Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Lady and the Minstrel: Q&A with Joyce DiPastena

The Book
A forbidden love and a past they can’t leave behind . . .

In King John’s England, Robert Marcel chafes against the law that holds him bound as a villein on his lord’s manor. He tries to make a daring escape and is nearly caught by his cruel master, but a young girl helps him slip away. 

Years pass and Robert takes up trade as a minstrel. Invited to play at a banquet for the notorious Earl of Saxton, he is stunned to come face to face with the girl he’s never forgotten—now Lady Marguerite of Winbourne, betrothed to the earl. Her status as a noblewoman puts her completely out of Robert’s reach, but he knows they are meant to be together. He vows to make her his wife no matter what the cost. 

Lady Marguerite has often thought of the young man she helped escape. Her tender feelings for him quickly turn into much more when they are brought back into each other’s lives. She longs to be free to marry Robert, the man she loves, but that will require her to sacrifice all she holds dear. 

They are tested at every turn by those bent on driving them apart and destroying what they have found together. Can their love truly conquer all?

Q&A with Joyce DiPastena
Do you remember the moment when you first considered yourself a writer?
I was a big reader when I was in high school. I had begun to dabble a little with writing, but I didn’t yet consider myself a “writer.” Then one day, it was time for band period and as I approached the band room door, I didn’t just open the door and go in. I still remember very distinctly thinking, as I reached out my hand to the doorknob, “She reached out her hand and opened the door.” In other words, I didn’t just do the act of opening the door automatically, as I always had before, I “described” the act of opening the door in my mind as I did it. I mean, how many people do that? LOL! There began to be other instances where I would find myself describing my action in my mind as I did it, rather than just doing the action unthinkingly. I didn’t really recognize it as “writing” at the time, but that’s obviously what I was doing in my head. So I’d have to say the evidence of mentally describing scenes in my head, which (at least for me) always precedes my ability to put words on a page, began in high school.

What book are you currently reading? Why did you choose it?
I just finished reading a book called The Love-Artist, by Jane Alison, that told the story of the Roman poet, Ovid. A friend of mine introduced me to website called that offers free courses that have been taught at universities. One of the courses available was called Plagues, Witches, and Wars: The Worlds of Historical Fiction. Since I write historical fiction, and the course was free, I thought it would be an interesting class to take, so I signed up. The Love-Artist was one of the books recommended for the course. There were several scenes that I ended up skipping because of graphic content, but the story overall I found thoroughly intriguing and the writing flowed beautifully. Parts of the writing itself left me a little bit in envy. I have to remind myself that each writer, including myself, has her own style and voice, and that my style and voice is just as valid as Ms Alison’s. But she did have a beautiful style. (Be forewarned, if you care about such things, that portions of the book are very graphic, though.) 

How much research do you do?
My books generally involve quite a bit of historical research, but I tend to do much of the bulk of the detailed research as I write the story, because while I think I know what I need to know before I start, I usually discover that I failed to anticipate a vast amount of the research required ahead of time because the story inevitably decides to take twists and turns I didn’t plan on when I started. Because I’m such a history geek, I usually include a “Suggested Reading List” at the end of my books. Some of the topics I tackled for The Lady and the Minstrel included: fabrics of the Middle Ages, medieval heraldry, medieval coins, medieval villeins and village life, the medieval wedding ceremony, the English language in medieval England, England under the interdict during the reign of King John, the Battle of Bouvines in France, and much more. Readers who are interested in any of these subjects will find books and websites listed at the end of my books for further reading on the topics. 

How do you think you've evolved creatively?
This is an interesting question. To be honest, one of the greatest influences on how I’ve evolved as a writer is simply growing older. In The Lady and the Minstrel, I have two sets of couples. The hero and heroine around whom the story centrally revolves are young (Marguerite is 18, Robert is 25). But there is an older couple who become their mentors and help them achieve their happily ever after. I don’t think I could have written this older couple with the same sort of depth when I was younger as I can now, simply because I hadn’t experiences as much of life myself as older people have. Now, this older couple by no means reflect my own personal experiences (I’m still younger than they are!), but I’m at an age now where I can look back a little more on “youth” and view it with more perspective than I could when I was young myself. So my “mentors” in this story are able to counsel my young, impulsive hero and heroine with more perspective and wisdom than they could have done if I had written and published this story, oh, twenty years ago or so.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?
My favorite motivational phrase is take from a verse in a book of scripture called the Doctrine & Covenants, read by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I’m a member. It says: “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33). Sometimes I like to paraphrase it to myself this way: “Wherefore, be not wearing in well-doing (writing), for ye are laying the foundation of a great work (a novel). And out of small things (word by word) proceedeth that which is great (a finished book).”

That may look a bit silly, but it reminds me when I get frustrated with the speed of my writing, that ultimately, books are built one word at a time (i.e., by very, very small things), so if I’ll just be patient and string enough words together, I will end up with the book or story I want to write. It reminds me to break the process down into manageable parts and just keep writing.

About the Author
Joyce DiPastena dreamed of green medieval forests while growing up in the dusty copper mining town of Kearny, Arizona. She filled her medieval hunger by reading the books of Thomas B. Costain (where she fell in love with King Henry II of England), and later by attending the University of Arizona where she graduated with a degree in history, specializing in the Middle Ages. The university was also where she completed her first full-length novel…set, of course, in medieval England. Later, her fascination with Henry II led her to expand her research horizons to the far reaches of his “Angevin Empire” in France, which became the setting of her first published novel, Loyalty’s Web (a 2007 Whitney Award Finalist). Joyce is a multi-published, multi-award winning author who specializes in sweet medieval romances and romantic historicals heavily spiced with mystery and adventure. She lives with her two cats, Clio and Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov, in Mesa, Arizona.


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