Joy Preble grew up in Chicago, Illinois, listening to her Russian grandmother tell tales of the old country, most of which ended with the equivalent of “We were all very poor and it sucked so I came here.” Joy began her writing career at age seven with a Thanksgiving play that consisted mostly of the Pilgrim women washing clothes after a long journey. Since then, she has learned to give her female characters, and herself, better things to do. (Not that clean laundry is a bad thing. In fact, she likes it very much. She just prefers someone else to do it.) She is married and has one son and lives in The Woodlands, Texas, where -when sh
e’s not teaching high school English (and sometimes when she is) -she continues to write. Dreaming Anastasia combines Joy’s love for folklore, history, feisty female characters and hot looking guys who may or may not actually be bad and is her first novel.
1. What inspired you to use Slavic Folklore and Magic as major plot points?
Well, the magic part of the answer is easy. I’ve always loved fantasy stories. When I was little, I read things like Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Edgar Eager’s Half Magic, and I think it just inspired a life long love of the whole “what if a character had powers beyond the ordinary” or “what if there’s a world beyond what we normally see.” So while fantasy is not the only genre I write – and in fact Dreaming Anastasia is a sort of blend of fantasy, romance, and alternate history - it was a great fit for my first novel.
As for the Slavic folklore specifically, it was also a sort of natural fit for a story about Russia’s Romanovs. There’s already a sort of mystical component to the real life Anastasia’s story. So many rumors over so many years that perhaps she didn’t die when the rest of her family was assassinated. And beyond that, I did want the folkloric element to mesh with Anastasia’s real life world, to use the stories and myths she might have heard as a child, with of course, the extra addition that I was going to make them real and not just stories. Because if you’ve got this great, hugely scary witch with removable hands and iron teeth named Baba Yaga, why not have your characters discover that she’s real and not imaginary!
2.How has being a part of Class of 2k9 helped you?
How haven’t they helped me would be a better question! Being with 20 other writers in Class of 2k9 has been invaluable. We are really each other’s rocks. There is such a steep and often brutal learning curve in being a debut author that I can’t imagine how crazy it would be to go through this alone. No matter what my current angst is – reviews or promotion or contracts or editors or how to balance being a public person with one’s private life – someone always has an answer for me. Many of us have become very close friends – beyond just our online world. When my first agent chose to move on to another part of the publishing world, it was my 2k9 peeps who held my hand over the phone. (okay it helped that three of us were actually represented by that same person, but that was just a coincidence, actually) Because honestly, in some ways major publishing is a sort of alternate universe. I can’t really sit around the teacher’s lounge and complain that I haven’t heard from my publicist lately, and actually expect them to comfort me. Please! (Full disclosure - Publicist Paul would never miss a call. He loves me and finds me endlessly amusing even when I’m annoying the heck out of him. This was just a hypothetical example of how people in my real world shouldn’t be subjected to my whining about something that to them sounds like I’m looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth)
3. Do you think that teaching teenagers helps you write for young adults?
Um, yes. Yes! I’ve never left high school in that sense and so yes, it really does help. I’m always conscious of how intense the teenage years are. Relationships. Grades. Family problems. Friendships. And honestly, I’ve taught some kids whose resilience with the crappy hand that fate has dealt them is profoundly amazing. I’ve had students who get up and come to school every morning even though their families are broken to pieces or they are suffering abuse or they have serious health issues. Everything is sort of larger than life many days. So I not only want to get those emotions correct on the page, I deeply respect the students I work with. Plus they make me laugh my a—off most days. The stories I could tell you… Like the year that one guy said to another during homeroom, “Hey. I think you should get a tattoo of a banana playing maracas.” And the next day, there it was. You gotta love it!
4.What is your favorite and least favorite thing about writing?
My favorite thing is when the pieces of a story really come together. When I’ve written a little bit and then I’m driving somewhere or whatever and suddenly my brain goes wham! and I realize exactly what I need to do to move the story forward. The least favorite is when I have a day when either I can’t get to write because I just have too many other things that I have to do, or when I sit there for hours and basically have to bleed on the page to make a few crummy words come out. I usually end up deleting them the next day. Those days suck.
5. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Nope. Unless you know Robert Downey, Jr. Then you could tell him that in the movie version of Dreaming Anastasia that I’ve got running my head, I’ve cast him as Anne’s father. Just in case he was wondering…