Julie Klassen is a fiction editor with a background in advertising. She has worked in Christian publishing for more than 12 years, in both marketing and editorial capacities. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She enjoys travel, research, books, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps and coffee with friends. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Julie Klassen is the award-winning author LADY OF MILKWEED MANOR, THE APOTHECARY'S DAUGHTER and the newly released THE SILENT GOVERNESS. In this interview, Klassen traces her love of British literature --- as well as her fascination with English governesses --- all the way back to a sixth-grade reading of JANE EYRE and explains how she found the perfect setting for her latest book in the countryside. She also compares and contrasts the heroines of her three novels and pinpoints what she hopes readers will take away from her work.
Question: Why did you write THE SILENT GOVERNESS?
Julie Klassen: I have been intrigued by English governesses ever since my sixth-grade teacher read JANE EYRE to us aloud over several weeks with real emotion and even mascara tears. She (and the book) certainly made an impression on me, and I have been fond of British literature (and governesses) ever since.
Q: Is Brightwell Court, the setting of THE SILENT GOVERNESS, a real place?
JK: THE SILENT GOVERNESS is set primarily in 1815 in a small village in Gloucestershire, England. The grand estate of Brightwell Court is fictional, but it was inspired by the very real, very picturesque Bibury Court in the Cotswold village of Bilbury, which the artist William Morris called “the most beautiful village in England.” I chose Bilbury because author Davis Bunn recommended that my husband and I take tea there during our first England trip, which we happily did. Not only did we enjoy the ivy-covered manor, but the lovely grounds bordered by the River Coln, and the greedy ducks that nipped at our scones, but I also realized it would make an ideal setting for THE SILENT GOVERNESS.
Q: Was research for THE SILENT GOVERNESS different compared to your other novels?
JK: I found several new sources for this novel (beyond the pile of books I already own about life in Regency England), including guidebooks written for servants in the early 1800s, journalis of former governesses, and texts used for classroom instruction at that time. As with my other novels, LADY OF MILKWEED MANOR and THE APOTHECARY’S DAUGHTER, I have drawn from these sources and included brief, interesting excerpts from them at the beginning of each chapter.
Q: Your past heroines have had unusual professions or abilities. How does your current heroine, Olivia Keene, compare?
JK: As opposed to the less familiar professions of my first two heroines (a wet nurse and an apothecary), Olivia Keene finds herself working in the more common position of governess --- thought very little about her, her situation, or her employers is common at all. And, similar to Lilly Haswell’s (of THE APOTHECARY’S DAUGHTER) seemingly flawless memory, Olivia is a genius with numbers. Given the complex arithmetic problems, she instantly “sees” the numbers and solutions in her mind. Wouldn’t that have been kind of nice back in school!?
Q: What message would you lilke readers to take away from THE SILENT GOVERNESS?
JK: That each of us should ground our identity in our relationship with God, and not base it on someone/something else (family, profession, status, church). I also hope readers who grew up with less-than-ideal fathers will realize anew that, unlike imperfect earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father is just yet merciful, and will make good of the bad things in our lives if we love and serve Him.
Q: What types of readers will enjoy this book?
JK: THE SILENT GOVERNESS will appeal to fans of Jane Austen, inspirational fiction, Regency romance, and historical fiction in general.
© Copyright 2010, Julie Klassen and Bethany House. All rights reserved
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