Sunday, April 4, 2010

Interview with Medieval Author Joyce DiPastena

Joyce DiPastena lives in Arizona and is a “died-in-the-fur Desert Rat” with degrees as high as 117. She first fell in love with the Middle Ages when she read Thomas B. Costain's The Conquering Family in high school. She attended the University of Arizona, where she graduated with a degree specializing in medieval history. The highlight of her year is attending the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which she has not missed once in its twenty-three years of existence. She is the author of “Illuminations of the Heart.”

What is illumination? To make something clear or easier to understand and appreciate. To add colored letters and designs to a manuscript or the borders of a page. In the case of this novel: the main character “illuminates many a priceless book with pen and paint.”

Welcome, Joyce! I’m so excited to interview you and talk about your new book. Your books are known as “Mystery, adventure, and sweet romance in the Middle Ages.” Tell us about your new book, “Illuminations of the Heart.”

Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siriol de Calendri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife’s shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri’s face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston’s past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king’s sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman’s shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston’s soul and make his heart beat for her alone? You’ll have to read Illuminations of the Heart to find out!

Where did you get your ideas? Do you get most of them from history? Give us some examples.

Ideas come at me from all kinds of places. The first book I ever wrote (still unpublished) was inspired in part by a Gilbert and Sullivan song about a wandering minstrel. A minstrel sounded so romantic, though I placed mine in medieval England instead of in China. For the same book, a song called “Anywhere I Wander” from the Hans Christian Anderson movie inspired a scene towards the end where my romantic couple was ripped apart by cruel circumstance (and a cruel villain).

Loyalty’s Web was inspired by my mother, who said, after I’d received several rejections for my lack of sex scenes, “You’ll just have to write a book that’s so exciting, no one will notice they’re not in there.” LOL! So I set out to write the most exciting book I could think of…but the national market still noticed I didn’t have any sex scenes. One agent asked me to put some in, but I said “No”. Fortunately for me, I finally found a publisher who welcomed my non-sexy romance/mystery/adventure novel.

Sometimes there are bits and pieces of medieval history I think would be fun to explore as part of my story. In Illuminations of the Heart, it was the art of medieval illumination — the decorative painting of books with little miniature pictures leafed in gold that reflected or “illuminated” the light. For my current work in progress, I’m exploring the world of medieval troubadours. Sort of. Well, at least a little corner of that world. The characters and their lives are always more important to me than giving a history lesson on any aspect of my research.

I remember Gilbert and Sullivan’s wandering minstrel in the Mikado. I love that operetta. Do you use an outline when you write or play it by ear?

I’ve tried to write to an outline, but I can never stick to it. I started off with an outline for Illuminations of the Heart, but somewhere along the way (within the first couple of chapters), my characters took off on their own and I forgot all about my outline. After Illuminations of the Heart was published, I stumbled across my old outline and laughed my head off at what I originally thought the story was going to be. Characters that I’d planned to be villains had turned into heroes, a murder mystery angle I’d plotted out never took place, and characters from my first book (Loyalty’s Web) who were going to make guest appearances never showed up. In the end, the only real purpose the outline had ended up serving was to help me choose the names of my characters before I started writing. From this experience I’ve learned that outlines and I just don’t mesh. My characters prefer to reveal themselves to me as I write them, telling me secrets about their lives I could never have dreamed up in advance. It’s just the way writing works for me. Sometimes it makes getting a new book off the ground slow and messy, but somehow I think my writing is richer for the trust I place in my characters to know their own hearts and not have my will imposed upon them.

What a wonderful answer! One reviewer said about your book, "This book is one meaty, intelligent, well-researched and exciting read for lovers of historical fiction. The romance? It's smartly written and delicious.” Tell me your thoughts about this.

Well, needless to say, I was extremely flattered by that review! I love trying to create an authentic-feeling world. And I love to include lots of plot alongside the romance. And I love characters and I love dialogue. And I love mixing it all together and seeing what comes up.

You wrote so eloquently, “He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.” This took my breath away. Are all your books clean, sweet romance? Explain or describe your thoughts about romance.

Yes, all my romances are clean, sweet romances. I originally started writing because I couldn’t find any clean, sweet medieval romances to read. Back then (I’m not saying quite how far back), almost the only clean romances you could find were Regencies (sadly, even many of those aren’t safe anymore) and very few contemporaries. But I was wild about the Middle Ages and terribly frustrated that I couldn’t find a clean, medieval romantic read. So I finally sat down and wrote one for myself. I’d hoped that there might be other readers out there who were searching for clean, sweet historical romances, as well, and I must say, I have been very gratified by the warm, supportive response that my books have received. If my name was a brand, I would want it to mean: “Trust me.” When you pick up a Joyce DiPastena book, you don’t have to be afraid. I will promise you a clean, sweet, safe romance every time. I never want to betray that trust with my readers.

I understand completely. What does your family think about your writing? Are they supportive?

My mother was very supportive when she was alive. My father was less so, and sometimes that was very challenging. Now there is just my sister and brother and me. Both of them are extremely supportive of my writing. My sister even keeps copies of my books in her office for people to “accidentally see” when they drop by to talk to her. She says a lot of people get excited when they see my books, ask her questions about them, then go out and buy a copy. I call that supportive!

Yes, that’s definitely supportive! Tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Golly gee, I’m really not that exciting! Let me think… I’m telephone-phobic. So email me to your heart’s content, but whatever you do, don’t call me! (Just kidding. You can call me. Just don’t ask me to call you!)

Okay, I’ll e-mail you to my heart’s content! Thank you so much, Joyce. This has been such a pleasure getting to know the real you. I hope you enjoyed this interview, everyone.

45 comments:

Serena said...

Great interview! I love that you are writing books in a unique genre that are all CLEAN! It is hard to find books that are clean that are not meant for young adults and children. This book sounds exciting. Your love of the middle ages makes me excited to read this book!

Virginia C said...

Hello, Joyce and Linda! Happy Spring to you two lovely ladies : ) Joyce, "illuminated" pages are quite beautiful! I have a friend who is a very artistic calligrapher, and her skill is remarkable. Your love of your subject and your sureness in your storytelling is most heartwarming. "Illuminations of the Heart" would be a sweet read indeed!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Miss Mae said...

I totally agree with Joyce that for one who loves clean romance their brand should be "Trust me". I read "Loyalty's Web" and the romance was fantastic, completely clean, but yummy all the same. She has talent to shuck it down to the cob! And I loved the adventure and mystique of the plot too. I'm eagerly hoping to get Illuminations! :)

MissMaeSite AT gmail dot com

Cheri Chesley said...

You can't know how much I've wanted to get my hands on these books! Please include me in the contest. Cheriwrites@yahoo.com

Gail Pallotta said...

An interesting interview. It was nice to get to know you a little better and to read about your medievil romances. Congratulations on your writing.
pallotta@gailpallotta.com

Miss Lynn's Books-N-More said...

Great interview Joyce. It just goes to show that you can have a great book without having the sex in it. Why everyone thinks that if there is no sex the book won't sell. Keep up the good work and keep writing them fine books

Darlene said...

Just popping in to say I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Mary said...

Hi Linda and Joyce
Great Interview! I posted this on my blog.
This book sounds like something I would love to read.
http://maryinhb.blogspot.com/2010/04/linda-weaver-clarke-interview-with.html

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

I just wanted to pop in and read more about Joyce. She's a great author, and this was such an interesting interview. Thanks for sharing it.

Tifferz said...

Hi -
Joyce your book sounds really good. I think the cover is great. I hope I win!!
tifferz19@hotmail.com

www.tifferzbookreview.blogspot.com

rubynreba said...

I really enjoyed the interview. The book looks very good. Thanks for the chance to win.
pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

Rees Family said...

I enjoyed reading the interview about Joyce and her book. It sounds like an amazing book. I can't wait to read it. I love historical romance books. Especially ones set back in a time like this, although I have never read one set in the middle ages during medieval times. It sounds so exciting. It is so hard to find clean books to read. So I am excited to read her book. Thanks for sharing.

Krista said...

It was great getting to know Joyce a little better! Thank you for the great interview! I was intrigued by her book in another blog review, and it was great to be reminded that I need to check it out! kristalynnej@yahoo.com

CallMeKayla said...

This sounds like a good book! I am liking the cover as well..

sexywomenread@yahoo.com

Suko said...

This book sounds wonderful! Please enter me in the giveaway. suko95(at)gmail(dot)com

I enjoyed reading this interview. Creative questions, thoughtful answers. :)

Joyce DiPastena said...

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Linda! I had a great time answering your questions. :-)

hopeandme said...

I always learn something new about Joyce when she is interviewed. Great job to both of you! Hopefully I'll win this much talked about book and get to see first hand what your characters are up to.

hopeandme said...

Sorry, I thought my email would show up. Here 'tis!
barbarabutler1@yahoo.com

holdenj said...

The book sounds wonderful and thanks for the great interview! I think she has picked such an interesting "job" for a young woman back then, this illumination.

Cathy Witbeck said...

I would love to read how Joyce describes the art of illumination. What an interesting topic to cover. Ms. Pastena is doing the world a great service in writing clean literature that women can be uplifted by.
Thanks for the great interview.
cathywit@comcast.net

Taffy said...

Great interview! I've enjoyed Joyce's books!(I've already read the book so don't enter me.)

Barb said...

It was interesting to hear how she begins her books in an organized fashion with an outline. Then suddenly the story begins to take on a life of its own and moves on without the need of the outline. It was a very revealing interview.Thanks for the opportunity to hear about her work and books.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Danielle Thorne said...

Wonderful interview, Joyce!

Debra Erfert said...

... "This book is one meaty, intelligent, well-researched and exciting read for lovers of historical fiction. The romance? It's smartly written and delicious.”...

I’ve never heard the term “delicious” used to reference writing before. And meaty? Well, dare I say it? How provocative, Joyce!

Of course, since I’ve already read, (and reread) both “Loyalty’s Web” and “Illuminations of the Heart,” I know these are truly sweet romances, and since I obviously own these books, please don’t enter me in the contest. Now if there was a way to get you to sign the books I already have ... Ah, well, someday when you visit Yuma!

Kelsey said...

LOL about the sex scenes. That's pretty stupid about being rejected for the lack of. There are PLENTY of good books with no sex scenes!

Thanks for the interview!
Kelsey
krae991@yahoo.com
www.thedoortowonderland.blogspot.com

franklycreative said...

I loved the interview. I definately want to read Joyce's newest book. I am also thrilled that she has been able to rise above the "mold" and write a clean romance and prove that it doesn't have to be smutty to be a good read.
Carolyn Frank

Hildy L. Mignone said...

It was great meeting you recently in Canyon Lake. You were so motivational. Please enter me in the contest. I LOVE historical medieval fiction.

hildylmignone@yahoo.com

Allison said...

Great interview! Sounds like an interesting book..please enter me!!

allisonsattic at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Please enter me in the contest. Historial fiction is a great subject

Helen K

hdkiker@comcast.net

author said...

Love the new book cover. It's beautiful.
I'm looking forward to meeting Joyce at the conference later this month. -Karen Mittan
kmittan48@gmail.com

Jackie Smith said...

This book sounds so interesting...please enter me. Thanks!!
jackie.smith(at)dishmail(dot)net

Diony said...

So glad Joyce stuck to her moral standards when writing her books, we need more authors like her.
Great interview! dionyg@gmail.com

Mystica said...

The interview was so very interesting. Please count me in for this giveaway. Thank you for hosting.

mystica123athotmaildotcom

Sherry Ann Miller said...

Great interview. Count me in on the giveaway. Hugs, Sherry Ann Miller

sherry@sherryannmiller.com

Yvonne said...

Excellent interview! I'd love to be entered in the giveaway.

yvone473@optonline.net

KIKI said...

Linda and Joyce, wonderful interview. I loved reading about how you came up with the ideas for your books and about how the outline approach didn't work.

Please enter me in the giveaway, txtwo(at)live(dot)com

MoziEsmé said...

Looks interesting!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Lisa said...

Wow! Thanks for sticking to your guns and keeping it clean. It is hard to find a good, clean, romance out there. I just discovered a new name. I will definitely be heading to the library today and see what of yours I can find.

blturner162 at yahoo dot com

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thanks for a great interview!

billsmith2003 (at) gmail (dot) com

Bill ;-)
http://drbillsbookbazaar.blogspot.com/
Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
http://thehomeplaceseries.blogspot.com/

Auria said...

I read the first book and I really enjoyed it, so I'd love to read this too!

kykas5@L2speed.net

couponmom said...

I loved the interview. I found it interesting that she doesn't use an outline for her writing. I can see her point though, I don't think I would be able to stick to an outline.
formycontests@gmail.com

Writers Shelf Life said...

Always enjoy "getting to know" authors. I LOVE this cover. It really draws you in and makes you want to read the book! Love the story idea. I look forward to reading it in the near future. It's on my list.
awesomemessages@sbcglobal.net

Todd, Katrina & Kyler said...

I love finding new authors and getting to know them. I love to read and this book sounds really good. I'm going to add it to my list.
kmorty42@yahoo.com

Jolynn_Reads said...

I read Loyalty's Web and I really liked it alot.
I didn't think I'd like the historical fiction type book, yet I really liked it! I'm glad I read Loyalty Web, and would really like to read this new book too!
Jolynn_Reads@yahoo.com

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Hello Dear Friends,
This was so much fun. In fact, so fun that I've decided to interview authors every month with a book give away. So far I've got one rounded up for every Monday of this month and next. Well, almost every Monday in May. There's one Monday where I don't have a Give Away since I'll be on Book Tour in Georgia. I think you'll have fun reading about new authors. Okay, who won the contest? Since my hubby went to work this morning, I had to do the honors. I cut all the little names out, put them in a bowl and then held it high above my head. Hey, that's pretty high for those who know me. I'm 5'10". So I held it high and picked a name out of the bowl. Congratulations Coupon Mom. Don't forget to check out my new interview that was posted yesterday.
Thanks, Everyone, for a fun contest!!!