Kim Wilkins was born in London but grew up in the sunniest part of Australia. She published her first novel in 1997 and has published a further 29 since then, and is translated into 20 languages. She is an Associate Professor of Writing, Editing, and Publishing at the University of Queensland.
She is co-chairing The Nonesuch? Georgette Heyer and Her Historical Fiction Contemporaries conference at UCL on June 19.
What is the last Georgette Heyer book you read?
Arabella. I have a Georgette Heyer reading group and we meet once every two months to drink ratafia and eat macaroons and talk about the book. Some of us are even men!
For those unfamiliar with her body of work, what genre does Heyer’s writing fall into?
Whatever genre is historical, witty, romantic, and sharply observed.
What’s the most surprising fact you’ve learnt about Georgette Heyer?
That she had tax problems, and was very much a jobbing writer. Made me admire her all the more.
Can you see echoes of Heyer’s work in modern day Romance novels?
Yes, but in the same way you see echoes of Tolkien in modern-day Fantasy. The end product is not always of the original quality (though it can be!)
Which Heyer book would you recommend to a first-time reader of her novels?
I would have said The Grand Sophy as it is so much fun, but present-day readers would have to overlook a few of Heyer’s suspect attitudes. My favourite is Venetia and I am in love with Lord Damerel and shall never give him up, even if he is a shocking rake. The Reluctant Widow is a gothic romp: so much fun. Any or all of those.
If you could bring a fictional Heyer character to life for one day to hang out with, who would it be?
I’d hang out with Sophy Stanon-Lacy because she can drive a phaeton and pair super fast.
Within the wider book world, do you think Georgette Heyer gets the recognition that she deserves?
While she doesn’t often get cited in discussions about literary value, there is a vast subculture of Georgette Heyer fans in publishing. I am constantly delighted to meet bookish people of both sexes who don’t just know of Georgette Heyer, but love her with a demented passion. It’s like being in a secret club.
Tell us about your job and what it involves on a daily basis
I get to read and write all day, basically. An average day might be writing 1000 words of fiction before breakfast, going to the gym, then heading to work to prepare lessons, keep up with research projects, and avoid meetings. I despise meetings. Nothing ever gets done in a meeting.
Tell us about a passion you have outside the business.
Hiking! I’m coming over to the UK for an extra week before the conference to go tramping around the Lakes. Helvellyn via Striding Edge is on my bucket list. If I don’t show at the conference, it’s because I’ve plunged to a spectacular capital-R Romantic demise. (Please don’t worry. I’m Australian: we are very hardy).
Finally, what are you most looking forward to seeing or hearing at the Heyer Conference and Soirée.
I’m shallow. It’s the frocks.
Want to learn more about Georgette Heyer and meet other like-minded historical romance fans? In collaboration with IES/UCL, we’re hosting a soirée dedicated to the wise and witty author herself, on June 19 at The House of St Barnabas in London. See here to learn more about the evening and to book a spot.