Monday, September 5, 2011

Author Interview with Medieval Author Joyce DiPastena     I am so excited to post this interview with extraordinary medieval author Joyce DiPastena.  During the past few months, I have had the opportunity to read both of her books, Loyalty's Web and Illuminations of the Heart, and I have given both five-star ratings.  Both books contain passionate but clean romance, intricate subplots, rich description, and accurate historical depictions.  My only complaint:  they were both such page turners that I stayed up way past bedtime reading and suffered the heavy-eyed haze of "book-lag" the next day.  I appreciate this opportunity to post her interview and hope you will enjoy reading her responses to my questions.  Thanks, Joyce, for letting me interview you.

1. How long have you been reading Medieval romances?

I actually started out reading about the Middle Ages itself before I began looking for Medieval romances. My mom, who loved history, had this series of four books by historian Thomas B. Costain that covered the reigns of the Plantagenet kings of England. I fell in love with several historical characters from those books who fired my imagination and made me want to learn more about them and the time period. It was difficult to find Medieval romances in my school or public libraries and I didn’t live anywhere near a bookstore, so I didn’t actually begin looking for Medieval romances to read until I got to college.

2. What was the first Medieval romance you ever read?

This isn’t exactly a romance, but it had a romance in it and was probably the first Medieval novel I ever read: Walk with Peril, by D.V.S. Jackson. My sister found it first in our public library when she was in high school and I was in junior high, and since I was a bit of a copycat, I read the book after she did. I absolutely fell in love with it! It is the story of a young man named Robert Fairfield who followed King Henry V to the Battle of Agincourt and how he won his knighthood. Robert fell in love with a young woman named Constance, but she was betrothed to marry someone else and ultimately the marriage went through. Unlike many romances today, Robert was too honorable to take advantage of Constance’s marriage. I won’t spoil the end of the story. Suffice it to say that the romantic aspect of the book did not end without hope.

This book influenced my own first medieval novel (unpublished) in all sorts of ways I will never completely confess to. LOL! No, I didn’t plagiarize anything. It was just in very small touches that lingered with me from that book. I’ve written a review of Walk with Peril on my Medieval Research with Joyce blog, for anyone who would like to read it.
3. When did you first realize you wanted to write Medieval romances, and can you tell us a little about that first experience?

I was in college and I remember going to the bookstores (a HUGE treat for a small town girl like me!) and looking for Medieval romances to read. I bought a few, but they all had so much graphic sex in them that I couldn’t read any of them. I finally decided to write a romance of my own that I could read. I didn’t have any intention of trying to get it published at the time, I just wanted a clean romance to read. It took me six years to finish that romance. When it finally hit me that I had completed, full-length novel on my hands, I began to get an itch to send it out to agents and publishers, just to see what happened. Although that book didn’t sell, I got enough positive feedback that it encouraged me to continue writing.

4. Wow, six years!  What a great accomplishment to stay the course for that long.  I'm glad you didn't give up and went on to perfect your talent.  Which Medieval romance authors have most influenced you in your love for the Middle Ages?

As noted above, I can’t really name any Medieval romance authors, because it was so hard to find clean romances to read. But the two Medieval authors (non-romance) who most influenced my love for the Middle Ages are the two I mentioned above: Thomas B. Costain and DVS Jackson. (Sadly for me, Jackson only wrote one Medieval novel.)

5. You are a meticulous researcher, Joyce, when it comes to being historically accurate.  What types of information do you research when writing a Medieval romance, and will you share a few examples of historical facts you had to research for one or more of your novels?

There is always some basic research knowledge you need to have when writing a medieval or any historical novel: what was the social structure of the time, what were the buildings like, what did the clothes look like, what did they eat, etc. After that, it becomes research specific for each book. For Loyalty’s Web, I had to research the political issues of the time, I dabbled a little with some contemporary Medieval literature, and just to spice things up, I also researched poisons. LOL! For Illuminations of the Heart, there was the title-issue of researching how medieval manuscripts were made and “illuminated” with miniature drawings and paintings. In Dangerous Favor, which I’m currently sending out to publishers, I returned to Medieval literature and did a lot with the 12th Century tournament, which differed in many ways from the later concept of jousting that we envision when we read about tournaments today.

6. Do you have any favorite resources for historically correct information on the Middle Ages?

Here are a few of my favorite “general” research books:

Life in a Medieval Castle, by Joseph and Frances Gies
The Castle Explorer’s Guide, by Frank Bottomley
English Costume from the Early Middle Ages Through the Sixteenth Century, by Iris Brooke (this one ties as a favorite with…)
900 Years of English Costume, by Nancy Bradfield

I also maintain a Medieval research blog with a list of other resources I use, called Medieval Research with Joyce (

7. Are there any historical figures from the Medieval Era who particularly intrigue you?
I am completely in love with King Henry II of England. Not “romantic” love. There is just something about the way his contemporaries describe him that stirs a great affection in me for him. He seemed to be one of those rare kings who was actually more interested in trying to improve his country than in simply enjoying the “glory” or “privileges” of his rank. He is described as a man who hated war, even though circumstances forced him to spend most of his adult life at war. He was a man of tremendous energy and intellect. And he laid important foundations to the legal system that we have inherited from England and enjoy ourselves today.  Plus, he seemed to keep everyone around him a bit topsy-turvy, so that I often find myself grinning when I read about him. J

His legacy was marred by his quarrel with Archbishop Thomas à Becket, and the son who succeeded him, Richard the Lionheart, is a more flashy character of legend. But everything I’ve read about Henry II since those high school days has only increased my love and admiration for this man.

8. I love studying history and often think how much I would like to go back and walk for a little bit in the past.  If you could go back in time and visit a particular place or event during the Middle Ages, where and when would that be?

Not a single event, but if there were a way to observe the past in “real time”, I would love to be able to observe the life of Henry II and see what he was really like.

9. What inspired you to write Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart?

In that first romance I wrote back in college, I had an older couple who helped my younger hero and heroine reach their “happily ever after”. This older couple had married for love in a time when love-marriages among the aristocracy were extremely rare. This couple was Hugh de Bury, the Earl of Gunthar, and his wife, Helen. After I finished that first unpublished novel (and its unpublished sequel), I found myself curious about how Gunthar and Helen (Heléne) had met and fallen in love. I had created a few clues to their past in those first two books: I knew that Gunthar had been a powerful counselor to King Henry II of England, that Helen originally came from Poitou (an area of France) and that her parents had wanted her to marry my younger heroine’s grandfather before she fell in love with Gunthar. Just for fun, I decided to see if I could take those clues and “discover” their love story. That attempt turned into Loyalty’s Web, my first published novel. I view Illuminations of the Heart as a sort of spin-off of Loyalty’s Web. I fell in love with the character of Triston but left him with such a sad ending, that I decided to write Illuminations of the Heart to give him his own happily ever after.
 10. I was very sad for Triston as well, but you do him wonderful justice in Illuminations of the Heart.  Watch out ladies, you'll fall in love with Triston.  Tell us a little bit about your most recent novel, Illuminations of the Heart?

Here’s the back cover blurb to Illuminations of the Heart:

“Clothilde." He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world is shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem; her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol de Calendri. Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother's will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother's friend Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator's shop - until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guild he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife's shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri's face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston's past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king's sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman's shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston's soul and make his heart beat for her alone?

11. Can you tell us a little about your next Medieval romance?

Dangerous Favor is currently in circulation, looking for a publisher. Once again, the heroes first appeared in Loyalty’s Web. It’s a kind of dual romance for Etienne de Brielle (Triston’s brother) and Therri de Laurant (Heléne’s brother). My heroine, Mathilde de Riavelle, is in dire need of a champion. Her father has been falsely accused of theft from the king and his family has since been reduced to poverty. Mathilde has one chance to find and marry a man with the wealth and connections to help her prove her father’s innocence. At first, she believes that man is Therri, who appears to embody all of her romantic dreams. But Therri is in love with a proud, beautiful widow named Violette. Etienne is smitten with Mathilde at a glance, but when he tricks her into granting him her favor, a sleek white ribbon, for a tournament, she becomes convinced that he is only out to seduce her. Can Therri thaw the beautiful Violette’s heart, and can Etienne convince Mathilde that he is the true hero of her dreams in time to save her from a nightmare from her past?

12. O.K., now I am totally impatient for Dangerous Favor to hit the shelves.  Where can readers obtain a copy of Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart?

Both books are available on Amazon or can be ordered from your local bookstores. You can read more about Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart, including excerpts, on my website at, and keep up with my current writing projects on my author blog, JDP NEWS at


Marie Higgins said...

Great interview, Wanda. I have read Illuminations of the Heart, too. Wonderful story! And her hero... ahhhh... Yes, I fell in love. lol


Jeannette said...

Wonderful interview. I am really looking forward to Dangerous Favor.

Joyce DiPastena said...

Thank you for interviewing me, Wanda. And thank you, Marie and Jeannette, for stopping by to read my interview.

Writers said...

I've read and reviewed both of Joyce's published books. With this sneek preview for Dangerous Favor I'm chomping at the bit.
Thanks for sharing,
Margaret Turley

Post a Comment