Book Nerd Interview
A former English teacher, Joy is the author of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series (Sourcebooks), which blends paranormal romance with historical fiction. The second in that series, HAUNTED, is out now, and the final book of the trilogy, title TBA, but currently ANASTASIA FOREVER, is due in Fall 2012. Another paranormal – about a sixteen-year-old stoner turned guardian angel – THE SWEET DEAD LIFE – is set in Houston and slated for May 2013, from Soho Press. Joy grew up in Chicago but now lives with her family in Houston where she writes full time and frequently gets into wild rumpuses and other mischief. She is not a fan of the Houston summer but does love cowboy boots, going to the rodeo, and the coffee drinks at Empire Café.
What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
The book that first made me think that I might possibly want to write YA was Forever by Judy Blume. People have various opinions about this book, but I believe that it was a ground-breaker in so many ways. I will always admire Judy Blume for creating a story about a girl who falls in love with her boyfriend, chooses to have planned, protected sex with him, does so, enjoys it and doesn’t die or succumb to any other shaming event. Even after they break up. Good for you, Judy Blume!
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I coached the JV girl’s volleyball at the first high school I taught at. That’s probably not something readers expect.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I began my first novel when I was 19. Basically it was a thinly fictionalized version of me and my boyfriend and our ‘cute meet,’ relationship, and break up. Then—because it didn’t really have a plot—I put it in a drawer and traveled and finished college and worked at some weird crappy jobs including one where I was supposed to be a marketing intern but it turned out that I was folding scarves, packaging them and sending them out to the stores and the only other employees were the three Polish ladies who sewed the scarves. No one spoke English but me. Eight hours a day! Also I taught and got married and had a kid and taught some more and had more life’s adventures and took a bunch of grad classes and worked at other jobs and moved a few times… and then finally got serious about writing. Which means that I was over 40 when my first book came out! Maybe it just took me that long to live enough adventures to write about.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
That failure and fear of failure are my biggest motivators! It’s still true today.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Funny. Cynical. Loyal.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A laptop. A writer’s thesaurus. An understanding that learning your craft is a slow process that involves revision, revision, revision. And a vice of choice: chocolate, coffee, red wine, twizzlers…. Okay – I enjoy all of those. And not always in moderation.
Did you learn anything from writing Dreaming Anastasia and what was it?
I learned that real writing occurs during revision. That if you want to be published, you need to be willing to work collaboratively and never, ever give up! And that I was a huge believer in second chances – which I give to lots of characters in the book, especially Ethan!
What was your inspiration for the series?
You know, I think it was a combination of a few things: My fascination since junior high about the Romanovs and their tragic story. My love of kick-butt girl heroes. My love of genre fiction and fairy tales and mysteries. And a healthy does of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes that made me believe that I could blend genres and it would be okay!
Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing Dreaming Anastasia?
I love them each in different ways. And had you asked me that when I first started writing, I would probably have said Ethan. But I think now that I’ve finished the series, it’s honestly Baba Yaga the witch. The more I used her in the series, the more her backstory developed. And I do think that her own transformation into this all- powerful witch informs so much of what happens in the story, particularly for Anne.
For those who are unfamiliar with Anne, how would you introduce her?
Anne is a girl who begins the series believing that she is ordinary. Her family is still struggling with the death of her brother David to cancer a couple years before. She loves ballet and she has a best friend named Tess and she hasn’t found the right guy yet. And then her entire world turns inside out when she collides with handsome, mysterious blue-eyed Ethan, who tells her that Anastasia Romanov isn’t dead and that only does she need saving from a Russian fairy tale witch named Baba Yaga, but Anne’s destiny and line of descent somehow make her the girl who can do it. When it turns out that this crazy story is actually true, Anne finds herself with increasingly powerful magic, a mission she never asked for, and feeling for this boy/man who has changed everything. The deeper she falls into this world of magic and hidden history she didn’t even know existed, the more she uncovers connections to her own family, and ultimately a terrible and tragic curse that only she can right. Can she do it? Are she and Ethan fated to be together? You have to read to find out!
If you could introduce Ethan to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Interesting question! I would introduce Ethan to Etienne St. Clair from Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss so they could talk about being with girl who each almost lost because of his own idiocy!
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Hands down, it’s Austin-based Cynthia Leitich Smith, who actually is one of my writing and career mentors. Cynthia is a person I can turn to for writing advice, publishing advice and just as a shoulder to whine on. She is so sharp about this industry and so incredibly generous to newbies just coming up in the ranks. I am so very grateful to her.
How many books have you written?
I have written 6 books. DREAMING ANASTASIA and HAUNTED are both out now. ANASTASIA FOREVER will be out August 7th from Sourcebooks. THE SWEET DEAD LIFE will be out May 2013 from Soho Press. And I’ve written two other books that I hope find their way into the world eventually. Of course there’s some revision ahead of me before that happens. But maybe I can tell you about one of them soon.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Live your life fully. Be present. Dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams. It can happen. It will.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
My weight! So silly, isn’t it? I weigh exactly what I should. But I’m always hoping for 5 pounds less.
Who was your first boyfriend?
Ha! My first ‘serious’ boyfriend played bassoon in our high school marching band. I think this explains volumes about my high school self. Volumes.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time rehabilitating our rescue boxer/bassett, Lyla. She had been ‘on the road’ for a long time and had been picked up by a local kill shelter. It has taken a lot to get her trusting and happy and it’s so fun that we are her people now! Beyond that, I love to travel and I’m so excited to be going to Ireland in October. I also love hanging with my family, reading ( no surprise there), swimming at the local pool, cooking and having friends over… I’m a theater nerd – love going to plays. And I adore movies and still love going to the movie theater. Something about that communal experience. Plus trash tv… I’m a Bravo addict. “Hi! I’m Joy. I’ve watched too many Housewives episodes.” And Vampire Diaries! That doesn’t count as trash TV! Did you see the season finale? Holy blood bank, Elana! And anything by Joss Whedon. He is my pop culture hero. Yeah – I watch a lot of TV/movies. Get over it.
What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
Not a lot because I need to go shopping! But typically: avocados, eggs/egg whites, English muffins, milk, bottled water, white wine, peanut butter, pineapple salsa, fruit, salad stuff.
Where can readers stalk you?
They can come to my website joypreble.com and they can read my blog http://joysnovelidea.blogspot.com
I also post once a month on a blog with a number of other YA authors called http://YAOutsidethelines.blogspot.com
Stories within stories. Secrets within secrets. In accepting powers from the legendary witch Baba Yaga, Anne must tackle a complex set of missions: Discover the secret of their enemy's newfound immortality; decide whether she can kill him to free her family from a vicious curse; come to terms with the magic that now resides inside her; and finally find true love with Ethan. The riveting conclusion to the trilogy that began with Dreaming Anastasia.
Joy Preble manages to take a familiar Russian lore and give it a plot line that has suspense, mystery, humor, and surprising findings with the third and final book of the Dreaming Anastasia series, Anastasia Forever. As the series comes to a close, Joy continues to reveal surprising secrets as well as answering questions that may still be lingering. All of the loose connections seemed to finally connect, as Anne has to travel back in time to get some answers and learn how it links her and Ethan’s present lives. The mysteries within this amazing series are finally uncovered in an exciting and well-paced manner.
Even with the story told in multiple points of views, Joy’s writing style made it easy to differentiate who was talking. The three voices gave the storyline more depth and insight to these characters’ remarkable world. The magical love story of Anne and Ethan is truly endearing. The two have feelings and thoughts that most people carry when they are in a relationship. Readers will find them very relatable which makes their relationship special.
It had all the right portions of romance, drama, action, and magic. Anastasia Forever is a very familiar Russian lore laced with unparalleled writing, unforgettable characters, and a story twist, that readers will engulf all it has to offer and will not feel disappointed. Although this must-read book’ closing comes to a total shocker, Joy brings this series to a satisfaction.
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