Title: The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford #3)
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Publisher: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
US Release Date: March 24, 2015
UK Release Date: April 24, 2015
The next page-turner in the award-winning Joanna Stafford series takes place in the heart of the Tudor court, as the gutsy former novice risks everything to defy the most powerful men of her era.
After her priory in Dartford is closed—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.
Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King whom she has twice attempted to overthrow—unbeknownst to him. She fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. And her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.
Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be one of the King’s mistresses. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and possibly, victim.
Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna must finally choose her fate.
Praise for the Joanna Stafford Series
“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In The Tapestry, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” —Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale
“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” —Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl
“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” —Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire
“A supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling—and enlightening—novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.” —Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned
“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations… Bilyeau breathes life into history.” —Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King
"Nancy Bilyeau's passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!" —Bestselling author Alison Weir
According to what I hear from fellow authors, bloggers, critics and industry wags, book editors are laying down the law: We want more conflict! It’s all about higher stakes now. Drama. Heightened tension. Put your protagonist at greater risk than you ever thought possible. And then ratchet it up again
To meet the challenge, writers are booking seats at Donald Maas workshops and buying his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, like crazy. One successful mystery-author friend who swears by Maas confided that before she’s done with a book she shuffles all the pages until they’re completely out of sequence and then reads each one to make sure there is conflict on every single page. Other friends plot their books with multi-colored index cards and arrows and circles, making sure to squeeze the drama out of every single moment.
While observing all of this frenzy, I can’t help but think of Lawrence Olivier, who after observing Dustin Hoffman staying up all night so he’d be convincingly exhausted and otherwise punishing himself during filming of Marathon Man, said to him, “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?”
Which is to say, instead of tearing out our hair to generate a book packed with hair-raising challenges worthy of a day at Great Adventure, why don’t we create certain kinds of characters and put them in certain kinds of settings that contain inherent conflict? That will propel the story without strain.
All too often I read novels with likable, easy-to-relate-to protagonists living nice, easy-to-relate-to lives. That’s all well and good—except then it’s pretty tough to generate conflict on every page. It gets pretty, well, strained.
For my trilogy, the first thing I decided was that I wanted to set it in Tudor England, to take advantage of my near-lifelong (and without a doubt scary) obsession with the 16th century. It was a tumultuous century. I narrowed it to the reign of Henry VIII, who, among other things, destroyed the monasteries in his quest to break with Rome and make himself head of the Church of England.
Because of the policies of Henry VIII, devised by Thomas Cromwell (see Wolf Hall), the kingdom’s monks, friars and nuns were expelled from the monasteries, often with nowhere to go. A fair number of them were none too happy with the destruction of a 1,000-year-old way of life and they objected. Here’s how Henry VIII handled objection: troublesome monks and friars were imprisoned, hanged, starved, decapitated or disemboweled. Sister Elizabeth Barton, who preached defiance to Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn, was hanged and then decapitated. Just to be sure everyone got the message.
So the main character of my trilogy? A nun. Meet Sister Joanna. The Dissolution of the Monasteries took place between 1536 and 1541. The action running through The Crown, The Chalice and The Tapestry begins in May 1537 and ends in December 1541.
Next for me was creating a background for my MC. I could have made her a nun from a nice family, very supportive, no issues with the king. Instead, I put her in a family full of problems, a real family from history: the Staffords.
To understand why placing a Stafford in the reign of Henry VIII would generate maximum conflict, you need to know a little 15th and 16th century history. I can hear what some of you are thinking: “Check, please.”
No. Stop. We can do this together. It’s really going to be OK.
If you watch Game of Thrones, it will be helpful to the conversation. Because George R.R. Martin has more or less admitted that his books are the Wars of the Roses—plus dragons and White Walkers.
My husband likes to say I am drawn to faded glory and The Doomed. I won’t quarrel with him here. The Staffords were my kind of people. Definitely a family that had a lot of style and not too much common sense.
There were three Stafford dukes of Buckingham and they all died violently. The first one, Humphrey, backed Lancaster over York in the civil war tearing England apart. Henry VI was the head of the House of Lancaster, and no one thought he was a particularly good king. Then Henry VI had a complete nervous breakdown. This is the monarch that Humphrey Stafford, duke of Buckingham, backed. The enemy, the earl of Warwick, sent word just before the Battle of Northampton in 1460 that he wanted to speak to the king. Buckingham’s reply: “The earl of Warwick will not come to the King’s presence and if he does, he shall die.” (Your move, GRRM!)
In the battle, the duke of Buckingham died protecting his king, clutching a sword in his hand.
His grandson, the second duke, is one of the villains of Shakespeare. In Richard III, he was the king’s right-hand man in getting hold of the princes and shoving them into the Tower of London. Later, he got the guilts and he put together a rebellion against King Richard. It failed, and he was decapitated in 1483.
Which brings us to the third duke, the one who appears in flashbacks in my first novel, The Crown. Henry VIII was an insecure king, deeply threatened by wealthy relatives with noble blood. It would have behooved Buckingham to lay low. Instead he lived lavishly and loudly. He met the axe in 1521.
In my trilogy, Joanna is the daughter of the duke’s younger brother. She grows up in aristocratic obscurity in Stafford Castle. The family is in disgrace. Just hearing the name “Stafford” is guaranteed to put King Henry VIII in a bad mood. There are two groups of people the Tudor king automatically dislikes. Blood relatives who don’t bend the knee. And people who have taken vows at monastic orders. Joanna Stafford is both!
When creating her character, I gave Joanna certain “good” qualities—she’s intelligent, loyal and thoughtful. But she’s also impulsive and stubborn, with a hot temper. The sort of woman who is quite capable of getting herself into trouble.
Finally, I bestowed on Joanna a talent. She is very skilled at weaving tapestries. After the Dominican priory in Dartford has been shut down and demolished, she tries to survive in the nearby town of Dartford as a tapestry mistress.
Now there is one man known throughout all of mid-16th-century Europe as an impassioned collector of tapestries, a true connoisseur. You guessed it: Henry VIII. At the beginning of my third book, Joanna is handed a royal summons in Dartford. She must appear at Whitehall to submit herself to a king intrigued by her talent. A king whom she hates.
And that is the conflict that sets my novel in motion.
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About the Author
Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. The Crown, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, The Chalice, followed in 2013. The Tapestry will be released in March 2015.
Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.
Blog Tour Schedule
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
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Tuesday, March 17th
Review at A Bookish Affair
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Wednesday, March 18th
Review at Writing the Renaissance
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Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
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Tuesday, March 24th
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Thursday, March 26th
Review at She Reads Novels
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Monday, April 6th
Review at Broken Teepee
Thursday, April 9th
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Friday, April 10th
Review at The True Book Addict
Enter to win one of three hardcover copies of The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau!
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