Monday, January 16, 2012

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

Please join me in welcoming author Nancy Bilyeau
to Let Them Read Books!

Check out Nancy's guest post on writing her debut novel, The Crown, and then enter to win a copy! I really enjoyed The Crown--click here to read my review!

When I was in junior high in Michigan, I used to sleep with my books at night. I was always reading as my eyes closed. My parents and my sister would be woken by the sound of a book falling off the bed as I turned over—it’d hit the floor with a thud.

That’s when my love of historical fiction was born. I read Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts and Anya Seton and Jean Auel. In high school a wonderful creative writing teacher read E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime aloud so we could be inspired by its rich prose. I just kept coming back to the genre over the years, most recently discovering the wonderful Sarah Dunant, Diana Gabaldon and C.W.Gortner.

I also have been fascinated with English history, most specifically the Tudor period, since I was very young. So when I decided to write my first novel, I picked the 16th century. I wanted to write a thriller but I also sought to make the story historically accurate. One of my favorite parts of writing The Crown was the research.

The main character in my book is a novice in a Dominican Order named Joanna Stafford. There was a single Dominican priory in England before the Dissolution of the Monasteries: Dartford Priory in Kent. I found one book devoted to the nuns’ life in Dartford, and spent a lot of time seeking out references to it in other books and documents. One challenge I had was that the priory was demolished in 1539 by Henry VIII as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Only sections of the stone wall on the perimeter of the convent property survive. There’s a Tudor-era stone gatehouse, it was built by the king to stand outside the luxurious manor house he raised on the rubble of the priory. What I find amusing is that now this gatehouse is used as a reception space for weddings! What would the sisters think of that?

I had to re-create the structure of the priory by reading about other convents of the period in Europe. I live in New York City, so I sought inspiration by going to The Cloisters, which is a collection of medieval art and tapestries and religious objects as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One day I went there—it’s in Fort Tryon Park, the northern tip of Manhattan—in the middle of a blizzard. I loved it, I took a lot of photos that day, and those are what you see on my author website.

But what about my characters’ thoughts and feelings? How did it feel to be a nun in 1537? I found that the most interesting of all. It’s so different from the kind of life I have now—a magazine editor and novelist in 21st century America, a wife and mother. But after doing a great deal of research into the priories, and the Dominican Order, not to mention daily existence in Tudor England, I had enormous respect—and yes, fondness-- for those Sisters. And I hope that comes through when people read The Crown.

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
Check my sidebar for more great giveaways!

Thank you, Nancy!
Would you like to win your own copy of The Crown?

Simply leave a comment or question for Nancy with your email address and you're entered!
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59pm, Tuesday, Jan. 24th.

The Crown is on a blog tour!
Click Here
to view the rest of the tour schedule.
Visit Nancy's website
or find her on Twitter.


  1. The only novels I've read that had a nun as the main character have been a couple of mysteries. A real historical fiction novel sounds intriguing. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. Historical fiction my favorite,add a nun as lead character I am

  3. I have only read one book about a nun and it wasn't the best probably because a book about the simple life of a nun can be boring. However this one sounds interesting as there is a mystery element involved. I love hearing how people get into reading historical fiction.

    Please enter me for the giveaway. dolleygurl[at]hotmail[dot]com

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. This is already on my to read list-
    enter me in the giveaway please-

  6. sounds great, can't wait to read it!

  7. Please enter me!

    kescah at comcast dot net

  8. Congratulations on the great review, Nancy! The book sounds fantastic, and I want to enter the giveaway!

  9. I would love to win this book. Thanks for the giveaway! Emma ehc16e at yahoo dot com

  10. My sister really enjoyed this book so I'll show her this guest post.

  11. thanx for the heads-up on TheCrown!!! added to my WishList!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  12. Please put me in the giveaway too, because The Crown sounds great!
    joann at rebelpuritan dot com

  13. I'd love to read this- thanks for the giveaway!

  14. I put this book on my TBR list as soon as I heard about it!
    please enter me into the giveaway.
    Thank you

  15. your book sounds fantastic. I also love your quote "I love books! I love to read books, talk books, smell books, dream books! I love to escape into a different world, but I also like to learn while I'm reading, so historical fiction is a perfect fit for me, and my favorite genre" I feel the same way, I just can't put it into words as well as you did. Thank you for the opportunity to win your book. Terig965 at

  16. I love novels written around a "quest" - The Crown sounds fantastic. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. This sounds like a great book!


  18. I'm so excited about the release of this book! Thank you for the entry!



  19. Nancy, your book sounds fascinating. Hope I win it. janesteen(at)hotmail(dot)com


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