Interview: Nancy Bilyeau

I read and LOVED Nancy Bilyeau’s historical suspense novel, THE CROWN, and reviewed it back in January. It was also a finalist for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award from the Crime Writers Association in the UK.

Nancy’s novel is coming out in paperback, and she was kind enough to answer some questions for her readers (and fellow writers) while she’s hard at work on the sequel. I hope you enjoy this interview, and if you love thrilling, atmospheric, historical novels, you must read THE CROWN.

1. What inspired you to write THE CROWN?

I’ve always loved English history, reading biographies and novels set there. My favorite century is the 16th, so when I started to think about writing a novel, I thought, “Put your book in the time you find most interesting.” My protagonist is a young Catholic novice because I wanted to write about a pursuit that does not often get attention in fiction. I didn’t know anything about nuns, and had to do a lot of research.

2. What is your favorite part of the writing process?

When inspiration strikes, and my fingers fly across the keyboard.

3. What part of the process is not your favorite?

When inspiration does not strike, and every sentence seems bad. It’s scary, and I have to push myself to keep going, to know that I can revise and revise.

4. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your debut author self before the launch of THE CROWN?

Try to enjoy it as much as you can, and don’t get caught up in the business of publishing any more than you have to,

5. What is your favorite novel of all time?

That is such a hard decision! I guess I would have to say “The Great Gatsby,” because it is so lovely and every time I read it I discover something else. Runners-up: “Anna Karenina”, “The Age of Innocence,” and “Rebecca”.

I have to tell you that in college I started reading Hemingway and had a pretty strong reaction to his books. It’s difficult to rank my “favorite” Hemingways. I would have to say “The Sun Also Rises” and “The Snows of Kiliminjaro.” I re-read “A Farewell to Arms” while writing my second novel, “The Chalice,” and was humbled by Hemingway’s descriptive power and use of point of view. But I wanted to jump into the book and say to Catherine Barkley, “Run, don’t walk! He’s not the soldier for you.” Ha.

6. What is your first memory of writing?

The first memory I have of feeling good about writing is when my third grade class went on a field trip, and the teacher said she liked my report afterward, she said she liked the way I wrote about the leaves on the trees.

7. What do you most want readers to take away from THE CROWN?

The feeling that they were part of the 16th century for a time, and saw it through the eyes of someone pretty special.

Nancy, thank you so much for these answers. I think we are reading soul-sisters. I wish you all the best with your paperback launch!

For more on Nancy and her fabulous novel, visit her website at :


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