I am both a novelist and a magazine editor and I’ve found those two worlds of mine come together nicely in blogging for the website English Historical Fiction Authors. I joined the group in the autumn of 2011, a few months before my first novel. The Crown, was published. I was new to blogging and it took me a little time to figure out what the site was and how I could best contribute. I learned that each day a different author posted a nonfiction article that spoke to his or her passion for English history. Nearly once a month for the next two years, I posted on the century that my books are set in and one I never get tired of researching and thinking about: the 16th. The age of the Tudors.
The new book Castles, Customs and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors is an anthology of articles written by more than 50 authors in the first year of our website’s existence. It begins in the time of Boudicca and ends in the era of Downton Abbey. The book runs chronologically, so I suppose you could say my nine articles fall in the middle.
I am writing a trilogy of historical thrillers set during the reign of Henry VIII, with a protagonist who is a Dominican novice. My posts have tended to cover the life in the priories and the religious conflict as Henry Tudor broke from Rome. But I’ve tackled other topics too, such as Halloween in the 16th century, the horrific marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk and the myths surrounding the death of Henry VIII.
I’ve been able to follow the “stats” of the blog posts and have noticed some surprising results—or perhaps not so surprising. When I write about the life of a little-known person, such as the strong-willed prioress who ruled over Dartford’s Dominican Order for decades, the comments are respectful but it doesn’t rack up extraordinary numbers. But anytime I go near Henry or any of his brides, the numbers spike. People simply never get sick of that family!
And then there’s the most popular post of mine: “Little Ease—Torture and the Tudors.” (http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2012/05/little-ease-torture-and-tudors.html) As of the last time I checked, that post had racked up more than 10,000 original page views, making it the second most read of all of EHFA’s posts. I wanted to write about torture at the Tower because it was something I’d done a lot of research about, through studying books and contemporary documents, interviewing a Tower of London curatorial intern with access to a lot of fascinating records, and seeing it for myself during visits to London. (Thanks for the great tours, Yeoman Warders!)
Do people enjoy reading this article of mine because they are ghouls? Maybe a little bit. But in this post, I also tried to focus on the human element, not just descriptions of racks and chains. If I have any “tricks” to share about blogging, I think this is the main one. Write about the people.
The EHFA blog post has given me a wonderful place to share my research and my ideas about Tudor England. But it’s also helped me find incredible fellow authors, starting with Debra Brown and M.M. Bennetts, who run the blog and worked on the editing of this book. I’ve learned an incredible amount from these two generous women. And I’ve also picked up some knowledge on the Regency (Debbie) and England during the Napoleonic wars (M.M.).
Also this book has brought me into the “family” of fellow novelists writing about the Tudor era, amazing talents such as Barbara Kyle, Sandra Byrd, Judith Arnopp, Jenny Barden, Deborah Swift, and Teresa Thomas Bohannon. Although I’ve only met Jenny Barden and Deborah Swift in person, at the most recent Historical Novel Society conference, I feel as if I know all of them as friends and fellow travelers through the most fascinating century of them all! Theirs is the work you will read on the blog and in this anthology.
If you enjoy reading about English history, then this book will be a pleasure. And I can say with all honesty, if you enjoy the Tudors, then Castles, Customs and Kings will be a lasting treat.
QAB Notation: Nancy Bilyeau, who lives in New York City, is the executive editor of DuJour magazine. A prolific award nominated and short list placing screen play writer, Nancy also previously worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. A lover of medieval English history, Nancy’s debut novel, The Crown released in 2012 and her follow-up novel, The Chalice in 2013. Her novels combine historical fiction and thrillers, detailing the exploits of Joanna Stafford, a prelate nun living during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. To purchase Nancy’s outstanding novels, visit QAB’s Book Store by clicking the tab above this article.
To Purchase Castles, Customs and Kings: True Tales by Historical Fiction Authors, CLICK HERE.