Today I'm joined by Joyce DiPastena, author of medieval novels Loyalty's Web and Illuminations of the Heart. Joyce, thank you for taking time to hang out with me today!
Your novels are very detailed and incredibly researched. When did you first become interested in the history of the Middle Ages?
I dabbled with writing in a lot of different historical time periods during high school, but the Middle Ages was always one of my favorite historical periods. (Along with the Stuarts and the 19th Century.) One history book series I read during my high school years was a series focusing on the Plantagenet kings of England by Thomas B. Costain. Something about the way he wrote and the real life characters that he wrote about immediately captured my imagination. When I went to college, I decided to major in history. The first thing I did was take all the classes I could find on the Stuarts, Tudors, and the Middle Ages. I’m not entirely sure whether it was the subject matter or the marvelous teacher I had for the medieval classes, but I found my interest increasingly focusing on the Middle Ages. I had a long string of unfinished manuscripts behind me, but I started yet another story while I was taking these medieval classes and set it during the reign of King John. That was the first manuscript I ever wrote all the way through from beginning to end. I’ve been happily writing about the Middle Ages ever since.
Did you always want to be a writer?
It never really entered my mind that I might become a writer. I was so totally in awe of writers growing up that I knew I could never aspire to such greatness! So I was very, very shy and even embarrassed when I started putting pencil to paper and making up stories late in my junior high school years. My family still tease me about the way I would cover up whatever I was writing when they would walk anywhere near where I was. I just told myself I was “dabbling”, not really writing. The day I realized I had written a complete novel, I was totally stunned. And to this day, I still shy away from using the word “novel” regarding my writing. I still feel too uppity to put that label on my writing. I prefer to just call them “my stories.”
How do you do your research for your novels?
I mostly research as I go along. Fortunately for me, I’ve collected a fairly extensive research library through the years. I need to describe how my heroine is dressed? Time to grab 900 Years of English Costume, by Nancy Bradfield and English Costume from the Early Middle Ages Through the Sixteenth Century, by Iris Brooke. I need to set a scene in the castle chapel…but where is the chapel located and what did it look like? Out comes The Castle Explorer’s Guide, by Frank Bottomley. My hero is off to visit one of the villeins (serfs) on the manor. What does a peasant’s cottage look like inside? I dive into Life on the English Manor, by H.S. Bennett. I pretty much research according to my needs and the twists and turns of the story.
Is there anything you have to have in order to write - a favorite snack, music, or other ritual that helps keep you focused?
Total, utter, complete silence. That’s pretty much it. (And maybe a Hershey Kiss or two to perk me up if I start getting sleepy.)
What would you say is your most unusual hobby?
Hobbies? I’m not sure I have any. Let’s see, Eat, sleep, write, read, play the piano, Facebook, wait on my cats… Yep, that’s pretty much it.
What is your favorite television show?
You mean that’s still on the air? Let’s see, they cancelled Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Law & Order, Monk… Depending on the season of the year, I’d have to say Psych, Merlin, or Eureka.
Thanks for sharing your time and talents with us today, Joyce! I can't wait to see what you publish next.