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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Guest Author: Joyce DiPastena

Alexis: Hi Joyce. Welcome to Happily Ever After Thoughts. Thank you so much for coming. Can you begin by telling us when you started to write and why?
Joyce: Thank you for inviting me, Alexis. Your readers probably don’t know that you and I used to be critique partners way back when. I am very excited for this opportunity to reconnect with you!

I started writing in short little fits and starts when I was in junior high school, always starting but never finishing anything. Really couldn’t tell you why I began writing in the first place. I’d never pictured myself as a writer, but I did make up stories in my head for as long as I can remember, so I guess they finally just began spilling out on paper. My first year in college, I began what I assumed would be another dead-end fit-and-start, but to my surprise, this one eventually turned into a full length medieval romance novel. That novel was never published, but it solidified my love for both writing and the Middle Ages and proved to me that I could finish something after all. I just needed the right characters to carry me all the way to “the end”.

Alexis: I was always impressed with your knowledge of the era. What are your joys and challenges in writing Medieval romances?

Joyce: The joy is making up stories in a time period that I love. Why I love the Middle Ages, I really couldn’t tell you. I just remember that even as a young child, I liked to pull out the “M” volume of our World Book encyclopedia and turn to the “medieval” section and look at the pictures. I can still see many of them in my mind all these years later. Most of them were in black and white. One was of a knight wearing chain mail. I think that’s when I fell in love with knights in chain mail. I’ve turned up my nose at knights in plate mail ever since. LOL! The challenges? I suppose finding just the right research book with just the right little tidbit of medieval knowledge that I’m looking for. Even using the internet, those tidbits can be almost impossible to find sometimes, unless you’re simply lucky enough to stumble across them.

Alexis: I can understand that. It’s easy to discover what a King decided, but trying to find out what a peasant ate can be difficult. So what is Loyalty’s Web about?

Joyce: Here’s the book summary for Loyalty’s Web:

In twelfth-century France, King Henry II of England has just finished crushing a rebellion by his power-hungry sons and now seeks to tame the lawless barons who supported them in this corner of his “Angevin empire.” To this end, the king has sent the Earl of Gunthar as his royal representative to ensure that Prince Richard and his former cohorts faithfully adhere to the terms of the peace treaty.

Far from being welcomed with open arms, Gunthar no sooner steps foot in the county of Poitou than he is greeted by a series of assassination attempts. All appear to be linked to the former rebellious prince through the agents of the family and friends of young Heléne de Laurant. A clever, intrepid young woman, she realizes that the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin. Heléne races against time—and dark secrets of the past—to unmask the killer before the kingdom plunges back into war.

Fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction as Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor. But their blinding magnetism almost causes them to overlook an even deadlier threat from an entirely unexpected direction.

Alexis: Ah, it sounds like a true romance :-) What prompted that first germ of an idea for you to write Loyalty’s Web?

Joyce: Loyalty’s Web had an interesting evolution. Remember that first unpublished medieval I mentioned from my college years? I wrote an unpublished sequel to that book after I graduated from college. In both of those novels, there was an elderly couple who assisted my much younger hero and heroine to reach their happily ever after ending. That elderly couple (Gunthar and Heléne) had married for love in an age when love matches were nearly unheard of. Although I had dropped hints of their love story in those two unpublished novels, even I wasn’t sure exactly how they had gotten together. So I thought it might be fun to try writing their love story to find out. The result became Loyalty’s Web.

Alexis: So it is actually a prequel of sorts to your unpublished works. What kind of research did you do for this book?

Joyce: I have collected a fairly good sized personal library of medieval history books over the years. Pretty much all of my research has come from these books and from classes I took in college. (I was a history major.) If your readers would like to learn about some of my research books and how I use them in my writing, they can check out my medieval research blog, Medieval Research with Joyce at

Alexis: That is a great resource. Thanks. What are your favorite character traits of Heléne and Gunthar?

Joyce: I love Heléne’s willingness to risk herself for others, her selfless nature. I also love her spirit and unwillingness to meekly bow to the expectations of the age she lives in. I love Gunthar’s integrity, his strength of character. He, too, is one who puts others interests before his own. On that level, he and Heléne are very much alike. Gunthar is also a man who loves learning, a highly educated man for a warrior knight in the Middle Ages. He has a curious bent of mind, which has led to a certain boredom with medieval conventions and widened his view to appreciate Heléne’s unconventional nature.

What I love best about Heléne and Gunthar together is that they become friends, as well as lovers. They have many storms ahead of them in the very long lives they live together in my imagination, but they will overcome all and they’ll do it together because they grow to become truly “one”.

Alexis: What can we expect next from you? Do you have any new releases coming or a work in progress?

Joyce: I have a second medieval romance called Illuminations of the Heart, which is sort of a spin-off on one of the characters from Loyalty’s Web. Illuminations of the Heart is available on pretty much all the online booksellers. Next up I’m working on a medieval novel with a troubadour hero.

Alexis: You also have a number of blogs. Can you tell us a little about them in case visitors want to continue their conversation with you?

Joyce: My main author blog is called JDP NEWS ( Here I make announcements about my books, interview other historical authors, participate in author blog tours, hold various giveaways (there’s one coming up on December 21-22), and share random thoughts that wend their way through my head.

Medieval Research with Joyce (, as I mentioned above, is a blog where I share some of my research experiences and favorite research sources. I have a current giveaway in progress on this blog for a copy of Who’s Who in the Middle Ages if any of your readers are interested. (This giveaway runs through December 24.)

On Quill to Quill ( my heroines exchange letters with each other in between books.

Quill to Quill and Heart to Heart ( continues Heléne’s story through a series of letters after the events of Loyalty’s Web but before the events of Illuminations of the Heart.

Medieval Vignettes ( is where I put little snippets of scenes that were referenced but not included in my books, or where I might post an occasional random short story.

My LDS Corner ( is where I blog about my faith as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Alexis: Wow, you are one busy blogger! I really appreciate you taking the time today to visit us at Happily Ever After Thoughts. I hope you have a great Holiday Season.

Joyce: I wish the same to you and all your readers, Alexis! And to help celebrate the season, I’d like to offer an autographed copy of Loyalty’s Web as a pre-holiday giveaway here at Happily Ever After Thoughts.

Alexis: That’s great, Joyce. To get a feel for Loyalty’s Web, check out this excerpt.


It was not a request, and he caught her hand as she tried to snatch the bit from his fingers. An angry blush stole up into her cheeks.

“I don’t want--”

“I did not ask you if you wanted it. I told you to eat it.”

She closed her lips and glared at him.

“There has been enough of this nonsense, my lady. Everyone is staring, and above all things I abominate a scene. The meat is your own selection. Now open your mouth and eat.”

Perhaps it was his commanding stare. Perhaps it was her mother’s warning gaze, brimming with a promise of punishment for her daughter’s intractable attitude all evening. Or perhaps it was merely embarrassment at all the shocked eyes viewing her defiance of Gunthar. In any event, she opened her mouth and he popped the morsel inside. Glorying in his first victory of the night, he followed it with another and another, until the slice of venison was gone, and so was his currant tart. Her silvery eyes glared daggers at him, but she obediently swallowed each mouthful and he finally judged her ready for some wine to wash it down.

The cup was almost empty. He signaled Julian to refill it. This time he succeeded in doing no more than pressing it under her nose, for she refused to obey him further and obstinately kept her mouth shut.

Gunthar let her go and sat back in his chair, satisfied just the same. She would not dare to ignore him again. He would allow her to sulk a little, and when the meal was ended he would have the tables cleared away for dancing. She would be required to accept his hand. He would request something quick and complicated, involving lifts, that he might have license to span her waist with his hands. And perhaps while he held her in the air, he would grow clumsy and allow his grasp on her to slip. She would then slide down into his arms, and he would feel her slender body close to his...

His blood coursed at the thought and he reached again for the cup, this time to slake his own thirst.

A sharp slap dashed it out of his hand. The wine splashed across the table, staining the tablecloth and drenching a platter of food. Gunthar turned his startled gaze in the direction of the blow and saw Heléne on her feet, staring after the tumbled cup with wide, frightened eyes. Her hand still hovered in the air and she was shaking like a leaf.
“My lady--?”
“Cowbane,” she whispered. “Poison."

Don’t forget, for a chance to win an autographed copy of Joyce’s Loyalty’s Web be sure to leave a comment for her. The winner will be announced on Wednesday. Check the side column for your name and email me.



  1. Hi Joyce,
    I loved reading your excerpt. I already get a feel for the strength of Helene's personality.

    Do you plan on resurrecting the college era books that you started?

    I realize that you are working from years of research, but in your opinion, what one Middle Ages book would you recommend as a reference for someone starting research from scratch?

    I will ck out your blogs. You're a busy woman. :)

    Thanks so much for your time.

    Lyndee Henderson

  2. Hi Lyndee!

    It's so interesting that you asked me about my college era books. I just pulled out the first one earlier this week (after I did this interview) and actually rewrote the beginning scene. I might put my troubadour project on hold for a bit and try reworking this first book in 2011.

    One of my very first research books was "Life in a Medieval Castle", by Joseph & Frances Gies. This is a great starting point for research, lots of good, basic information in a very readable format. The Gies have written a number of other books about the Middle Ages that you might like to check out as well.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. I love to read medieval romances- great excerpt Have a Great holiday season

    audra holtwick

  4. Thank you for stopping by, Audra! Happy holiday wishes to you, too! :-)

  5. Hi Joyce,

    I would love a chance to win one of your books. The excerpt has me wanting to read more. Cynthia Peck

  6. Hi Joyce,

    I love the fact that your historicals are further back in time than the typical Tudor- age. Granted, I love the Tudor age, but yours sound refreshing and at an age that a man can really be a man!
    Your intensity on the research gives your books a real feel of danger and romance, so I'm looking forward to reading one!

  7. Thank you so much, Dawn! I've always enjoyed the Tudors, too, (and the Stuarts, for that matter), but my heart belongs to the Middle Ages. :-)

  8. Besides your deep understanding/research of the time period, how do you transition your thoughts from 2010 to medieval France when you sit down to write?
    Ellyn Edmonds

  9. Hi Ellyn,

    I look at my writing time as a time to "escape" my worries about the 21st century. Drawing on the research I've gathered about the 12th century, I try to continually ask myself questions like, "If I were a 12th century man or woman, what might I be doing/wearing/eating/etc at this time of the day", and "How would I feel about this situation if I were actually this character, viewing it through the eyes of a 12th century woman or man." I try very hard not to impose 21st century viewpoints on the characters, but at the same time, I try to recognize certain universal, loyalty, fear, doubt, hate, selfishness, unselfishness....the things about human nature that never really change.

  10. Thank you Joyce. I am so excited that I won a copy of your book "Loyalty's Web."