Saturday, August 29, 2009
Book Launch: Dreaming Anastasia
I'm excited to introduce you to Joy Preble and her debut novel, DREAMING ANASTASIA.
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, DREAMING ANASTASIA. It's a wonderful mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it? What was it like working in this mixed genre?
That’s a great question! Actually, it was a lot of fun. I got to work with magic and folklore, but I also got to blend my bits of alternate history with the some of the real historical facts about the Romanovs, and I got to work some with romance, too. Honestly, it was sort of freeing. And I think YA gives authors even more freedom than writing for adults. Teen readers know what they like, but they don’t always have totally set notions about what a story should contain. So they’re the perfect audience for a certain amount of experimentation. Beyond that, one of the most interesting aspects of genre melding for me was making my alternate history feel seamless. There was this great moment when I was re-reading Anastasia’s journal entries and thinking, huh? Did this event she’s talking about really happen? Actually it didn’t! It was something I’d made up. But I loved that it had begun to feel so utterly real.
How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
This is actually my very first full length novel for teens. I tried my hand at some picture books a few years back, but I could never really feel that passion I was looking for. Eventually, I realized that I was meant to write YA. I love tapping into that piece of me that’s forever eighteen. All that amazing intensity of experience, all that newness, all that emotion. When I write, I’m back there again and it helps me create my stories. And yes, this novel is not only my first YA, it’s my first novel ever. So I am definitely a debut author in every sense of the word.
Can you describe your path to the publication of DREAMING ANASTASIA?
Obviously I get asked that a lot. When you’re a debut author, everyone wants to know about that journey. I know I always want to know how other authors arrived at where they are now. For me, the main part of the journey began about five years ago when I was, let us say, enormously unhappy about many parts of my life and having a really horrible year at work. I think now that it was simply the universe smashing an anvil on my head and giving me one more opportunity to get busy and do what I’d always dreamed of doing since I was a little girl – which was to write a novel. And so I finally gave in and wrote. Anne’s voice had come to me first – this smart, snarky, inquisitive and very brave girl who thinks she knows it all. For whatever reason, I’d given her my love of the Romanov family saga – that horribly fascinating tragedy of a family that had everything and lost it all – including their lives. And of course the fascination with Anastasia herself – did she die? Did she somehow survive the assassination? I’d been obsessed with her fate since I’d first read about her when I was in junior high. After that, the story just began to unfold, mostly from my question of what if Anne found out that she had the power to change history? What if she encountered this crazily handsome guy with a mysterious past who told her that it was up to her to save Anastasia? And what if that turned out to be true? It took me about a year to write that first draft. I did some early querying of editors and agents, took ten pages to a local SCBWI conference for a critique. But in February of 2006, I finally began querying in earnest. And that’s when my life changed for good. Because this time I heard back something I’d only hoped for. Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary wasn’t interested herself, but she was passing my manuscript on to Michelle Andelman, then a new junior agent.
And that was just the beginning. Michelle and I revised the manuscript until we couldn’t look at it any more. In 2007, Lyron Bennett of Sourcebooks acquired it as their first YA. And in the two years between then and September 1, 2009 when the book releases, both Michelle and Lyron have moved on to other jobs. I am now repped by the amazing Jen Rofe, also of ABLA, and have a new editor, Dan Ehrenhaft. (let me interject here that losing both your agent and your editor in the middle of a project has the potential to turn out badly, so that fact that it did not is a major miracle and something for which I’m very grateful.) Michelle still supports me behind the scenes, and in fact DREAMING ANASTASIA is dedicated to two women – one being my mother, who passed away far too soon to enjoy this all with me, and the other being Michelle to whom I will always be profoundly grateful for giving me the chance to chance to follow my dream.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Write! You won’t get better without practice. And mostly, read. Not all readers are good writers, but all writers are readers. I’ve had students argue that point with me, but it’s just true. Even if you have a natural talent, you can’t write well in a vacuum. You need to learn from others and you do that by reading voraciously, especially in the genre in which you’d like to write. Beyond that, I would say that you need to believe in yourself, but that you also need to develop a thick skin, be able to accept criticism, and understand early on that writing for publication is by and large a collaborative experience. If you are unable to work with others and take suggestion, then you’d be better off choosing another line of endeavor.
I understand that you're a teacher. Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
Yes, I am a teacher, and I’ve taught all grades from seventh through twelfth, although lately I’ve been teaching tenth grade English and Creative Writing. Currently, my goals are to continue writing YA novels and continue growing in my writing career. Short –term, I’d also like to be able to get through this next school year balancing teaching 150 students and being a debut author. Right now, I’m a little unclear about how that’s all going to work out! My biggest inspirations have been the many strong women in my life. I’m blessed to have grown up with some amazing female role models and I think that they really gave me the strength to keep striving even when I was unsure of what it was I was supposed to be doing. My mom had a tough life – she grew up fairly poor; her dad left the family when she was young; her mother – my maternal grandmother – was a prickly sort of person. But my mom was a lady who just never gave up. She had let her driver’s license lapse because we lived in Chicago and pretty much took public transportation everywhere. But when my dad died, she bought a new car and took driver’s ed again at the age of 70!
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Because there’s been two years between the sale of DREAMING ANASTASIA and its release, I’ve finished a novel that’s set here in Texas and is about football, faith, love, and the redemptive power of a plate of pecan waffles and hash browns. And I’m working on completing a third novel about a girl whose parents run a bakery. That one’s about love, life, dreams, and pastries! Beyond that, I’d love to continue the DREAMING ANASTASIA series if I get the opportunity. The novel concludes with some definite loose ends, and I’d enjoy exploring them, especially the Anne/Ethan romance. Plus there are so many other Russian folklore figures I’d like to use besides Baba Yaga, including rusalkas, which are these wonderfully bad Slavic mythology mermaids.
Do you have a website where readers can learn more about DREAMING ANASTASIA?
I invite everyone to visit www.joypreble.com If that’s not enough, you can also look at my pages on http://www.classof2k9.com and at Authors Now. I also blog at http://joysnovelidea.blogspot.com And if you’re still in need of more, you can follow me on Twitter as @joypreble.