Welcome, Nancy! It is such a pleasure to have you with us today. Could you start us off by telling us a little about yourself?
Thank you. I’m a magazine editor and writer--I’ve been on the staffs of InStyle and Ladies’ Home Journal and Rolling Stone—and I’m a wife and mom to two children. I was born in Chicago and grew up in Michigan but moved to New York City because that’s where the magazine business is based.
In one sentence, how would you describe "The Crown"?
It’s the story of a young novice who must find an object of great mystical importance to save the life of her father as well as the future of the monasteries in Tudor England.
What inspired you to write this novel?
I wanted to write a historical thriller set in an interesting time in history, and from the point of view of a character not often depicted in commercial fiction: a Dominican novice.
Are there any characters that you identify with?
Oh, I identify with my main character, Sister Joanna Stafford. She is determined and tries to do the right thing but she makes mistakes. Sometimes she speaks before she thinks. In some other ways she is not like me at all but I gave her one of my own flaws: no sense of direction.
How much research went into this novel before you decide to write it?
I’ve been interested in English history since I was 11 years old, particularly the Tudor age. So I had a home library of about thirty books. When I started the book I did a lot of research at the same time. It took me five years to research and write it.
Who or what was your biggest influence in your decision to become a writer?
When I was eight years old, a teacher told me I was a good writer. That had an impact. My high school creative writing teacher in Livonia, Michigan, also encouraged and influenced me. I took English literature classes at the University of Michigan and ended up on the college newspaper. It was something I liked to do and was reasonably good at, so I just kept gravitating toward writing, and away from things I was not good at, like math, specifically geometry!
If you could have a dinner party with 5 people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
I would like to put these five women at the same table and see what happens:
Queen Zenobia of Third Century Syria, who tried to conquer Rome
Eleanor of Aquitane
Queen Elizabeth I of England
Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th century revolutionary and feminist
I know some authors have unusual rituals when they write: a certain food, lock themselves in a room, only work at night, etc. What's yours?
I listen to music, either on my shuffle or on youtube, to get me in the mood. It might be Thomas Tallis, or Beethoven. Or it might be rock ‘n’ roll from the 70s or 80s—that gets the juices flowing. I also love the music of Trevor Morris, who wrote amazing pieces for The Tudors, The Pillars of the Earth, and before that, The Last of the Mohicans.
How does writing work with family/personal life?
To be honest, it is a challenge when you have children. I am focusing on my books right now. I am not in a magazine office so I have more flexibility for class trips, doctor appointments, playdates. But while the kids are proud of me they are also envious of the time I spend writing and promoting my work. I try to get them interested in historical fiction, with some limited success. LOL.
What things do you enjoy doing during your "free time"?
I love going to the movies. I’m always happy when the lights dim and the screen lights up. I also love walking on the beach or hiking peaceful trails, though neither exist in New York City, unfortunately.
Would you share one thing most people don't about you?
I snuck into a Bob Seger concert when I was 18 years old.
Please tell us about your next project.
I’ve finished my second book, The Chalice, which is the second in the series. In it Joanna Stafford undertakes a more frightening quest. I bring back most of the main characters of The Crown, and I add some fun new ones.
Thank you, Nancy, for taking the time and allowing a small peek into your life. It has been such a pleasure hosting you for this tour.
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Publisher: Touchstone, January 2012
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
About the Book:
An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . .Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.
The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.
But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.
Nancy Bilyeau is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Visit her website www.nancybilyeau.com, friend/like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
Make sure to visit the other blogs on The Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour to see what others have to say about "The Crown"
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- Giveaway ends March 1, 2012