Interview with Joy Preble

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.


Interview with Bobbi Leder

Bobbi Leder has trekked around the world and back again. During her adventures she discovered her life’s calling not only between the pages of a book, but also within the eyes of a loving spaniel named Euri. Recently I spoke with Bobbie about her travels, her writing and her work with the Gulf Coast Cocker Spaniel Rescue.

What led you to a career in writing?

When I was a little girl I would read roughly a hundred books per week. I just couldn’t get enough of them. Years later, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Media from Rutgers University.

I was originally an Animal Science major because I wanted to be like Dian Fossey and study gorillas in the mountains of Africa. Never mind that I was afraid of insects, snakes, spiders and had to be near modern conveniences. Then I was attacked by a sheep — sure they look cute and cuddly but don’t ever try to sit on one and insert a needle or you’ll see their not-so-cuddly side. Because I had done so well in the classroom and my professor knew that my real goal was to work with monkeys and non-human primates, he offered me a field study in South Carolina. I was the youngest student to have ever been offered that field study but sadly I had to turn it down because of medical and scheduling issues. I knew then that perhaps my love of animals was not enough to make a career out of my passion, and instead I should focus on something less dangerous and more practical.
            So I decided to become an English major to pursue my other interests: reading and writing. The problem was, I was the last student in line to register for class (this was back in the day when students had to literally stand in a line to register for class and declare their major). By the time I got to the front, all of the English classes were full so I signed up for the next best thing: journalism. Ironically I wound up graduating number one in my Journalism and Mass Media department. It all worked out because I’m extremely inquisitive and I love to research as much as possible. To be able to combine writing with my love of animals (particularly dogs), is a dream come true.


What are some of your favorite books?

Clifford, the Big Red Dog is my favorite picture book. I am in love with the idea of a talking dog and a gentle giant, so I’d have to say that Norman Bridwell is one of my favorite children’s writers. He (along with my cocker kid) inspired me to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and write my own picture books where dogs are the protagonists.

Another one of my favorite children’s authors is Judy Blume. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a must-read for all pre-teen girls.

And of course I love Curious George by H.A. Rey! I still have my Curious George stuffed animal from when I was a kid.


You’ve written extensively about dogs. How did you become such a canine expert?

I studied Animal Science at the University of Rhode Island, I worked at an animal shelter, and I’ve had dogs in my life from the moment I was born. I have also attended many dog shows and events around the world and have learned a lot from breeders, veterinarians, and fellow dog owners. I also try to keep up-to-date with the latest news and health issues by reading material from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). And of course I’ve learned a lot just by being a cocker mom to my English Cocker Spaniel, Euri.

One of your published pieces, “Being a Wife is not Enough” discusses your frequent international moves. What was your favorite place you’ve lived internationally and why?

Paris, France was probably the most beautiful location but I’d have to say London, England was by far my favorite place. There was never a shortage of things to do, sights to see, and restaurants to try in London – and of course, I loved the English accents.


What’s next for Bobbi Leder?

Euri and I will be having a book and paw signing for the Angel Animals anthology Dogs and the Women Who Love Them in which my story “Euri, the Miracle Worker” will appear. The event will take place on Sunday, November 7th, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Natural Pawz Heights (located at 514 West 19th Street in the Houston Heights). There will be a doggy costume contest and raffle prizes to benefit Gulf Coast Cocker Spaniel Rescue (GCCSR). And a portion of the proceeds from each book sold will benefit GCCSR.

You can learn more about Bobbi and her books on her website http://www.bobbileder.webs.com/.


This interview appeared in the October version of the Houston Banner.