Friday, March 26, 2010

Interview with author Joyce DiPastena

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing silly little stories I never finished since junior high school. When I started a new story my freshman year in college I thought it’d end up the same as all the others…begun but never finished. But this one, my first attempt at a medieval romance, somehow captivated my attention and carried me through all the way to the words “the end”. It took me six years to get there, four years undergraduate and two years of graduate school. Although that book was never published, I’m still in love with its hero to this day!

What genre do you write and why?

I write medieval romances, although I tend to include so much additional plot alongside the romance that I had an agent tell me I don’t really write romances at all. But they’re all romances to me. There may be a lot of other stuff going on…mysteries, assassination attempts, medieval politics…but at the heart of each story is a man and a woman falling in love against all the odds around them.

Where do you get your inspiration to write?

My inspiration comes from many different sources. Sometimes it comes from a book I’ve written before. For example, my first published book, Loyalty’s Web, was based on characters from that first unpublished novel I wrote in college. The hero and heroine of Loyalty’s Web were an elderly married couple in that early romance, and I became curious to find out how they had met and fallen in love, so I wrote Loyalty’s Web to find out the answer.

Sometimes bits and pieces of research will fascinate me and influence how I draw a character’s background. For my second published romance, Illuminations of the Heart, I became interested in the subject of medieval illumination and decided to combine that interest with my new heroine, the daughter of a medieval illuminator from Italy. (Although the novel itself is set in France, like Loyalty’s Web.) During the writing of Illuminations of the Heart, I became interested in the subject of medieval troubadours. So that’s a subject I’m incorporating into the novel I’m writing right now.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you to overcome it?

Writer’s block is a toughie. There was a time I thought I had so many ideas that I’d never get writer’s block. Now I find myself struggling with it quite frequently. I’ve discovered it’s not a lack of ideas that I have. It’s a byproduct of stress. When my stress levels go up, I find it very difficult to “turn off” my worries and focus enough to work on my novels.

The thing that has worked best for me through the years is to set a timer for a specific length of time (an hour, two hours, whatever you can set it for) and tell myself that I don’t have to write anything, but I do have to sit at the computer until the timer goes off. I can’t go get a snack, I can’t play any games, I can’t turn on the TV, I can’t do anything except either stare at my blank computer screen or type something. And that “something” has to have something to do with my new story! Sometimes I only type a handful of words, sometimes I’ll end up typing a stream, but whether out of boredom or inspiration, I don’t think I’ve ever not written something before the timer goes off. And no matter how terrible what I wrote might seem at the time, it almost always ends up moving my story along no matter how microscopically. And I always feel better about myself just for trying.

If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who 
would it be? And Why?

King Henry II of England! I fell in love with Henry II back in high school when I first read The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain. Not “romantic” love. There was just something about the way his contemporaries described him that stirred 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.

His legacy was marred by his quarrel with Archbishop Thomas รก 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. Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart are both set during his lifetime, and although he has not yet actually appeared on the scene in any of my books, the references I make to him, small though they might be, are my own way of paying tribute to this great, underappreciated king.

What is your next project?

Right now, I’m just calling it “my troubadour book”. It’s based on a character from my second book, Illuminations of the Heart, and once again is set in medieval France.

Power round questions:


Favorite food? Chocolate chip cookies

Favorite dessert? Umm…chocolate chip cookies

Jeans and T-shirt, or designer clothes? Both! (Well, not really “designer”, but I also like fun, “nice” clothes.)

Guilty pleasure? Chocolate. (If only I felt more guilt than pleasure from it!)

One word that describes you? Shy. Why do you think this interview is taking place on a blog?

Favorite flower? Snapdragons

Favorite sport? If I absolutely, positively MUST be forced to watch a sport, then I’ll choose figure skating.

Where can readers find a copy of Illuminations of the Heart?

Illuminations of the Heart is available in Deseret Bookstores and some Arizona Barnes & Nobles. It can be ordered directly through Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores, or ordered online at ( (, (, and (

Monday, March 22, 2010

Magical Thinking

Dr. Dido Green at Tel Aviv University has developed an innovative therapy for children with locomotor problems. She teaches them simple magic tricks. They are motivated because the exercises are fun, and they can impress their friends. This leads to more practice, and a marked improvement in skills.

What's next? She plans to study a group of children to see if magic has an impact on their neurological skills. All with a little instruction, rubber bands, and sponge balls. Impressive.

This is an example of how out-of-the-box thinking can lead to significant breakthroughs. Other recent discoveries have challenged traditional thinking about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and bullying.

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a "life shirt" that interprets the wearer's movements. This device can determine whether the subject has bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Information from this study will also be used to develop new treatments.

Psychologists at George Mason University have discovered that many adults who were bullies in childhood actually have a form of social anxiety disorder. They suggest working with bullies to increase self control and reduce impulsive behaviors rather than focusing on aggression alone.

The takeaway from all this? When looking at a problem, take a break and try to see the situation through fresh eyes. Look from a new angle and a unique solution may present itself.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Turn off the TV & TALK to your Child!

Makers of educational videos were stunned when a study from the University of California at Irvine revealed that children aged 12 to 24 months did not improve their vocabularies by watching dvds. After six weeks of tube time, the studied toddlers did not demonstrate they had learned the target words.

After years spent in special education, I believe that expecting children to learn from video content presented in isolation is unrealistic. Children need the following:

  • Human interaction--talk, sing, read, and encourage infant vocalization
  • Exposure to symbols of all kinds, including pictures and the written word
  • Less time in front of video-type entertainment (this actually makes some disabilities, including Autism and ADHD worse)
I still remember waiting for over an hour in a telephone store with my six-month-old son. I spent the time walking down the row of phones telling him the colors. This entertained both of us. A crabby old man approached to inform me that, in his opinion, my baby didn't understand a word. I informed him that I was teaching my child to talk in the same way he had learned--frequent repetition.

Sometimes old-fashioned ways work best.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Contest Winner!

Congratulations to  . . . . . . .

Stephanie, winner of the Pre-Easter Basket of goodies!

Send me your snail mail address (to, and I'll get it on its way!