Mary Fahnestock-Thomas Interview

February 20, 2010

HistoricalNovels.info interviews the editor of
Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective


cat with bookAlas, Georgette Heyer is no longer around to give interviews, but we were lucky enough to have Mary Fahnestock-Thomas visit the blog on February 20, 2010, instead. She's the editor of Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective, a collection including some of Heyer's short stories; reviews going back to 1921 when Heyer's first novel, The Black Moth, appeared; obituaries; and articles about Heyer's work.


How did you come to edit Georgette Heyer:
A Critical Retrospective?

I searched out this collection of material in gratitude to Heyer for repeatedly restoring my sense of humor while I finished up my Ph.D. I was fortunate to find someone on the Georgette Heyer listserve who wanted to publish it, and although copyright fees prevented us from including perhaps a third of the reviews I had found, my publisher made a careful and informed selection, and apparently the book has been useful and brought pleasure to many Heyer fans. It is still available through Amazon.com.


How did you first discover Heyer's novels?

I was in my mid-thirties and home with my parents for New Year's after many years of adventuring through life in the U.S. and abroad. It was not a particularly happy time, partly because push was coming to shove and I really had to finish my dissertation. My mother, who read widely in many fields but repeatedly returned to Georgette Heyer, had for years been suggesting that I try her, but my field was Literature and I wasn't a bit interested in romances. That New Year's Eve I headed for bed at about 10:30 in low spirits and just picked up The Nonesuch because it was there. I ended up staying up all night reading and laughing out loud, neither of which was at all common for me in those days.


Do you have a favorite?

It tends to be whichever one I am reading at the time, though I have a particular fondness for The Nonesuch as my first, The Reluctant Widow as the one I read while pacing the hospital corridors to hasten the arrival of my daughter 23 years ago, Friday's Child because it seems "complete to a shade," Cotillion because of Freddie Standen, Venetia for the relationship between the main characters and the Shakespeare quotes, and The Grand Sophy for, well, I suppose strength of character. Because character and conversation are more important to me than persuasiveness of plot, I also very much enjoy her mysteries; her four contemporary novels I think very interesting for character, especially considering how young Heyer was when she wrote them; her histories and more swashbuckling adventures I generally steer away from, but I do have them in my collection; and I remember The Black Moth in particular having a lovely flavor of The Scarlet Pimpernel.


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