Monday, August 10, 2009

Mormonhermitmom's Interview with Joyce DiPastena, author of Illuminations of the Heart

Read my review of Illuminations of the Heart here.

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to interview (via email) Joyce DiPastena. Both my 12 year old daughter and I enjoyed her book.

Although I haven’t read Loyalty’s Web, I’ve heard there is a connection to Illuminations of the Heart. Is Illuminations a sequel to Loyalty’s Web? Or is it more of a companion book that has common characters and the plot stands on its own?

Illuminations of the Heart is based on one of the characters I introduced in Loyalty's Web, but it can definitely be read as a stand alone book. A few characters from Loyalty's Web are referred to in Illuminations of the Heart, but for the most part, except for the hero it has a whole new cast.

Please tell us a little about what life was like for women in medieval times.

Like much of history, medieval Europe was a male dominated society. Women basically lived under the rule of first their fathers, and then their husbands. In general, her two basic roles were viewed as wife and mother. Girls could be married as young as the age of 12, though most families waited until their daughters were at least 14 to marry them off. A woman generally had little say in whom she married, such marriages generally being economic or political arrangements between her father and the groom. But though it was not often resorted to, as such young girls were easily intimidated by their fathers into marrying whomever he commanded them, the Catholic Church which "made the rules", so to speak, did have a law that no one, woman or man, should be forced to marry against their will. "Consent" was considered a legal necessity to make a valid marriage. But once again, resorting to this law would have been the exception for women, not the rule.
Once married, women were considered "under the power" of their husbands. She could not sell land, plead in court, or even make a will without her husband's consent. On the other hand, some men placed great trust in their wives' wisdom and abilities. It was not uncommon for a man to leave his castle in his wife's hands should he be called to battle, and there are records of many women who ably defended these castles in their husband's absence.
It is easy to view the role of women in the Middle Ages as one of downcast drudgery, but the reality of the situation was not nearly so cut and dry. Women led armies (the Empress Mathilda, mother of King Henry II of England), went on Crusades (Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine), patronized famous poets and musicians, and engaged in many other lively activities. Of course, these would have been the women of the nobility. Peasant women would have lived a very, very different and more difficult life.

Are you planning on a sequel to Illuminations or writing a new story set in the same time period?

I wouldn't call my next book a sequel, any more than Illuminations of the Heart was a sequel to Loyalty's Web. As with Illuminations of the Heart, I prefer to think of my new WIP (work in progress) as more of a "spin-off". It's based on a character I created for Illuminations of the Heart, just as Illuminations of the Heart was based on a character from Loyalty's Web, but once again, I hope it will read equally well as a stand alone book when I finish it. So I guess that answers the second part of your question, too. It's set in the same time period, a year or so after Illuminations of the Heart. I'm basically attempting to follow a series of chronological political events as I write my stories, though those political events will play larger roles in some books than they will in others.

Has any writer or group of writers influenced your writing style?

Regency romance author Georgette Heyer was a very early and strong influence on my writing. When I let my sister read my very first completed manuscript, she said, "This reads like a Regency-Medieval romance." LOL! I got the medieval historical aspects down, but she recognized the "style" I'd picked up from the Regency romances I'd read. (Which she introduced me to, by the way.) Probably just as well that first manuscript was never published.

Please tell us your Top 3 Favorite books.

Oddly, I do most of my recreational reading outside of the time period that I actually write in. (Maybe because it's so hard to find medieval romances that don't fall into the "racy-torrid-HOT-HOT-HOT" category?)
Three of my all time favorite books are:
The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After, by Alexandre Dumas (two books, but one author...does that count as one or two?)
These Old Shades, a Regency romance by Georgette Heyer
Charmed Life, a YA fantasy by Diana Wynne Jones

Totally unrelated, but fun to ask: If you were to recommend only one movie to your best friend, which would it be?

Now keep in mind that I'm a big history buff as I answer this! One of my all time favorite movies, which I've been thinking of a lot lately for some reason, is A Man for All Seasons. It tells the story of Sir Thomas More, who became chancellor to King Henry VIII of England at the time that Henry VIII was attempting to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII split with the Catholic Church over the matter and forced the country to accept him as the head of the newly created Church of England. Sir Thomas More was one among many who had to choose between political expediency (and therefore, personal safety) and his religious faith and run the risk of being charged with treason. For those who haven't seen the movie, I won't spoil it for them, but beyond the "history", the story has much to say about truth, faith, courage and love, and does so in a most moving and poignant manner.

Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Joyce! And best wishes for the success of Illuminations of the Heart!

Thank you, Robyn! I enjoyed chatting with you and your readers today.

Read more at Joyce's blog!

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