Tag Archives: Tudor Fiction

Interview with the Intelligent History-loving Journalist, Editor, and Author Nancy Bilyeau

Hi, Nancy! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I was thrilled to read your newest book, The Tapestry, and readers can see my review HERE and a phenomenal article by you HERE, in which you speak about what makes a historian and what you offer your readers when you write a book!

Nancy: I love your blog—and you know that! I really love the engagement you get from your followers. And also I think we are kindred spirits because we both love historical fiction AND we work in the media. That combo doesn’t come along every day.

I agree, Nancy! Thank you! 😀 It’s always my joy to have you here, and now, with the release of The Tapestry, which is the third novel in your Joanna Stafford historical mystery series! It seems like a whirlwind. How have you kept up with book babies and full-time life at the same time? What’s been most exciting about the release of this final novel in the trilogy?

01_The Tapestry

Nancy: It’s been crazy. I’m not getting more than five hours of sleep a night because I’m trying to put out the books on top of working fulltime and having two kids to raise. Two nights after The Tapestry came out, I was at a parent teacher conference for three hours. The high school has five floors, no elevator. I thought I would pass out.

Erin: I haven’t put out a book yet, but I do know that feeling! So, it’s still time for tea, coffee, or whatever is your pleasure, even though it’s warming up? I think I’m going to be having some coffee myself today, a latte, or maybe a hot Chai tea. I think we should just head out to a nearby café? We both could use a boost and I want to come to the CITY!

Nancy: I think my bloodstream is 50 percent coffee. A Dunkin Donuts large will keep me going all day. But for this conversation, let’s head to a small bohemian café and I’ll order a cappuccino.

Erin: That sounds lovely, the weather is perfect. We can even talk about the Wolf Hall episode from last night. Let’s settle in, warm our hands, and I think I’ll stay awhile. I’m ready for some down time. I’m sure you are too. However, I might not go easy on the questions!

Nancy:  I’m ready for anything. An open book!

Erin: I know your books “can” be read stand alone and enjoyed, but I also know that if you read them all there is a bit more that you get out of it as a series. So, first of all, I was thinking about the book titles in your series the other day. What is the tie that binds them all? There, of course, is a progression in your novels based on an overall ARC, so how can you the enlighten readers who haven’t read all your books with the thought behind the titles?

Nancy: First of all, my original title for The Crown was The Last Nun. I STILL like that title. LOL. My publisher changed it to The Crown. Since they did that, I felt like the next one should be a single word descriptive noun. I picked The Chalice. I thought it would help the branding to make it “C.” My idea for the third was “The Covenant.” I sold it on that title. After I finished writing it, they said it had to be changed because they’d published a thriller with that title a few years earlier.  I couldn’t come up with another “C” title that didn’t sound contrived. The Tapestry was the most accurate title, and also it sounds intriguing.

the crown

Erin: I have my own thoughts, but without giving away an spoilers, or reading experience, how do you feel  that Joanna has grown as a character from the first book, The Crown, to this third book, The Tapestry? Did you plan it this way, or did Joanna take the lead?

Nancy: She took the lead. Always. I think Joanna became more compassionate over the series and more confident too. Perhaps the same could be said of me.

this is a building open to the public today in Dartford. A part of this red-brick building is the gatehouse raised in 1539 on the rubble of the priory of nuns. After the Dominican priory was "surrendered" to the king, it was demolished and a large manor house built on the site, using some of the bricks of the nuns' home. The gatehouse was part of the property. It was a home for Henry VIII but he never stayed there. He gave the house to Anne of Cleves after he divorced her

Caption: This is a building open to the public today in Dartford. A part of this red-brick building is the gatehouse raised in 1539 on the rubble of the priory of nuns. After the Dominican priory was “surrendered” to the king, it was demolished and a large manor house built on the site, using some of the bricks of the nuns’ home. The gatehouse was part of the property. It was a home for Henry VIII but he never stayed there. He gave the house to Anne of Cleves after he divorced her. Photo courtesy of Nancy Bilyeau.

Erin: I agree with that, Nancy! I know you’ve loved reading Tudor history since you were a girl. But where did the final drive come from to write about a Dominican novice in the middle of the Reformation? Why create her as the lead?

Nancy: I wanted to write something original. And I wanted to write books that were full of conflict and drama, and what could be more dramatic than being driven out of your home with no clue on what to do with the rest of your life? That is what happened to the nuns and monks and friars.

Erin: Why do you feel that sharing a story outside of the more everyday widely-known Tudor names, and placing the first two settings away from court, was something that was right for you with your series? Do you think readers appreciated this? And furthermore, why then did you feel it was time for Joanna to go to court in The Tapestry?

Nancy: I got a lot of positive feedback about writing novels set outside of the main “action” of the court of Henry VIII. People seem interested. I have read some fantastic historical fiction that features the real-life royals of the period. But for me, at the end of the day, no matter how high level the writing gets—as with Hilary Mantel’s books—these stories are reanimating the dead. You’re taking people from an extremely well-known nonfiction template and giving it your own spin. I want to create people from my imagination. But I do add “real” people in secondary roles to make it even more fun. I sent Joanna into Whitehall into Book Three because I felt it was time for a showdown.

Erin: What are some of your favorite memories of anything Tudor you absorbed yourself in when you were younger? Did any of them leak into your novels either for fun, or by accident?

Nancy: Watching “Elizabeth R” with my parents on television. It was magical—and very influential for me. I think Joanna has a little Elizabeth Tudor in her, don’t you?

The Chalice

Erin: I completely do! You’re right! You chose Joanna to be a Stafford, and therefore, she’s also related to King Henry VIII. Of all the sub-sets of families that are ancestrally related to the Tudors, which one is your favorite and why?

Nancy: The Staffords! They are so doomed and aristocratic and they make all the wrong choices. LOL. This has all taken over my life to the extent that when I read some bit of history about an early Stafford, I react personally, with pride or annoyance. I have to remind myself, these are not MY ancestors.

Erin: Catherine Howard, King Henry VIII’s fifth queen, plays a much larger role in The Tapestry, due to the progression of the novel into that time period right before and into her being his wife. I also know that you have a much variant opinion of her than most. Can you discuss how you portray Howard in your book and why?

Nancy: There is a huge double standard about Catherine, her possible—not proven– affair with Thomas Culpepper is treated as if she was extremely promiscuous. It is part of history that in her lifetime the powers that be agreed she should die for suspected infidelity, when the men who were never faithful underwent no criticism. But do we have to take that attitude in the 21st century?

Erin: Um, yes, it seems we haven’t learned much in our world today, same double standard! Well, most of the time. Being named The Tapestry, and with the art of tapestry making being involved in your novels, I should ask, did it just fit based on the setting and characters you created in your novels? Or did you have a love of tapestries or tapestry-making? How much research did you have to do on tapestries and what was something interesting you found or can you share a beautiful tapestry you spotted?

Nancy: I was somewhat interested in tapestry making before I wrote these novels, my father was a landscape artist and I just love art. I did a lot of research into Renaissance tapestries—it was an exquisite world that allowed the very wealthy to both show off and to express something. When Henry VIII broke with Rome, he commissioned a series of tapestries of King David.

Erin: I love tapestries! At the Cleveland Museum of Art, they have a bunch of donated tapestries from France and England. Beautiful! Also, they kept the heat in amid the chill of the castles!!

 Let’s just put this out there. You like cathedrals, monasteries, etc. Old things made from rock. You like tombs. So, what famous tombs and effigies would you like to visit from this era? What were the most fun or interesting ones you’ve found? Additionally, if you’ve visited any, which ones were your favorites?

Nancy: I love tombs. I’d pay decent money to someone if they could explain WHY. I wish I could spend every weekend hunting down ruins in England. Sadly, I live in America. But I can get my fix at the Cloisters Museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They have fantastic tombs and effigies.

When I went to Dartford to research, I found the remains of the priory: a 16th century gatehouse that was built immediately afterward and a long, low wall. They’ve done a bit of excavating and found objects like a green-glazed dish for food dating to the 1500s. From the era I write about, if I could put back together any of those monasteries it would be Blackfriars, the Dominican friary in London. Once it was a palace and complex of buildings housing libraries and chambers large enough to contain Parliament and rooms of great beauty. Now it’s gone. Just rubble—two gravestones, that’s it! I found those gravestones during one of my hunts for monastic remains in London.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Bilyeau

Caption: Nancy in the Cloisters Museum. Photo courtesy of Nancy Bilyeau

Erin: But they are beautiful works of art, the stone work is amazing. My mom has lots of photos from when we lived in England. She used to like to do stone rubbings. I long to go do that again!

Back to your book, you decided to make your historical fiction not only Tudor-related but a mystery rather than a romance or general historical fiction. I think you are a thriller, spy buff much like me…correct? Is that why you chose to write it, as it would be something you yourself would want to read, or was there more to it? And why not a “who-dun-it” murder mystery, but more of a personal mission-type of mystery?

Nancy: I wrote the sort of book I wanted to read! I adore historical thrillers like Katherine Neville’s The Eight, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, DanielleTrussoni’s Angelology. ALL of the novels of Kate Mosse. They are suspenseful, well-written, and rich with both dimensional characters and inventive history-based plots. I do read the “who-dun-it’s” too—and I love watching them on TV, like “Midsomer Murders.” But I just didn’t feel personally compelled to write that kind of series, in which each book revolves around a dead body being found and the killer must be uncovered. Also it is just completely unbelievable that a Dominican sister in 1538 would be running around solving crimes. It would be silly enough to turn Dartford, in Kent, into a corpse-riddled Midsomer—or Cabot Cove of “Murder She Wrote.” But how could I justify Joanna as crime solver? When she was in the priory, she was enclosed, meaning she couldn’t ever leave! No, instead, I made these into high-stakes thrillers, turning on the genuine drama of the period and the havoc wrought by Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Erin: Yes, that makes total sense!! It was a different kind of mystery, and really I did like it that way. It’s original too. And you just named a few of my TOP fave authors: Kostova and Kate Mosse. ADORE!

How did you not only write your historical fiction by the seat of your pants (I know you’re a pantser) after conducting research, but how did you manage to plot your suspense and action so well?

Nancy: I plot very loosely and then let the characters take over. I do a LOT of revision in drafts to increase suspense.

Erin: You’ve said that this trilogy is done, because…well…it’s a trilogy, I know. But I don’t feel that Joanna is really done gracing pages of stories and books. Do you have more in mind for Joanna?

Nancy: I have more ideas for Joanna! If this series gains more traction with the public, it is possible I will return.

Erin: That would be awesome.Go forth and buy buy buy people!! 😀

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Caption: Nancy at one of her book launch parties at The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC. Photo courtesy of Nancy Bilyeau.

I know you like to write for the screen. Have you written, or would you consider writing, your Joanna Stafford series into a screen script? Maybe a mini-series? (BBC, Starz, are you listening???!!) A secondary question, then, how do you feel your experience writing for the screen has helped you write better books?

Nancy: I would love it! A producer optioned The Crown, but nothing came of it.

And I think my fondness for visual writing comes from scripts. I try to write taut, evocative description.

Erin: You’re a journalist and executive editor of DuJour magazine. How does your writing style every day at your job differ from your writing of fiction and historical non-fiction (your great blog I’m thinking). Being a journalist makes your research skills priceless for writing historical fiction, but how do you switch back and forth between editing styles, not mention length limits? How do they help each other or hinder?

Nancy: I’ve been writing journalism a lot longer than fiction. I find it easy to funnel my love of history into the blog posts. Sometimes I think I should cut down the time spent on them, though. I really work hard on a blog post, and then it goes on to get thousands of page views…but it doesn’t seem to lead people to my series. I fear they are content with the blogs. I know people on social media who follow my nonfiction—which is flattering—but have never read even one of the books in the series. Which is a bummer. I don’t know if it is smart to spend so much time on free content if it doesn’t support my books. If I can’t sell books, I can’t continue as a novelist. It is a baffling problem.

Cloistersdoorway

Caption: Nancy at the Cloister Museum doorway. Photo courtesy of Nancy Bilyeau.

Erin: Yes, I hear that a lot. I seem to think that blogs keeps an author’s name out there, increasing SEO opportunities, and makes you more of an expert. I am surprised it hasn’t resulted in sales though. I think that’s a struggle, the time. If I might suggest, I’d say not to stop, but maybe just to shorten the length or do more photo posts. Though easier said than done! And I know you LOVE to write them. But it’s hard putting a lot of work into something like that for little result.

What do you love most about living in New York City after growing up in the Midwest area? (Me being from Ohio and longing to be in NY..lol) Why is this such a great place for writers?

Nancy: This may surprise you, but I would love to switch places. I am really ready to leave! It is so expensive here, and so crowded. It’s actually very hard to live as a writer here, because of the enormous taxes and high cost of living. But my kids are locked into the good public schools in my neighborhood. And I do adore the museums and the history of the city. I have a collection of copies of early 20th century photos of New York.

Erin: Yes, I can understand that. It would be nice to have the best of both worlds! My son is pretty set on moving to New York, so at least in my case, I may be around soon! What is your favorite place to eat in New York? What would your favorite food be if you lived abroad? And finally, what would you eat if you lived near Joanna Stafford in that time period?

Nancy: There is a small restaurant near us called Danny Brown’s that has a Michelin star. Fantastic French food and wine. Danny’s mother is the hostess. 🙂 If I lived abroad, I would try to follow the Mediterranean diet, I believe it is the best. As for what I’d eat if I were near Joanna—the Tudors consumed a great deal of meat and some vegetables. Joanna herself would be very much into fasting. Something I’m NOT into.

Erin: Mediterranean food all the way for me!! Not a meat person, I’d not have survived the eating of that time period!

If Joanna is truly done in your writing, at least for now, what else have your thought about writing? Different time periods? Different culture? Different people? What most interests you?

Nancy: I am interested in so many time periods and cultures! I have started a new novel set in another time, but my agent has ordered me to keep my mouth zipped.

Erin: Darn!!

Both of us have ancestors, who came to New Amsterdam in the 1600s. Yours helped create Staten Island, and mine, Manhattan. Have you ever thought of writing anything in this time period based on these ties, especially since you now live in New York?

Nancy: Yes. ß-Nancy whistles innocently.

Erin: Haha, excellent!! Can’t wait to hear about it.

So, your favorite women in history and/or making history?

Nancy: I’d love to meet Queen Zenobia, who tried to conquer Rome. And of course the Tudor sisters: not just Elizabeth but Mary.

Erin: I probably have a million more questions to ask you, Nancy, but you’re time is short and I’ve already taken up so much of it. Thank you so much for sharing Joanna with us, and I wish you much continued success with your series and with whatever else comes in the future. I’m always here to support you! (Oh, and have coffee and cookies!)

Nancy: I’ve loved our talk. I’m actually a little sad to say goodbye.

Erin: It was fun! We’ll talk again soon!

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The Tapestry, Synopsis~

US Publication Date: March 24, 2015

UK Publication Date: April 24, 2015

Touchstone Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 390

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads

In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn

into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Praise for The Tapestry~

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!” – Bestselling Author Alison Weir

“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In THE TAPESTRY, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” —Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” —Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” —Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire

“A supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling—and enlightening—novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.” —Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned

“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations… Bilyeau breathes life into history.” —Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King

Pre-Order/Buy The Tapestry~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound

Author Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

02_Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine.

Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY will be released in March 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.

View Nancy’s recent tour here:

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Author Nancy Bilyeau Speaks: Taking History Seriously When Writing Novels, What Makes a Historian?

Taking History Seriously When Writing Novels: What Makes a Historian?
by Nancy Bilyeau, Author of The Tapestry

02_Nancy BilyeauI AM NOT A HISTORIAN

There. I said it.

I’m still alive. 😀

More and more, it appears that historical novelists are positioning themselves as historians. Readers demand accuracy in their fiction set in the past—authors certified in history can supply it.

Philippa Gregory’s website begins with this statement:  “Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a TV drama and a major film.”

I’ve seen other websites and interviews and book jackets in which the novelists either proudly proclaim it or weave the word into their background: “historian.” It’s become something of a magical word, and not just because it was the title of one of my favorite books: Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.  (That book mixed digging for obscure historical facts in quiet libraries with…Dracula!)

I’ve never made this claim for myself because I believe I lack the necessary credentials…don’t I?

Let’s take a look at the description in Merriam Webster: 1. “a student or writer of history; especially: one who produces a scholarly synthesis. 2.: a writer of compiler of a chronicle.”

Another definition: “historian: an expert in or student of history, especially that of a particular period, geographical region, or social phenomenon.”

  1. I studied history for my bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan. After I “broke the curve” of a test given in the early 20th century American history class taught by Professor Sidney Fine, himself a nationally known historian and a Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Fine invited me to his Ann Arbor house. He offered me lemonade and we drank it on his elegant wooden porch as he suggested that I pursue a master’s degree in history. I realize now that this was it: the secret handshake, the door opening to the chamber in which dwelled historians.

But I didn’t pass through the door. I was eager to launch myself on the world of work, not remain at the university, pursuing another degree. (I know: Nuts!)

Without advanced degrees in history, one cannot claim to be a historian. At least, that’s what I’ve always assumed. If you read those definitions above one more time, they don’t specify any sort of degree. Still, I shy away from putting this word on my website, bio, book jacket or facebook page. Just doesn’t seem right.

01_The Tapestry

Here’s the experience I do offer readers of my work:

Journalist—at newspapers and then at magazines, I learned on the job how to assess facts, assimilate information and structure a story. I’ve always had an image in my mind of being trained by a historian—a distinguished older man, bearded of course (looking like Professor Fine!), leans over a student at work on the thick table, chiding, “No! Can’t you tell that those are discredited documents? What am I going to do with you??” But I do seek accuracy and practice skepticism. In my years in media, if I made a mistake it did more than earn the disfavor of the bearded professor. It could lead to a printed correction and maybe the boot!

Working as a reporter also made me rather…assertive. When I was frustrated with my research on The Crown, trying to find elusive details about being confined in the 1530s in the Tower of London, I decided to go to the source. I used the “contact” email on the website for the Tower and didn’t stop bothering them until they referred me to someone with access to documents. I’ve since worked my way through two curatorial interns. One emailed me a PDF of Edward Seymour’s diet sheet while he was imprisoned, another pulled together every contemporary fact about the beheading on Tower Hill of Thomas Cromwell. (Don’t let anyone tell you he died at Tyburn!)

History lover—I did like my study of history at the University of Michigan. But since I was 11 years old I have loved reading on my own about centuries past, primarily stories set in Europe and, of course, Tudor England. I pored over every biography I could find on Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The historical fiction that first captured my heart was written by Norah Lofts, Jean Plaidy, Mary Stewart and Anya Seton. Later on, I devoured Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Margaret George, Bernard Cornwell, C.W. Gortner, Kate Quinn, Patricia Bracewell and Mary Sharratt.

Storyteller – As a writer of narrative nonfiction for 20 years, I learned a great deal from my editors on clarity, pacing and the need for the right descriptive detail. I’ve tried to pass these lessons on to the writers I edit too. I also wrote three screenplays before beginning The Crown, and learned from teachers such as screenwriter Max Adams how to write visually and describe characters with the right evocative phrase.

I always wonder what other historical novelists feel about the “historian” question. For this blog post, I decided to ask a few. (Remember, I am assertive 😀 )

******

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Erika Robuck, author of fantastic historical fiction like Hemingway’s Girl and the soon-to-be-published The House of Hawthorne, says, “”I think a historian is an expert in a time period or culture, and holds a degree to support that level of expertise. I am an enthusiast, not an historian.”

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Eva Stachniak, who has written two of my favorite historical novels, The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night, says, “As a writer of historical novels, I have to know my history, in and out, understand it on many levels, political, social, cultural. I have to be able to imagine how everyday life was lived at the time when my novel is set. For my two Catherine the Great novels, I studied the life of the Russian court, not just its politics, but also its everyday routines. I researched spies and spying, dressmaking, bookbinding, medical procedures and the ins and outs of 18th century renovations. Does it make me a historian? I am not convinced. But it makes me a student of history. It makes me re-imagine the exiting research in a creative way. However, even if I make no claims to being a historian, I claim my passion for history and my ability to make it seem alive for my readers.”

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My friend Sophie Perinot, author of Sister Queens and Medicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois (pub date: December 2015), has thought about this question even more than I have. She had some fascinating things to say:

“I am not a historian, despite having a BA in history–at least when I have my novelist hat on–because my work isn’t driven by history, or entirely limited by it.

“I’ve had to give serious thought to the line between what I call “H”istory (academic history) and history as portrayed by novelists. I’ve discussed the subject in a pair of lectures given to university history students during their unit on the uses of undergraduate history degrees after graduation.  And I think most historical novelists grapple with the “who is a historian” question because Historical Fiction is undeniably a pop culture way that people today consume history, and those of us who write it are keenly aware that lots of  fans blur the line between NON-FICTION HISTORY and the FICTIONALIZED HISTORY OF HISTORICAL NOVELS.

“Let me start by saying that I have a background in history having graduated with a BA in that subject—but I don’t write BIG “H” history, nor, in my opinion does any other writer in my genre.  Professors write BIG “H” academic history ( I have a sister who is a professor of history so I have tremendous respect for academic historians).

“Why do I say this?  Well first and foremost a novelist’s work is not driven by the overt goal of educating readers on a particular period or by presenting an overview of a historical issue or time. The historical novelist’s work is driven by considerations of plot and theme—by the desire to tell a universal story that is set in the past but transcends it.

“So, I am not a historian, at least when I have my novelist hat on, because my work isn’t driven by history, or entirely limited by it. BUT if I write first rate historical fiction – and I’d like to think I do – then in telling my story I want to be true to historical facts as we know them.  Good historical novelists use the same sorts of resources that students of history would use to write an academic paper—JSTOR, scholarly journal articles, primary sources, and secondary sources (biographies, prior histories).”

*****

I hope that when you read my historical thrillers, or the fiction by Erika Robuck, Eva Stachniak or Sophie Perinot, you’ll relish not just the story but the awareness that we take our history very seriously—even if we don’t call ourselves historians.

Of that, I think, even Professor Fine would approve.

Check out Nancy’s newest book, The Tapestry, which is the third in her Joanna Stafford Historical Mystery Series! If you haven’t ready any of Nancy’s trilogy, The Crown is book one and The Chalice is book two. 

01_The Tapestry

The Tapestry, Synopsis and Info~

US Publication Date: March 24, 2015
UK Publication Date: April 24, 2015

Touchstone Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 390

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads

In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn

into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Praise for The Tapestry~

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!” – Bestselling Author Alison Weir

“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In THE TAPESTRY, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” —Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” —Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” —Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire

“A supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling—and enlightening—novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.” —Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned

“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations… Bilyeau breathes life into history.” —Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King

Purchase The Tapestry~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound

Author Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

02_Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine.

Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY released March 24, 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.

Giveaway~

To enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry, please complete the giveaway form below.

Direct Link to ENTER: https://gleam.io/iyF4a/the-tapestry

RULES

  • Giveaway starts on March 16th at 12:01 a.m. EST and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 3rd.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in North American and the UK.
  • You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 4th and notified via email.
  • Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
  • Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thetapestryblogtour/

Hashtags: #TheTapestryBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #NancyBilyeau

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @tudorscribe @TouchstoneBooks

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Interview with E. Knight about Her New Tudor Era Novel Featuring Anne Seymour

Today, we have a wonderful interview with author Eliza Knight, in which we talk about her newest endeavor of taking on the historical fiction Tudor sub-genre! Her newest book, My Lady Viper, released recently and we find out more about it and how it fits in with all her other writing. Enjoy!

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Hi Eliza! So happy you’ve joined us on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We were thrilled to hear about your newest fictional pursuit into the world of the TUDORS, with My Lady Viper! I also think you had a very successful launch party for your book that was a lot of fun! How has the premiere of your new book been for you?

Eliza: Hi, Erin! Thank you so much for having me. The launch party was definitely a success, and such a blast! The premiere has been amazing. I’ve really enjoyed reading the reviews on blogs so far, and hearing from readers that they are excited to read the book—or that they loved it!

Erin: I’m ready to take a big, comfy seat in this cushy chair by the window overlooking the spring flowers blooming. There is another chair, will you have a seat? I’ll be drinking Mango juice. I have a taste for that today for some reason. What would you like to drink? I do have some sparkling white wine we could add to it!

Eliza: Oh, that sounds yummy! I love mangos and sparkling wine! Wow, this is a comfy chair!

Erin: Let’s get started with the nitty and gritty. I have some important things to ask you! But first here is the amazing cover!!

My Lady Viper 2

Q: My Lady Viper seems like a switch for you in terms of the place setting you are writing about since your best known books take place in Scotland, is this correct? If so, why did you decide to take a chance on writing a book surrounding “the Tudors.”

A: You are absolutely right! It’s a definite switch. I actually started writing this book five years ago—before my Scottish romances. I’ve always loved the Tudors and the book really stemmed from some personal research I was doing for fun (yes, I love to research for fun!). I started to write this story about a woman, I believed had to have her own voice heard, since she’d only been documented as a viper. But I’d set the book aside after writing it and finding out from editors that the market was Tudor saturated. But last year, I decided, that I really wanted this book out there, so I tore it apart and rewrote it (along with a lot of help from crit partners and my editor!). And voila! My Tudor baby was born. 🙂

Q: Tudor seems to be a sub-genre of historical fiction all its own these days. What makes yours different from the others?

A: I agree, I think because so many people are fascinated by the Tudors. Mine is different for a couple reasons—one, my heroine has never been written about before as a heroine (main character). I wanted to give her a voice, to dive into her world and see what could have made her so vicious. I also wanted to showcase a side of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour’s marriage that may not be explored in other books. Yes, Henry VIII was a volatile ruler, but there had to be a softer side. I just don’t believe he was all evil (even if he was partly!) Readers will find that I bring a fresh, unique look to the Tudor court.

Q: In addition, is this why you chose the alter ego of E. Knight for this book?

A: Because my Eliza Knight books are all romance (some erotic), I wanted readers to know what their getting with each name. Readers of historical fiction may not want to read romance, and vice versa.

Q: What intrigues you about the story of Lady Anne Seymour? What do you think would interest readers?

A: I was fascinated with the idea of a woman being thought of as so vile by those at court (including Queen Catherine Parr, that it was documented. Allegedly this long poem that Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey wrote lamenting of a woman he thought of as a wolf and tease was about Anne. With all this going on, I just had to get into her head. Had to redeem her somehow. One of my critique partners says that Anne is the ultimate anti-heroine. I wanted readers to love her, to understand where she was coming from, even if they didn’t always agree with her actions. I wanted to develop an empathy for Anne that hadn’t been portrayed yet.

Q: How does this book vary from your Highlander books, if at all? Where does it fall on the ROMANCE-O-METER? Talk about it so that readers of romance can understand, but also readers who only like light romance. For instance, would a reader who isn’t as much a romance fan as they are historical fiction fan enjoy your book?

A: Great questions! This book is VERY different from my Highlander books. For one thing, it is not a romance. There is some romance, love and sizzle in it, but it is categorized as historical fiction (there is no romantic relationship happily ever after). The book is told in first person from a single view point—Anne’s, whereas all of my Highlander books are told from both the hero and the heroine’s point of views. This book will definitely appeal to historical fiction readers. The focus is on Anne’s life and the court of Henry VIII. Lots of intrigue, scandal, angst. But, the one area that Anne struggles a lot—her issues with love and acceptance, will appeal to my romance readers. In the end, it is a book I think most people will enjoy, whichever genre—historical fic or historical rom—they prefer.

Q: Your cover is beautiful. What fashion of the Tudor time period most strikes your fancy? What colors? Why?

A: Thank you so much! I was so pleased with my cover artists’ design! The background is actually Hampton Court! I love rich, lush colors: gold, reds, blues, silvers, yellows, sage. I think what I love the most about the fashion is the jewels, the velvets and intricate embroidery. The detail that was put into each gown, doublet, coat and hat. Though, I do admit, I wouldn’t want to wear it all day myself! It was heavy, stiff and cumbersome. Women had to be sewn into their clothes. I love yoga pants. 🙂

Q: In your opinion, why are the themes of castles, Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses timeless? Why is generation after generation enthralled by fairy tales, legends, and royalty?

A: Every child dreams of being a princess, a knight or a royal—of living in castles, dancing at balls, fighting with swords, riding horses. I don’t think it changes much as we grow into adults, its only fine-tuned, we don’t so much wish we could be there (well, some of us), but we are still fascinated with that life, the tales of lore and legends. Those eras where chivalry ruled are romanticized in our minds. In a world where cell phones, internet, and the latest gadget rule, I think we long for a more simpler, yet so much more complicated, time existed. Plus, who doesn’t love heroes and heroines? They lived in history. Those legends, fairy tales were formed from history. History is dramatic enough that it’s sometimes unbelievable—which makes it completely fascinating. And let’s face it—historical fiction, legends, fairy tales—this is how we time travel, how we live vicariously through the eyes of a world we enjoy so much but can never actually visit.

Q: What do these stories teach us or are they pure entertainment that let you escape from a possible otherwise less intriguing world?

A: Every story teaches us something different. Maybe a combination of things: coping, dreaming, overcoming adversity, courage, pride, actual historical facts/lessons, religion, relationships, communication, love. We walk away from every story having learned something, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes completely aware. That being said, I do believe we read for entertainment value, to escape to a time and place we enjoy.

Q: You are a lover of romance and Shakespeare. What is your favorite work by Shakespeare and why? Do you use snippets of his work in your novels?

A: I definitely am! My favorite work of Shakespeare is without a doubt Romeo and Juliet. I love how passionate they were, how much they loved each other and how much they were willing to give up to be together. I loved the hope they had that maybe, just maybe, their families would set aside their differences for them. I loved that when it came down to it, they were willing to give up all the riches in the world to be together. I did not so much like the tragic ending, because I felt like there were so many things that could have been avoided instead of them both dying…but that is the romantic in me. Whenever I watch a movie where the hero or heroine dies, I get very upset. Have you seen Arn? AWESOME movie, tragic ending… I do tend to use little snippets in my work, a line here or there.

Q: You grew up with grandparents in Paris and were able to see many of the history first hand! Do you think you will ever write a book set in historical Paris? If you have, do tell. If not, will you and why or why not?

A: Oh, yes!!! I definitely will! I am absolutely fascinated with the French Revolution, and I’ve already begun research for a book set during that time period. Though, there will be two more books in the Tudor series before I get to write the French one.

Q: I mentioned your Highlander series previously, in which you’ve written many books. What draws you to Scotland? Can you tell us more about your other works?

A: I love the lush, vibrant beauty of Scotland, much like my love of Ireland. It’s fresh there. The air smells good. But beyond the breathtaking landscape, the history is incredible. Added to the royals, castles, wars, knights, ladies and horses were these Highlanders with this amazing moral code and ability to fight. They were seen as savage barbarians by the English, which of course, I have to redeem. Because they weren’t, they were just rugged, hearty, courageous and powerful. I loved that they dressed in plaids (kilts in the mid-1700’s). I write in the Braveheart era—a time where the Scots were desperate for freedom from the English, from tyranny. I like to see that they succeed in some small way in my books, even if they don’t in real life.

Q: Do you have further plans to write more books in the Tudor era or create a series for E. Knight?

A: Yes! I love the Tudors. MY LADY VIPER is the first book. The second, PRISONER OF THE QUEEN, will release this summer, and the third will release at some point in 2015.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in your writing career? Your biggest success?

A: The biggest challenge for me was breaking out. There are tons of amazing writers, and being able to stand out in the crowd takes a lot of hard work, diligence and a good product. My challenge has been my biggest success. Without a doubt, starting my Highlander series—The Stolen Brides—was my breakout series, landing me in the top 10-20 overall on Amazon, a book award and amazing reviews, but it was because of that series that readers have been willing to give my other work a change, including E. Knight’s new book!

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers? What would you tell your former self if you could back and give yourself advice on the front end?

A: My advice for aspiring writers is the same as what I would tell my former self: Don’t give up. Have patience. Persevere. Be persistent, diligent. Write every day. Read every day. Don’t be afraid to work hard.

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: I love to connect with readers! They can email me at authorelizaknight@gmail.com, Twitter: @ElizaKnight or Facebook: www.facebook.com/elizaknightauthor

Erin: Thank you so very much, Eliza, for stopping by and chatting with me today! I am very interested in reading your future works and look forward to keeping track of what you’re working on. And since I was always a big fan of men in kilts, maybe I’ll go back and try out some of your past works as well. Come back any time and take care!

Eliza: Thank you so much, I had a lot of fun visiting with you! Have a wonderful week!

My Lady Viper, Synopsis~

My Lady Viper 2Publication Date: May 2014
Knight Media, LLC
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

May, 1536. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

When Anne Boleyn falls to the executioner’s axe on a cold spring morning, yet another Anne vows she will survive in the snakepit court of Henry VIII. But at what cost?

Lady Anne Seymour knows her family hangs by a thread. If her sister-in-law Jane Seymour cannot give the King a son, she will be executed or set aside, and her family with her. Anne throws herself into the deadly and intoxicating intrigue of the Tudor court, determined at any price to see the new queen’s marriage a success and the Seymour family elevated to supreme power. But Anne’s machinations will earn her a reputation as a viper, and she must decide if her family’s rise is worth the loss of her own soul…

Book Two, Prisoner of the Queen, will be released later in 2014.

Praise for My Lady Viper~

“E. Knight breathes new life and new scandal into the Tudors. This is an engrossing historical fiction tale that readers will love!” ~ Meg Wessel, A Bookish Affair

“A brilliant illustration of a capricious monarch and the nest of serpents that surrounded him, My Lady Viper is an absolute must. Intricately detailed, cleverly constructed and utterly irresistible.” ~ Erin, Flashlight Commentary

“Author E. Knight proves that though there are a plethora of Tudor novels out there a writer can still create a fresh and unique view of one of history’s most treacherous courts, that of England’s King Henry VIII. Schemes and scandalous trysts abound in ‘My Lady Viper’, making for a very captivating read. Racy and deliciously sensual, once started I was hard pressed to put the book down. I eagerly await the next installment in E. Knight’s stand-out Tales of the Tudor Courts series!” ~ Amy Bruno, Passages to the Past

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia
Barnes & Noble
iTunes

Audio: Coming June 16, 2014 — Available for Pre-Order

Author E. Knight, Biography~

Eliza KnightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers.

Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age.

Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.

She is avid in social media and readers can find her at:

Website
Facebook
Twitter (@ElizaKnight)
Goodreads

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/myladyvipertour

Tour Hashtags: #MyLadyViperBlogTour #EKnight #TudorHistFic

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C.W. Gortner’s “The Tudor Secret” a Must Read for Intrigue Fans

The Tudor Secret, by C.W. Gortner, was an amazing cache of intrigue and suspicion!! It’s one of the BEST books I’ve read in a very long time. If you think the Tudor era is overdone and all has been said, THINK AGAIN! 

Though plenty of books about Elizabeth I or Henry the VIII line the shelves of many bookstores and libraries, Gortner’s work of historical fiction spins an original yarn about an orphan boy, Brendan Prescott, who has a birthmark which supports that he has possible royal lineage. Does he?  Is he being used as a pawn to the advancement of others?

Court life is brutal and Prescott is about to find that out when he becomes a servant in the Dudley household.  Before he knows it, he is a double spy and reeling with the fact that he is on a mission for Elizabeth I, the intelligent sister of the young Edward VI.  Strangled with the urge to know his own family secret, he agrees to being eyes and ears at court for William Cecil, Elizabeth’s protector, in exchange for Cecil helping him to unravel his past.

He discovers that whispers and secrets abound at court, during this turbulent time after Henry VIII’s death, and no one can be trusted. At times in the novel, Prescott  is uncertain who he is even spying for, yet his own heart is always true to Elizabeth I and her safety.

The Tudor Secret is so full of suspense that pages will turn like they are on FIRE. Your finger will refuse to let you stop turning pages. You won’t want to put this book down for fear you will miss something. When you do put it down, it will still have you wondering so much about its twists and turns that you’ll want to pick it back up again and read until you know the secret!

The book gives superb insight into the personalities of Elizabeth and Mary Tudor in their younger years surrounding the time of their brother, King Edward VI’s, death in 1553.  The inner-family struggle for the crown, the religious turmoil and fracturing, the struggle of the people of England, the love/hate relationship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley (son to John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland) and the conniving ways of the court all lend to this tale as the author is a master at presenting us espionage and intrigue.

Gortner’s historical novel is the first book in his new Elizabeth I spymaster chronicles. The book ends with the secret known to only the Prescott character, and a few others, and is set-up for readers to be ready to delve into more spies, lies, and espionage in the next book as Prescott becomes a spy in Mary I’s court.

If a book doesn’t grab me in the first 10 pages, I won’t read it, but this one certainly DID have my full attention. I thoroughly enjoyed the guessing game this book laid out for me from the beginning. It made me remember how much I LOVE this era of English history.

This has been one of my favorite books of the last 10 years and I can’t wait for more to come in this series. Gortner has to be considered one of the TOP historical fiction novelists of the century.

Bio of C.W. Gortner, Author of The Tudor Secret~

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his third novel, about Isabella of Castile, and the second novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.  You can contact him at: cwgortner[at]earthlink.net and across many social networking channels.  For more information about this book and author, you can go to the author’s website at www.cwgortner.com.  Gortner enjoys talking to book groups and will even chat via speaker phone or Skype.

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