When I last interviewed Joy Preble in October 2010, she was celebrating the success of DREAMING ANASTASIA, and looking forward to the publication of the sequel HAUNTED. Fast forward a few years and the trilogy is now complete! Recently I caught-up with Joy again and chatted about her road to publication, her new schedule and her very best writing advice.
Congratulations on finishing the trilogy! Could you give us a brief overview of what the trilogy is about?
The DREAMING ANASTASIA series is the saga of Anne Michaelson, a sixteen year old Chicago girl who discovers that she is connected through both line of descent and destiny to a complex mystery of love, betrayal and revenge. Her own family in turmoil from the recent death of her brother David to cancer, Anne finds herself dreaming repeatedly of a girl trapped in a room, who in turn is dreaming of her family’s murder. When Anne collides at school with handsome, mysterious Ethan, everything sets in motion. Dark powers of elemental control rise in Anne. Ethan tells her that she’s been dreaming of Anastasia Romanov, kept captive all these years by the Russian witch Baba Yaga. Anne is somehow the one who can free her. And Ethan – well, he’s a member of a secret Brotherhood and he’s been immortal since Anastasia’s capture. Free one. Free the other. But Anne discovers that there’s a lot more at stake. Russian fairy tale figures come to life: rusalki and witches and Koschei the Deathless. People who will stop at nothing to keep their power and eternal lives. And a blood line connection to everyone and everything. As Anne works first to free Anastasia and then solve the mystery that has held part of her family captive for decades, she finds herself falling for Ethan, who may or may not be someone she can trust. The series travels backward and forward in time and place, in the real world and in Baba Yaga’s forest as Anne and Ethan race to uncover long hidden secrets and darkest of magicks before it’s too late. In this thrilling tale of secrets within secrets and truths within lies, the reader quickly realizes that history never tells you everything.
When we last spoke you were still a full-time teacher. How has your writing life changed now that you are no longer teaching full time?
Well, we are currently a lot more dependent on my husband’s income, that’s for sure! But we decided that I should leap out there and see what happens when I’m not teaching 175 students every semester, getting to school at 6:45 AM and leaving at 4 or later and then grading papers for an hour or two each night before I start writing, promoting, etc. Not to mention having a husband and family! Certainly there has been a bit more balance in my life. So that’s good. But you know, work has a way of filling the space. So now I have started doing considerably more library and school appearances and workshops because I can, and accepting more events. I’m probably working just as much, only I’m my own boss now. (don’t tell my editors!) And I don’t have to do hall duty, lunch duty or proctor standardized tests. Typically no one screams “F— you, Mrs. Preble” to me during my work day. So that’s different. But no one runs in and says, “Hey, Mrs. Preble, I got my nipples pierced, wanna see?” and lifts his shirt and then shows me the video on his phone. So that’s kind of sad. I keep hoping our neighbors will go wacky, but I don’t want to force things.
Describe your road to publication – both the good and the bad.
Ah, my favorite story. I tell it often to encourage people to Never. Give. Up. Let’s see if I can make this the short version:
Fall 2005 – finished what would become DREAMING ANASTASIA. Started querying editors and agents. Got rejected. Revised. Winter 2006- queried some more. Got request for partial manuscripts, then full manuscripts from two agents. Spring 2006 – began to revise for Michelle Andelman of Andrea Brown Literary. Summer 2006 -signed. Rewrote. Subbed. Rewrote. August 2007 — sold DREAMING ANASTASIA to Sourcebooks.The acquiring editor left before book was fully edited. Assistant editor took over. Editor number two came on board. Agent Michelle left. Signed on with agent Jen Rofe, also of Andrea Brown Literary. After a long gap until they were ready to launch the Fire YA imprint, DREAMING ANASTASIA was published in September 2009. I had envisioned this as a trilogy, but it sold as one book only. It did well. Beyond their wildest dreams. Editor 2 acquired book 2, HAUNTED. Editor 2 left in spring 2010, before book was edited. Assistant took over. HAUNTED’s pub date wandered. Editor 3 arrived. She acquired book 3, ANASTASIA FOREVER. HAUNTED arrived in February 2011. Just as I was starting to tour, my publicist quit. Travel went wacky. Editor 2 asked to work with me again at a different house. I finished writing ANASTASIA FOREVER and began writing THE SWEET DEAD LIFE. Publicist # 2 left. My dear assistant editor then project editor who had saved my butt twice over — she left, too. Publicist 3 is still here. So is editor 3. So is Jen Rofe, my favorite cowgirl agent. ANASTASIA FOREVER arrived in August 2012. THE SWEET DEAD LIFE will be here in May 2013. And that’s only the short version.
Did I mention that in February 2010 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had surgery in March and radioactive iodine treatment in June? (I am still cancer free!) Yeah. Crazy. Do. Not. Give. Up. That’s the moral to this story.
What was the best writing advice you ever received and why?
Do not compare your career to anyone else’s. Except when you need to.
Beyond that — read, read, read. Write, write, write. Rinse. Repeat.
What are you working on now?
I am finishing up the last pass pages on THE SWEET DEAD LIFE and working on a road trip/noir/mystery/romance that starts in Vegas. Love it. And I’m in the midst of promoting ANASTASIA FOREVER, that just came out last week. So I’m running around Texas a bunch. Check out my website http://www.joypreble.com/ and come visit!
You can buy Joy’s books online or at your favorite bookstore.