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
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