In which we get to know our Patronesses a little better…
Name: Susannah Fullerton
Chosen Patroness: Lady Jersey
How old were you when you read your first Georgette Heyer novel?
I think I read my first GH at about the age of 12.
What was it?
How did you discover her work?
I was staying with a relative and got sick, so had to spend a day in bed, and she handed me Arabella. I enjoyed it, but was perhaps still too young as I did not rush off to find more from my relative’s bookshelves.
Then as a teenager I read many — picking some up in second hand bookstores or at libraries. I liked them, but did not fall in love with them, and after a while I moved on to other authors and felt I had outgrown Heyer’s novels.
How wrong I was! My friend Amanda Jones, a co-contributor to the new volume, lent me an audio version of Frederica, and I fell in love — with Alverstoke, Frederica, with the language and humour. Gradually I found all of them on audio and listened to them with such joy. I often listen again, and laugh out loud so frequently.
Did Heyer lead you to read other authors in similar genres?
Of course her books led me to try other Regency romances, but nobody can match Georgette Heyer in that genre. My favourite novelist ever is Jane Austen, and Heyer is her best imitator. She is not the utterly brilliant genius that Jane Austen was, but what she does, she does superbly, and her novels have given me enormous pleasure over the last fifteen years.
Which of her books have you read the most often?
My favourites are Arabella and Sylvester and Devil’s Cub, but then running very close behind are Friday’s Child, Frederica, and Cotillion. (I passed on my love of Heyer to my daughter, who has named her first baby Arabella, so of course that gives me an added affection for that particular novel. )
Which, if any, would you never read again?
None. Even Cousin Kate, which is rather grim, is one I could read again.
If you could be a Heyer heroine, which would you choose?
As a writer, I think I must choose Phoebe from Sylvester as the heroine I’d most like to be. And I’d love to marry a Duke and have the Duchess as a mother-in-law…
Which Heyer hero (or heroine) would make the best husband/wife/partner?
… and I think Sylvester, once he has learned all the lessons Phoebe teaches him, would make a lovely husband. But I am also deeply in love with Mr Beaumaris, Lord Alverstoke, Vidal, and a score of others, so it’s very hard to choose.
How has Georgete Heyer influenced your life?
Georgette has had a huge influence on my life. With two good friends I have organised and conducted two very successful conferences on her novels, which have brought friends from all around Australia and NZ to attend. For one of those events, we produced a booklet about Heyer’s effect on her readers, to which Stephen Fry contributed, as well as many other distinguished writers, and producing that book was fun and enlightening. Because of Georgette I met Jennifer Kloester, a dear friend with whom I have enjoyed many hours of conversation. And thanks to Georgette, so many long car journeys, the cooking of meals, and going for walks, have been made infinitely more pleasurable because I’ve been listening to her superb words. I am immeasurably grateful to her for her skill, humour, brilliance with words, and memorable character creations. I go back to her books again and again, and the enjoyment never fades.
Susannah Fullerton, OAM, FRSN, is the President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, literary lecturer and tour leader, author of Jane Austen and Crime, A Dance with Jane Austen, Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Jane & I: A Tale of Austen Addiction, and co-editor of Complete to a Shade: Georgette Heyer, A Celebration.