Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday Writer ~ Joyce DiPastena

Writers Mirror interviewed Joyce DiPastena
Writer of mystery, adventure and
 "sweet" romance in the Middle Ages

(CRW is Cindy R. Williams)

CRW:  Thanks Joyce for being with us here on Writers Mirror.
How many books have you written?

Joyce:  Well, I've written 5 and am working on a 6th, but only two of my books are published so far.

CRW: I just happen to have cover pictures of those two published books.

CRW:  What inspires you to write?

Joyce:  Reading, both fiction or medieval history books, will often get me in the mood to write.

CRW:  What gets in your way of writing?

Joyce:  Time restraints, but I think mostly my own insecurities and self-doubts. It's so much easier to do ANYTHING else than sit down at the computer and confront the little voice in my head that says, "You, a writer? I dare you to think of something to write today!" And the fear that it's right...I won't be able to think of something, which in my head translates into "failure!"

CRW: How do you get past it?

Joyce:  The only way to get past it is to sit down and write anyway. Even if I only type out a handful of words and I hate every one of them. I just have to keep telling myself while I'm fighting through a tough writing session today, "Tomorrow will be better", and usually (not always, but usually), tomorrow is.

CRW:  Do you try to write daily, and if so, do you set a goal of a certain number of words?

Joyce:  No, I don't use word goals, I use time goals to keep me on track instead. I set a timer for, let's say, an hour and tell myself I can't do anything else but sit at the computer and work on my writing until the timer goes off. I can't play any computer games, I can't play on the internet (I bought a laptop that's not connected to the internet so I can do this in a completely different room of the house where email and the internet can't tempt me), I can't go get a snack, I basically can't even get out of my chair until the timer goes off. My only two choices are to stare at the computer screen for an hour or write something on my novel. Actually, that kind of takes the pressure off me a little. If I'm really struggling to write, I can tell myself, "You don't have to write, you just have to sit here in front of your computer for an hour. If you don't want to write you don't have to, but you do have to sit here and stare at this screen until the timer goes off." Usually, simple boredom will eventually drive me to write SOMETHING. It's very, very rare that I don't end up typing at least a handful of words, which is always better than no words at all!

CRW:  What makes you CRAZY about writing?

Joyce:  Do you mean what drives me CRAZY or what makes me CRAZY to write! I just picked up a plaque at Target yesterday (which won't be yesterday by the time you post this, but you get the point) that says: "I live in my own little world, but it's OK. They know me here." I guess that kind of sums up how I feel about my writing. When my writing is really going well, it's like losing myself inside a world where I'm spending time with friends. And what can be a better feeling than spending time with friends?

CRW:  How long does it take you to complete a book?

Joyce:  Oh, don't ask me that! My first two (non-published) books took me 6 years each...and that was just for the rough draft! Loyalty's Web took me maybe three, and Illuminations of the Heart might have taken me two, but again, that was for a first draft. Because it took me so long to find a publisher for Loyalty's Web and Illuminations, both of the books ultimately went through many, many revisions and polishings before Leatherwood/Walnut Springs Press finally picked them up. So judging from my past track record, how long it'll take me to write my next book is anyone's guess!

CRW:  Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Joyce:  My first book (the one I wrote way back in college) kind of came in reaction to some romances I had been reading back then. It seemed like I'd read several romances where the hero appeared to be of a lower social class than the heroine, but in the end, he turned out to be a prince or a duke or something. I thought to myself, "So what would happen if the hero turned out to be exactly what he appeared to be all through the book? Someone of a lower social strata than the heroine? How would they resolve that without resorting to 'I'm really a prince in disguise'?" Also, I'd read several romances where the hero just infuriated me. He would be totally cold and abusive (verbally, not physically) to the heroine all through the book, until the last few pages when he finally almost literally fell down at her feet in worship without any serious groundwork for the change that I could see. That hero-type made me so mad, I took him and turned him into the villain for my first book. And I made the hero a medieval minstrel, because at that age, I couldn't think of anything that could be more romantic than a medieval minstrel. :-) So I guess you could say that many of my original ideas came from trying to turn current romance themes on their heads at the time. After that, it became like Marsha described in your interview with her. I ended up creating a sort of medieval universe of characters in that first book that I've basically been playing off of ever since.

CRW:  Where do you get your characters names?

Joyce:  I started compiling a list of medieval names way back in college, jotting them down from medieval novels I was reading or medieval history books I was reading for my history degree in college. Then I found this WONDERFUL book called The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, by E.G. Withycombe. It's out of print now, so I was very lucky to pick up a copy when I did. This book traces the historical evolution of "English Christian names", and when each name came into usage in England, and where the names came from, such as France or Germany. From the information in this book, I was able to gather names that were "pre-Norman Conquest", "came over to England with the Norman Conquest", were listed in various medieval records that gave me actual dates for how early certain names were being used, etc. I typed up a list of Medieval Male and Medieval Female names from this book (and the names I'd collected previously) and this is the list I still use today for selecting names for my characters. If you're writing historical fiction and want to be sure you're using authentic names for your time period, THIS IS A FANTASTIC BOOK TO HAVE IN YOUR RESEARCH COLLECTION!!!

CRW:  Maybe it is available on line.
CRW:  What is your favorite writing food?

Joyce:  I don't usually eat while I'm writing. It's one of those "you can't leave this computer until the timer goes off, even to get a snack" rules of mine. But if I'm finding myself excessively low on energy or unbearably sleepy, I'll sometimes grab a handful of Hershey Kisses to suck on. (I never chew my chocolate, so I can make them last quite awhile. ;-) )

CRW:  What is your viewpoint of self publishing verses being published by a publishing house?

Joyce:  Self-publishing gives you the greatest degree of control over your book, but I'll be honest, I know I've sold more books by having a publisher who got my titles into a brick and mortar bookstore than I ever would through purely online selling methods. Or at least, I've sold more, faster this way. Maybe over the long run, sales might have balanced out, I can't really say. For that reason, and because I've been blessed to have an editor who is truly enthused about my books and hence is able to give a big boost to my confidence when it's sagging, finding a traditional publisher has truly been a blessing for me. But I wouldn't rule out self-publishing again, if that were the only way to publish "the story I wanted to tell".

CRW: What is the topic of your next book that has you excited?

Joyce: I'm hoping to explore the world of the medieval troubadour a bit. But as usual, I have to admit that it's the characters in a new book that excite me more than a particular topic.

CRW:  Please tell us about your next book.

Joyce:  It doesn't have a title yet, because I'm terrible at coming up with titles. (Except for Illuminations of the Heart. That one just kind of came to me in a flash.) Right now, I'm just calling it "my troubadour book". It's still in the very early stages, and since I don't outline, it's hard to tell you where it's going to end up right now. But it's set a year after Illuminations of the Heart, and while Illuminations and Loyalty's Web both "played" a little with the historical character of Duke Richard of Aquitaine, the second son of Henry II, I'm hoping to use this book to "play" with the character of Duke Richard's brother, Henry the Younger, Henry II's eldest son and heir to the throne. Gunthar and Hel鮥 from Loyalty's Web have already made appearances and will have important parts to play in my new book (though the book isn't "about them" directly). My hero is a character from Illuminations of the Heart, and the heroine has ties to Loyalty's Web, although she wasn't actually in that book, but I'm not giving away how she's linked to it. ;-) Somebody has a grudge and is using a secret talent of my heroine's to achieve some vengeance. My heroine isn't completely ignorant of this and actually has some sympathy for her manipulator's cause. But when the "act of vengeance" comes, everything goes horribly wrong. (After all, what kind of story would it be if everything didn't go horribly wrong?) Can my hero sort everything out in time to save my heroine from herself? Or that's kind of the hazy plot I have in my head just now. There's no telling, though, how the story will actually play out in the end. You know, just recently I came across my original "outline" for Illuminations of the Heart. It's the only book I ever tried to outline before I wrote it. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the way Illuminations actually turned out. Someday I'm going to post that outline on my blog, just to give everyone who's read Illuminations of the Heart a really good laugh!

CRW:  Thanks, Joyce, for sharing this information about yourself and your writing. I have read both of your published books and highly recommend them. I look forward to your next book.
To read more about Joyce, here is her contact information.


  1. Thanks for the interview, Cindy! About the name book I mentioned, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, by E.G. Withycombe, it's currently out of print, but used copies can be found on Amazon or sometimes if you Google the title, you can find copies even cheaper elsewhere. This is one book I REALLY wish someone would bring back into print!

  2. Thanks Joyce, I am going to try to find it. I love to collect names for characters. I was at my sons highschool choir concert last night, and grabbed an extra program. The list of the names of the 200 plus students in the choir is a great source for names as well.

  3. I loved Loyalty's Web, but I absolutely adored Illuminations of the Heart, mostly because I fell head over heels for Tristin. I can't wait until you finish your "Troubador book." Hurry up! Six years won't do, sweetie!

  4. Oh my goodnesss, Donna, thank you! I just found a horrible review of Illuminations on Goodreads and have been feeling like the worst writer in the world. Guess I shouldn't read those things, huh?

    I HOPE I can get Mr Troubadour out the door in less than 6 years. ;-)

  5. Great interview, and I love books like the Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names--what an awesome resource.

  6. Enjoyed reading and learning more about you, Joyce. Love the thought of sucking those Hershey's kisses, so they'll last longer! LOL

    I'm hoping to start Loyalty's Web tonight. Can't wait! :)

  7. Great interview! I need to get one of those plaques, too, or maybe a T-shirt with the same slogan. I'm always saying I live in my own little's where I find my stories! LOL :)


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