Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spend Valentine's Day with ROCCO and...NANCY BILYEAU!

MEOW!  Today’s hotseat guest is author Nancy Bilyeau. Nancy’s first historical thriller, THE CROWN, has debuted to stellar reviews (including a five-star one from NIGHT OWL REVIEWS from yours truly, who HATES historical – so you know it must be good).  Shown above are the US and the UK covers of this amazing book.

A magazine editor and writer whose work has appeared in magazines such as Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Good Housekeeping, she is also an aspiring screenwriter and her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions, including the Nicholl Fellowship and Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope competition.
For Nancy, the writing of “The Crown” was the fulfillment of a lifelong obsession with the Tudors and their history.  As a child she saw the BBC dramas “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” and Elizabeth R” and after that devoured everything she could about that era.   She attributes her fascination to the fact that “the dynasty has everything – love, death, war, betrayal, greed, sacrifice and beauty….the Tudors are less obscured by bureaucracy and industrial democracy than later European dynasties. They are, first and foremost, a family.”

And now, in my hotseat…NANCY BILYEAU!

R:  Tell us a bit about your first novel, THE CROWN, and how you got the idea for it?
N: It’s a historical thriller set in Tudor England, the whole novel is told from the point of view of a young Dominican novice in a priory. She leaves her priory without permission to go to the execution of her cousin, who rebelled against King Henry VIII in the North of England. At the execution she and her father are arrested for interfering with King’s justice and she’s sent to the Tower of London. She gets caught up in a conspiracy to find a mystical object of great importance. There are murders. Tapestries with messages. Sensitive friars. Tombs. And Stonehenge—just everything I like.

R:  One can tell you did extensive research. Did you come across any facts during the course of this that surprised you in any way?
N: I was surprised by how little sleep a nun would get. Most nights it was broken up into a few hours before Midnight, when they had to put on their habits again and go the Chapel. Then a few more hours’ sleep until dawn.  There weren’t many fireplaces or sources of warmth, even in depths of winter. And a lot of fasting. So this was a much more rigorous life than what any of us could handle now. Yet many of the “real” nuns at Dartford Priory in Kent—which I try to re-create in The Crown—lived to old age. And they very much wanted to be there.

R:  How did you feel when you got “the call” from your agent Josh Getzler that he’d sold your book?
N: I was beyond ecstatic and I was relieved. Josh Getzler sold my book in an auction and that is a wonderful but very harrowing experience.

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
N: Earl Gray tea. And music really helps. I find inspiration through Thomas Tallis, Beethoven, the opening theme for “Game of Thrones,” a 70s rock song like Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son.” I know, I know. You are grimacing. (R: Ha – Cats don’t grimace. We frown suggestively.) But 70s stadium rock can get the heart pumping!

R:  You’ve been a magazine editor for such magazines as EW, Rolling Stone, InStyle, etc.  Which do you prefer, editing or writing fiction and why?
N: I love editing and actually miss it because I took a huge break from the magazine business to write my second book. Sometimes it’s a  bit like being a story detective when you sit down to edit a piece and figure out how to help it reach potential. Does it need a new lead paragraph? A quote with more emotion to keep the reader going? I like editing. But for whatever reason, I started feeling an urge to create my own characters and stories a while ago. And there is nothing more satisfying than coming up with a world of my own and then sharing it with people.

R: It’s obvious you like historical fiction. What other genres are you into?
N: Thrillers of all kinds. Murder mysteries. I often read and then re-read the classic works of English literature by the Brontes, Austen, Hardy, and so forth. I also like some light, modern novels. I just got to Diane Johnson’s “Le Divorce,” and I really liked it.

R: If you could be any of Henry VIII 6 wives, which one and why?
N: I think I’d take the early years of Katherine of Aragon, his first wife. She married Henry VIII when he was just about 18 and considered the handsomest and most athletic prince in Christendom. Obviously there were some changes. LOL.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
N: I would like to go back to 1661 when my ancestor  Pierre Billiou arrived in “New Amsterdam” from France. He came over on the St. Jean de Baptiste with his wife and children. His son Isaac was born on the boat and I am descended from him. I’m just so curious about what it looked like here before it was “New York City.”

R:  Are you planning a sequel to the Crown, and if so, can you tell us a bit about what we can expect?
N: I’ve already written it. “The Chalice” is a sequel, with Sister Joanna and some of the main characters from “The Crown.” It’s a bit darker and more dangerous. And Joanna comes face to face with Thomas Cromwell!

R:  Your novel’s been optioned for film: who would you like to see bring THE CROWN to the big screen?
N: You know I keep wondering if Kiera Knightley would mind donning a Dominican habit. But really I didn’t write it with any particular actress in mind—I am hoping someone talented falls in love with Sister Joanna Stafford and wants to bring her to the screen. (R:  D’ya think there’s a part in there for a handsome, debonair tuxedo cat? I’m just askin’)

R:  What did you do the day your book was officially released?
N: I wish I could say I did something artistic or spiritual, but I went to the hair salon to get a cut. I wanted to look good for my first-ever bookstore reading at Barnes&Noble.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
N: I snuck into a Bob Seger concert when I was 18. I’d already seen him twice!

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 
N: I went to Bermuda on vacation at the very height of hurricane season. That way I got a great deal on the plane and hotel and a near-empty beach. My priorities were off, no question. No hurricanes, by the way. I got lucky.

And now, a little thing Big Rock calls, “Just for Fun”
R:  Your Favorite?
Movie? "Vertigo"
TV Show? "Columbo"

Actor? Daniel Day Lewis

Actress? Cate Blanchett

Drink? Champagne. Also Belgian beer.

Henry VIII or Louis XIV? Do I need to answer? Henry!

Anne Boleyn or Marie Antoinette? Ditto. Nan Bullen.

Mountain or Seashore? I've grown to prefer mountain. My favorite is Camelback in Phoenix, Arizona

Cat or Dog? (This is what we call a LOADED question) Cat. Retract your claws. (R: Retracted !

Night or Day? Day--in fact, I'm a morning person

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
N: I want to immerse them in a fascinating time. I hope they will find it interesting and thought-provoking to see life through the eyes of someone who, as a friend of mine said, was at the “wrong end of the Reformation.” I really hope the suspense will be enjoyable. I get very excited when someone says they stayed up late at night reading my book.

MEOW – thanks for this informative interview, Nancy! Folks, rush out and get your copy of THE CROWN TODAY!

Check out the Human’s Night Owl Article on Nancy, in this months digital magazine:

Check out Nancy’s website: http://www.nancybilyeau.com/

And now – three lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of THE CROWN!

To enter, just leave a comment below and tell us which CROWN cover tickles your fancy, along with your email address.  To get extra entries, you can:
·       Friend me or the Human (or both) on Facebook
·       Follow me on Twitter @RoccoBlogger
·       Friend Nancy on Facebook
·       Follow Nancy on Twitter
·       Tweet or FB about this contest, or both! (Doing this gets you 2 extra entries!)

Remember, the more entries, the more times your name goes into random.org, giving you more chances to win! Please put everything you do in your comment so we know how many entries to give you, Meow!

Contest is open to US and abroad (UK, Australia, etc.)  and closes midnight EST Sunday, February 19th. Winner announced Monday, February 20th!
So get goin’!

Next week:  Guest post from Caitlin Kittredge, author of YA fantasy THE IRON THORN AND NIGHTMARE GARDEN, and adult UF, including the Black London series from St. Martin’s!


Until then, Stay Cool! And enter the contest! And now I must go back to my cat-nap, and await my chocolate covered catnip tonight for Valentine's Day....what did I get the HUMAN? You ask...well, duh!  Ins't living with me present enough, heh heh heh.

Sci Fi Blogging Cat


  1. Happy Valentines Day. This books looks great. Love the UK cover better, both are good though. Nancy is a new author for me and would love to win and read this book.
    Friended Nancy on facebook and twitter.
    Also tweeted about the giveaway.
    Already friended Toni and this blog.
    Thanks for the chance to win.

  2. Great interview Rocco :)
    I prefer the top cover (US?) its calls to me, but they are both lovely and would LOVE a chance to win :)

    I've tweeted and Facebook shared

    Thanks for making it an intl giveaway :)

  3. Love both covers, but US is prettier - would love t win.


  4. I used to think I hated historicals too. I was so wrong! My critique partner writes in that genre and I've grown to love them.

    I adore the Tudor period, so this sounds awesome!

    I already follow you everywhere. (Pats Rocco)

  5. I like both covers - the top maybe a little better than the bottom. The story sounds wonderful.

  6. I like the US cover as the heroine looks like a Da Vince painting, and I like the U.K. cover for its decorative embellishments and its' leading sentence on the title. I am a cat fan, too, I have an orange Scottish fold who fetches!

  7. My computer was in the hospital for a week and then needed follow-up work today....looks like I got it back just in time! A history-hating kitty who loves a historical novel, gotta love it!
    I've already befriended the Human,(that's how I got the message to c'mon over), but I shared the interview on my FB. I'm married to a history major/ex-teacher...you know there are a LOT of this type of book in my house...I'd like another!
    I will be looking for Nancy's works.
    Oranges-the-cat didn't come out when I opened a can of tuna today...VERY unusual; but Bella was a lady and left his share of the water I drained from it in his bowl .He showed up 2 hours later.Where do you think he might have been,Rocco? He won't tell me!

    1. Tonette:
      What is your email address? We need to contact you to claim your prize?

  8. Tonette:

    I'd keep my eye on Oranges - seems he has a bit of the wanderlust in him heh heh heh a cat after my own heart.

    good luck with the drawing! there are 3 giveaways, so you've got a good shot!

  9. Oooo I've heard great things about this book. I love the mystery/thriller aspect of it. I totally love the second cover because I think the blurb underneath is totally helpful in knowing what the book is about.

    libraryofmyown at gmail

  10. Ok, I friended Nancy on Facebook, tweeted this and Facebooked this. Is Facebooked a word?


    libraryofmyown at gmail