Hello, Julie! Thank you so much for taking the time to appear on Let Them Read Books. What first inspired you to start writing Christian historical fiction?
When I wrote my first book, I didn’t set out to write Christian fiction in particular, but since my The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre as a young girl, and later the novels of Jane Austen cemented my love of the Regency era in particular.
Faith is such a big part of who I am, it naturally ended up woven into my novels. As far as historical fiction, I have loved books set in 19th century England ever since I read
You dedicated The Dancing Master to your college dance instructor. What inspired you to write a novel about a Regency-era dancing teacher?
I learned to dance the box-step standing atop my father’s size 15 triple E shoes, then went on to take every ballroom dance class I could sign up for at the University of Illinois from legendary instructor, Aurora Villacorta. Later, I even taught a few dance classes of my own through community ed. So perhaps it’s little wonder I wrote about a dance teacher, or “dancing master” as they were called in Jane Austen’s time, when the mere touch of hands at a ball sparked romance. I enjoyed drawing on all of these experiences to write the book.
The Dancing Master was my first introduction to the Bryanites. Can you tell us a bit about them and their inclusion in the story?
While only a minor aspect of the novel, I enjoyed mentioning this group of believers, which originated in Cornwall and Devon, where the book is set. I came across the name in an old Cornish newspaper that described the Bryanites worshipping in a large loft over a stable with great fervor in imitation of David’s dancing before the ark. The beams suddenly gave way, and “the minister and his dancing congregation” fell to the stable beneath. How could I resist mentioning them in a book about a dancing teacher? Further research revealed the Bryanites (or Bible Christians) were an offshoot of Wesleyan Methodists, founded by a man named O’Bryan (originally Bryant) and known for their admirable dedication to the Bible.
I often see readers complain that Christian fiction is "too preachy." How do you manage to strike such a balanced blend of story and faith in your novels?
I agree it is very difficult to do well. I’m still learning! I think it helps that I believe a novel must first and foremost be a good story. Yes, I hope that what I write glorifies God, but story is key.
And lastly, if you could be transported back in time to Regency England for one day, what would you do while you were there?
Fun question! I would love to go to a ball and dance with Mr. Darcy types all evening long. J
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