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Two Austen fans podcasting to tell the story of Georgette Heyer today

By Sara-Mae Tuson

Exactly one year ago this week my friend Beth and I were having tea and cake in the Victoria and Albert Museum, when I asked her if she fancied joining me in setting up a boutique podcast company. So ‘Fable Gazers’ was born – a podcast company which aims to produce narrative podcasts with our own special twist.

With literary-themed podcasts in their infancy, there’s still room for new voices. Our ambitions are vast: we want to produce the next podcast obsession. With audio content (according to Oliver Deane, Director of Commercial Digital at DAX)  set to make up 30% of advertising revenue it looked like a promising proposition. But it wasn’t the prospect of making money that inspired us to create Fable Gazers. It was two passion projects, one started by a friend’s shocking revelation to me, and the other created because of a need to find a podcast about two of my favourite writers.

I thought it might be possible to keep creating beautiful audio stories, not as a one-off, but as a proper company. With books being a passion of mine, particularly those of a certain famous author who died far too young, after shaping my young mind with such classics as Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and more, I wanted to do something that covered an area of Austen’s world which hasn’t been done to death – and it hit me, what about the intersection between her work and the Regency romance novels of Georgette Heyer?

So, I began work on Heyer Today. Like The West Wing Weekly, in which Hrishikesh Hirway and Josh Malina discuss every episode of The West Wing with celebrity guests, our second season, Heyer Today, will have us discussing fourteen of Georgette Heyer’s books with someone who has never read one, attempting to ‘convert’ them to her work, as well as comparing them to Austen’s six classic novels as we go along. For many of us who adore Jane Austen’s work, Heyer is the closest thing we can find to our favourite literary heroine.

There were several revelations for me in the course of researching Heyer Today, and I’ve come to admire her even more than I did before beginning the process. For instance, she wrote almost two books a year throughout her career, supported her family with her work, and has never been out of print!

In Heyer Today we’re also going to compare the two authors from a historical perspective, contrasting the two writer’s lives and experiences in order to analyse how these elements factored into their work. What makes a book a classic is a thorny question, and while Austen is undoubtedly part of the literary firmament, Heyer is often seen as being rather more frivolous, despite her legions of fans world-wide. What is it that puts an author firmly in the canon? We delve into all of these issues over the course of the series.

Apart from the pleasure of getting to share the two writers’ work with new people, I got to interview some incredible fans of hers, including Stephen Fry. We talked Beau Brummel, acting in Austen adaptations and a host of other things.

People just assume there’s a genre now of Regency romance, and that she’s one of them, and that she’s like the others. And she isn’t, as we who venerate her know…She’d so subsumed herself in the [Regency] age, that she became a mistress of its languages, modalities, its architecture and its locations…the milieu was just hers and nobody came close. – Stephen Fry on Heyer

Others, like Jennifer Kloester, Heyer’s biographer, and Susannah Fullerton, head of the Jane Austen Society in Australia, as well as writers like Harriet Evans and Jane Holland and Jenni Waugh of the Jane Austen Centre, Bath, did me the great favour of speaking about their favourite Austen and Heyer books.

With a treasure trove of deeply amusing stories to choose from, it’s bizarre that none of Heyer’s books have been committed to celluloid. Particularly when one considers how popular the Austen adaptations are. Of course, we all have our favourite Austen adaptations, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some of her spiritual heir’s work included in cinematic depictions of the Regency world we adore? Over the course of the podcast, I set out to try and solve this mystery.

It turns out, getting a novel made into a film, especially when most of Heyer’s works are still in copyright period, is trickier than one would think. Andy Paterson and Peter Buckman, the literary agent handling Heyer’s estate, give us brilliant insights into the knotty process of committing a much-loved work into film.

Sometimes when I despair of publishing because they’re so cautious, I then talk to film producers and all the nonsense that they have to go through, all the hoops that they have to pass…raising money from a whole variety of sources, all of whom want a say in how things go… I’m then grateful that I mainly work in publishing!

Peter Buckman – Literary agent for Heyer’s estate

So, a fascinating project which is still in its infancy, and we need support to give us the time to edit, produce and source original music in order to complete the series to the standard we’d like to have it. Both Jane and Georgette deserve only the best! After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader in possession of a good brain is in want of a brilliant literary podcast…or so, I’m certain, Austen would have said.

Sara Mae Tuson is a freelance editor and copywriter with years of publishing, editorial and marketing experience in both the literary and commercial arenas. Sara-Mae is represented by the Blake Friedmann Film and Literary Agency and is currently working on her debut novel, a hilarious and dizzily romantic YA fantasy adventure.

You can get videos, free content and taster audio clips from Fable Gazers here (where you can also donate to their project). You can also follow them on Twitter (@fable_gazers or @saramaetuson) or like them on Facebook.

 

 

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