A little about me... I worked in publishing for sixteen years (first in advertising, then as a fiction editor) and now write full time. Three of my books, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Silent Governess have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and The Girl in the Gatehouse also won a Midwest Book Award and The Silent Governess was a finalist in Romance Writers of America's RITA awards.

I graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoy travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends. My husband and I have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.

How did you come up with the idea for this story?

The idea came from research and Jane Austen. While I was researching an earlier novel (The Silent Governess) I came across information about private tutors. Public schools as we know them didn't exist in those days. Parents of young boys could  hire a live-in tutor, or send their sons to live with a learned man to be educated in his home. Jane Austen’s own father took in pupils, so Jane grew up with male boarders sharing her house and her father’s time. Perhaps that’s why Edward Ferrars, a character in Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, had been sent away to be educated by a clergyman (and there became secretly engaged to the clergyman’s niece, Lucy Steele). In The Tutor’s Daughter, Emma Smallwood has grown up in a similar situation—her father is a tutor and her home is a boarding school for young gentlemen.

Your story takes place in the 1800’s, what do you find fascinating about this time period? Why write about it?

I am specifically drawn to the Regency period (1811-1820) because that was when Jane Austen’s novels, which I enjoy and admire, were published (though written somewhat earlier). I think Regency novels are a great fit for the inspirational market in particular, because they are set at a time when people, by and large, valued virtue, revered God and church, and endeavored to follow the rules of polite society—things less common today. It was a time when chivalry was alive and well. Physical contact between unmarried ladies and gentlemen was limited to the chaste touching of hands during a courtly dance at a grand ball. I find it a very romantic time, as do many, I’m happy to say!

April 1817, Emma Smallwood sets up her teacups she adores, dusts books she likes to keep around her. Do you have a favorite tea set you use on special occasions? Do you have tea parties or been invited to one? What do you look forward to at a tea party? Been to a tea party you’ll never forget?

Tea Anyone?
I haven’t given a tea party, but I've had the privilege of being invited to several teas now, put on by sweet bookstore managers or ladies group leaders where I've been invited to speak. And of course I have fond memories of drinking tea at several historical estates in England. Sigh. England is the best place to drink tea!

Emma hopes to go to Italy and France someday. Have you ever been there? Hope to go there or somewhere else? Do tell!

I have been to France, but oddly enough only for one day. When visiting England, my husband and I took an overnight ferry across the channel to visit Normandy and see the world war sites and graves there. It was a worthwhile day, to be sure, but I was sad to discover my college French failed me. If we go back, I would need to brush up first. I have never been to Italy, but it’s #1 on my best friend’s bucket list, so maybe I’ll go with her someday. In the meantime, though, I am already dreaming and hoping to return to England in the next year or two.

Would you like to live back in this time period? What would you look forward to experience? Any food you’d like to eat back then? Anything special you’d like to experience?
Since that’s unlikely, my husband and I have begun attending English Country dancing classes for fun—and research! I used to think I was born in the wrong era and wished I had lived during those days of grand balls, long gowns, and men in tall boots. Don’t get me wrong, it could be a romantic time—if you had money. But the more research I've done into the era’s medicine, sanitation, hygiene, and woman’s roles and  rights, the more glad I am to live now! If I did go back, I would love to go back as the belle of the ball with a man like Mr. Darcy as my partner.

When you sit down to read a Regency Romance mystery story what are the things you look forward to experiencing? Why?

Emma Smallwood
I love it when mysteries are introduced from the first pages--questions that engage my mind and make me want to read closely to figure out what’s going on. I prefer that to being able to guess what’s going to happen right away. I also look forward to meeting characters who surprise me, to watching them grow and change and win my affection. I love twists and turns. I love being swept away to another world, one different from my own—ideally an inviting, intriguing place in which to spend several hours.

In your research for this novel what touched your heart and made you say, “ I've got to put that in my story?”

Two things jump to mind. One I don’t want to specify, because it’s a spoiler. But those who already read the book can read about it in the author’s note. The one I will mention is that, during my research, I came across an account of an heroic lifesaving rescue performed by an old man on horseback, while other, younger and stronger men looked on, helpless. I found it amazing and inspiring and loved including it in the novel.

Can you tell me about two WOW—moments you've had since being published? What made it a wow for you?
Audio Book

So many highlights to choose from! Some of my favorite moments have been listening to the audio versions of my books. They audio company hires talented British actors to narrate the novels and they really perform them, using different accents and “voices” to bring the characters to life. Not quite as good as if one of my books were made into a movie, but the next best thing!

I've also been surprised and delighted to have my books published in other languages--Dutch (the Netherlands) and German. How wonderful to see the books reaching other countries, and to receive emails from people who have read them in their own language. My husband and I had the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands and Germany last fall for a mini-book tour. We loved meeting readers and publishing folks there. It was definitely a “wow” experience.

Your Discussion questions were so good I wanted to ask you a few of them. How would you compare education by private tutor with other forms of education you may have experienced (homeschooling, classical academy, boarding school, public school, etc) Would you have enjoyed being taught by a tutor? Would it have been an effective way for you to learn? Why or why not?

I went to public school. But I’m sure, being the adaptable person I am, I would have done just fine being taught privately at home. I might have escaped with fewer emotional bruises from schoolyard bullies, too. Though I’m sure it was all good for my character.

What role does Emma’s teacup from Venice play in the novel? Why is it significant?
Tea in England - Divine
The single teacup is a gift from her mother, who passed away, and is therefore special. It also represents her desire to travel and, symbolically, the future she sees for herself—that of a solitary spinster.

Imagine if you, like Emma, had grown up with a houseful of young men coming and going. How do you think this might have affected your upbringing and perspective, your relationships with both men and women in later life?

I grew up with brothers. So, when I went away to college and even in my early career, I sometimes found myself uncomfortable in a group of women. Had I grown up with men not my brothers, I might have become disillusioned about my romantic ideal of the perfect man. Now, I live as the only female in a house of males (husband, sons, even the cat!) and I am certainly well aware of both the strengths and quirks of the common man.

Were you surprised by anything you learned about Cornwall, shipwrecks, “wreckers,” or the lack of lifesaving equipment in the early 1800’s? What did you find most interesting? What did you find that disturbed you?

The research I did for this book was disturbing at times. Cornwall in the early 19th century could be a rough, lawless place in many ways. Shipwrecks were common, but lifesaving equipment was still in its infancy and often sailors drowned in plain sight of people on shore. Also, poverty was such a problem, that it was commonplace to search through the dead who washed up on shore, looking for something to salvage or sell. But, thankfully, I also found accounts of bravery and heroic rescue attempts, which I was able to incorporate into the novel as well.

Did you have a favorite character in this story? Why did you like him or her? What thoughts did his or her situation prompt about your life?
Book Signing in Netherlands

I became fond of several characters in the book as I often seem to do. Emma Smallwood, though unlike me in many ways (she is fastidiously neat and orderly, which I’m definitely not!) is likable for her studiousness, love of books, and  her stoic self-dependence until she learns to rely on others…and God.


Where did you live growing up? What did you like about growing up there?

We moved from Chicago when I was eight to live in rural, central Illinois. I went to school in a town called Bath (population 400). We lived on 9 acres and could only see one house from ours across a field. No girls my age lived nearby, so I spent a lot of time alone, creating pretend worlds and playing with my many cats. I think those years strengthened my imagination, which has helped me as an author.

Name two jobs that you've had people might be surprised at.

I think most of your readers know that I worked as a fiction editor before I was a writer, so let me think of something else. When I started my first “real” job out of college (and hence rented my first apartment, bought my first car, etc.) I thought I was rich. But I soon learned it cost a lot more to live on your own than I realized. I ended up taking a second job as a waitress. I think everyone should work as a wait person at some point. It makes you a kinder patron and a better tipper.
Regency Ball - Fun

I also taught ballroom dancing through community ed. I took a lot of ballroom dancing classes in college and loved them, and later enjoyed introducing others to the joys of dancing.

You are shipwrecked on an uninhabited tropical island with a group of Christians – all friends and relatives of yours. You all have to work as a team to survive. Many roles have to be filled. Which role do you think you’d play?

I’m one of those adaptable middle children, so I would likely end up doing whatever no one else wanted to do. I’m also a good jury-rigger, so maybe I’d end up constructing huts and helpful implements to make life easier.

What movie greatly impacted you as a child? Why? If you didn't watch movies as a kid what book affected you?

I watched movies, but cannot think of one that impacted me greatly when I was young. Two books that affected me were The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre—both of which sparked my love of books set in England.

What things would you not want to live without? (Besides your family and friends, what creature comforts would not want to do with out)

Favorite creature comforts include cats, good coffee, dark chocolate, and BBC costume dramas.

THANKS for stopping by and helping us get to know you and your new book The Tutor’s Daughter, I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for the great pictures too! I’m thrilled that Bethany House  is giving away 10 copies of your new book at The Book Club Network’s now until the end of the month.. There is already a great discussion going on @TBCN, glad to have you there. Blessings to you in your writing adventures in 2013 Julie;

WANT TO JOIN THE BOOK FUN??? Well HURRY on over to TBCN and Enter the Contest and interact with Julie Klassen.

ALL ENTRIES for the Drawing at done at TBCN not on this blog post!

Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!! 


  1. Wanted to say I loved the interview. Your books sound wonderful. I feel like you. If Iwas wealthy and had a wealthy suitor back then it would of been a good life back then. But not if you didn't Love the books.

  2. Thanks, Diana! Glad you enjoyed the interview.