Today, I am pleased to welcome Joyce DiPastena to my blog! Joyce is the author of Loyalty's Web, Illuminations of the Heart, and Dangerous Favor. Joyce has been an inspiration to me for years and it is my pleasure to have her with us today.
Rachel: Thanks for doing this interview. When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Joyce: I enjoyed writing all through high school, but it wasn't until I graduated from college that I confessed to myself I wanted to try to publish something, too.
Rachel: What is your writing and educational background?
Joyce: I have a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in library science (which is so outdated now as to be totally useless). I haven't taken any professional writing classes. Most of what I've learned about writing has been from books, magazines (like Writers Digest), writers conference, and most importantly, writing, writing, writing.
Rachel: I knew you enjoyed history, and it is fascinating to read your work because of the history. What makes you passionate about writing?
Joyce: My characters. I love seeing where they take me and how they're going to surprise me along the way. It's like living an adventure with them every day.
Rachel: What was the pathway like for you to get your third book, Dangerous Favor, published?
Joyce: My pathway was eased considerably by the fact that I had two previous books published with Walnut Springs press. Happily for me, they also liked Dangerous Favor and decided to publish it, too.
Rachel: Your writing always flows so easily and your stories are so detailed. Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Joyce: Oh, my, I have been discouraged more times than I can begin to tell you about. Sometimes I deal with it by climbing in bed and pulling the covers over my head. Sometimes I resort to avoidance. (Almost anything feels easier than writing, even scrubbing floors!) But the most effective way I've found to deal with it is to keep writing. And when that feels simply overwhelming, then I have a new tactic I've recently learned. It's called "100 words for 100 days." All I have to do is write 100 words a day, but I have to do it for 100 days. Somehow 100 words becomes doable, no matter how discouraged I may feel. And often I find that once I've written 100 words, then I'm back in the swing of my story and can write many more words than that. But on those days when 100 words is all I can cope with, then that's all I have to do. It eases my guilt factor, because you feel better about yourself just because you wrote something, even if it's small. And even if it's bad. But 100 words means I did something towards my goal, and when you're discouraged, that can feel wonderful at the end of the day. (By the way, I haven't actually made 100 days yet. I have to keep starting over, but the 100 words principle is still a good way to psych yourself into writing.)
Rachel: That's a wonderful idea! I may have to implement that! Now, I know this is not your full time job. I recently started working and struggle to find time to write. So tell me what is your writing schedule?
Joyce: My schedule has been different with every book I've written, dependent on other things going on in my life at that time. What works for me right now is writing a couple of hours a night. I set a timer and write for an hour, then take a break, then reset my timer and write some more. If I can't do an hour, I shoot for the minimum 100 words I mentioned above. Often the hardest part is getting started when you're tired or depressed or whatever. The 100 words gives you an out if you can't do any more, but often it's all that you need to get you into the swing of a longer writing session.
Rachel: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Joyce: I don't. I just try to go with characters I care about so much that I want to write them a story. If I love the characters enough, I trust them to carry me through to the end, then I hope that others will love them, too.
Rachel: Can you tell us a little about Dangerous Favor?
Joyce: Here's the back cover blurb:
Mathilde de Riavelle needs a champion.
Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.
Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?
Rachel: You now have three published books. Loyalty’s Web, Illuminations of the Heart, and now Dangerous Favor. What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Joyce: What I want most of all is simply to give readers a good, clean romance to read. No bad language, no sex scenes, no graphic violence, just a little adventure, a good romance, and a happy ending. I know how grateful I am when I find those things in a book. That's what I want to give to my readers.
Rachel: And they are great clean romances! What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Joyce: I don't outline my stories, but I do play with my characters before I start, mostly working out their family trees. Don't ask me why, but I'm fascinated with family relationships, so I like to put my characters into families before I start. Most of that never makes it into my books, but it's helpful to me to get me started. When I start, I also start with at least one scene in mind that I want to write towards. It may be a climax scene that I envision, or an emotional turning point for one of my characters. So basically, when I start, my goal is to write towards that scene. That scene may change in the course of actually writing the story, but it's my starting point for beginning.
Rachel: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Joyce: I pace around a lot. I lie in bed, racking my brain for how to fix the snag. But I find the most helpful thing is if I'll take the time to play the "what if" game. I ask myself, "What if I try this? What if I try that?" I just throw out lots of ideas until something clicks.
Rachel: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Joyce: Silence, please. I can't write to music or the TV. I need absolute quiet to make my writing brain work.
Rachel: That's how I am too. What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Joyce: Reading other books will sometimes give me ideas. Reading research books can sometimes give me a fun historical incident or fact that I decide I'd like to play with. I can't listen to music when I write, but when I'm not writing I like to play the piano and sing, so sometimes the words of a song will fire my emotions and imagination.
Rachel: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Joyce: That's a tough question, because I'm not a very analytically writer, so it's hard to explain to people "how" I write. I don't really understand "how" I write myself. I see the characters very vividly in my head, I feel them in my heart, and then I try to write them. Of course, learning good writing techniques, like "showing" vs "telling", is essential, too.
Rachel: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Joyce: I don't usually snack when I'm writing, but I'll make an occasional exception for a few Hershey Kisses, or if I'm trying to be good, a cheese stick.
Rachel: I wish I had your restraint! It's hard to write and eat at the same time. I am always snacking during the edits! Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Joyce: I enjoy playing the piano, and sometimes I like to sing while I play. I have what I call a "nice little choir voice", nothing spectacular or that I'd want to show off, but I can carry a tune and I like to sing. And of course I like to read. And I spend much, much too much on the internet!
Rachel: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Joyce: Study and practice good writing techniques. Find a critique partner or a supportive writing group to help you, so you get quality feedback on your writing before you send it out anywhere. If you can attend a writing conference, do so. Then write write write, and write some more.
Rachel: What are you working on now?
Joyce: I'm playing around with a couple of projects right now. One is a romance for the character of Acelet, who appeared in Illuminations of the Heart. I'm also attempting a novella, or possibly something shorter than novella length, placed a generation before in the court of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. I'm ordinarily a very long winded writer, so we'll see if I can pull off the novella attempt or not. LOL!
Rachel: Sounds like fun! And I really enjoyed Acelet! I can't wait to hear his story! Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Joyce: My books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Deseret Book, or you can order them from your local bookstore.
Rachel: Thanks for visiting with us today, Joyce! It was fun getting to know you better.
You can visit Joyce on her website!