Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interview with Julie Klassen and Giveaway

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing award-winning author, 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. Her books, The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) and The Silent Governess (2010), have each won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. Julie and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit 

Welcome, Julie.  Congratulations on your latest novel, The Girl in the Gatehouse, winning The Christy Award for Historical Romance—you must be thrilled. Please tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

Thank you. I was very excited to win, especially because I had just quit my day job to focus on writing. Winning seemed like a very welcome and timely confirmation of that decision!

 Inspiration for this book came from several places. For example, my main character, Mariah Aubrey, was somewhat inspired by a secondary character in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. In that book, Maria Bertram makes a serious mistake and because of it, is sent away from her family forever. Of course in Mansfield Park, we do not admire vain and adulterous Maria Bertram and most readers likely feel she earned her just deserts. But I found myself thinking, Wow, that’s harsh. One strike, you’re out. If Maria were a character we actually cared about, would we be content to leave her in her lonely exile? As someone who has made her share of mistakes in life, I am thankful for forgiveness and second chances. And I enjoyed giving my character hers as well.

Where can our readers buy The Girl in the Gatehouse?

It’s available in print or e-book through bookstores as well as online retailers like,,, etc. or as an audio book from

How did you go about doing the research for your book?  Do you have any anecdotes or interesting experiences related to your research to tell us?

My main character is a secret novelist. So, to write this book, I enjoyed researching the lives of early women authors, like Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney, and of course, Jane Austen. I also enjoyed learning a bit about publishing in the early nineteenth century.  As someone who worked in publishing for sixteen years, I found this fascinating. (So much has changed technologically speaking, yet so much remains the same: deadlines, pressure to sell more copies, critical reviews....)       In fact, I sprinkled into the novel a few actual reviews of Jane Austen’s novels from the time of their release. It ought to make writers everywhere feel better to know that even Miss Austen received the occasional snide review.

How did you weave in a spiritual thread without being preachy?

Many writers I know struggle with this (including me), and there aren’t any easy answers. Of course, we don’t want spiritual content to feel tacked on, as in, “and now a pause for station identification,” (i.e. a sermon).  We want the Christian content to be germane to the story and interwoven within it. In Lady of Milkweed Manor, for example, my character finds herself in desperate straits, so calling out to God in prayer seemed a natural response. In The Silent Governess, I took the expected route and had the vicar deliver the spiritual wisdom, but in other books, the clergyman is not the good guy. Sometimes the spiritual thread comes from the main characters’ own searching. Other times, truths can be delivered by older characters who have experienced God’s forgiveness and grace in their own lives. In my case, writing in the Regency era (early 1800s England) including Christian content is somewhat easier, than in say, contemporary novels, because in this time period, many people went to church, had daily prayers, invited the vicar to dine, gave alms to the poor, etc. So it would be less natural, in my mind, if I didn’t mention some of these things. Don’t forget, Jane Austen herself was a clergyman’s daughter!

Did you have any particular Bible verses running through your mind as you wrote?

The Girl in the Gatehouse has a theme of forgiveness. But I also enjoyed using the unique setting and title word “gate” as a subtle message in the book through the words of Jesus: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (John 10:9) And, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14)

What do you hope your readers will take away from your book?

My goal is to write compelling, romantic stories that glorify God. I believe a novel must first of all be a good story. But I also hope to reflect the reality that while people are imperfect and make mistakes, God offers us forgiveness and second chances though His son.

Do you enjoy reading books with foreign settings? Any favorites?

I am quite an anglophile these days and primarily read books set in the England. I recently enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.

If you were given an all expenses paid holiday anywhere in the world to research a novel, where would you choose to go? Why would you choose this location?

I imagine you can guess at my answer by now! My husband and I had the privilege of taking a research trip to England in May (only our second time there). Now we’re beginning to dream about visiting Ireland or Scotland next, so I would choose one of those places.

Please tell us about your current book/project.

My next book will release in December 2011. It’s called The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and tells the story of an upper-class lady who finds herself thrust into the below-stairs world of a housemaid in the home of a former suitor. It’s available for preorder online (ISBN 978-0-7642-0709-9). I hope you will enjoy it! Thanks for having me here.

Thank you for the interesting interview, I look for forward to reading The Girl in the Gatehouse.

Julie has kindly offered to give away a copy of The Girl in the Gatehouse to one lucky reader. Please note the draw for the book is only open to readers living in America. If you wish to  enter, please leave a comment or question for Julie before Friday 23rd September, ALSO state that you'd like to be in the draw AND LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. 

The giveaway is void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international law.

Ruth Ann Dell writes children's stories and international Christian fiction from her home in a sunny South African suburb. She is a member of several writing groups including the American Christian Fiction Writers and Writer's Ink. Her desire is to craft gripping stories which draw her readers into a closer relationship with God.
Ruth Ann and her husband have lived in several countries and are renovating a cottage in the heart of Ireland.


  1. Thanks for the interesting interview, Ruth. Julie thank you for including some of the background information to your books and the story-line. What a clever way of finding a good plot. I don't live in the USA so I realise I'm not included in the draw.

  2. Ruth Ann and Julie, great interview! Julie, your upcoming release sounds like a fascinating story, and I'll look out for the Kindle version :)

  3. Thanks Shirley, glad you found the interview interesting.

    And thanks Narelle. (Cool name!) Hope you enjoy the book when it comes out on Kindle.

  4. Lovely posting, and such a wonderful writer.

  5. Congratulations on your awards, Julie. So good to have your work appreciated and know your decision to write full time was the right one.
    I'm in Canada so guess I'm not eligible for the draw. (sigh)

  6. I loved both your books but forgot how much of Jane Austen was included! Loved the reminder. Fun reminder!
    I hope you get that trip to Ireland soon!

  7. Thank you for popping in and leaving comments Julie, Shirley, Narelle, Christine, Alice and Alisha.

    Please leave your email address if you live in USA and wish to be included in the draw.

  8. Thanks Christine, I appreciate you stopping by.

    Hi Alice, thanks for commenting. Where in Canada are you? Maybe not too far from Minneosta?

    Hi Alisha, fellow-Jane fan. Glad you've enjoyed two of my books. In case you didn't know, I have 4 out now--hope you'll enjoy the others as well.

  9. Julie, I absolutely love your books. I don't know if I could choose one over the other as a favorite. But I do know I keep checking to see if there's a new book coming soon, so I'm happy to see there'll be a new one in December. I must confess that I don't read a lot of books set in England, mostly because I don't understand the aristocracy and a lot of the verbage. But your books enchant me, and sweep me into a world I love reading about. I can't wait until December!

  10. Julie, if you do get a chance to take that trip to Ireland, you won't regret it. My wife and I traveled there to visit our son when he spent a year in college in Ireland. The stone walls, castles on hilltops (some still used, some broken down), the woolen sweaters, the nearly indecipherable brogue spoken by many folk in County Cork, the quaint pubs with fish and chips... Ample fodder for a writer!

  11. Julie...I have read and LOVED all of your previous novels...Thank you for the opportunity to read Mariah's story. Enjoyed your posting :)

    Ruth Ann...thanks for having Julie on your blog :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  12. Julie, one way to visit Ireland is on a home exchange vacation. My family and I have enjoyed three vacations in Ireland by exchanging houses with other families. I'm looking forward to reading your books because I love Jane Austen and Jane Eyre, too. Are you attending the ACFW conference next week?

  13. Great interview and I love Julie's writing! No need to enter me as I have listened to this wonderful book on audio. I have been a follower on this site for a while but noticed the wonderful pics up on the side now and so many people who I "know" through ACFW! That is a great idea! Thanks for telling us in HisWriters about your interview, Julie!

  14. This sounds great, Julie! I always maintain there is nothing more important we can do to improve the quality of our writing than to read the classics.

  15. Hi Suzie, so glad you've enjoyed my books, even though you don't read many set in England. That makes my day!

    Rick, hi. Glad to hear how much you and your wife loved Ireland. You make it sound so good! We're still in the dreaming phase--but hopefully someday!

    Karen, thanks for the encouraging words about my books. I appreciate it.

  16. Hope, thanks for the tip about the home exchange. I've thought about it in the past, but I'm pretty sure my little abode in chilly Minnesota wouldn't attract too many travelers! Might be worth a try, I suppose. And yes, I am going to ACFW this year. Looking forward to it. Will I see you there?

  17. Julie, yes, I'm planning to attend ACFW. I'd love to meet you and maybe talk about home exchanging. We exchanged when we lived and Pittsburgh, but the last time we exchanged, we'd moved to an hour east of Raleigh, NC. We live in the country. People will go anywhere.

  18. Julie, of the four books you have written so far, which stands out as your favorite?
    I am so happy that you are writing full-time so that your books will be published sooner.
    I am always anxious to read your next book as soon as I finish reading one!

    I so want to be included in the draw!
    Charlotte Kay
    charlovesmark at gmail dot com

  19. Great interview! I love the Apothecary's Daughter. I would love to win a copy of the Girl in the Gaqtehouse!

  20. Many thanks for all the comments. Please remember to leave your email address in the comments if you would like to be entered in the draw.

    Suzie, I agree with you, I've read two of Julie's books and they are terrific.

    Rick, I've also visited Ireland, including County Cork, and it's the most wonderful place with an abundance of writing "fodder".

    Karenk, thank you for popping in and leaving a comment.

    Hope, what a super idea to exchange houses for a vacation.

    Carrie thank you for following our site and for leaving a comment today.

    Donna, yes we can learn a great deal from the classics.

    Charlotte, that's a good question, I look forward to reading Julie's answer.

    Tara, I agree, The Apothecary's Daughter is a really good read.

    Julie, I hope your dreams come true and you get to visit Ireland.

  21. Excellent interview! I so love your books. They take me away to another place and fill me with joy. I can be someone else for a time and I always can relate to the characters. :) Please include me in the drawing for the book!

  22. I read "The Apothecary's Daughter" in our church book club and I just fell in love with Julie's writing. I recently finished "The Silent Governess" and cant wait to read "The Girl in the Lighthouse".
    I would love to be entered into the contest.
    fordjunkstuff (at) gmail (dot) com

  23. I enjoyed Milkweed Manor very much. Congratulations on the Christy! May this recognition bring many more readers to all your books. Please include me in the drawing. leannehardy (at) gmail (dot) com

  24. I love your stories, can't wait for your newest release. I'd like to be in the drawing. I can be reached at:
    Thanks! Sara S

  25. Donna, Lizzy, LeAnne and Sara, many thanks for leaving comments.

    And the winner is


    Congratulations, Donna, I know you're going to enjoy Julie's book.