I'd like to introduce another debut author today. :o) Joy Preble is the author of the young adult fantasy Dreaming Anastasia: A Novel of Love, Magic, and the Power of Dreams (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009), an intriguing and enjoyable re-imagining of what happened to Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov of Russia and the Russian folk tales about Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Beautiful (also known as Vasilisa the Brave).
Thank you very much, Joy, for stopping by today to answer my questions!
How does your teaching high school English affect your writing and vice versa?
I suppose the biggest effect on me is that I’m around my target audience five days a week, 8-9 hours a day. So I definitely feel somewhat hooked in to trends, issues and the whole inner angst of high school. I do think that most adults forget the intensity of the teen years sometimes, but it’s hard for me to do that when it’s basically right on top of me all the time. I also think it gives me a healthy respect for how hard it is to grow up- to learn about love and loss and regret as well as triumph and success - and I do want to reflect that in my writing. As for the vice versa, I do think writing teenage characters does make me fairly mellow most days. (okay not all days) But it’s hard to gripe at some kid for not reading his chapters in To Kill A Mockingbird or whatever when you’re going home and writing in the head of a girl who’s blowing off her academics because a handsome hottie has told her she needs to save a Russian princess.
Why did you write Dreaming Anastasia? What’s the story behind the story?
I’ve been fascinated by the Romanov story for a very long time. Such a huge tragedy – all those pretty people gunned down in their prime. That creepy, creepy Rasputin. And of course Anastasia herself – so young and feisty and full of life. Russian history always seems to exist on such an enormous, larger than life scale. So it was hard not to have it all stuck in my head. Eventually, when I got serious about writing novels, the idea of a girl came to me. She was in high school, and she was smart and funny and possibly a little angry. Her life wasn’t what she wanted it to be. And then she starts getting stalked by this guy who tells her it’s her destiny to save Anastasia. I figured a lot of wackiness would ensue. And I guess it did!
What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing Dreaming Anastasia?
You know I can’t really point to any one influence. I think my influences in general come from a variety of places. I admire Sarah Dessen for her ability to make her characters seem absolutely real and I strive to emulate her in that regard. I love Libba Bray’s use of history in her Great and Terrible Beauty series. I think John Greene and Maureen Johnson are hysterically funny when they write and I only wish to get to their level at some point. Television writers influence me as well – the genre blending of western and sci fi in Joss Whedon’s Firefly let me think that it was possible to do things differently and get away with it. And of course the Palladinos set the bar for fast paced, smart dialogue in Gilmore Girls. If I could be an ounce as good as any of those folks, I’d be a lucky girl.
Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that your novel was going to be published? What were your first thoughts and feelings? How did you celebrate the good news?
Actually, I was on my way to the dentist to have a cavity filled when my agent at the time emailed and said she had news and would I call her. My heart started pounding because I knew that Dreaming Anastasia (then titled Spark) had been in acquisitions at Sourcebooks. But even with that, you never count on a deal until it’s actually offered. It was honestly the happiest I’ve ever been while sitting in the dentist’s chair! It ended up that I needed a crown not just a filling, and I was sitting there saying whatever! My book sold. Drill away. Eventually, when the Novocain wore off, my husband took me out to dinner. I chewed on one side only, dribbled my wine down my shirt because my lip was still a little numb and smiled a crooked smile all night.
Do you have a message for your readers in Asia?
I hope that Dreaming Anastasia is as universal a story as I think it is. And if you like this tale of a girl who thought her life was ordinary until she discovered it wasn’t, a guy who has more than a few regrets, a princess who made some of her own mistakes and has been trapped for a long time, a maybe crazy, maybe not witch, a bad guy or two and a best friend who’s always there when the going gets rough, let me know. It’s about love and loss and redemption and our need for second chances, about the things we wish to change and the ones we find we can’t. I hope that appeals to everyone – no matter where we live!