Monday, March 29, 2010

Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce Dipastena

WARNING: THIS BLOG IS A BLATANT RERUN! This week a group of bloggers are all buzzing about Joyce's book, so easy enough for me to run my review and interview from last fall. Read it again for the very first time!

Okay, so it's the exact same blog post title as the last one, but since today is the day I am presenting my review and author interview of Illuminations, I feel the title fits. (Now I don't know if author Joyce calls her book by its nickname, but after reading 145,000+ words of it, I feel the book and I have become fairly comfortable with each other.)

First, can I say, Joyce DiPastena knows her medieval stuff. She majored in it in college no less, receiving a degree from the University of Arizona. She is true to the time frame throughout her story, introducing the reader to terms like "crenellated," "portcullis," and "primogeniture." You may have thought "mail" was something that showed up in a box outside your home or on your computer, as in You've got it but no, it's "a flexible armor made of small, overlapping metal rings." (I got that from a glossary in the back of the book.)

Illuminations of the Heart, a historical romance set in the late 12th century, tells the story of Siriol de Calendri who is directed by her deceased brother's will to travel to France where a friend will oversee her marriage to a proper suitor. The friend is Triston de Brielle. "Ah, Triston," you say, because you have read Joyce's first book, Loyalty's Web. Yes, it's that Triston. His story continues, but with major emotional conflict on his part because Siri looks just like his former wife Clothilde. Remember how beautiful she was? Well, Siri has the same "curse" and it forces the castle and French countryside into a frenzy as only beauty can. If you haven't read Loyalty's Web, then why?

I highly recommend it...I would loan you my copy, but my daughter in Utah has it. The two books have much in common, but you do not have to read the first before the second. Illuminations is more of a spin-off than a sequel. It takes the character Triston and brings him a new story. In fact, I asked the author about this.

Lowly blog poster, Me: Which came first, Siri and the idea for her story or Triston and the need to create something new for him?

Amazing author, Joyce: Triston came first. I knew and had grown to love him from Loyalty's Web, and wanted to find a way to give him a happier ending than I had at the end of that book. And I knew that to do that, he needed a woman who would be the very opposite of his first wife. Thus Siri was born. Why I chose to make his first wife's "total opposite" look exactly like his first wife is one of those little quirks of being a writer that I really can't explain. I don't know what made me do it. Maybe I thought poor Triston hadn't been tortured enough in Loyalty's Web and wanted to torture him a little more? The bitterer the beginning, the sweeter the ending? Something like that? [Sounds good to me, Joyce.]

I personally have not read a lot of medieval romances, I'm busy trying to keep up with my own real-life, modern-day romance (with my husband, not my novel), but the writing in the book is so well-done and there's a lot of twisty-turny events that kept me turning the pages. There are questions to be answered...why would Siri agree to marry that one guy (I won't reveal...) and why is Triston's son so afraid of him? How will the politics discussed in the story be resolved? Why can't these medieval characters be more careful around stairs? And above all, why are the moat waters "roiling?" (Page 17 of the book.) Just kidding about that. All the moat waters I've seen have been roiling, it's just what they do.

Here's more of my Q & A with Joyce...

>What’s the best part of being a published author?

The most current "best thing" was being re-discovered by an old college roommate after 30 years of silence between us. She just wandered into a Deseret Book last week and discovered my books on the shelf, found my email address in my bio, and shot me an email. Now mind you, this wasn't just any roommate. This was the all time BEST roommate I ever had in college! So that was definitely a treat, and we might never have re-found each other if I hadn't written and published a book. But ask me again in a week or so, and I might have a brand new answer for you.

>What did you do to celebrate the new book being published?

It all seemed to happen in a bit of a rush. My book got pushed two months UP in the schedule, so we were really scrambling all of a sudden to get it to press. Then it took nearly another month to actually start appearing in the bookstores, and quite frankly, since my family and close friends all live pretty far away, my celebration was pretty low key. I did hold a "book release party" on my blog earlier this month, where I gave away a prize an hour, 8 prizes in all, all tied somehow to the theme of "Illuminations." [Oh, so she does call it by its nickname] So I guess you could say I celebrated with some online friends, and I don't know about them, but I, personally, had a really great time! *See note below for info on how you can still get in on some prize action.

>How can such great, well-written stories come out of Kearny, AZ? (Joyce is from Kearny, the story is not set there) Okay, that one’s rhetorical. Does anyone really know where Kearny is when you tell them where you are from? You don’t have to answer that either.

I don't mind answering. LOL! Yes, actually, there are people who know where Kearny is when I tell them where I'm from. Not a lot, but more than I expect. I don't know how great my stories are, but this is a good, loving little town. I was richly blessed by growing up here, and am still blessed by the wonderful, hardworking, compassionate people I still associate with here every day. And if I can give something back to this town that has given me so much by having "Kearny" attached to my name as an author, then I feel humbled and honored to do so. [Good I'm wondering if I can say that about Amarillo, Texas when my book is published.]

>What’s your secret to being a finisher…writing a novel through to the end?

What's the answer to finishing anything? Just keep plugging away. Even on those days when you don't feel like plugging. ESPECIALLY on those days when you don't feel like plugging. I'm a very slow writer, but it eventually adds up. My favorite "writing scripture" is, "Out of small things proceeds that which is great." (D&C 64:33) It's another version of "bird by bird" (see my--as in me, the blogger--post here for an explanation of this reference) or "word by word." That's how stories are constructed, one little word at a time. I know if I just keep typing those little words long enough, eventually I'll wind up with another novel-length book.

>Give me one random sentence from your book, no context.

"You'll wear yourself out first, dancing away as you are doing." [Note from me, blog poster: Funny, my husband says that to me all the time!]

Well, I'm priviliged to know Joyce personally, but still it has been fun to interview her. THANKS, Joyce! Since this is my first review I haven't established any sort of star rating system, but you are a star in my book!

Here are all the links you need to read more about the book or the author and to purchase a copy of Illuminations:
The publisher:
Joyce's blog or

And with that my first review is done. I had fun. Hope you did too!


Joyce DiPastena said...

Thanks for the double-buzz, Valerie! :-)

Joan Sowards said...

Joyce is an awesome writer!

Tina Scott, author, artist said...

Loved this re-post Valerie. I'm also a big fan of Joyce's books. Chewing my nails and waiting for #3

prashant said...

I have a favorite little saying in my quote file, I can't think of the source at the moment, its short:
before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
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