Monday, December 27, 2010

Interview with Author Joyce DiPastena

Picture of Deirdra and Joyce

Joyce DiPastena moved from Utah to Arizona at the age of 2, and grew up to be a died-in-the-fur Desert Rat. 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.

Joyce has taught piano lessons to children and adults of all ages for over 20 years. She loves to play the piano and sing for her own amusement, and sings in her church choir. Other interests include reading, spending time with her sister, trying out new restaurants, and unfortunately, buying new clothes. The highlight of her year is attending the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which she has not missed once in its 23 years of existence.

Joyce has been owned and loved by many cats, the most recent being Clio (who helps her with her website), and Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov (that's all one cat).

You can learn more about Joyce by visiting her website at or her JDP NEWS blog at Contact her at

Deirdra: When did you start writing?

Joyce: I started dabbling around with writing in junior high school. I didn’t think of it as “writing”, just as kind of playing around. I wrote an extremely silly story combining two of my favorite TV shows at the time…Star Trek and Dark Shadows! I even illustrated it. Well, sort of. I traced pictures of Francie—Barbie’s cousin—out of a coloring book and drew my own dresses and hair styles for her and put props in her hands, like a knife to defend herself, along with dialogue bubbles from the “manuscript”. It was all great fun! LOL! The manuscript has become lost to history, I’m afraid (that’s probably for the best), but I recently found a few of the “illustrations” tucked away in my house.

By the time I reached high school, I was dabbling in original historical fiction (i.e., not fan fiction anymore), but I never actually completed a full-length manuscript until I was in college. That one was a medieval romantic novel—I was majoring in history at the time. To this day, those remain my two loves, history and writing.

Deirdra: What genre(s) do you write?

Joyce: I write medieval romantic novels.

Deirdra: Is there anyone who has inspired or influenced you in your career?

Joyce: Stylistically, originally I was greatly influenced by Regency author Georgette Heyer, even though I’ve never tried to write a Regency or desired to do so. My sister said my first full-length novel read like a “medieval Regency”, though, so the influence was definitely there.

The historian and author Thomas B. Costain first captured my love for the Middle Ages with his series of books on the Plantagenet kings of England. I read them all in high school and particularly fell in love with the character and age of King Henry II of England. That love was later nourished and brought to full bloom by Dr. Thomas Parker, one of my history professors at the University of Arizona. When I started my college novel, the Middle Ages just seemed the natural place to set my story.

Deirdra: What is the most exciting thing that has happened in your career?

Joyce: I was about to say “actually publishing my novels,” but I think what has been even more exciting than that is how positively they have been received by readers.

Deirdra: For you, is writing a full time job, part time job, or a hobby?

Joyce: Right now it’s still part time. I still dream of making it full time someday, though.

Deirdra: Writing a novel is time consuming. What is the most effect method you have found for managing your time?

Joyce: What has always worked the best for me is sitting down and setting a timer and telling myself I can’t get out of my chair until that timer goes off. I tell myself I don’t have to actually write anything, but I can’t do anything else—watch TV, play a game, check my email or internet—until the timer goes off. My only choices are: stare at the blank screen for an hour (minimum) or write something during that time. Usually sheer boredom will drive me to type at least a few words before the timer goes off. I have tried other methods of motivating or disciplining myself, but in the end, the timer method has consistently worked best for me.

Deirdra: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

Joyce: Finding the self-discipline to sit down and write when you don’t feel like writing.

Deirdra: What is the best thing about being an author?

Joyce: Falling in love with your characters and being surprised at where they take you.

Deirdra: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?

Joyce: I have this historical timeline in my head that I’d like to follow through in my writing. I don’t know if it’ll take me three years or ten or twenty, but that’s sort of my overarching goal.

Deirdra: Is there anything that gives your writer’s block? How do you solve that problem?

Joyce: I have found that stress gives me writers block. I don’t think well under stress, and it’s hard to write when you can’t think clearly. I’m still struggling to find an effective way to deal with stress in my life. So far, the only way I have found to deal with it in my writing remains to try to plow through it by sitting down and setting that timer and putting in time with my computer, whether I actually write anything every time or not.

Deirdra: Do you have a favorite writing snack food?

Joyce: I don’t usually snack when I’m writing. Very, very occasionally I’ll eat a couple of Hershey Kisses, or if I’m trying to be healthy, a cheese stick. (Don’t get me wrong. I eat more than my fair share of Hershey Kisses overall! Just not usually when I’m writing.)

Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to write?

Joyce: Any comfortable position I can get in with my laptop. And someplace quiet. I write best in total silence. (Just me and my thoughts.)

Deirdra: How do you come up with your character’s names?

Joyce: I’ve been collecting medieval names for years. I’ve compiled a fairly extensive list of male and female names that were in use during the Middle Ages. When it’s time to choose names for my characters, I pull out my lists and read through them over and over and over again. I can literally spend hours trying to settle on just the right name for a character. “This is a blonde character’s name. This one would be a brunette. This one’s a redhead. That sounds like a servant’s name. This name sounds spunky. That name sounds timid.” I have this internal monologue going on in my head the entire time I’m running down the lists. Each name summons a certain kind of image in my mind, and I just keep going over and over them all until I finally settle on the “perfect” name. Once the name is chosen, it becomes locked into the character. Changing the name, or even the spelling of the name, causes a subtle shifting of the character in my mind once I’ve started the story.

Deirdra: What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?

Joyce: I’ve had a reader tell me she’s read my book so many times, the cover is falling off. That just floored me. Because that’s what I have done all my life with books that have become more than just books to me, they have become my friends. That anyone, even just one person, should ever treasure a book I have written as much as I have treasured a handful of dearly loved books in my life is amazing and very touching to me.

Deirdra: Where can readers find your books?

Joyce: Loyalty’s Web can be ordered through Deseret Book or Illuminations of the Heart is available from Deseret Book, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and pretty much any online bookseller.

Loyalty’s Web

In twelfth-century France, King Henry II of England has just finished crushing a rebellion by his power-hungry sons and now seeks to tame the lawless barons who supported them in this corner of his “Angevin empire.” To this end, the king has sent the Earl of Gunthar as his royal representative to ensure that Prince Richard and his former cohorts faithfully adhere to the terms of the peace treaty.

Far from being welcomed with open arms, Gunthar no sooner steps foot in the county of Poitou than he is greeted by a series of assassination attempts. All appear to be linked to the former rebellious prince through the agents of the family and friends of young Heléne de Laurant. A clever, intrepid young woman, Heléne realizes that the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin. Heléne races against time—and dark secrets of the past—to unmask the killer before the kingdom plunges back into war.

Fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction as Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor. But their blinding magnetism almost causes them to overlook an even deadlier threat from an entirely unexpected direction.

Illuminations of the Heart


He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol de Calendri.

Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri 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?


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