2012 all 52 novels by Heyer will be available!

Thank you for sharing your insights with us Deb. We look forward to the publication of the balance of her backlist titles.

© 2010, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

28 thoughts on “A Georgette Heyer Moment with Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks

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  1. My copies are almost all 70s era or earlier editions by Ace, Bantam, and Berkley, although I have 3 Pan editions and 2 by Fawcett Crest. I have added the Sourcebook edition of Cotillion, and slowly will add the others until I have a complete set of the regencies and Edwardian books.


  2. Thank you, Ms. Werksman for being an advocate of Heyer’s works! Without Sourcebook re-issuing her works for this generation, I would never gotten my hands on any of her delightful novels. They are rather scarce and incomplete in my neck of the woods, so I’m a grateful Heyer-ite! =)


  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your work in making Heyer’s wonderful writing more readily available in the US – much appreciated!


  4. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Heyer (mostly on Austen-related blogs) but I have yet to read one! What’s wrong with me? I just recently “got into” the historical romance genre (most recently I’m hooked on the Outlander Series, and reading some Julia Quinns). So I guess that’s my excuse. I’d have no excuse if I won these!


  5. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and hard work on getting Heyer reprinted! I love the Sourcebooks editions and am slowly replacing all my old paperbacks with the new ones. They really are lovely.


  6. I absolutely love the new Sourcebooks editions. I discovered them right after I borrowed my first Heyer from the library (A Civil Contract), and have been collecting them ever since!


  7. Thank you for the work you and everyone at Sourcebooks did to get Heyer back into print. I was introduced to her earlier this year by Laurel Ann and just love her entertaining style of writing!


  8. Nice to see this from the publishing end. Sourcebooks has done a wonderful job with the books they have reissued. The covers are lovely, the art department did an excellent job.
    I think it is wonderful that Sourcebooks will be reissuing all if Heyer’s works.


  9. These editions are just lovely and I have been giving them as Christmas and birthday gifts to my 86 year-old-friend who shares my love of all things Heyer. I read my first book, “Bath Tangle,” at 15 in high school and have reread them all many times. As I get older the trade paperback is easy on my eyes.
    Favorite book? Though not a Regency it has to be, “These Old Shades.” Favorite character? Of course I’m spoiled for choice; but the reformed rake, the Duke of Avon, has to be one of my favorite characters. His sardonic and pithy comments are a joy to read and I still marvel at Heyer’s clever and witty dialogue!
    Love this website and will follow the Heyer events through the month.
    Thank you. LBJ


  10. What a wonderful interview. Thank you ladies! I am so very happy that Sourcebooks has undertaken to reissue all of Heyer’s novels! I love trade paperback and as others have said the covers are so gorgeous!

    What intrigues me about Heyer novels is leanring details about the upper class or high society. I also feel as if I learn a great deal about the time period and way of life when I read one of her novels. So it is entertaining and educational at the same time!


  11. What a great interview! I am so happy–so thankful–that Sourcebooks has reprinted all these Georgette Heyer novels! I just had to smile when I read this: “We have ”Heyer moments” all the time in our office—whenever one of us reads a Heyer for the first time, or rereads one, we laugh and sigh and take a few minutes to celebrate how great life is because Heyer is in the world.” That is so true!!!


  12. I had never read Georgette Heyer until the Sourcebooks reprints and now I’ve read 12 and have 2 more in my TBR pile! I am having fun with all of them too — mysteries, romances, historical fictions — they are all worth picking up for different reasons. The humor of the romances is unmatched by any other author. The snarkiness in the mysteries is delightful. And the historical fictions are, well, just amazing. And I’m excited to find that there are 38 more titles that I don’t have yet!


  13. My local re-sale bookstore saves all the Heyer books behind the counter, they don’t even go on the shelves. I collect multiple copies of any of her books. After you’ve read them 30-40 times, passed and shared them, they just seem to fall apart!

    I have a Heyer moment to share. Sitting at a family reunion in 1998, I showed the biography by Jane Aiken Hodge that I had checked out of the library to my mother. She had Alzheimer’s pretty badly by then, but could still speak occasionally. My mom started reading it, in a clear, understandable voice, remembered something in one of the books and started laughing. I looked at my family, and they were just as amazed. My dad was almost in tears (he DOES NOT cry). It was only for a few minutes, but they were wonderful, because we had her back.

    I know if my mom were with us today, she’d be at the bookstore, buying every Sourcebooks edition as soon as it came out.


  14. What a lovely idea, this month of reviews and giveaways! Does this count as one of the posts that will make us eligible for the big version of the latter? (Not that it matters. I’m sure I will be making other comments later.)

    I’ve only read two Heyers so far, but out of them I have to say that my favorite hero and heroine are definitely Freddie and Kitty from Cotillion.

    “Dash it, Kit!”


  15. Hi Deb – Elaine here! So sorry that I cannot have any more of the wonderful imprints that Sourcebooks are bringing out! Simply delighted that you will be republishing the entire Heyer anon and delighted to be contributing to this month long Heyer fest. I think she is a wonderful writer and, like you, my first one was The Talisman Ring which I loved for its dashing hero Ludovic, feisty Eugenia and then the parrallel love story of Tristram and Sarah. Had me helpless with laughter in places. Wonderful and it started me off on my life long love of this marvellous lady


  16. What an interesting interview–I also love the covers, just gorgeous. I haven’t read the Talisman Ring yet, so it’s now on the list!

    Favorite hero? I think Freddy from Cotillion is my favorite, because underneath all that frippery is a solid manly man that emerges in the course of the story. My biggest regret is that his father never got his own Heyer story–I think he would have made a first rate hero!


  17. Wonderful interview and so interesting to get a glimpse behind the publishing doors! This just gives me more reasons to become a Heyer fan. Sourcebooks, thank you for bringing her to new generations and fans. Austenprsoe thanks for this wonderful opportunity and for showing me why I need to read Heyer.

    Terri – What a wonderful story and if I needed one more incentive to read Heyer you and your mom just provided. After having a family member suffer through this dreadful disease I know and appreciate how special that memory and those minutes are for you. Thank you for sharing!


  18. I found Georgette Heyer because I’d finished rereading Jane Austen books and had discovered fanfiction. There were none out that I hadn’t read and a bookseller recommended Heyer. I got Friday’s child and Cotillion. I loved them and then began looking for more of her work. I was on vacation in England and found a few in a bookshop there. I couldn’t bring them all home so I started ordering them through the British amazon site because I couldn’t get the Sourcebooks ones fast enough. I’m so glad to know the Sourcebooks story because I wondered why they were coming out so “slowly”. Now I know. I’ve since researched Sourcebooks and check their site periodically for the new books coming out. Thank you, Sourcebooks!


  19. Great interview! It’s always fun to know what goes on behind the scenes! My favorite thing Deb said was this… “I think Heyer is who Jane Austen would have been if she’d lived long enough to write 52 books.” Oh my heart just aches at that… if only huh?! Perhaps that’s why Georgette is just a popular in her own right because she did have such a long career. Lucky us!


  20. Deb wrote: “I think Heyer is who Jane Austen would have been if she’d lived long enough to write 52 books.”

    Much as I enjoy Heyer, I don’t think this is true. Austen has a much more firmly grounded morality than Heyer and I don’t see her taking rogues (even reformed ones) as her leading men. Wickham, Willoughby, and Crawford are the closest Austen gets to rakes, and things never turn out well with them!

    Heyer has a much different perspective on things. In Austen, morality is paramount, while in Heyer, romantic happiness is. I have to stick with Austen on this one — much as I enjoy Heyer! :-)


  21. It was because of Sourcebooks that I became interested in reading Heyer’s books, so thank you for making them available for all of us who are new to her writing.


  22. My first Heyer novel was POWDER AND PATCH. Men actually wore makeup and high heels? I didn’t know what she was talking about. But I enjoyed the story.

    Recently, I read SHE FOUND HIM DEAD. I didn’t know Heyer also wrote mysteries. I loved this book. If you’re read all of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, try Heyer’s mysteries.


  23. I would really love to win the 34 books! I have many favourites: Kitty and Freddy are high on the list; also A Civil Contract; also Frederica; Venetia – how to choose??


  24. I had all these books and sold them back int he 70s. I would love to have some newer versions, and not have to wait to get them form the library (it can take a while). I like the ‘world’ that Heyer has brought to life for me.


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