Today I am so pleased to welcome Regency author extraordinaire Julie Klassen to The Overweight Bookshelf. Julie graciously took the time out during the promotion of her newest novel, The Dancing Master, to answer a few of my questions.
About Julie Klassen
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane–Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
I have to admit that when I first started reading The Dancing Master, I couldn’t get Kevin Bacon and Footloose out of my head! What was the actual inspiration for this story?
You’re not alone! One of my editors jokingly calls the book “Footloose in Regency England.” And while I acknowledge a few similarities—especially the set-up of a young man moving to a town where dancing is not allowed—The Dancing Master is NOT a retelling of that movie.
I was inspired by several things:
- My personal experiences learning and even teaching ballroom dancing.
- My interest in the way different people/denominations view dancing.
- My research that revealed dancing was considered such an important social skill in Regency England that parents hired dancing masters to come into the homes and teach their sons and daughters not only dance steps, but also deportment and etiquette. As an author of half a dozen other books set in this era—and someone who loves to dance– it was probably only a matter of time until I wrote about a dancing master.
Was there any practical application to your research of Regency dancing?
My research led me to seek out English Country Dancing classes locally, and my husband and I attended several times. I’m not sure how practical it was, but it sure was fun!
What was the most interesting fact about the social dynamics of dancing during the Regency Era that you learned?
I don’t think I can point to one fact that struck me above all others, but I learned several things I found interesting. Just as today, different denominations viewed (approved or frowned upon) dancing differently. And, the rules of ballroom etiquette fostered sociability, politeness, and inclusion for all. For example, if a woman refused a man who asked her to dance, she could not hurt/insult him by accepting a more appealing partner—instead she had to sit out the entire set. Couples were supposed to dance only twice with any one partner, to encourage them to circulate and socialize. Public assemblies as well as private balls were multigenerational, community events. No nightclub atmosphere there!
What is the message you would like your story to convey to your readers?
The main themes of the book are love and grace. I enjoyed weaving in grace in its many forms–social graces, grace in dancing, and most importantly, God’s grace–and hope readers are reminded of His amazing grace for us all.
It is rare to have such a strong male point of view in Regency fiction. Was it difficult for you to get in to Alec’s head and see the story through his eyes?
I think it can be difficult for female authors to write from a man’s point of view—to write believably masculine inner thought and dialogue. Hopefully, I pulled it off. I think it helps that I grew up with two verbally expressive brothers. And I live with my husband and two teenage sons—even the cat is male! Beyond that, Alec is a sensitive, eloquent man who loves to dance and finds satisfaction in introducing others to the joys of dancing—things I could relate to as I depicted his thoughts and actions.
If you could have tea with any Regency character or author, who would it be and why?
You might guess I’d say Jane Austen, but I think I would find that a bit daunting. Many of us have become so well-acquainted with her novels and characters and even with her “voice” through her letters that we feel we are on a casual, first-name basis with her. But I think as a gentleman’s daughter, a clergyman’s daughter, and a fairly modest, private person, she would not necessarily welcome such familiarity. I think I would be more comfortable having tea with one of her characters. Anne Elliot comes to mind. Assuming, that is, Mr. Darcy is unavailable. ☺
Your covers are always gorgeous. The design for The Dancing Master is perfectly befitting to the era and the plot with almost palpable chemistry between the models. How involved were you in the design process?
Thank you. I agree. I think the creative team at Bethany House Publishers and designer Jennifer Parker do a fabulous job. I have very little to do with the covers. I provide initial input early on about what the character(s) look like, what they might be wearing, and a situation or setting they might be shown in, as well as a synopsis of the book itself. From there, Jennifer designs the cover, hires model(s), stylist, photographer, rents costumes, props, etc. She gets all the credit! The Dancing Master is my first book to have both the male and female characters on the cover. I recently met and interviewed the models at my book launch. Both were charming and well-spoken. And both agreed it was somewhat awkward pretending to be in love when they had just met. Even so, I think they did a great job and am glad to hear you agree.
Any hints on what you are working on next?
I have submitted the first draft of my next Regency-era novel to my editors. It’s a mysterious romance called The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and is due to be released December 2014.
Thank you for having me here!
Thank you so much for answering these questions Julie! Pick up your copy of The Dancing Master in paperback or eBook today.