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