Friday, March 26, 2010

Author Interview with Joyce DiPastena

I've read both of Joyce's books several times--they were that good. I've already posted a review of her most recent novel--Illuminations of the Heart, but I haven't ever interviewed the author herself, and it's so much more fun to read a book by someone you know or have heard about.

This is a picture of Joyce DiPastena at the Renaissance Festival in AZ. Perhaps you've seen her there.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing silly little stories I never finished since junior high school. When I started a new story my freshman year in college I thought it’d end up the same as all the others…begun but never finished. But this one, my first attempt at a medieval romance, somehow captivated my attention and carried me through all the way to the words “the end”. It took me six years to get there, four years undergraduate and two years of graduate school. Although that book was never published, I’m still in love with its hero to this day!

What genre do you write and why?
I write medieval romances, although I tend to include so much additional plot alongside the romance that I had an agent tell me I don’t really write romances at all. But they’re all romances to me. There may be a lot of other stuff going on…mysteries, assassination attempts, medieval politics…but at the heart of each story is a man and a woman falling in love against all the odds around them.

Where do you get your inspiration to write?
My inspiration comes from many different sources. Sometimes it comes from a book I’ve written before. For example, my first published book, Loyalty’s Web, was based on characters from that first unpublished novel I wrote in college. The hero and heroine of Loyalty’s Web were an elderly married couple in that early romance, and I became curious to find out how they had met and fallen in love, so I wrote Loyalty’s Web to find out the answer.

Sometimes bits and pieces of research will fascinate me and influence how I draw a character’s background. For my second published romance, Illuminations of the Heart, I became interested in the subject of medieval illumination and decided to combine that interest with my new heroine, the daughter of a medieval illuminator from Italy. (Although the novel itself is set in France, like Loyalty’s Web.) During the writing of Illuminations of the Heart, I became interested in the subject of medieval troubadours. So that’s a subject I’m incorporating into the novel I’m writing right now.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you to overcome it?
Writer’s block is a toughie. There was a time I thought I had so many ideas that I’d never get writer’s block. Now I find myself struggling with it quite frequently. I’ve discovered it’s not a lack of ideas that I have. It’s a byproduct of stress. When my stress levels go up, I find it very difficult to “turn off” my worries and focus enough to work on my novels.

The thing that has worked best for me through the years is to set a timer for a specific length of time (an hour, two hours, whatever you can set it for) and tell myself that I don’t have to write anything, but I do have to sit at the computer until the timer goes off. I can’t go get a snack, I can’t play any games, I can’t turn on the TV, I can’t do anything except either stare at my blank computer screen or type something. And that “something” has to have something to do with my new story! Sometimes I only type a handful of words, sometimes I’ll end up typing a stream, but whether out of boredom or inspiration, I don’t think I’ve ever not written something before the timer goes off. And no matter how terrible what I wrote might seem at the time, it almost always ends up moving my story along no matter how microscopically. And I always feel better about myself just for trying.

If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who would it be? And Why?
King Henry II of England! I fell in love with Henry II back in high school when I first read The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain. Not “romantic” love. There was just something about the way his contemporaries described him that stirred a great affection in me for him. He seemed to be one of those rare kings who was actually more interested in trying to improve his country than in simply enjoying the “glory” or “privileges” of his rank. He is described as a man who hated war, even though circumstances forced him to spend most of his adult life at war. He was a man of tremendous energy and intellect. And he laid important foundations to the legal system that we have inherited from England and enjoy ourselves today.

His legacy was marred by his quarrel with Archbishop Thomas รก Becket, and the son who succeeded him, Richard the Lionheart, is a more flashy character of legend. But everything I’ve read about Henry II since those high school days has only increased my love and admiration for this man. Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart are both set during his lifetime, and although he has not yet actually appeared on the scene in any of my books, the references I make to him, small though they might be, are my own way of paying tribute to this great, underappreciated king.

What is your next project?
Right now, I’m just calling it “my troubadour book”. It’s based on a character from my second book, Illuminations of the Heart, and once again is set in medieval France.

Where can readers find a copy of Illuminations of the Heart?
Illuminations of the Heart is available in Deseret Bookstores and some Arizona Barnes & Nobles. It can be ordered directly through Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores, or ordered online at ( (, (, and (

Joyce, it's been great getting to know you better, and I must add that I enjoyed your book immensely.
Thank you, Tina

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Haunts Haven by Joan Sowards

I was anxious to read Haunts Haven by Joan Sowards, and finally obtained a signed copy of her book. By the first page I knew it would be a fun story. Let me fill you in on a few of the highlights:

Callie Wilford inherits an old adobe inn located in a nearly abandoned town in southern AZ. After teaching school for five years, and after the death of her mother, she’s ready for a change and decides to move there from Phoenix in order to fix the place up and open her own bed and breakfast.

On her first day at the inn, Callie meets a handsome and mysterious neighbor—James Cassady. He’s the friendly sort who always shows up to make sure she’s ok. It doesn’t take Callie very long to feel an unusual chemistry between them and reconsider her guarded feelings toward men in general.

When everyone in town has a story to tell about the inn—and its ghost, Callie begins feeling a bit jealous that the spirit doesn’t show himself to her. Although Callie puts on a brave front about her newly acquired haunted home, she’s grateful for the regular companionship of James, and another new friend, Lizzie, who is staying temporarily with Callie.

Callie’s friend, Adam comes to town to help, and Callie also meets another Cassady named Clay. For a moment the reader wonders just which nice guy she’ll end up with.

The reader knows right away who the ghost is, and that’s part of the fun of this book—we know who the ghost is, but Callie doesn’t. When Callie does discover the ghost’s identity, she feels foolish and has a hard time confessing her error to her friends. One of my favorite lines from the book: “Although she hadn’t had to think about it before, mortality had become an important quality in a man.”

Callie’s friendship with the ghost doesn’t make her immune to his expertly chilling haunting skills. And, when Callie discovers there’s a grave in the cellar and decides to have it removed, she also discovers that her resident ghost has a temper. He vows to cause problems if anyone steps near it. Callie will not be bullied, even by a ghost—she wants the remains moved ASAP.

During all the fun with the ghost, there are plenty of plot twists to keep the reader entertained, and there are also plenty of happily-ever-afters among the main characters—including a tender moment at the end when the ghost is finally reunited with his long-deceased wife.

My recomendation is to hightail it to and purchase your own copy of this book.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Author Interview with Nicole Giles

D.N. (Nichole) Giles has a new release, "The Sharp Edge of the Knife," which is based on the perilous kidnapping of her grandfather, Mel Petersen, on February 11, 1958. Giles offered some insights into her experience writing a biographical novel that hits so close to her heart.
The premise behind this story is fascinating. How did you find out about it?
The main character is my grandpa. I remember hearing during my childhood that he’d been kidnapped in the past. Actually, he was kidnapped or held hostage three times total in his life, which makes the story all that much more interesting to me.

It sounds very fascinating. What finally made you decide to write about it and get it published?
After my grandpa died, I was reading his life history and this particular incident really stood out to me. I decided to write it as an article at first, but there was so much information, and so much research involved when it came to finding the facts, that it turned into a book.

Turning a biographical piece into a novel almost always requires the author to make some plausible leaps to fill in the gaps. How much of this story is biographical and how much is fiction?
I'd say about seventy percent biographical. In my earlier drafts I tried to keep it as accurate as possible, but then discovered that if I did that I'd have almost no dialogue. And when three different publishers told me it was too short with just Mel's point of view, I added in one for Jeneal. Some of that is from things she told me from memory, but I fictionalized the majority of the scenes with the kids because it's been fifty years since all this, and there was no way for her to remember it all.

Did the fact that you were writing about your grandfather make this project easier or more complex?
 A little bit of both. Because it is a family story, there's more pressure to make it accurate to not only what happened, but also to the nature of the main character. That's harder to do than I ever expected. Also, though, it was difficult to track down the information and try to stay one step away from the details, because this is someone I love. But in that same way, I had far more determination to find the facts, which is probably what kept me going every time I hit a dead end. It was a long haul, but I actually tracked down one of the kidnappers and talked to him on the phone. Very interesting conversation, and so worth the work it took.

How did you go about conducting your research?
I started out with a handful of newspaper articles and about two pages worth of journal accounts from my grandpa, and somewhere in the mix there was a court subpoena. From there I called the police departments involved, but because the case was so old—fifty years—they referred me to the national archives in Denver. From there, I was able to get someone to help me track down the case and all the evidence and court documents. Interestingly, the knife used in the kidnapping, as well of some of the other evidence, is still there, and will remain there forever. Or at least, that’s what I’m told.

All this research is amazing! It sounds like you were guided. How long did it take you to actually write this book?
It was actually a fairly long process all things considered. From beginning to end, it took me almost three years to get from the inception of the idea to publication. And there was a lot that happened in between, including me working on two other major projects at the same time. All in all, though, I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

Is this your first published novel?
It is my first published novel, but not my first published book. I'm a co-author of the book Mormon Mishaps and Mischief, which is an anthology of short, humorous anecdotes about Latter Day Saints. That book was released this past December. I worked on both projects at the same time, which is why they're being released so close together.

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors who discover interesting stories in their family history?
Don't give up when you're researching and hit a dead end. There are always ways to find what you're looking for. Be warned, though, you might stumble on something that you never expected and end up with more work than you planned on. It's all worth it in the end.

What are you currently working on?
Generally, I'm not an LDS fiction author. Everything else I'm working on is young adult paranormal and/or fantasy. Right now, I have one YA paranormal finished, for which I'm looking for a publisher. I also have two other books, one a sequel to the first, and another a completely different story, about halfway through the rough draft stage. I'd like to finish both this year.

Where can we learn more about The Sharp Edge of a Knife?
You can read the first chapter at my website My author bio is also there, with a few interesting facts pertaining to the story.

Where can readers pick up a copy of "The Sharp Edge of a Knife?"
Right now it’s definitely available on Amazon, and I’m told it will be in stores sometime in the next few weeks, if not already. My official book launch promotion is scheduled for March 27th from 1-3:oo pm at Eborn books in the Provo Towne Center mall in Provo Utah. It’s open to the public, and going to be lots of fun.

Thanks for previewing your new release, "The Sharp Edge of a Knife." Good luck with your book launch!
Thanks so much.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It’s All About Family

I’ve been a bit out of commission lately—but it’s all good. My niece’s daughter got married and all of my seven kids gathered to help her celebrate. It was a great time. We also celebrated my oldest son’s birthday by going out to dinner and by having a nice family dinner at my daughter’s house the next day.

This is the bride and groom with the bride's maids.

This is a picture of my birthday boy.

My son and his wife and almost-three-year-old son came to stay with us for a while before they had to head back to Illinois. It was nice getting to make big meals and visit, but it wasn’t nearly long enough. Our time wasn’t without its drama though. Our little grandson was playing at the park and all of a sudden began screaming with pain. He hadn’t fallen, so we didn’t know what was wrong.

After a few hours, some Ibuprophen, and a call to the insurance company, they made a trip to the ER. Luckily it was a simple fix. His elbow had been semi-dislocated. All they did was give it a little tug and he was all better—until the next day, of course, when he put his hand on our cactus.

Here's the little guy with his cousin. He loved our trampoline.

He’s all boy, that one, and our short time together was reminiscent of my children when they were younger. It surely brought back memories of past trips to the ER for stitches, broken bones etc. etc. etc.

This next week is spring break and I’ll be spending my time playing catch-up. I need to catch up on my writing—I’ve got three articles waiting to be written and submitted, and a novel that needs finished. On my paintings, I’ve got two finished, one almost finished, one started (by started I mean sketched onto the paper) and a couple that I keep dreaming about.

We’ve got another wedding this Saturday. This one is the son of my husband’s niece. After that, break’s over and it’s time for the routine to start again.

This is our new gallery--painted to catch your eye from the highway. We're still working on the landscaping. Its official open house will be later this month. I’ll be giving a few watercolor workshops there and helping to work at the gallery.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Hundred Days from Home, by Randall Wright

I purchased my copy of A Hundred Days from Home, by Randall Wright at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers symposium held at BYU several years back. I appreciated Mr. Wright’s willingness to spend a few moments talking to a total stranger in the line of strangers waiting to buy his book.

We talked about Arizona—the setting for A Hundred Days from Home, and my native state. At the same time, he encouraged me to continue along the path toward becoming a published author. Nice man. Tender story.

Twelve-year-old Elam lives in the high country of Springerville, AZ with his parents and memories of a once-innocent childhood. Papa thinks Elam needs a change and moves the family to the town of Copperton. Elam hates it. He doesn’t understand why Papa would take him away from the places and memories that he loves.

Papa and Mama keep encouraging Elam to make new friends. There are plenty of young boys Elam’s age living in the small community they’ve moved to, but Elam is a little shy. When he does make a friend, it’s with a young boy that Papa doesn’t approve of—his parents don’t work at the copper smelter.

Refugio is being raised by his grandpa on the other side of town. The wrong side of town. On this side of town, the homes are mostly shacks painted bright colors, and the people work in the fields. But Elam and Refugio have their love for animals and living things in common, where the other boys in town are not so charitable in their treatment of living creatures.

This story follows Elam along his path to acceptance and understanding—acceptance of his new desert home—acceptance of his new life—acceptance of his best friend, Brett’s drowning—and understanding that it wasn’t his fault. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, it takes another tragedy in Elam’s life before he finally understands.

A Hundred Days from Home takes on the tough subjects of prejudice and death, which are difficult for young children, but Randall Wright does so with a gentle understanding, and a calming voice that I don’t think would be too overwhelming for most pre-teens.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Author Interview with Sarah M. Eden

Sarah M. Eden and I belong to the same writers group—American Night Writer’s Association. I first met her at a summer retreat. If you want to put some life into a party or event—Sarah’s your gal. I’ve been to two writer’s conferences where she presented and discovered this about her: She’s clever and funny, and never boring.

Untroubled by the lack of interest by traditional publishers, Sarah self-published her first several books, and was nominated last year for a Whitney Award for her novel, Seeking Persephone. I’ve read it, and done a book review on it, and can’t wait to get my hands on her newest book—which is being published traditionally—Courting Miss Lancaster.

Your wit kills me. Does it have a traceable source, like family?

My family has lived in the arid deserts of Arizona since before the invention of air conditioning. So insanity runs in my family. Not something most people would include on a resume, but it's great for an author. Writing requires a certain degree of mental instability—and a tendency toward insomnia. I write a lot at night and while my kids are at school and any time I am supposed to be cleaning my house. My 6-year-old describes my books this way: “Kissy, romantic books where the people lived a long time ago and talked funny.” Yep, pretty much. I write clean romances that take place in Regency England (think the first two decades of the 1800s: Napoleon, Jane Austen, Mad King George). The endings are always happy, the characters are usually funny and my mom thinks they are amazing.

So do I, and so do a whole bunch of other people! So, where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
Perhaps the single greatest source of inspiration for me lies in the fact that writing gives me an excuse to avoid responsible things. “Wow, I have very large piles of dishes on the counters (yes, plural) of my kitchen. Sorry. I need to write.” “The PTA is hoping I will bake 6 dozen cupcakes for the bake sale in a half-hour. Sorry. I need to write.” “What is that, children? You want dinner? There are frozen waffles in the freezer. Mom needs to write.” Inspiration? Check.

Do you have any challenges to getting your thoughts on paper?
I have a deep and unshakable need to consume large quantities of unnecessary and useless calories (and by this I mean Cheetos). This need creates another need—to exercise my backside, hips and gut off. These very real needs often get in the way of my writing. To my joy, I have managed to invent, in many different versions, a contraption made up of very large books, packing tape and the back of the sofa in my living room which allows me to type while spending some quality time with my elliptical machine while burning calories to which I'd rather not become too permanently attached. I would take a picture, but it's pretty embarrassing. Embarrassingly awesome! I am also developing a system by which I can type and eat at the same time. I call it “Click, click, click, chew.” Fascinating. I'm thinking of writing a book about it.

Where do you begin a book, plot or character?
My books always begin with a character, oddly enough. The plot and setting develop around him or her. I write romances, so the next step is deciding what kind of person would be the love-interest for that character. Then I flesh out where and exactly when within my time period these people live, their circumstances, etc. Those things which come in the way of their being together are usually obvious at this point—if not, I figure that out. So, my ideas come from people. This is probably the primary reason I have no friends — everyone is afraid they'll end up in my next book. It probably doesn't help that I tell them about this possibility.

Tell us about your most recent Regency Romance novel, Courting Miss Lancaster.
About 200 pages. Oh... wait. I get what you mean. Let me refer to the oh-so-handy back of the book:

Harry Windover adores blonde, green-eyed Athena Lancaster, but alas, a penniless man like himself has no hope of winning a young noblewoman's hand. To add insult to injury, Athena's brother-in-law and guardian, the Duke of Kielder, has asked Harry to assist Athena in finding the gentleman of her dreams. But the lovesick Harry is cunning as well: as the weeks pass, he introduces Athena to suitors who are horrifically boring, alarmingly attached to their mothers, downright rude, astoundingly self-absorbed, and utterly ridiculous.

Athena can't comprehend why she is having so little success meeting eligible and acceptable gentlemen. Indeed, her circle of admirers couldn't be less admirable--nothing like the loyal, gentle friend she's found in Harry.

But how long can Harry's scheme be hidden before it is discovered? And what will Athena do when she uncovers Harry's deception?

This sounds great! What are you working on right now?
I am currently writing a sort-of-sequel to Courting Miss Lancaster. It follows the misadventures of another Lancaster sister — timid and uncertain Daphne — as she attempts to find love despite almost overwhelming obstacles. She comes up against snooty Peers, selfish matrons and even the dreaded “Love Triangle!” Now, that's gonna be an amazing story!

Oooh, I can’t wait. I know you're a mom and don't have a lot of free time, but other than writing, what other kinds of things do you enjoy?
When my daughter was in preschool, she made me a Mothers Day card in which she answered several questions about me. Her answer to the question “What does your mom like to do most?” was “Not cook.” So, there you go.

I also enjoy reading and music and not sleeping (though “enjoy” isn't precisely the right word for that last one—more like “accept begrudgingly”).

In all my free time, (rolling my eyes), I am a regular contributor at a presenter at various writing conferences, a Mommy-Taxi and an interviewer-extraordinaire for my recurring blog segment “I Need Friends Friday” at

Where can readers buy Courting Miss Lancaster?
Courting Miss Lancaster can be found at Deseret Book stores and Seagull bookstores. A link to purchase online can be found at my website,

"Courting Miss Lancaster" sounds like great fun and I hope people will hurry and get a copy. I know they'll be glad. The trailer is at

Thank you, Sarah, for the interview!