Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Duty, Responsibility, and Freedom: An interview with historical fiction author Lauren Gilbert

Today I'm talking with Lauren Gilbert about her Regency novel, HEYERWOOD.

Lauren Gilbert has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a minor in Art History. She has continued her education with classes, work shops and independent study. An avid reader, she is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She has presented several programs to JASNA chapters. She lives in Florida, with her husband Ed.


1. Tell us about your book. 

HEYERWOOD is a historical novel, with romantic overtones, set in the late Georgian/Regency era. A woman who has been a chattel and pawn finds herself free, wealthy and able to do whatever she wants. The novel is about choices and growth.

2. What kindled your interest in Regency/Georgian England? 

I have always loved history, and historical novels set in all periods. The late Georgian period and Regency era seem to have an additional glamour. They also remind me alot of our own time, in their political turmoil, class and income divides, and sharp clashes between conservative and liberal values.

3. What went into creating your heroine? 

A line in EMMA, where Emma is explaining to Harriet that wealthy women don't need to marry, caught my attention, and I started thinking about what such a situation might be like. I've also done some research about women's daily lives during the time, and (even for upper class women) there were a lot of duties and responsibilities. I wanted to create a rounded character, with a full life, finding her way.

4. How has your membership in the Jane Austen Society of North America informed or helped your writing? 

It has deepened my understanding of Jane Austen's life, her time and her writing. Jane Austen's writing is amazing, in that she created so many layers of meaning and had such a light touch. Just listening and reading discussion and interpretation of her writings has given me an ideal towards which to strive.

5. What do you think is most commonly misunderstood about this period? 

A significant issue is the brevity of the Regency itself, and the fact that it is part of the Georgian era, not a completely separate and unrelated time. (The Regent did become George IV, after all!) The Georgian/Regency era was when the industrial revolution really began, and saw the middle class beginning to rise in wealth and status. It's the point where the very decadent earlier Georgian period begins the shift to the more conservative climate that ultimately characterized the Victorian era.

On a more mundane note, the daily cares and responsibilities of running a home or estate are frequently ignored, as if having servants or works relieved the master or mistress of all involvement. (It may have done so for the uber-wealthy, but there was a lot more involved for most, and even the uber-wealthy needed to pay some attention!)

6. Georgian and Regency books are popular all over the world, but particularly in North American and the UK, particularly among women. Why are modern women so interested in period where women were far more limited in their rights? 

When we think of these periods, we think of a time of grace, beauty, glamour and sparkle. Women in beautiful gowns and jewels, dashing gentlemen, adherence to rules of courtesy, a time of elegance. This offers a total contrast to one's normal way of life, and provides entertainment and escape.

7. What is your favorite Jane Austen book?

PERSUASION. I love the way the characters evolve with the seasons, and the romance of the hero's and heroine's second chance at love.


Thanks, Lauren.

You can find more from Lauren at : http://www.heyerwood.com and http://laurengilbertheyerwood.wordpress.com.

HEYERWOOD can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Author House.

1 comment:

Debra Brown said...

Great interview!

I think we have to temper our feelings about women's lack of rights back then with realization of the fact that there was a huge amount of work involved in having a family. As Lauren brings out, even with servants, a woman had much to do. It is so easy for us to pop into a store and buy things. They did not yet have ready made clothing to buy, and that is just one example. Yes, the more wealthy women had seamstresses and laundresses, etc. but just consider the amount of work in keeping one dress clean and ready to wear without machines and permanent press. I think many women grew up assuming they would be working hard, not giving rights a second thought as there was so much to do. Don't get me wrong. I don't go for abuse or people being taken advantage of, and I vote that most women are intelligent and fully able to accomplish much. I'm just sayin'- there was chores!