(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)
In case you haven’t already guessed from her attire in this photo, Joyce DiPastena is a full-fledged fan of the Middle Ages, where she sets all of her fiction. She started out self-publishing but is now published, like me, through Walnut Springs Press. Her first and second books, LOYALTY’S WEB and ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART, were both Whitney Award finalists. And she has a wonderful medieval research blog to which you can subscribe (but more about that later).
Me: When you were a little girl, which Disney princess was your favorite and why? Or were you already into more realistic historical fiction even back then?
Joyce: I’d have to say Sleeping Beauty, (Yay! Me too.) but I confess that even as a child, I was drawn to the “medievalesque” aspects of the artwork. :D
(I know. That Disney cartoon, to this day, remains my favorite because of the way it mimics the style of actual stained glass.)
Me: How old were you when you wrote your first piece of fiction, and do you still have it?
Joyce: In Junior High School, I wrote what today would be called a fan fiction crossover novel with characters from the original Star Trek TV show and Dark Shadows soap opera. (Okay, Dark Shadows I can kind of see, but who would have ever pegged Joyce for a Trekkie?) No, I no longer have a copy, which the world should be thankful for.
Me: As I understand it, you were turned on to the Middle Ages in high school when you read “The Conquering Family” by Thomas B. Costain. What about that novel made the Middle Ages come alive for you?
Joyce: Actually, it was a non-fiction book (Oops. Didn’t dig deep enough. My bad.) about the first three Plantagenet kings of England: Henry II, Richard I, and John. The historian Thomas B. Costain had a definite narrative flair for storytelling, though, and I simply fell headlong into the world that he drew for me.
(Okay, so it was almost novelesque.)
Me: When was your first Renaissance Fair (because I’m naturally assuming you frequent them whenever possible) and, when you go, whom do you go as? (I’d LOVE a picture of you in costume.)
Joyce: Oh, my, now you’re asking me to count backwards! The first Renaissance Festival I attended was the Arizona Renaissance Festival in their very first year. That will be 25 years ago next spring. I’ve attended it at least once a year every year since then. For the first 21 years, I simply went as 20th (and then 21st) Century Joyce, in comfy jeans and a T-shirt. But when I started doing book signings there, I had to buy a costume. So I suppose now I go as Lady Joyce. (LOL!)
(I’m impressed. I know for a fact that these costumes aren’t cheap.)
Me: Okay, so I understand why you named one of your cats Clio (the Greek muse of history), but Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov? What’s the story there, and which cat is the better muse? (And I have to have a picture of them . . . after all, I’m a cat person, too.)
Joyce: Yes, I named my cat Clio for the Greek muse of history, but she hasn’t been very cooperative as a muse. (I suppose I should have expected that from a cat.)
(Here’s a picture of Clio):
As for Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov, well, he’s a Maine Coon and when I adopted him as a kitten, he reminded me of one of those furry Russian muffs or a furry Russian hat like you see in the Nutcracker. So I wanted to give him a Russian name. I was listening to a lot of Russian classical music at the time, so first I named him Rimsky-Korsokov, then I switched it to Glinka, which is what I actually call him, but my sister liked Rimsky-Korsokov best, so I kept it for his middle name. I’m afraid these days both of them are too busy sleeping to be very inspiring muses.
(As Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov demonstrates here. He does kind of resemble a muff, doesn’t he?):
Me: How many books on the Middle Ages do you have? Which is your favorite and which is the most used for research purposes?
Joyce: Oh, my gosh, I’ll be up all night if I go and count them! Let’s just say I’ve got somewhere over a hundred. I have a book called Life on the English Manor that I used so much for the first two novels I wrote (neither of which is published), that it has literally fallen apart at least three times and may be beyond reassembling this time. (Me: Now you know what you can give Joyce for Christmas!) For my more recent books, I find I lean heavily on three titles for nearly every project: 900 Years of English Costume by Nancy Bradfield; Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks by Constance B. Heiatt and Sharon Butler; and The Castle Explorer’s Guide by Frank Bottomley.
(Hmm . . . I wonder if she’s ever cooked up any of those ancient recipes?)
Me: Please describe your writing area in the language of a knight . . . let’s call him Sir Percival Scrivener. (And I MUST have a picture of this.)
Joyce: Verily, kind lady, some workings of the scrivener are best left to the imagination. Suffice it to say that parchments and scrolls doth litter the furniture throughout my dwelling place in such manner that it is, at times, difficult to entertain company who desire to be seated. Forsooth, I count myself fortunate that my illuminator has taken ill and is unable to create a painting of my surroundings for you, lest you think me a slovenly ne’er-do-well.
(Very well, Sir Percival. I think I get the picture.)
Me: Finally, how would you describe your writing process and what are you currently working on?
Joyce: Some people would call me a pantser, but I don’t really care for that word, because it implies that I have no idea where I’m going when I start a novel (i.e., writing by the seat of my pants), and that’s not really true. I don’t plot my novels out ahead of time, but I do have certain scenes in mind that I’m aiming for when I start. So I’m always aiming at some target or other, even if I don’t know at the beginning exactly how I’m going to get there.
I guess we’ll have to check out her blog or website to figure out what she’s working on now (though I’m pretty sure she’s about to publish a short medieval Christmas novel entitled A CANDLELIGHT COURTING). Also, I highly recommend her medieval research blog if you’re into the Middle Ages like her.