Georgette Heyer: Author Bio

Wordcandy favorite Georgette Heyer was born in 1902, and wrote her first novel at age 17. While she is best remembered as a writer of Regency-era romances, Heyer also penned several earlier period romances, a dozen mysteries, and four modern novels. By the time of her death in 1974, she had written more than fifty witty, romantic books, many of which are still in print.

Georgette Heyer once said “Romantic I am not”. That isn’t quite fair (saccharine she was not), but her novels are notable for their tartly humorous approach to love. Her best books are truly outstanding—hilarious and sharply intelligent, sweet but not sentimental—and even her less impressive efforts display considerable style.

Heyer’s first book began as a serialized melodrama she created to entertain her invalid younger brother. Impressed by his daughter’s creativity, Heyer’s father suggested that she turn her story into a novel, and found her a publisher. The Black Moth came out in 1921, when Heyer was just nineteen years old. By the time she was thirty, Heyer was producing one romance novel and one thriller per year, and supporting both her extended and immediate family with her writing. (Her short stories paid for her brothers’ weddings, for example.)

Heyer wed Ronald Rougier in 1925, and remained happily married for the rest of her life. Her husband reportedly created the basic outlines for her detective stories, with Heyer coming up with the characters, relationships, and dialogue. The pair had a son, Richard, in 1932.

Despite her early and consistent success, Heyer’s life had its fair share of troubles. She never figured out the British tax system, and tried everything from accountant-hopping to forming a limited liability company to minimize her financial obligations. (None of these plans worked out, but she kept trying.) She had frequent health problems—some of them bizarre, like the time she got a mosquito bite that turned septic—and eventually died of lung cancer at age 71. Her later career was plagued by several alleged plagiarists, whose books displayed everything from imitations of Heyer’s style to outright theft of her characters, plot elements, and turns of phrase. (Some of Heyer’s fans actually suspected her of publishing inferior work under a pseudonym.)

Over the course of her career, Heyer wrote thirty-four romances, six re-imagined histories, twelve mystery novels, and sixteen short stories. She also wrote four non-genre modern novels—Helen, Pastel, Barren Corn, and Instead of the Thorn—in her twenties, all of which she later suppressed (with good reason, if these books are as terrible as my mother claims). While she achieved considerable popularity and commercial success, Heyer’s books never received much critical attention. Only recently, thanks to elegant new reprints in the United States and Great Britain, as well as an admiring essay by high-falutin’ English novelist A.S. Byatt, has Heyer’s work begun to attract some long-overdue literary acclaim.
Posted by: Julianka


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