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Friday, November 30, 2012

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY GUEST AUTHOR NANCY BILYEAU


Or Book Club Friday guest to day is author Nancy Bilyeau, a magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of Rolling Stone, Good Housekeeping and InStyle. Her first novel, The Crown, was shortlisted for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award in 2012. Oprah Magazine said, "Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.” The Chalice, a sequel, will be released in March. Learn more about Nancy at her website

Nancy is offering two copies of The Crown to readers who post a comment. As always, please leave your email address or check back on Sunday to see if you’ve won. -- AP

The Cloisters
When crafting my novel, a historical mystery thriller, I not only ignored “Write what you know,” I went about as far into an unknown world as a person can go and not be authoring science fiction. The Crown is set in England; I’m American, living in New York City. The book takes place in 1537-1538, during the reign of Henry VIII; not being a time traveler (unfortunately), I’m of the modern era. My protagonist, Joanna Stafford, is a novice in a Dominican Order; I was not raised in any religion, unless you count a few Sunday-school classes at the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Cloisters passageway
I love research and I dove into studies of Tudor personalities and daily life in Catholic monasteries. The novelist leading the fiction workshop where I developed The Crown, Rosemarie Santini, urged me to “get in the mood” to write, through listening to music or going to places that would inspire me. Music helped, no question. But finding inspiration in New York City was a bit of a challenge…until I re-visited The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Cloisters’ collection is made up of 3,000 works of art from medieval Europe, and many of its rooms are re-assembled French monasteries from the 9th to 16th centuries. To get there requires an hour and a half trip, taking two subways, but I haunted the Cloisters for quite some time (and still do). It definitely helped me get into the head of a devout young Catholic novice. But spending time in the Cloisters gave me actual ideas for important passages in my book, too--even clues.  I made use of the stone chapter house, where nuns received correction from their superior; the herb-filled cloister gardens; the famous Unicorn tapestries; the tombs containing stone effigies; and the arched doorway with statues of kings on either side.

Author Nancy Bilyeau in The Cloisters tomb
Most thrilling of all, I was making my way through a lower-floor room of precious medieval objects: cups, plates, crosses, playing cards, devotional beads, silver, reliquaries, busts of saints,  stained glass, candlesticks, framed miniatures, when I saw….my murder weapon.

Now that was a good day at The Cloisters!


Thanks so much for joining us today, Nancy. I love The Cloisters! Readers, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Nancy’s book, leave a comment. -- AP

26 comments:

Kath Marsh said...

I'm in awe. Not only do I want to see the Cloisters, but you are one Great researcher!

Anonymous said...

Wow what a lot of research! Good luck on the book, sounds interesting!
lynn4503@comcast.net

Karen Burns said...

Nancy...I love your ideas for research. I've used my vacation travels but have not thought enough about local resources for inspiration...thank you for pointing that out! Have you read Sandra Worth...she also writes about the Tudors. I wish you much success with your book and look forward to reading it.
karensueburns@gmail.com

traveler said...

Your novel sounds fascinating and the research wonderful. Best wishes. This story sounds compelling with all the great ingredients you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

The Cloisters are indeed a marvelous place. And now I wonder if I've seen the murder weapon....
Sandra

petite said...

i enjoyed learning about your research and the background of this compelling book.

Judy said...

Loved your blog and the way you used surroundings to come up with scenes and murder in your story! I, too, think it's important to be able to do that so that all the senses can be involved, too. Good luck with the book!

Llyn K. said...

I enjoyed reading about your research. The Cloisters is a wonderful museum, and it sounds like you really used it effectively! Good luck with the book sales.
Llyn

William S. Shepard said...

What a fine inspiration. I haven't seen The Cloisters yet, and this is a real incentive to fill that gap. I have, though, seen the Cluny Museum in Paris. Wonderful Unicorn tapestries ... but so very much was lost!
William

Nancy Bilyeau said...

Thank you everyone! I do love research, I find it exciting. They do lovely tours at The Cloisters too--I went on one that was all about the tapestries, the woman who gave it was highly knowledgeable. The director of the entire Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas P Campbell, actually specializes in historical tapestries. He's written two books about them, including "Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court."

Nancy Bilyeau

Judy Dee said...

This sounds like my cuppa tea. I love the history and I love England. I even have friends named Tudor. Thanks for all the research. Please put me in the draw for a copy. Just this blog makes me want to visit The Cloisters.

Angelique Armae said...

What a great post! The Cloisters has always amazed me. Fabulous place for research. Thanks for sharing!

Liese said...

Nany:
Your book is on my To Be Read list! Can't wait to do so and congrats on the award!

Michele Drier said...

What a wonderful way to do research! You have mood, setting and details all in one place, plus the serenity of a Renasissance cloistered community. I want to go!

cat said...

I'm eager to read your book. When I was younger (many moons ago) and still living in New York, I used to haunt the Cloisters. I loved the way the light would play across the stones in the early afternoon and I would take any opportunity to use the atmosphere there for inspiration—for drawing and poetry, sometimes even music!

That's one of the places I really miss, living up here in the great white north. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Marni said...

Love The Cloisters! Great ideas for research. Much success with the book and hope it does well.

Anonymous said...

Your novel sounds great. Look forward to reading it.
Katie Johnson (johnsonk133@yahoo.com)

Carol-Lynn Rössel said...

I never made it uptown to the Cloisters, though I lived in NYC for many years. Such a journey! And I regret, still, not making it. Your book sounds fascinating!

rossel(at)fairpoint(dot)net

Mary Ellen Hughes said...

Sounds wonderful - both the place (Cloisters) and the book.


http://www.maryellenhughes.com

Chris Eboch said...

I love The Cloisters! I used it as a setting in my kids ghost mystery, The Knight in the Shadows (along with the MET). Lots of inspiration there, for research or a setting for action.

Anonymous said...

i cannot wait to read your book. it has been on my want list since i first saw it. your blog is so good. i read it whenever it pops up on my facebook page.
patrice m.

Karen94066@aol.com said...

I'm sold! This is my favorite period of British history - and I can envision a novice during this time period. Congratulations on your nomination. I look forward to reading The Crown.

Nancy Bilyeau said...

I'm thrilled by this interest in my novel. Thank you! There were so many years when I was working on it, weekends and "staycations" and then getting up at 5 am to write, when I thought to myself, "Why are you putting yourself through this to write the book? No one asked you to do this." I'm so grateful for your interest, and to "meet" other fans of The Cloisters.

DonnaGalanti said...

This has been on my TBR list for months and I am fascinated by this time period. Which was more fun - researching or writing? :) Nancy wishing you success and nice to meet up as ITW Debut Authors at ThrillerFest this year. The Crown looks like its making a big splash!
donnasgalanti@comcast.net

Nancy Bilyeau said...

Donna: For me, research is more lighthearted than writing, which is serious business, even if it's skulking around tombs.

susied said...

The Cloisters sounds like a wonderful place to visit! And just reading about your visits there has put me in the mood to read an historical mystery :)

Would love to read your book!