Thursday, April 12, 2012

Author Interview: Joyce DiPastena

One of my favorite authors is Joyce DiPastena, and today I have the pleasure of asking her a few questions. I spent a little time doing some research on Joyce's past interviews before asking what might seem like silly questions to some, but I take them very, very seriously. 

No, I didn't ask her what flavor of ice cream she preferred. The good people over at Walnut Springs Press, Joyce's publisher, covered that already. 

Go to Joyce DiPastena's official medieval website and click over to her blog, and then to the "Learn more about Joyce" tab read some other very interesting interviews she gave. 

Big announcement:
I am giving away a new paperback copy of "Dangerous Favor." For your chance at winning, leave a comment, and either leave your name and email address for me to get back to you if you win, or check back in one week from today and see if your name is pronounce winner. If you left a comment on last week's book review post, then you doubled your chance. 

Now for the interview:
In order not to duplicate those before me, I studied and pondered before coming up with my own unique set of queries to ask sweet Joyce. 

Debra: Do you ever fear your character’s names are too complicated for the average reader—and when I say average, I mean me? I know they are authentic with all the time you invest in research, but they are not the typical American names we’re used to.

Joyce: I suppose I should have thought about the names before I started writing my stories, but I didn't. I've always loved playing with names and it's never bothered me to read a book and run across unfamiliar names, so it didn't occur to me that might be an issue with some readers. I have since discovered from more than one review that some readers find my names a bit of a stumbling block. I do want to use authentic names for my stories, though, and it doubles the challenge when I set my books both in the Middle Ages and also in France. I can only hope my readers will forgive me and be able to enjoy my books in spite of it. I'm perfectly comfortable with them making up their own pronunciations if they like. I've done that with many books where I didn't know how to pronounce the names myself.

Debra: You have a Glossary of Medieval Terms in the back of each of your three Medieval Romance novels. Could you help me out on with a glossary on how to pronounce some of the more exotic names? Like, for instance, Etienne, and Mathilda, and is it Therri, or is it pronounced Terrie? And in your first book of the series, Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart, how do you pronounce Helena’s sister’s name, Clothilde? Are any of the letters silent? Now, these are serious questions to me, and they niggle at the back of my brain each time I read them. And since I don’t know for absolute sure how to say them, my quirky mind has a habit of making them into whatever is easiest.

Joyce: Whenever you see the "th" in a name, it comes from a French name where the "th" sounds like "t." So yes, it would be "Matild" and "Clotild" (the "e" also being silent) and "Terrie" for "Therrie." Although I'll confess a secret and say that sometimes, I like to call Therrie "Therrie", with the American "th" sound, even though I know it's incorrect. Shhh! Don't tell anyone I admitted that. ;-) Etienne is pronounced "Et-ee-EN" or "Etyen", if you say it fast. But again, it doesn't upset me as an author if the reader makes up their own pronunciation. As I said, I've done the same with other authors' books. (I'd read the name "Hermione" in books for years, both in and out of the Harry Potter books, and never had a clue how to pronounce it until the HP movies came out. I enjoyed the books with that name in them anyway.)

Debra: Thank you for the clarification on those names, Joyce. Your stories would lose some it their realism if your hero's names weren't relative to the time period, let's say, like Bob, or Fred. 

Let's go on to the next question. 

If you could travel in both time and reality, and vacation for a week in one of your books, which position would you play? Don’t limit yourself to only female roles. Think jousting! Wouldn’t that be a total blast—if you knew it was just play?

Joyce: Jousting would indeed be fun! I think I'd be torn between that and being a girly-girl so I could dress up in all the cool medieval dresses! (Well, okay, I'd want to be a lady for sure and not a scullery maid. LOL!)

Debra: I’ve noticed that in most—no, in all historical romance novels, there aren’t any bathrooms. Okay, yes, I know back in medieval times the toilet hadn’t been invented yet, but people—nay! women still had needs! And as far as I can tell, nobody ever mentions that little respite every woman takes after they wake up in the mornings and such. Can you explain this to me, and why I shouldn’t speak of an outhouse in my historical romance I’m outlining?

Joyce: Well, if you're in a castle or a house in a town, you'd have a nice, convenient chamber pot near the bed to take care of that little respite you speak of. Castles also had indoor privies. The Castle Explorer's Guide (one of my favorite resource books!) describes the privy this way: "Medieval name for latrine. Castle privies often consisted of simply a stone seat over a voiding shaft which discharged into a pit or ditch." These privies were usually set aside in a separate room in the castle from where the castle dwellers slept. (Hence the chamber pots.) (Note: Some people have referred to these privies as the "garderobe", but the Castle Explorer's Guide says that name is incorrect. It's safer to stick with "privy."

Debra: Ah . . . this is good to know the proper Lady didn't have to run out of her castle to use an outhouse. 

I know you aren’t all about outlining and plotting when you writing, but you aren’t a total fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser writer, either. When you start that all important first page, do you have a clear ending in mind? I mean, besides handsome knight gets fair maiden?

Joyce: No, often the precise ending eludes me when I start writing a book. But before I start writing, I do have some scenes in my head that I'm aiming at when I start. Often I'll have an idea for a climax scene (like the wardrobe fire in Loyalty's Web), or sometimes the scene I'm envisioning is an event that I intend to be an emotional turning point for a character. I can't really tell you where the ideas come from, they just seem to pop into my head. In fact, often it's more of a picture I'll see. For example, without giving anything away (I hope!), for the book I'm working on now about Acelet from Illuminations of the Heart, I have this image in my head of a moment when Acelet reaches a certain realization about my heroine and I see this look in his eyes and feel the emotional kick he suffers and know he has to make a decision...and I think I know what that decision is going to be (although I'm not going to tell you and your readers, of course, LOL!) I see this "moment" in my head, and I know that my goal is to find a way to write towards that "moment." So that's the kind of guideposts I have when I begin a novel.

Debra: This is rather comforting to know. I've finished more than one book with this kind of "moment" writing. I guess I'm in good company. 

In an interview with C.S. Bezas, you were complimented on being an expert on all that’s medieval. You scoffed and said you simply have a lot of books on the Middle Ages and know how to look things up. I agree research is very important if you want to stay true to your time period, but you had an advantage of being a history major in college and having the chance to collect those books.

Joyce: Very true! I can't begin to express how blessed I was have such easy access to a university bookstore when I started writing my first novel. The seed of my current research collection truly began with books I found in the University of Arizona student bookstore. (Of course, those selections are dwarfed now by what's available on a website like Amazon!)

Debra: Do you also use the Internet for research? (a) Or do you solely rely on your books? (b) And if you do surf the net, do you have any favorite websites you could share with those of us who are just starting out on the historical romance path?

Joyce: I've had a hard time converting my research over to the internet, but I'm getting better at it. I still do tons of my research with books, just because I still seem to know how to find information faster in books, especially if they have a good index. (Never underestimate the power of a good index in a research book!) However, for truly esoteric information, like medieval names specific to a certain geographical area, like Brittany or what's called the Occitan area of France, I have found the internet invaluable. I do use Wikipedia to do quick research, but I always try to back up the information with a secondary source, either on the internet or when I have more time to check one of my books, just to be sure the information is accurate.

Debra: In Dangerous Favor, your newest book release, there is a game the young knights play with maidens where the knights are blindfolded, and they try to guess the maiden’s name they kiss. Interesting game. Did you make this up or is it a real game?

Joyce: Yes, hoodman blind was a real game. It was also called blindman's buff or blindman's bluff. Well, okay, they didn't always kiss each other to try to guess an identity. Often they tried to guess merely by touch, but my characters got a little bold and kicked it up a notch.

Debra: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself? Something that the other interviewers haven’t plucked from your nimble brain already? Feel free to share. 

Joyce: I think you've done a great job with these questions! It was fun to answer questions I haven't answered before. :-)

Debra: Well, then, thank you so much for being such a good sport with these . . . unusual questions.  
If you'd like to buy a Kindle version of Dangerous Favor, go to Amazon Books and buy it in paperbound or Kindle ebook.


Wendy A. Jones said...

Great questions, Debra! I felt the same way about some of the names in Joyce's books. And thanks for the pronunciation guide, Joyce!

joneswa208 at msn dot com

Shaunna said...

This is one of my Plan to read books that I really hope to have an opportunity to sooner than later! Joyce is a master and I would love to have a copy of that one scene that eludes me to refer back to and learn from.

shaunnag at comcast dot net

The Mike Woods Family said...

I love Joyce's books and would be overjoyed to win a copy! Thanks for the chance!

Chris Ayres said...

I had fun reading Joyce's interview. I particularly love the different names, coming myself from a very mixed family (Portuguese, Italian, German, etc etc etc), so I even have some of these names in my own genealogical tree. Anyway, I would love to win a copy of Dangerous Favor. Thank you!

Writers said...

I loved reading Dangerous Favor and wrote a review on my "Margaret's Blog" .
I enjoyed the unique questions you came up with and the great answers. I have a similar problem with names for historical fiction at the time of Christ. Hebrew names are not typical, plus I didn't want to use names that were attached to well know characters.
Margaret L. Turley

J. Lloyd Morgan said...

Wonderful interview! This is most certainly on my list of "to read" books!

author (at) jlloydmorgan (dot) com

Tina Scott, the writing artist said...

Great interview! Thanks for asking the hard questions.

Debra Brown said...

I'd love to win this book! Thanks for the opportunity.

kescah at comcast dot net

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I've loved Joyce's books. Great interview, too, Debra! Can't wait to read Dangerous Favor. :)

Books Are Sanity!!! said...

Debra, your questions were so great, especially the ones about medieval outhouses and the kissing game! I loved the interview! Dangerous Favor is on my list of books to read! Thank you for the giveaway and great interview!

booksaresanity at yahoo dot com

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