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Words with a Wordsmith: Nancy Bilyeau
By Rebecca D’Harlingue
June 24, 2022

Nancy Bilyeau crafts immersive historical stories.

Are there TV shows or films that have influenced your writing?

Yes, many! From the films “The Red Shoes,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “Babette’s Feast,” and “The Godfather” to the television series “Homeland,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Brother Cadfael.”

Do you listen to music while you write or edit? If so, what’s on your writing playlist?

I listen while I brainstorm or edit, not too often while I write. I listen to Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and movie soundtracks such as that of “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Gladiator,” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

“The King’s General,” by Daphne du Maurier, set during the Civil War of England. It’s enormously moving, romantic yet tragic, but it’s rarely mentioned as one of her best books.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

 I booked a week in London, staying at the Strand Hotel. I did it on impulse in 2013 when I saw a special package on Expedia, but it was a wonderful experience. I will never regret it. I didn’t bring my cell phone and I had to actually use maps and ask questions. I was there by myself and I’m very proud how I managed.

Is there another profession you would like to try?

I would have loved to be an archaeologist and go on digs in the ancient world and search for artifacts.

Nancy Bilyeau is a magazine editor who has worked as an editor at “Rolling Stone,” “InStyle,” and “Good Housekeeping” and the author of six historical novels. Her latest novel, The Fugitive Colours,” is set in the London art world of 1764. She loves crafting immersive historical stories, whether it’s the Gilded Age of New York in “Dreamland” and “The Ghost of Madison Avenue,” the 18th-century European porcelain workshops in “The Blue,” or Henry VIII’s tumultuous England in “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry.” In “The Blue” and “The Fugitive Colours,” Nancy drew on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy’s ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre’s stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

 

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Rebecca D’Harlingue
Written by Rebecca D’Harlingue

Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.

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