Baba Yaga, the famously nasty witch from Russian folklore, becomes a surprising ally and sometimes benevolent force in the supernatural series by Houston resident Joy Preble. Beginning with DREAMING ANASTASIA, the series follows the main character Anne, whose life is turned upside down by her dreams of Baba Yaga and the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov. Anne struggles to discover whether her dreams are simply nightmares or messages from another world. The addictive series continues with HAUNTED which comes out in February 2011. Recently I chatted with Joy about her inspirations, her crazy schedule and writing from multiple characters’ points of view.
Describe a normal “writing” workday.
Hah! When you have another full time day job, there is no typical "writing" workday. Basically, I fit it in where I can. Mostly, I write in the late afternoons or in the evenings. On weekends, I usually manage some hours in the morning or the afternoon. When I’m on a deadline – like I’ve been recently, finishing up the copy edits and final edits for HAUNTED – I’ll work on and off from when I get home at 4 until 10 or later. Sometimes, it feels brutal. In the summer, when I’m not teaching, I like to write in the morning and then again for a couple of hours at night. Of course none of that includes time spent on blogging/promotion/emailing.
Where do you find inspiration?
Almost everywhere! But other authors inspire me; nature inspires me; alone time, music, people watching. I think when you write, you must by nature be a close observer of the world. And so the muse finds you.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
There are so many! I’m in awe of John Green for his effortless seeming humor, of David Levithan for his ability to create absolutely real characters. Libba Bray is a wonder. Sarah Dessen creates characters so lifelike that I feel like I know them. Lauren Oliver nails the east coast suburban teen voice. E. Lockhart is just brilliant. My beloved former editor Dan Ehrenhaft makes me laugh and seems to have based many of his characters on my own crazy relatives, even though they’ve never met. And although I hate to play favorites with my friends, Lauren Strasnick – my pal and seriously the hippest human ever – has a gift for spare, honed to the bone prose that just blows me away. Honestly, I could keep writing on this question for hours. There are so many talented writers out there.
What do you consider your greatest “creative” success up until now and why?
While I hope to write better and better books, I think my greatest creative success at the moment is HAUNTED, the Dreaming Anastasia sequel. Getting one book published was fabulous but once you get that second, you begin to feel that maybe you’re starting to get the idea of what the heck you’re doing.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Rinse and repeat a zillion times. And while you’re at it – find a critique group of people you trust.
In your first novel, DREAMING ANASTASIA, you use different points of view to tell the story. Did you originally write the first draft like that or was it a change that came later?
Yes – except that the original draft was in third person, past tense! So while I always alternated points of view, it felt different in third person. But I always felt that Anne’s view of events and Ethan’s view were going to be so dramatically different that I needed both of them to guide the story. I’m happy with that choice. And in case anyone is wondering – sometimes Ethan’s easier to write; sometimes it’s Anne. Depends on my mood and the scene. Honestly, the character I enjoy writing the most is Tess. She has no filter and she’s really funny and I often have to stop myself from giving her all the best lines. She’s such a scene stealer if I let her.
Tell us about your new book! Does it start where DREAMING ANASTASIA left off?
HAUNTED takes up about six months after DREAMING ANASTASIA ends. Anne’s been missing Ethan and Ethan’s been missing Anne….but Anne’s got a new boyfriend named Ben. He’s a lifeguard – and a hottie. Only that’s not the only conflict. Anne’s still visiting Baba Yaga in her dreams and she’s still got powers and she’s not sure why. And she’s been stalked by a very malevolent and very persistent Russian mermaid called a rusalka. As soon as Ethan returns from Europe, everything begins to collide and Anne and Ethan have to figure out the rusalka’s identity and how she links to Anne. Tess is back, too. Even Anastasia makes an appearance at one point. The novel is like DREAMING ANASTASIA in that it’s a mix of humor, romance and tragedy. Lots of peril; a crazy mermaid, a love triangle; a heightened romantic element -hopefully something for everyone! I really do love this new installment and as you will see, it’s actually the second of three! So there will be more to come.
What’s next for Joy Preble?
The launch event for HAUNTED will be on 2/5/11 at The Woodlands Barnes and Noble, with a book tour soon to follow. Stay tuned to my website www.joypreble.com and my blog: http://joysnovelidea.blogspot.com for all the details!
This interview also appeared in the November 2010 version of the Houston Banner.