Can you tell us a little bit about your first novel?
Dreaming Anastasia is described as a contemporary YA fantasy of the disappearance of Anastasia Romanov, but it’s really more than that. Honestly, I’d best describe it as a genre-bending mix of fantasy, romance, alternate history and fairy tale. It’s told by three narrative voices: sixteen year old high school junior Anne, handsome and mysterious Ethan, and of course, Anastasia Romanov – who is not quite as dead as the history books say. The Russian folklore witch Baba Yaga also plays a crucial role. If all those elements appeal to you, then this is definitely the book for you. A little commercial, a little literary – I think people have been enjoying it in previews in part because it really is a little different a little harder to pin down.
What inspired you to write Dreaming Anastasia?
You know, I don’t know if there was any one thing that inspired me. But I certainly was influenced by my maternal grandmother’s Russian heritage. She had this enormously sad and at times adventurous life and actually ran away from home at sixteen to come to America where to be honest, she suffered and complained and lived this sort of rich fantasy life of what might have been. She wasn’t much of a grandmotherly sort of lady, but I think I inherited her sense of what if and longing and it appears in the novel through many characters. Beyond that, I’ve had a fascination with the Romanov family since I was in junior high school and picked up Robert K. Massie’s amazing biography, Nicholas and Alexandra. I mean, who doesn’t love the whole tragedy of it? Especially of Anastasia herself – so full of life and mischief, only to be assassinated before she even turned eighteen. It’s no wonder there’ve been so many rumors over the years that she didn’t die that day in the basement with everyone else. Or the evil machinations of Rasputin and how they poisoned him and shot him but none of it worked until they finally dumped him in the river and he drowned? That period in history just lives so large that I guess it stayed affixed to my subconscious until I finally gave in and wrote about it.
How did you do the research for your novel?
I spent a lot of time on line for various aspects. I owe a great debt to http://www.endicott-studio.com and http://surlalunefairtytales.com which educated me on Russian myths and fairy tales. The folks at my local library helped me find as many picture books and other versions of the Baba Yaga story and the fairy tale Vasilisa the Brave, both of which figure large in Dreaming Anastasia. I pored through various volumes of Russian fairy tales and read some of the analysis of those tales by Vladimir Propp, who was the Russian scholar who is really one of the definitive voices on Russian folklore. I spent a lot of time with my nose in the Lonely Planet’s Russian phrase book and also read Carolyn Meyer’s Anastasia, The Last Grand Duchess in Scholastic’s Royal Diaries series. Another shout out is due to www.alexanderpalace.org, which is an amazing site run by Bob Atchison of Austin, Texas, that links to just about everything – including primary sources – related to the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution. Plus a couple of books on ballet and Swan Lake, because that’s also an element. Wow! It makes me tired just listing it all, but I do have to say that it was actually great fun. I’m a total geek when it comes to books, reading, and research, so I honestly had a blast.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Dreaming Anastasia – in my home town of Chicago, and is a comic story about a girl whose parents run a bakery and whose life is turned upside down by love and her parents’ separation. Plus there’s pastry. Lots of it.
Do you have any advice for the would-be-authors out there?
Keep writing. You are never too old or too young or too in between to dream big and to work on perfecting your craft. Tell the stories that are inside you. That being said, I do think it’s sensible to study the market. Read, read, read!! If you want to write romance, you need to read romance. Find some mentors and a good critique partner or two. And never ever give up the faith that you can do this! Writing for publication takes fortitude, heart, and a thick skin. But oh, how it’s worth it!
Is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you or your novel?
I guess mostly that I’m absolutely thrilled to have this dream come true. Dreaming Anastasia was a five year journey – more if you count the years I actively resisted doing what my heart told me I was supposed to be doing. (I am a stubborn, stubborn girl!) I hope that readers enjoy the novel because if enough people love it then maybe I’ll get the opportunity to write the sequels. I really do have more in store for Anne and Ethan – definitely would enjoy steaming up their romance. And when you get as much power as Anne does in Dreaming Anastasia, well, let’s just say it doesn’t necessarily disappear. So I would certainly like to explore the darker side of what’s lurking inside Anne. Baba Yaga will definitely make a reappearance, as will many other characters, but I don’t want to spoil things so that’s all I’ll say. Plus there’s this amazingly nasty Russian mermaid called a rusalka that has asked if she can be part of the tale and I’ve told her yes. Absolutely!
Thank you so much Joy for taking the time to let us get to know you a little better. Dreaming Anastasia is on sale now at a bookstore near you, so be sure to go get yourself a copy. It is a fabulous read. You should also check out her amazing website at www.joypreble.com.
This interview has been apart of the Dreaming Anastasia blog tours. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour to learn more about Joy and her fantastic new book: