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 stellar novels combine historical fiction and thrillers, detailing the exploits of Joanna Stafford, a prelate nun living during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Queenanneboleyn.com is very excited that Nancy’s third Joanna Stafford novel, The Tapestry, will be releasing March 24, 2015!
Queenanneboleyn.com recently caught up with Nancy and appreciates her support of the website from its early inception. We are proud that she is our first contributing published author. For more information, visit Nancy’s website at Nancy Bilyeau, You will also find many outstanding blog posts composed by Nancy regarding several Tudor Era related topics at English Historical Fiction Authors/Nancy Bilyeau.
Book Trailer for The Crown
1. Nancy, you have a very accomplished career as a writer. Most QAB members and browsers know you as a novelist, author of The Crown, The Chalice, and the soon to be released The Tapestry but your talents do not end there. Can you tell us about your career as executive editor of DuJour magazine and your screenplay writing?
Well, I loved reading historical fiction when I was young, and I never lost my fondness for it. I remember being lost in the court of Richard the Lionheart in Norah Lofts’ The Lute Player, of breathing the mist of Camelot in a Mary Stewart novel. Fantastic! I studied English literature at the University of Michigan but it did not occur to me that I could write novels. I concentrated on journalism and editing to carve out a career. I worked at many magazines, from Rolling Stone to Good Housekeeping. After my son was born 16 years ago, I began to feel a yearning to write my own stories. First I tried screenwriting. I completed three scripts. They did well on the contest circuit and I had a manager at one point, but I couldn’t sell a script. My ideas were too expensive. I wrote a script on Mary Shelley, another one on Queen Zenobia.
2. As an American, when and how did you develop an interest in English History, the Tudor Era in particular?
From a very young age I loved English culture. Drawn to it. The first film I saw in a theatre was Oliver Twist. My favorite book as a child was Black Beauty. I loved horses; I begged my parents for riding lessons and used to stomp around school in black riding boots. I suspect I was unbearable.
I became interested in Tudor history when I was 12 and it’s never flagged.
3. How did you develop the expertise to write long fictional works? Was your decision to compose novels a natural progression in your writing?
The Crown is the first novel I wrote. I stumbled into a fiction-writing workshop and wanted to write a mystery set in Tudor period. I took a lot of classes and participated in workshops to figure out fiction, to get feedback and grow. It took five years to write it. During that time I had no agent and no idea if I would be able to sell it.
4. Joanna Stafford, a prelate nun, is the protagonist of your Tudor Era novel series. Why did you decide to develop an ordinary person, a nun yet, as the main character focus of your writing?
I wanted to write a mystery thriller set in the Tudor period but I wanted a fictional female protagonist. It would give me more freedom. I thought a nun was in a very conflict-riven position at this time and would be interesting to write.
5. Nancy, your novels are very rich in historical detail. Can you share with us the extent of the research you completed? As a follow up, did you visit any of the locations depicted in the novels?
I’d been reading Tudor history for many years. For my novels, I read more deeply in certain areas. Everything about medieval monastic life. I have been to Dartford, where the priory stood. And the Tower, and the parts of London where my characters lived. It’s helpful.
Book Trailer for The Chalice
6. I am very curious about the paranormal elements of The Chalice. Please share with us your knowledge of just how pronounced beliefs were in psychic and/or magical phenomena.
I learned how deeply saturated the lives of these people were in not only religion, in astrology, in magic, in interest in alchemy. Prophecy was like a lure—a lot of people believed in it, but it was dangerous. I think this is where a lot of Tudor fiction goes wrong—no acknowledgement of how much people prayed and sought answers through faith…or magic.
7. Do you have a commitment to share the challenges of Roman Catholics during the Dissolution of the Monasteries or was this resultant of your choice to highlight the life story of a nun as your main character? Did you consult with historians or religious figures with an expertise in the topic as part of your research?
I did not feel any strong emotional connection to the Catholic struggle in the English Reformation before I started researching The Crown. The more I read, the more I questioned the traditional story. And now I do feel a lot of loyalty to the nuns. I suppose that Eamon Duffy was the closest thing to a leader. I never met him. I never met anyone. I sent a lot of emails to the Dominican order and they didn’t respond. On the second and third books, people responded to my inquiries. I had the expertise of a Dominican nun in America. She read the books and gave me notes. I used the expertise of others in non-religious aspects of the books, such as a curator for the Tower of London.
8. Please tell us what your favorite historical fiction novel is and why.
Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy. Writing is spectacular.
9. Nancy, do you plan to continue telling the story of Joanna Stafford or will you be moving on to new adventures?
I’m working on a new book but it’s a secret. 🙂
10. Is there anything else you would like to share with QAB members and browsers?
I’m still a hopeless Anglophile. I got teary eyed during the steeplechase race in Downton Abbey.
To Pre-Order The Tapestry, Click the link below!
During the month of February 2015, The Chalice ebook is on sale in the United States on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Get your ebook for $1.99 throughout the month by clicking the link below!!
Nancy and Simon & Schuster are graciously offering complimentary copies of The Crown to FIVE lucky QAB members or browsers. Each novel will come autographed by Nancy Bilyeau! If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on February 28, 2015. Good Luck!!!