Interview with Author Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy, thank you for the pleasure of an interview! I was delighted for the opportunity to review your novel, “The Chalice.” I enjoyed it very much. How would you describe your novel?

Thank you for having me on Layered Pages! “The Chalice” is a thriller set in Tudor England told entirely through the viewpoint of a former Dominican novice, Joanna Stafford, who while trying to find a life for herself after the destruction of her priory, discovers she is at the center of a deadly prophecy. The book is about her struggle to decide whether, to bring back a way of life she loves, she should commit an act that is dangerous and quite possibly unforgivable.

the chalice

What an enthralling story it is! The Chalice is the sequel to, The Crown. Will there be a third book?

 I am working on a third book now, with the working title “The Covenant.” It picks up a few weeks after “The Chalice” leaves off. But I also have an idea for another novel that is not in this series—too soon to say anything more about it.

Oh, I’m so delighted to hear that! Now I will be counting the days until it comes out and I can’t wait to hear more about this other book of yours in the works! Character building is truly an art that you are gifted in. How do your characters voices come to you?

 That is very nice of you to say. My characters come to me partly through deliberation and partly by instinct. I start to build them, thinking a lot about behavior in this time period and once I get excited about them, they take off. I really love that part of writing.

 How long did it take to write your novel?

I began writing it in November 2010 and I had a first draft completed one year later. I took time off from my work as a magazine editor to write it fulltime but it still took a year. Perhaps it’s because of all the research.

Well, all your research certainly paid off! While reading your story, I felt surrounded in history and intrigue! It was great! Were there any challenges?

 Many thrillers take place in short periods of time, but the covers a period stretching from October 1538 to March 1540. The reason is I use real events in history to revolve around, to make use of. And I can’t move them. Even if I wanted to, the people who are familiar with this period in history—and there are many of them—would be appalled. So I have to keep the tension up over quite a long time. It’s challenging, yep.

Your protagonist, Joanna, is extraordinary but she tends to put her trust in the wrong people at times. How would you describe her characteristics? In this story has she finally learned her lesson?

 One of the aspects of Joanna is that for much of her life she lived with her family in an isolated, slightly crumbling ancestral home: Stafford Castle. And then she lived in an enclosed priory. She is far from a modern woman, meeting lots of people all the time and going to school and then work in large, open institutions. Joanna is actually quite an independent person for her time, especially in “The Chalice,” but she is still a sheltered woman and can be naive. So she makes mistakes in her judgments of others. After “The Chalice,” I think she will make fewer mistakes, because of her trials by fire.

Nancy, you give an intriguing look into Tudor England. I’m always hearing people’s thoughts of Henry VIII or the Boleyn’s. So I would like to ask what your thoughts are on the kind of man Stephen Gardiner is.

 He is extremely intelligent and well educated but he is also ferociously ambitious. When he was younger, his ambition overtook everything, and he used his abilities and legal training to help Henry VIII get his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. But he didn’t foresee the break from Rome taking England as far as it did and so he spent the rest of his life filled with guilt and frustration because although he supported Henry’s being the head of the church he abhorred the Protestant movement. He wanted the country to be Catholic but with Henry VIII at its head. Actually that is often what Henry VIII wanted as well. But it was unrealistic that this could work for long.

That is really interesting about Gardiner. I have so many thoughts on the Reformation on all accounts of what took place, but that is for another discussion and would be very interesting indeed. Nancy, the supporting characters in your book are well developed. Geoffrey Scoville and Brother Edmund are my two favorites. Which one is yours and why?

Oh I can’t pick between these two men. It’s impossible! I think what I like best about Geoffrey is his humor and his guts. I like Edmund’s compassion and sensitivity. Both men are intelligent and resourceful but they are each, in different ways, quite vulnerable.

Was there a particular scene you found a challenge to write?

The scene in the Red Rose when Joanna clashes with the astrologer was tricky. This is the first time Joanna gets an inkling that all is not what it seems with Gertrude Courtenay. The revelations had to be subtle but ominous too. This is the point everything starts to build from in London.

I remember that scene and I could literally feel the tension in the air between them. I knew things were going to get really interesting between the two ladies from there on out. Nancy, what intrigues you most about this time period your book is written in?

The mixture of medieval and modern. In some ways, people acted as we would understand today and relate to, but in other ways, no, their thinking was very removed from ours.

Nancy, I would have to agree with you. I think that is one of the things I find so fascinating with the medieval times. What makes a perfect heroine in your view?

Someone who fascinates us even when we don’t approve of what she’s doing. We always want to know what she will do next.

Great answer! What advice would you give to an aspiring author who wants to write Historical Fiction?

The research is important but keep working on pace and character too. All the historical details in the world can’t make a story come to life if it isn’t intriguing and filled with people the reader cares about.

Nancy, it is always a pleasure to chat with you and thank you for visiting Layered Pages again!

Praise for The Chalice

“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so  exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional  entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps  us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy  centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford  fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before  everything she loves is destroyed.” – C.W. Gortner, author of The  Queen’s Vow
The Chalice offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most  powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk,  Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna  Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes  compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t  let you go even after the last exciting page. – Karen Harper, author of  Mistress of Mourning
“An exciting and satisfying novel of historical suspense that  cements Nancy Bilyeau as one of the genre’s rising stars. The  indominable Joanna Stafford is back with a cast of powerful and  fascinating characters and a memorable story that is gripping while you  are reading and haunting after you are done. Bravo! The Chalice is a  fabulous read.” – M.J. Rose, author of The Reincarnationist

nancy bilyeau

About the Author
Nancy Bilyeau,  author of The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on  the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good  Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour  magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of  Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit Nancy Bilyeau’s website.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Review: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau


the chalice


Publication Date:  March 5, 2013
Touchstone Publishing
Hardcover; 512p
ISBN-10: 1476708657

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown,  novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era.

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between  crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks  imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international  plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna  understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by  three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of  Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice  that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

Layered Pages Comments and Review:


When I was asked to participate in the historical fiction virtual book tours for, The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau, I was so delighted! I have been anxiously awaiting for this novel! The Chalice is the sequel to Nancy’s debut novel, The Crown. To give you a little back ground to the story. I would like to share a little to you about, The Crown.

The protagonist, Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun in the sixteenth century discovers her cousin is sentenced to burn at the stake at the orders of King Henry VIII. She leaves the priory to go to her cousin to show her support and she is arrested along with her father and they are sent to the Tower of London. Joanna is forced by Stephen Gardiner to spy for him and to find a relic. He believes this relic, a crown is at the Dartford Priory where Joanna is a nun. She is sent back to Dartford along with two monks.

Joanna starts to unravel the history of the crown and as she discovers the mystery little by little things become very dangerous for her and the Priory. Who can she trust? Who can she turn to for help? Will she be able to save the Priory and the people she cares about including her father’s life?

Joanna is also member of the aristocratic Stafford family. She is loyal to her family, her faith and she is courageous and strong-willed. She tends to put in her trust in the wrong people at times, but that is because she has been a bit sheltered I think. It’s truly amazing how she gets herself into these situations and yet she comes out so strong.

The Chalice

The Chalice has all the elements for a thriller a reader would want! Intrigue, murder, betrayal, conspiracy, romance, suspense, well-developed characters who will captivate you! Bilyeau also gives you a wonderful blend of history throughout the story. One can tell she has done her research and knows quite a bit about Tudor history.

As the story unfolds, Joanna is caught up in a plot that targets King Henry VIII and she finds herself in a web of lies and betrayal. In this daunting position she has been forced in making a decision that could change her life, those around her and England, forever. There were many times throughout the story I wasn’t sure how she was going to get out of the mess she was caught up in. This is a story that is so well written and evenly paced that one must really read for themselves to discover how enthralling it really is. It’s not too often I’m left almost speechless to describe my feelings for a story. I highly recommend this brilliant series and want the readers to come away with as much enjoyment as I did.

The beginning of the story really sets the tone for this powerful and compelling tale. In chapter one of The Chalice the story begins ten years earlier. Joanna is seventeen years old and making a journey to Canterbury from her home, Stafford Castle with her mother. They are going to Canterbury in the guise of her mother wanting Joanna to use the healing waters to cure her melancholia. But her mother has other plans for her that are unknown to Joanna and others in their household.

When Joanna assumed they would be heading back to London, her mother made arrangements to see a nun instead. She thought nothing of it because in Spain, her mother’s family spent time with nuns and monks. As they were getting ready to go, her mother was telling her about a nun, Elizabeth Barton that she wanted Joanna to see. When she meets Elizabeth, she realizes that she is no ordinary nun. I believe Joanna’s whole life changes from that moment on…

I rated this story five stars!


About the Author:


nancy bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau,  author of The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on  the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good  Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour  magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of  Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit Nancy Bilyeau’s website.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter
Link to Tour Schedule:
Twitter Hashtag: #TheChaliceVirtualTour
the chalice tour banner

Interview with the Dack Brothers

Stephanie: Christopher and Michael, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion! Please tell me about your book, “Bloody Mary.”


Michael: The story centers around Carakas, an alcoholic vampire. He’s constantly in search of heavy drinkers to bite in order to maintain his pickled state. He falls in with Rudt, a corrupt and opportunistic police officer who wishes to rise through the ranks by eliminating those who stand in his way and who sees Carakas as the perfect, if unwitting, accomplice to help him.

Despite his best intentions to simply have a good time, Carakas constantly makes trouble for himself and his friends. His antics bring unwanted attention from Mantis, a beautiful but vicious fellow vampire who carries a special loathing for Carakas and from Vanessa, a mysterious hunter who comes to town suddenly and who has motives all her own.

  bloody mary

Stephanie: What an interesting premise for your story. What inspired you to write this story?


Michael:  What we find interesting is to click together disparate elements to come up with a premise ripe for drama, for laughs, for good story, basically. So, combining vampire lore with the trappings and traditions of drinking opened up many fun situations to explore with these characters. We were able to mesh together elements of police procedural, courtroom drama, and sex farce in addition to classic horror elements and even managed to squeeze in an intervention scene and a riff on a Shakespeare speech. The book was a hoot to write and, we hope, for readers to enjoy.

Stephanie: Those are certainly a lot of different elements to it and I can see how that would be fun to write. Is this your first published story or are there others?


Christopher: Michael published speculative short fiction with Far Sector several years ago and I’ve written as a freelancer for Digital Photographer, Mac|Life, and other magazines. Together, we’ve also written several screenplays, but “Bloody Mary” is the first novel for both of us.

christopher dack

Christopher Dack

Stephanie: How long did it take to write, “Bloody Mary?”


Christopher: You would think that two writers collaborating would make things go quicker, but when two people come from the same family of world-champion arguers, it really doesn’t work out that way.

Michael and I debated over every line in this book. So, while we probably could have written “Bloody Mary” in a few months, it took closer to a year. Ultimately, though, it’s a good thing. We’re each other’s toughest editors and while the process may not always be pretty, we simply don’t sign off on anything until it meets both of our standards.

Stephanie: I don’t think I could write a book with my siblings. We have such different reading taste and writing styles I’m sure. We probably wouldn’t agree on anything! Lol. That was great that you were able to do so. Who designed your book cover?


Christopher:  We’re control freaks and pretty shameless about it. We chose indie publishing because we wanted total control over every aspect of our book — not just every word and every comma of the story itself but also the cover design, the type design, everything.

The concept for the cover came from our mother, actually. She has arthritis and, during one particularly bad flare up, she showed us her hand and proclaimed with oddly gleeful pride “Look how gnarled and awful this looks!”

I was half-joking when I suggested that she act as a hand model for our cover, but she loved the idea, so we staged and shot the cover photo a few days later. I’m not sure if she intends to get an agent and look for more hand-modeling gigs or not.

Stephanie: I’m a bit of a control freak myself. When the time comes that I’m ready to publish, I will want to self-publish as well. Do you currently have any book projects in the works?


Michael:  We are currently working on two very different novels. One is aimed at young readers, which is a departure for us, and is a science fiction tale set 100 years in the future. The other’s a serious horror novel set in present day. Such dissimilar projects allow us to avoid any kind of writers’ block since we work on what we are in the mood to write at the time, and so can switch gears if we ever get stuck on one project and go to the other. We’ve done this before and what invariably happens is that one project begins to gain a momentum of its own and pull ahead. And then we focus on that. Once we’ve finished, we return to the other project and it seems fresh, ready and waiting for us, just where we left it.

 michael dack

Michael Dack

Stephanie: That’s wonderful! Sounds very interesting. When I write my mood changes at times or the characters are wanting to do something different than what I want them to do. So my writing process gets a bit chaotic at times when you have several stories that you are working on. Which I’m bad about doing. What is some of the promoting you have done for your book?


Christopher: We’re still trying out many promotional avenues to figure out which suit us best and which get the best results. We threw a nice launch party for friends and family, many of whom acted as early readers for this book or have helped in other ways or on other, earlier creative projects.

We’ll be running annual 99-cent Kindle and Nook sales twice a year on the two holidays most appropriate for this book – Halloween, for obvious reasons, and St. Patrick’s Day, the only holiday devoted purely to drinking.

And we hope to do well as people begin gift shopping this coming Mother’s Day because nothing says, “I love you, Mom” like a book packed with booze, violence, and unholy creatures of the night.

Stephanie: Where do you see self-publishing in five to ten years?


Christopher: There will be a meeting in the middle, I think, between the traditional and independent publishing models. Traditional publishers are going to have to adapt to the new landscape, relinquishing more control to writers and supporting them more from the beginning or else risk extinction. Writers who pursue the independent publishing path, however, will need the support of professionals, many of whom currently work in traditional publishing or have in the past, in order to be successful.

Both writers and publishers need to remember that, ultimately, it’s readers who determine their fate. And right now is an awkward time to be an avid reader because sorting through the wilderness to find quality material can be difficult. Readers need trustworthy tools to find good books, tools like IndieBRAG, objective critics who are open to both house-published and indie-published books, and social media and its awesome word-of-mouth power.

Stephanie: I agree with you, Christopher. I really feel that traditional publishing will have to make some serious changes in order to keep up with the ever growing industry of self-publishing. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?


Michael:  Quit aspiring and just be an author. There’s nothing stopping you. Leonardo Da Vinci said whatever exists in the universe, whether in essence, in act, or in the imagination, the artist has first in his mind and then in his hand. What this means to me is that the entire world is a writer’s plaything, to shape in their imagination in any way they see fit, and therefore have unlimited material.

Stephanie: Fantastic advice! What is your favorite quote?


Christopher: “What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.

~Robert M. Pirsig, author, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


“When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”

~Mark Twain


Hardcopy and Kindle available at Amazon (

Available for Nook at Barnes and Noble (Available for Nook at

Watch for our new website, coming soon at

Author’s Bio:

Christopher Dack grew up in Springport, Michigan. Educated at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he holds degrees in Political Science and Rhetoric. He also has a Master’s Degree in English from Eastern Michigan University.
With brother and co-creator Michael Dack, he co-wrote and co-directed the independent film, Sleep(, an award winner at the East Lansing Film Festival. Along with his other brother, James Dack, he photographed and co-authored the book Wings: An Illustrated Celebration of Michigan Wolverine Helmets ( He has also published more than 40 nonfiction articles on photography, cinematography, computer science, and writing in publications such as Shutterbug, Digital Photographer, Pro Digital Imaging, Mac|Life, and Writers’ Digest. Bloody Mary is his first novel. He counts as creative and intellectual influences Robert Pirsig, Trevanian, Peter Weir, Eddie Izzard, Suzanne Collins, the Coen Brothers, Christopher Nolan, Pink Floyd, Roald Dahl, and Dr. Seuss.

Michael Dack was born in Springport, Michigan. He attended Western Michigan University and Spring Arbor University. He holds degrees in Education and in Music Theory and has composed works for symphonic band and for orchestra. Together with brother and co-writer Christopher Dack, he has written several screenplays which have been honored by the Nicholl Fellowship, Slamdance, and Austin Film Festival competitions. He also co-wrote, co-directed, and scored Sleep (, an independent film which took honors at the East Lansing Film Festival. His short fiction has been published by Far Sector. Bloody Mary is his first novel. Among his influences, he lists F. Scott Fitzgerald, Annie Proulx, Don Delillo, Joss Whedon, Neil Simon, Jane Espenson, Peter Weir, David Sedaris, William Carlos Williams, and Joseph Heller.

Christopher and Michael, it was a pleasure to interview you! Thank you! ~Stephanie

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Christopher and Michael who is the author of, Bloody Mary, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Bloody Mary merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Anna Belfrage

Anna, I was delighted to read your novel, “Like Chaff in the Wind.” What a wonderful and entertaining story. How would you describe your book to a group of readers who have never read nautical theme based stories?


First of all, hello Stephanie, and thank you for inviting me to join you today! I am so glad you enjoyed “Like Chaff in the Wind”, but I don’t think I would ever describe it as “nautical” – ships in this book are a means of conveyance, no more. “Like Chaff in the Wind” is essentially a story about a man who is torn away from his life and his woman and the quest his woman sets out on to bring him home. You see, for Alex Graham life without her Matthew is inconceivable, it’s as impossible as it is to live without your heart, and so she sets off to find him – hoping she won’t be too late.

This story makes a great stand alone. However, as I understand this is the sequel to, “A Rip in the Veil?” Could you please tell me a little about this story?

“A Rip in the Veil” describes how Alex meets Matthew, an altogether impossible event seeing as Alex is born in 1976 while Matthew is born in 1630. (“Yeah, I know,” Alex sighs, “totally unbelievable, but here I am.” She slides me a look; there are days when she has problems forgiving me for what I’ve put her through.) For Alex, being transported three centuries backward in time is not a dream come true, and so she struggles with adapting to this strange new life of hers – ably helped along by Matthew, the single compensating factor for this brutal shift in fate. Things are further complicated by the political situation – Cromwell has just died and Charles II is about to be restored – as well as the religious conflicts of the time. Oh, and then there’s Matthew’s brother Luke, who is anything but a loving sibling.

In, “Like Chaff in the Wind,” Matthew is unlawfully abducted and sold into slavery. He suffers greatly and you give in great detail the horrors he went through. Was there a scene you found the most difficult to write? And how so?  


 Several years ago, I found a small article about indentured servants in Virginia. There was also an example of a contract by which a child of four was indentured for like seventeen years to pay off not only his passage but that of his parent who had died on the voyage. That set me off on finding out more about the life of an indentured servant – which seems to have been very, very harsh, especially if you were sent over as a criminal.

For Matthew, this whole experience is one long humiliation. His clothes are torn off him, he is kept under lock and key, he is punished for speaking up about his unlawful abduction, he works endless hours over endless days, and to top it all there’s that memorable occasion when the overseer whips him until Matthew admits to being a slave. I think that was the scene I found most difficult to write, because I had no problems imagining just how degrading it would be to say “I’m a slave” out loud. It’s the equivalent of licking your tormentor’s boots after he’s kicked you black and blue, and it costs Matthew all of his remaining pride. I was haunted by Matthew’s eyes for days after writing that scene.

Alex Graham is an interesting woman. I admire her greatly and yet I was troubled at her lack of maternal feeling towards her son Isaac from the future. I don’t know if I would have given up my child so easily or at all. What made you decide to write it that way or did the characters go in their own direction?



Ah, little Isaac… I love this talented boy! Alex does as well, but her relationship with Isaac is tainted by how he was conceived – and by the very dark shadow his accursed father cast over Alex’ early twenties. As described in “A Rip in the Veil”, Isaac was an unwanted child, and it didn’t exactly help that he was the spitting image of his father. For these reasons, Alex had problems connecting with her firstborn and then she was yanked out of his life before he turned three. In “Like Chaff in the Wind”, Alex can choose to keep Isaac with her or let him return to the adults that he loves and who have shaped him into the child he is. I think it requires quite a lot of self-less love to do what Alex does.

Anna, I would probably have a better grasp of Alex when I read the first book in the series. Thank you for your explanation of why she had trouble connecting to Isaac.

What was the inspiration for your story?


The Graham books are set in the seventeenth century due to an avid interest in the religious conflicts of the time. Couple this with a romantic streak, a life-long yearning to time travel and a high level of admiration for all those people who set off across the seas to create new lives for themselves in the colonies, and you have a very inspired writer (me).

Specifically, “Like Chaff in the Wind” is inspired by the vision of Matthew Graham waking up in chains, with no idea of what has happened to him. And then there was that other vision, of a distraught Alex praying to God to keep her man safe, wiping angrily at her eyes as she does so because she has promised herself she won’t cry – not until she finds him.

I rather liked casting Alex as the hero, setting off to rescue her man. Matthew is less than enthusiastic about this, going on and on about him not feeling comfortable with being the victim. “Tough,” I tell him, but given how he’s scowled at me lately I’ve made sure he gets adequate room to shine in the next book, “The Prodigal Son”. Can’t stand it when he’s mad at me …

Who is your least favorite character you have written about and why?

I’m not overly fond of Dominic Jones. He’s a man with a mean streak the size of Mississippi, enriching himself at the expense of his fellow men. Does he get his comeuppance? Eventually…

Dominic Jones was my least favorite too. I kept on wondering throughout the book if you were going to eventually kill him off.

What is your favorite literary genre?


Historical Fiction, but I have a fondness for well-written fantasy as well.

Same here….

What is your all-time favorite novel?

“Here be Dragons,” by Sharon Penman. Dead easy, that one!

Sharon Penman is one of my favorite authors! Her stories are brilliant!


How many books do you read in a year?

I average 2-3 books a week, so that’s like 130 – 150 books a year.

Which do you prefer to read from? Paperback or e-book?

I’m new to the e-book format, but find it very convenient. I travel extensively in my day job, and with one well-loaded Kindle I can travel back and forth to China a dozen of times and not run out of stuff to read. But the ultimate reading experience is still a paperback book, combined with a huge cup of tea and something sweet and sticky on the side.

What is your favorite quote?

In “Like Chaff in the Wind” there’s one sentence I particularly like: She hoped he knew it was her, that the bird he saw was her longing reaching across the world to softly graze his cheek.

But my favourite quote is in Spanish and comes from a play by Calderón de la Barca called “La Vida es Sueño” (Life is a dream”) and goes like this:

¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.
(What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story. And the greatest good is little enough; for life itself is a dream, and dreams are only dreams.)

Beautiful quote Anna! Thank you for coming to Layered Pages and chatting with me! It’s was pleasure!



Anna Belfrage

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English  history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical –  both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very  little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as  one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four  children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive …  Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children  are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then  the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still  there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll  probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

Thank you!

Like Chaff in the Wind Tour Banner - Copy

Review: Like Chaff in the Wind by Anna Belfrage

Like Chaff in the Wind

When Amy Bruno approached me about participating in this wonderful book tour, I couldn’t turn the opportunity down. I’ve been curious about this novel and have really been engrossing myself into nautical theme stories of late. This story is certainly notable and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to more of Belfrage’s wonderful tales in this series.

This story takes place in the seventh century when Matthew Graham finds himself abducted and is forced on a ship that takes him to Virginia as an indentured labour on the Suffolk Rose Plantation. He endures many horrors on a daily bases and is singled out by a man who gives him the hardest tasks, all because he claims his innocence. How he got in this situation, you ask? Matthew cuts off his Brother’s nose and in revenge his brother sold him into slavery. But there is more to the story than that.

Alex Graham has no intention of giving up on her husband’s life and embarks on a journey to bring Matthew home. But this task turns out to be much more than she bargained for and finds herself a year later-which only should have taken two months- reaching her husband.

There are many elements to this story I think you will find interesting. In turn gives you a fine balance of romance, adventure, life on the open sea, time travel, plantation life, family devotion and so on. There was a couple of things that bothered me about Alex’s character but I don’t think it detracts from the story in any way. It was just a personal observation I had. I will be interested to see if anyone else-who is a mother- reading this story sees what I’m talking about.

This story is the sequel to, “A Rip in the Veil.” Although Like Chaff in the Wind is a wonderful stand alone. I feel the reader might have some unanswered questions if they haven’t read the first in this series.

An engaging tale with lively characters and as the plot unfolds you find yourself amazed how devotion and love survives a betrayal and suffering of the human spirit. If there is a lesson one can come away from this story, it is forgiveness.


Layered Pages

About the Author:

Anna Belfrage

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English  history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical –  both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very  little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as  one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four  children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive …  Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children  are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then  the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still  there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll  probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

Thank you!

Interview with Author Alan Cooke

I would like to introduce Alan Cooke. Author of, “Naked in New York.” Alan, how would you describe your book to a group of artist?

An immigrant odyssey on the streets of New York in a post 9-11 Era. A transformational journey of my soul and body and heart. A book of longing sadness and beauty and an experience of leaving Ireland and going to the center of the world that changed me forever. A poetic homage to the city and all the millions who dwell in her centre. An intense stream of conscious reflection of what it is to leave what is familiar to you and dive into the unknown.
Naked in New York
Did you come to New York knowing you would write a memoir?
I came to New York with 1000 dollars and 4 weeks after the towers fell. I only came for a short period. I had no idea I would be there for five years. I had no idea my identity and my spirit would be so challenged and pulled apart and reformed amongst the millions of New York inhabitants. I am an actor by trade and a film maker. So to write a memoir came out of an intense desire to pour out all that was withheld inside. All the madness, the hurt, the loneliness, the wonder, the beauty, the encounters, the walking, the wandering, the tears, the heartbreak and the salvation. I wrote in cafes, I wrote on the subway in the dark winter tunnels. I wrote in bed with the sounds of intense city wildness outside my cracked window. I wrote in tears and I wrote to save my sanity. Naked in New York became a way to purge all that I could not bear anymore. To try and transform intense experience into a universal story.
What is the most profound experience you had while visiting New York?
The people. New York is a jungle of humanity. It is not nature but the nature of people. The voices and languages, the broken dreams, the smiles and the hope. I walked over 10,000 miles in New York. Every brick and avenue, every stone tower was my ache and my possibility. The confinement of such a dense place became my own private universe. My own private dreamscape and terror. It pulled out of me all that I was experiencing. People always the people were the extraordinary experiences that kept changing my view of the world. On subways I could feel their emotions and their endurance for surviving in such a tough city. When I was pale and tired and desperate I would be given a smile by a bagel seller or a jogger that would keep me going. All of it was profound. The whole circus of New York is the circus of us all. The human cycle. Watching the rich on park avenue or the hobos huddled in winter cracks half frozen but singing to the universe. Feeling my cold breath on a platform in Queens or being left to die in a hit and run in the Bronx, waiting for my working papers in -3 temp under a full lonely moon. Or the joy of sipping a beer on a hot pavement in the summer as the world spun around me. I was changed by it all.
Your book title speaks volumes, When was the moment you knew that you would name your book, Naked in New York?
 I seen a man , with no top. Bare chest. Howling in the streets like an injured wolf. Ignored. Destitute. Failing. Ignored by the passing crowds. I was in a cafe with a big window. He was my picture. He was broken. He was naked. I felt like him at times. I felt New York could strip you to the bone. So Naked in New York is that metaphor. All is exposed.
What was your writing process like? Did you create an outline or keep a journal?
I had tiny notebooks. Thousands of words. Thoughts, poems and feelings that came crashing through my mind night and day. I am sensitive and intense at the best of times. I am an observer of the human condition. So I was in the centre of that human condition. Ten million souls affecting each other. All I could do was write to save myself.
 Is there anything new you discovered about yourself while writing, Naked in New York?
Yes that words matter. That words transform, they change the very soul of the self. That all your pain, your joy , your wildness and dreaming can be brought to birth. That all you thought you had lost can be born again. That you can turn it all around and place the pen hard on the page and feel alive again. Words. Words. Words. So much they affect our lives. I was not sure if I could ‘ write a book’. I was an actor and I had also made a documentary about my time in New York called HOME. But creating a book seemed another universe. But something called to me. Frank Mc Court who wrote Angelas Ashes whom I knew said if you ‘ have an itch scratch it.’ So I did. And I kept going. And when i took out all my journals I found I could begin and pull it all together.
How often do you write? And when did you first begin to write?
I write only when I am writing a book. I do not write everyday. If I am inspired I will begin a new novel. I have three books written now. One is another memoir called The Spirit of Ireland an Odyssey Home about my return to Ireland and also a thriller set in Ireland. I want to write a memoir about going across America and also about Paris. I had always written small plays and shorts as an actor but never a book. New York gave me an odd confidence born of struggle to cut the ties of what I THOUGHT i could do and dive into possibility. The idea of not leaving any dream at the doorstep is the essence of New York hope.
Were there any aspects to your story you found a challenge to write?
The biggest challenge was self doubt. The idea of thinking you are worthy to write a book, that you have something to say, something that would affect a life. I feel books are beautiful things. Electronic , paper or otherwise. I write because I feel. Because I am alive and it is a mystery. I do not feel anyone has anything figured out but art , writing books is my way of making sense of the senseless at times. These are dark times for many. It is for so many and I guess I am lucky that I have a way with my acting my films and my books to funnel all of this immediate darkness and hopefully make some light for others. I see art as a vital aspect of our survival. I see it as a way to save our humanity. Artists are potent shapers of culture, the right culture, the one that informs and questions and ignites our hopes and aspirations. That is a worthy goal for me. As loft as that sounds and that is the challenge to serve others with my work. Maybe someone living in a small apartment in New York will read my book and go ‘ Hey that’s how I feel.. so there is hope.’
If an aspiring writer wanted to publish, what advice would you give them?
Don’t give up. Write with passion. Don’t aim for a market. I know we all have to pay the bills. I hope we all get success. But stick to what moves you in your work and others will be moved then anything is possible. Finishing is the art in a way. The rest is in the hands of the world. And I think there is a revolution going on in publishing. With Amazon and other self publishing formats have made a massive leap to helping writers take control of their money, their brand and their future. You can publish a book straight onto a global platform now. That is a game changer and gives artists hope.
What is your favorite quote?
I cant go on , Ill go on’ Samuel Beckett an appropriate mantra for an artists life if ever there was one.
Alan  Cooke
Other links :
                   FACEBOOK : http://www.facebook/wildirishpoet
                   Twitter: @wildirishpoet
Thank you!
Layered Pages

Interview with Author Jill Carroll

Congrats Jill for winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, ” Quail Fried Rice.”

Quail Fried Rice is a love story featuring two middle-aged, professional women who end up in the same small West Texas town due to varying life circumstances.  The novel explores the themes of life transition, dealing with change and death, living a life of meaning, and finding true love.  Although it’s a love story between two women, its written is such a way that it appeals to a broad audience.  Many of my readers are heterosexuals (both women and men) and they have given it positive reviews.

Quail Fried Rice

That is an interesting title. Tell me how you came up with it and how it connects to your story.

The title comes from a recipe that Elena Rios, one of the main characters, develops for use in the camp kitchen that she and her business partner, Tori Reed, run for their ranch guests.  The recipe captures Elena’s simple elegance, which appears in both her person and in her food, and evokes the tones and textures of the West Texas experience their ranch offers to their guests.

Are there any scenes you have written based own your own life experiences?

The novel is not autobiographical in any way–none of the characters are rooted in my own personal life, or mirror my life.  However, much of the novel is rooted in my own experience as a lesbian who has found a life partner and soul mate (for 11 years now), as a former landowner in West Texas, as a bird hunter, as someone who lives deeply sensitized to the natural world around me, as someone who seeks to live a meaningful life consistent with my values, and as someone who believes in love as the most important quality in life.

How do your characters voices come to you?

They come from composites of all the people I’ve met and remember, from the details I remember about them–the way they wear their jeans, the crinkle at the corner of their eyes, their distinct dialect or way of stringing words together, the aura they project when they are at their best as well as at their worst—-I tend to observe people and the world at this level, so these type of things naturally make their way into my characters, and their personas emerge from these details.

How do you start your writing process?

I brood about the general storyline and arch of the novel for a while–weeks, months, and in this case, years.  But, I don’t really have all the details down pat when I sit down to write.  The general storyline is set, but the winding trail that gets us to the end emerges in the actual writing. It’s a very different mode of writing than what I’ve done for most of my academic career and currently do as a freelance journalist.  Academic and journalistic writing is more planned, outlined and researched down to the minute detail–at least the way I’ve done it.  Fiction writing, so far, feels like writing in the dark much of the time.

Were there any challenges you faced while writing your story?  

I started the story 7 years ago, wrote 2 chapters and then let it sit and didn’t go back to it until November 2012.  At the time, during those 7 years, I called myself procrastinating.  But, looking back, I had life experiences–like fighting cancer, deepening my relationship with my partner, quitting my job– that rounded me out as a person.  Without those experiences, I couldn’t have written the novel I ended up writing.  I used the structure of NaNoWriMo to write the first 50K words, then took another few months to finish it (at almost 150K words).  I really liked the NaNoWriMo structure–it helped me avoid the usual obstacles writers deal with all the time that are just part of being a writer (writer’s block, finding time to write, staying on task, etc.).

In your book description on BRAG you said, “Quail Fried Rice is a romance novel written in a somewhat literary style outside the usual “romance” formula.” How so?

Genre romances, in both straight and gay subgenres, are written mostly according to a formula in which the two protagonists are set up to be opponents, or rivals, or at least not to like each other.  The erotic sparks fly between them, however and they are forced to admit (and consummate to some extent) their attraction or love for each other.  But, a huge obstacle (circumstance, personal trauma or baggage from the past, etc.) threatens to doom their love forever.  They collapse into a huddled ball of misery until something happens that allows them to fully embrace their love and they live happily ever after.  In many instances, the plot line that follows this basic narrative functions merely as the scaffolding that gets the reader to the best parts, namely, from one sex scene to the next.  QFR does not follow this narrative format at all with regard to the two protagonists.  Also, I wrote the novel with a dominant “third” protagonist, and that is the West Texas landscape itself.  The novel has a strong and distinct sense of place and location, and both main characters come into themselves and into each other in the midst of a rootedness in the natural world.  So, this lends a philosophical or spiritual component to the novel that most genre romance novels don’t concern themselves with.  Thus, QFR fits more in a literary category than in a straight genre romance category.

Also, QFR is much longer than most genre romances–twice as long.  It’s a slow, soaker of a novel rather than a faster-paced, more action driven style of novel that dominates genre fiction.  Those who prefer faster paced novels won’t like QFR (and have said so on the Amazon reviews).  Others, though, who like to linger with characters as they work through the situations in the story, and like to spend a weekend reading just one book, will like this novel (and say so on the reviews).

Where can a reader buy your book?

Where do you see the Self-Publishing market in five to ten years?

I suspect that self-publishing will continue to have much of the wild, wild West flavor that it has today; however, I think that certain controls or standards will have been developed to help readers sift through the deluge of self-published books in order to get to the “good stuff” more easily.  I also expect to see more self-pub presses emerge:  not just authors, but entire imprints or presses that partner with authors to publish work in a way that will help the work stand out from the crowd.  It’s an exciting time to be a writer, or a creative of any sort.  There are so many ways to reach audiences, and so many of the barriers of the past have been removed.  I feel fortunate to live at this precise moment.

What is your favorite quote?

From QFR?  Not sure . . . . My favorite scene, in terms of when I felt myself to be writing at a high level, is the death scene when Elena lays next to her mother on the bed as she passes.

My favorite passage, with regard to writing, creating, putting yourself out there despite obstacles, comes from the forward Friedrich Nietzsche wrote on his birthday during a year in which he was very ill, but during which he wrote several of his most important books:

” On this perfect day, when everything is ripening and not only the grape turns brown, the eye of the sun just fell upon my life:  I looked back, I looked forward, and never saw so many and such good things at once.  It was not for nothing that I buried my forty-fourth year today;  I had the right to bury it; whatever was life in it has been saved, is immortal.  The first book of the Revaluation of All Values, the Songs of Zarathustra, the Twilight of the Idols, my attempt to philosophize with a hammer–all presents of this year, indeed of its last quarter!  How could I fail to be grateful to my whole life?–and so I tell my life to myself.”

I love this quote because of its joyful, grateful stance toward life itself, toward the gift of one’s own life, and toward the opportunity to express oneself through creative work.

I am a freelance writer and scholar who lives with my partner, Nishta Mehra, and our son in a suburb of Houston, Texas.  I hold a Ph.D. from Rice University in philosophy of religion and spent much of the last 25 years as a university professor and scholar.  I left academe 4 years ago and now work as a freelance journalist for the Houston Chronicle, as a program consultant for the American Leadership Forum-Houston/Gulf Coast, and as a speaker/expert on topics of religious diversity in America.  I also write fiction–Quail Fried Rice is my first novel.


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jill Carroll who is the author of, Quail Fried Rice, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Quail Fried Rice merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.
Thank you! Stephanie

Q & A with Author David Pilling


I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing David a couple times before about his wonderful stories and I have asked him to come back to visit Layered Pages and tell me a little about his personal interest in the literary world. Thank you David! First tell me,  What is your favorite all-time movie?


Probably Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgunday. I was tempted to go for something historical but this film makes me laugh too much to be ignored!


What are you currently reading?


An old copy of Moby Dick I found in my father’s book cabinet. Strangely, I’ve never read it before.


Any bad habits? Do you tend not to finish books? Skim? Scribble in margins? Fall asleep while reading?


Plenty of bad habits! I couldn’t be bothered to read the Harry Potter series so I picked up the last book when it came out and read the last few pages. Job done.


Have you ever read a book and afterward wish you never read it?


Once or twice. If I dislike a book I tend to put it down long before finishing it.


What is the truly last great book you read?


Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.


Describe the perfect novel.


That’s an almost impossible question. If I knew the answer I would be trying to write it, ha!


What is your favorite event in history?


Another difficult one. Possibly the Renaissance?


Who is your least favorite person in history?


A neat toss-up between Hitler and Stalin, for reasons that should be obvious.


If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?


Shakespeare, and I would want to know how he worked and from where he derived his endless inspiration.

David Pilling
David Pilling’s website Links:

Novel’s of David’s I have read thus far. Fantastic reads and I highly recommend!
Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles, #1
The King Stag (The John Swale Chronicles, #2)
The White Hawk (Revenge, #1)
The Half-Hanged Man
Thank you!

indieBRAG, LLC.

BRAG highly values readers and depend upon them for a candid assessment of the books
being considered for a medallion. Therefore, we are selective in who we invite
to become a part of this group. We have many women and men reading world wide as
well as authors. The single most important criterion that we ask our readers to
use in judging a book is whether or not they would recommend it to their best
friend. Once a book meets this standard of quality, we award it our B.R.A.G.

Our mission is to recognize quality on the part of authors who self-publish both
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Holly Bush Virtual Tour Giveaway

Romancing Olive


Romancing Olive



Publication Date: November 1, 2011 | BookBaby | 205p
In 1891, spinster librarian, Olive Wilkins, is shocked to learn of her  brother’s violent death at a saloon gaming table and her sister-in-law’s subsequent murder, traveling far from her staid life to rescue her  niece and nephew, now orphans. She arrives to find the circumstances of  her brother’s life deplorable and her long held beliefs of family and  tradition, shaken.
Accustomed to the sophistication of Philadelphia, Olive arrives in Spencer, Ohio, a rough and tumble world she is not familiar with, facing two traumatized children. Her niece and nephew, Mary and John, have been living with a neighboring farmer, widower Jacob Butler, the father of three young children of his own and a man still in pain from the recent loss of his wife.
Real danger threatens Olive and Mary and John while Jacob and his  own brood battle the day-to-day struggles for survival. Will Olive and  Jacob find the strength to fight their battles alone or together? Will  love conquer the bitterness of loss and broken dreams?
Reconstructing Jackson

Reconstructing Jackson

Publication Date: September 25, 2012 | BookBaby | 191p
1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to  his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger  brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.
Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read,  cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new  horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.
Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will  challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new  beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.


Holly Bush


About the Author

Holly Bush was  born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room  in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the  hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently  worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism  industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local  farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years  out.  Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and  has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and  historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the  U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.
Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, has been an active member of her local library board and loves to spend time near the ocean. She is the  proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few  years her junior.



HollyBushTourBannerFINAL photo HollyBushTourBannerFINAL_zps3b9db709.jpg



The giveaway is for one eBook of either book (winner’s choice, ePub, mobi or PDF) and open internationally. And will run today and end on April 8th. To enter please leave a comment with your email address where you can be contacted. Thank you!