Today I am welcoming author Nancy Bilyeau to my Sunday guest spot. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have. Nancy is a native Midwesterner, now living in New York City with her husband and two kids. Currently she is the executive editor of DuJour magazine.
When did you first start writing?
I remember feeling good about writing when I was eight years old. My husband says I am one of the lucky people who figured out what they want to do early and stuck with it. For the majority of my life, though, I’ve written and edited nonfiction. I worked on high school and college newspapers; I worked for newspapers briefly after graduating; and then I worked in the magazine business for years. It took me five years to write my first novel, The Crown, because I was working full time.
What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them?
I wrote some poems and short stories in high school–no one read them except my creative-writing teacher, Mrs. Erickson, who was always very nice, and the classmates sitting in the room who had no choice but to listen. Wow, I don’t have them anymore. I honestly did not write fiction again until about eight years ago. The Crown is my first novel, but I did write a couple of short stories in an online fiction workshop. They were pretty bad. They were also modern era–I would love to try a short story set in the past. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
What made you choose to write in the genres/time periods you write in?
I’ve been obsessed with English history since I was a teenager, and the 16th century was my favorite. I’ve read every biography I could get my hands on. So when I decided to try fiction, I wanted to set it in the 1530s because to me that was a time of incredible events. I wanted to work with the inherent drama of England in the midst of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
I love creating characters and getting ideas about plots–that moment when a new twist or revelation jumps into my mind, it’s so exciting. And I guess I dislike it when the story in my head bears little resemblance to the words on my computer screen. It takes a lot of revision to get those two things closer.
If you write in multiple genres how do you make the switch from one to the other? Do you find it a welcome change, crazy-making or a little of both?
I jump back and forth between fiction and magazine-length nonfiction all the time. It doesn’t make me crazy. Or maybe I am already crazy and haven’t realized it.
Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?
Everything is interesting to me. But that can be a problem for a historical novelist–you have to know what to leave out. You can’t overwhelm the reader with details. My editors help me a lot in this, suggesting that I condense or even remove passages that might slow the story down. Sometimes I rebel–No, no, they’re wrong! This is essential! But eventually I realize, a bit sheepishly, They are right.
How do you get your ideas? Where do you look for ideas?
Ideas come when I am not staring at the computer. These are the places I find I get fresh ideas: in the shower; in bed, sleeping (dreams!); walking long distances, preferably through snow; at the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York, my favorite place in the city.
Tell us a little about your current project.
The Chalice is the sequel to The Crown, with the same protagonist and many of the major characters. Joanna Stafford gets caught up in a very frightening conspiracy. In case you haven’t realized it yet, I love conspiracies!
What’s up next for you?
Preparing The Chalice for publication next spring. I am going to get
the copy editor’s notes any day now.
My author website: www.nancybilyeau.com
On twitter I am @tudorscribe
Here is a link to amazon and my paperback: