Author Guest Post: Joy Preble

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Joy Preble

  • Dreaming Anastasia

What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college—until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…

Today, I have a guest post with author Joy Preble. I asked her to tell us a little more about the witch Baba Yaga.

So here’s what happened while I was looking for a way to entwine the fantasy of Dreaming Anastasia in the world of Russian folklore. I found a deliciously and impossible to defeat witch named Baba Yaga.

Yaga is her name. The Baba is a pejorative term for grandmother or granny – it has implications of “loose” women or girls who’ve lost their virginity. Kind of shows you how the patriarchy viewed things – and females. It’s from the same root we get the Russian word, “babushka” which refers to the head scarf worn by old women.

I love so much about Baba Yaga. She’s unpredictable. Maybe she’ll eat you for her supper. Maybe she won’t. It’s really hard to predict. And not necessarily dependent upon your behavior. Physically, she’s quite imposing. Huge iron teeth, hands that can detach from her body to do her bidding, enormous stature. She lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs so that she can always evade those who would go after her. (If you’ve ever seen the amazing anime movie, “Howl’s Moving Castle,” the eponymous castle is modeled after Baba Yaga’s forest home) When she rides through the air, she does so in a giant mortar, stirred with an equally giant pestle. No broomstick for this Russian witch!

In Dreaming Anastasia, Baba Yaga is many things. She is Anastasia’s captor as well as her protector. She is the old woman who is underestimated by those who would attempt to use her and control her. She is frighteningly ugly and fearsome, but she is still a woman and one who has motherly instincts. She is who Anne believes she must defeat in order to save Anastasia. But as she tells Anastasia in the opening pages of the novel, “They don’t really know me… They think they know what evil is… But they do not. They think it is all so very simple. That I am a witch and that is that. But it is not as they tell it. I am not what the think I am.”

Dreaming Anastasia plays with that luscious duality. Who is good? Who is evil? Nothing is as cut and dried as the characters think. I loved working with that idea. Each character – not to give too much away until everyone’s read – has a piece of that duality. Anne is just a high school junior. But she’s much more than that. Ethan looks like an ordinary eighteen year old guy. But is he? Anne’s family seems whole and functioning. But is it? And Baba Yaga, well, she’s just a witch. Or is she?

Interestingly, Baba Yaga did not exist in my first draft of Dreaming Anastasia. But when I knew I wanted to add the layer of Russian folklore, she was the first character who came to mind. What better than an unconquerable witch who brings change to the characters who confront her? Like in the well known fairy tale, Vasilisa the Brave, in which Vasilisa’s stepmother sends her to Baba Yaga’s hut to fetch light. Unlike the counterpart Hansel and Gretel, Vasilisa goes into the forest alone, with only her doll to protect her. And with the doll’s help she outwits the witch and gets her happily ever after. Or maybe the witch just lets her think so.

I hope that readers will enjoy my depiction of Baba Yaga. That they will see her as she sees herself – part witch, part woman, part mother and under the ugly exterior, one old but still kick ass female!


Thanks so much Joy for that great guest post!



Tales of Whimsy said...

I can't wait to read this.

Wendy said...

Hi, Joy! Great post and I'm so looking forward to read DA. :)

Anonymous said...

I love how you've used Russian folklore in your novel.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

great post.I look forward to reading this book.

Unknown said...

Love the Russian folklore... I taught a boy 3 years ago who is from Russia so I hounded him with info on it! Bogdan... that was his name. I think that Anastasia (the cartoon movie) had me hooked at a young age into this folklore!

I love the question of "Who is good? Who is evil?" and how it is worked into this novel. I think that is something we all deal with fairly consistently and I can't wait to see how it is portrayed in this book!!

Jennifer said...

Fantastic interview and I like the intriguing mix of Russian Folklore adding Baba Yaga.

Briana said...

Nice interview. Can't wait for the book!


Ellie said...

Fabulous guest post. Can't wait to read!

Jordan Perryman said...

That was a great guest post!!! I can't wait to read the book!!


donnas said...

Great guest post, very interesting.

Jenny N. said...

Its nice how you incorporated Russian folklore into your book and I can't wait to read it.

Dani. said...

The complexity of Baba Yaga is really cool.
Shes herself but she has layers.
I havent read the book (yet!) but I like how the author gave a pretty cool description of this character! And i enjoy the fact that Russian folklore is incorporated into her book. :)

Tynga said...

good post! I am really temped to read that book!

Leslie said...

really fantastic post! i love it! i've actually never read any russian folklore so this book shall be quite intersting :D

ReggieWrites said...

Niice!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love Russian folklore! Anastasia is actually one of my favorite Disney movies! LOL! Seriously, check my profile! Hercules is another one! I have a weakness for Disney movies! LOL! :-)

KiraR said...

I haven't read any books with Russian folklore but this seems like a good place to start! Baba Yaga sounds like an interesting character.

Sarah said...

Baba Yaga is such a cool name. She has an awesome description that makes me excited to read this book. Thanks for the interview!

Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews said...

Great guest post!

Glad to see a book that incorporates Russian folklore and Baba Yaga as the villian.

Dahlia (TheBookShopaholic) said...

Sounds interesting!

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I love when folklore in included in a novel. Great idea and great guest post!

Paradox said...

I remember loving picture books about Baba Yaga and other Russian folklore when I was little, so it's interesting to see it in a YA novel!

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