Last Tuesday, I spotlighted Dreaming Anastasia, a novel that incorporates Russian history and folklore. I've long been fascinated with both because my grandfather was born in tsarist Russia. I'll post my review tomorrow, but today I have the great pleasure to welcome Joy Preble, author of Dreaming Anastasia, which is a YA fantasy, historical fiction, love story. Heck, don't listen to me--let's see what Joy has to say about genres and being just a bit different.
More and more people continue to comment on how I’ve blended genres in Dreaming Anastasia. I like to tell them that had I known I was doing it when I began, I might have stopped myself, but that’s one of the problems about being a debut author. Sometimes you’re not the sharpest little tool in the authorial shed. You’re just writing the story that’s in your head and letting the pieces fall where they may and only afterward are you saying “Holy crap, what have I done and what are reviewers going to do when they want to place a neat little label on this book?” (Full disclosure, you’re probably not even thinking about that. You probably don’t even know that reviewers like to label stuff. You’re just typing away and thinking you’re ever so brilliant or ever so lame, depending on your mood, caffeine level, and how many people are tugging at your sleeve and interrupting you during the process)
Let us just say that eventually, I began to realize why Fox dumped the brilliant space western known as Joss Whedon’s Firefly into the abyss of Friday night programming where it died a sad little death after just a handful of episodes and I had to buy the DVDs to see everything. Now let me interject here that I am in no way comparing myself to the god that is Joss. Just that when I realized that I had written a novel that was part contemporary fantasy, part fairy tale, part historical fiction, and part romance, I knew that I had probably broken a lot of rules and that either people would really, really like that and hail me as a literary genius (I’d love to say literary prodigy but we all know that I missed that boat by a few years, having quite enjoyed my misspent youth in ways that I can now cleverly use and possibly even make money from which let me say is quite a pleasant surprise given how stupid I was once upon a time) or laugh me off the literary reservation.
In a related anecdote, a couple of years ago, my husband and I were invited to a Bar Mitzvah costume party. Yes, that is as odd as it sounds, but the Bar Mitzvah had been on Halloween. (Not that Halloween is a Jewish holiday, just that the two events had occurred on the same day and I guess the family decided to capitalize on this for whatever reason. I am not judging this choice. Just attempting to tell a related story.) Anyway, we decided to go as Wash and Calie--two of our favorite characters from Firefly. (Actually my favorite is Mal, and husband’s favorite is Zoe. But as neither of us look anything like those two and much more like Calie and Wash, this is what we did. Okay, we don’t look like Calie and Wash either. But whatever.) And here’s the thing. Except for our friend Andrew who is an unabashed geek like us and came in his Star Trek uniform that he wears--lord love him--to Trekkie conventions and the like, no one knew who we were. No. One. We wore name tags to help them. And still no one. Not that we minded. In fact, it made the whole event more amusing. The Bar Mitzvah boy’s sister came as the Corpse Bride. Even she didn’t recognize who we were.
And that’s the thing about trying something different. You really run this risk, but if that’s how the story is coming out of your head, then sometimes you just don’t have a choice. Or like I say, you’re too darn dumb to realize the risk.
Dreaming Anastasia asks the question, “What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?” And obviously the answer is that she really didn’t die with her family on that horrible day in 1918. It adds in a juicy family secret--there’s the alternate history--a Russian folklore witch and a magic doll and a really funky Russian folk art lacquer box--there’s the fairy tale part. It gives you two heroes--sixteen-year-old normal high school girl Anne and mysterious handsome hottie Ethan who keep edging toward romance in ways that I could tell you but won’t since I’d like you to read the book. It’s got magic and adventure and blood and a house that moves on chicken legs. It’s about the choices we make and those we regret and the wacky things we do for the people we love. It breaks every rule in the genre book except, I think, the most important one. That’s the one where the author gives you characters she cares about, treats them with love and sends them out into the world hoping someone else will love them back.
And if some day someone dresses up as Anne and Ethan for a Bar Mitzvah costume party, just send me a picture.
Joy Preble has a website where you can learn more about her and the book, see photos, and read her blog.
I'm curious: what's the oddest costume party you've ever been to?