Special Guest Interview with Nancy Bilyeau, Author of The Blue
Tell us about your latest book
|Sèvres Porcelain Potpourri Vase|
What is your preferred writing routine?
I’d love to have a routine—and even more so, a beautiful writing room or even a nook! I have a full time job at a nonprofit news center and freelance nonfiction assignments, and a family, so I write my books, and The Blue in particular, at the kitchen table early in the morning before anyone is awake, or in bed on the weekends. Any time I could snatch for research or writing or revising.
What advice do you have for new writers?
Get eyes on your work and listen to what your beta readers or critique partners say. What we think is coming across with clarity to a reader might not be—that’s where your team can help you. It’s really important not to submit fiction or publish before something is ready. I fight that impulse myself, as I am not a patient, deliberate person. But letting something sit overnight to get a fresh read in the morning is one of my tricks.
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?
My books are “traditionally published,” but the classic path to success of bookstore appearances and touring and speaking, it doesn’t work today. Most publicists would actually agree with that too. Nor does sending a huge number of ARCs to newspaper and magazine reviewers to build up awareness, because, sadly, print media is spiraling out of existence. The reality is everyone is online and authors need to be where readers are. I write a lot of nonfiction on history and I interact with people on twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I like social media, so to me it isn’t a chore or a necessary evil. I have to force myself off it!
That the luxury-obsessed elites of the 1750s were quite similar to that group of people today. Some aristocrats and merchants went bankrupt collecting porcelain, it became a sort of madness, as the porcelain itself became ever more elaborate and fantastical. During this period, Sevres Porcelain, near Versailles, produced things like a potpourri vase in the shape of a ship, gold enamel, painted deep blue, a lot of detail, including a detailed scene painted on the side of sailors on a wharf packing fish! If when you hear “porcelain,” you think cups and plates, that’s not what this world was about in the mid 18th century. It was about creating these delicate fantasies with tantalizing glimpses of real life.
What was the hardest scene you remember writing?
In The Blue, it was an early chapter, when Genevieve, my main character, is having dinner in her Spitalfields house with her grandfather—and with a guest, Sir Gabriel Courtenay, who is the antagonist of the plot but also there’s an attraction there between them. Here he is trying to recruit her for a spy mission but doing so with a lot of subtlety. Several levels needed to be in the chapter, but also a lot of information is being revealed and crucial decisions made. Yet they are on the surface of it, just sitting and eating and talking. So it was a challenge to make the scene interesting and tense. I had to revise a lot.
What are you planning to write next?