Interview with The Wicked…. errr… Sorely Misunderstood Witch of Snow White

Readers, today I am excited and maybe a little nervous to be interviewing the witch from Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.   I am extremely thankful that she was able to take time to meet with me here today at Book Journey as I know that this is normally a very busy time of year for witches, however she was able to fit us in.  Please give a warm welcome to uhhhh…….  errrrrrrr….. Snow White’s evil Stepmother…. The Witch.

♦     ♦     ♦


Welcome!  I usually open up my interviews by asking my guests how they take their coffee.


Thank you for asking, but I am really more fond of apple cider.  This time of year I prefer it hot.


Ummmm….. ok.  I think I can handle that.  I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I do not know your first name.


Well that is kind of you to ask.  Most people just refer to me as Wicked Witch or Evil Step Mother and that is a bit degrading.  However, my name was never mentioned in the original story of Snow White or during the film.  In both cases this is really a sore spot with me.  My name is in the script though and it is Grimhilda.


Grimhilda!  Why it is lovely!  Thank you for sharing that.


No.  It’s not lovely, it was handed down to me from my great great great great great great great grandmother, Grimhilda the first, and believe me, she wasn’t any peach. You think I was hard on Snow White?  HA!  That woman would have made up look like sorority sisters.


Oh.  Ok.  Well, since you mentioned that some referred to you as the Wicked Witch, I am curious about how you feel about all the attention now given to Elphaba, the true wicked witch from The Wizard Of Oz.  I mean, ever since Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked in 1995, she has received a lot of attention.


Oh barf on a cracker!  That really gets my green up!  Everywhere I look it is Elphaba this, Elphaba that!   Yeah poor Elphaba, you would think she was the only one ever born green.  She is like a Lifetime story in the making.   As if the book wasn’t bad enough, then she became the star of a Broadway play.   I seen the play.  What a bunch of fly stew hookey.  I just rolled my eyes.  You know I was there while she was growing up…. there is another side to that witch that you do not even know.  I keep waiting for her and her sob story to appear on Oprah.  Or maybe she will be sipping tea with the ladies of  The View.


I am sorry, I didn’t realize I was bringing up such a sensitive topic. Were you not featured in the book, The Fairest Of  Them All?  It just came out the fall of last year.


That book?  Oh please!  I was so misquoted I don’t even want to talk about it.


Lets move on.  Uhhh….. I must say your hair looks quite lovely and not at all the way I remember it from the book or the movie.  What is your secret?


I just had these highlights put in yesterday for this interview.  I mean breaks like this don’t come around often for me.  No one really talks about me anymore, so I need to take full advantage when I can.    I do use a little apple sauce when I wash it.


What would you like to say to everyone Grimhilda?


I just want people to know that I am still around.  Sure I don’t star on Broadway, but I do exist.  I have a little cottage that I live in year around just off Nantucket.  The sea air really does wonders for my skin.


Well I do not want to keep you, this is Halloween after all and I am sure you probably have a lot going on.


NO, not really.  I just don’t get into it like I did when I was younger and able to mess with Snow White’s head.  Actually tonight I am making a huge bowl of popcorn and am watching the first season of LOST.  Sawyer really gets the heart pumping.


Well, that’s just awkward.  Ok, I think I should reel this interview in, but it is tradition that I ask each person…. errr….. witch, I interview to share with me a little known fact about themselves.


Well – that’s just easy as pretty much everything about me is little known because I have not been the star of me own book.  Hmmmmphhh.  I speak fluent Spanish.   I belong to a Book Club that has been meeting monthly for 28 years.  We are called The Coven and we are currently reading The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.    Oh, and I also play the accordion and I am working on my first novel, ‘It Ain’t Easy Being Green’.



Thank you for sharing your time with us today Grimhilda.  I wish you all the best in your future and I look forward to your book!


Readers, in the spirit of Halloween I would like to offer a lovely copy of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs by Cynthia Rylant, an author I just recently read and enjoyed.  I will also toss in a Halloween treat.


To enter simply leave a comment here on this interview.  If you would like to ask Grimhilda a question, I believe I can get her to stop back in and respond.  This giveaway will stay open until Thursday November 4th.  USA and Canada addresses only please.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

BBAW: Book Journey Interviews In Spring It Is The Dawn


My interview swap partner this years for BBAW is Nat from In Spring It Is The Dawn.  What a lovely blog she has and for my readers that love books on different cultures, Nat is a Canadian who is living in Japan.

Whoa…. wait a minute. I get to go to Japan to do an interview?  😛

EXCELLENT!

Yup, that’s right!  Nat is blogging from Japan about books I am drooling over as I nosed around her blog. Well…. I have to know more about Nat and I hope you do too.  Please welcome to Book Journey this morning, Nat from In Spring It Is The Dawn.

Nat from In Spring It Is The Dawn

So of course my first question has to be, Nat how did you wind up in Japan from Canada?


Nat: Well, just after high school I spent a year in France on a student exchange, and this experience gave me my wanderlust, my desire to travel to different places.  When I came back to Canada for university I decided to major in Applied Linguisitics (Teaching English as a Second Language) since it seemed the easiest way for a non-scientific, non-mathematical person like myself to be able to live and work overseas. Then when I graduated, I looked into a few different countries but Japan made the most sense at the time.  While I was teaching English in Tokyo, I met the man who is now my husband, and I guess the rest is history.  I never expected to be here in Japan this long (it’s been about 9 years all together now!) and I do hope to move back to Canada or thereabouts in the next few years.


9 years!  That is amazing!  How long have you been blogging?


Nat:  I started my blog, In Spring it is the Dawn, on January 30th, 2006, so it’ll be 5 years come next January.  How time flies!  Many of those early posts are quite embarrassing now though!

Nat loves to take photos! This is a lotus flower from this summer. Click on this picture to go to her photo blog

I hear you there Nat – I laugh about some of my early posts….  and almost 5 years!  How did you start your blogging process?  Inquiring minds want to know!


Nat:  Before blogging I used to belong to several Yahoo book groups. They were pretty much my only way then to chat about books, as most of my friends in real life don’t read much.  Some of the friends I made in those groups started book blogs, and after a while I decided to try it out for myself.  (Andi, of Estella’s Revenge (http://estellasrevenge.blogspot.com/) is one of the first people I met online all those years ago, and her blog is one that inspired me to start my own.)  And here I still am.  Book blogging long ago replaced those online book groups as my main source of all things bookish.


I know Andi and her blog, I love that we all seem to remember those early connections.   What do you like to blog about?


Nat:  When I first started my blog I didn’t think I’d have enough to post about regularly on just books (I’m a slow reader) so I originally thought it would be part books, part photo blog, and I used to post photos more regularly.  Nowadays you can find more of my photos on my dedicated photo blog, watashi no shashin, which in Japanese literally means “my photos”, and is a replacement for my older photo blog which had been on hiatus.  I do still post photos occasionally on In Spring it is the Dawn, of places we visit here in Japan, or anything from daily life that somehow seems to warrant a photo.  I’ve found though that there is no shortage of bookish things to talk about, so it’s now primarily a book blog, with a bit of everyday randomness thrown in.

I try to talk about all the books I read (although I’m woefully behind on reviews right now) which often ends up being a mix of various genres, but inspired by my circumstances of living in Japan, my blog has evolved into having more of a focus on Japan and Japanese literature over the last couple of years.  To that end, I host a Japanese Literature Book Group, as well as some read-alongs of Japanese lit.  Plus, I also host the Hello Japan! monthly mini-challenge, with topics and tasks (and prizes!) related to some aspect of Japanese culture.  I’m enjoying discovering some great Japanese books and authors myself, and am happy to hopefully bring a little taste of Japan to the blogging community.


You are very community oriented!  I love that!  Are there certain genres you prefer?



Double stacked book shelf of Japanese books

Nat:  I like to think I’m willing to at least try most genres but I definitely have a fondness for literature in translation.  Whenever I hear about a book that’s been translated into English from another language, my ears always perk up! I think it goes back to my original travel bug, as I love experiencing different places and cultures through books.  Otherwise, if you look at my shelves you’ll mostly see literary fiction, classics, my bookshelf dedicated to Japanese and Japan-related literature, and with some YA/kids lit, and non-fiction mixed in.


Ok…. let’s have some fun.  You have been given a 30 minute notice that your boss is sending you to a remote island for a little weekend R and R.  There will be no electricity just plenty of sun and beach time.  The limo (I like to think big) will be picking you up in mere minutes – what book do you grab off your shelf and why?


Nat:  Just one book?  Something thick then, to last the weekend, and which promises to be entertaining.  In other words, a book to get lost in.  Perhaps The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I got at BEA but still haven’t read yet.  Or maybe it would be a good time to finally read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  Or maybe a big classic like The Count of Monte Cristo, which I started earlier this year but has been languishing on my nightstand.  Or maybe The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, since I haven’t read any of those yet.  Ultimately, it would probably end up being whichever one caught my eye as I madly dashed around throwing a few things into a bag to take with me.


LOL… that would be my first reaction too Nat, “just one book?” What is one thing you wish you would have known from day one of blogging that you would like to share with those considering or starting out?


Nat:  I often wonder if I would have ever started blogging if I’d known how much time it would take, and how much my To Be Read stack would explode from all the book recommendations.  But now, even when I play with the idea of giving it all up, I can’t really imagine my life without it.


Great answer! I always like to know how other bloggers pre for a book review.  How do you do yours?


Nat:  While I’m reading I’ll add little sticky notes to any passages that stand out, or that I want to refer back to later.  Then when I’m finished reading the book, I’ll try to put down some of my thoughts about it.  I usually let a review sit for a day or so after I’ve written the draft as I invariably seem to change it up as the story continues to rattle around in my head.  I used to be quite good about writing reviews just after reading the book, but this year I’ve gotten so behind that I sometimes write reviews quite some time after I’ve finished the books.  This can make it hard to have enough to say though, and I certainly don’t recommend it.


One of Nat's favorite books, The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, that she is currently rereading.

If you could hang out with any fictional character who would it be and why?


Nat:  Hmmm… one of the first that comes to mind is Thursday Next, from Jasper Fforde’s series.  It would probably be a lot of fun hanging out with her, meeting all those characters, and visiting inside their stories.  It sounds like a book geek’s fantasy come true!  But then again, Thursday does seem to find herself in trouble quite a lot…



Please share a little known fact about yourself.


Nat:  I used to play the piano, and took lessons for years.  One year at the local music festival, my friend and I even won a medal for our piano duet.  (I wonder where that medal is?)  Sadly it’s been years since I’ve even touched a piano.  It’s not something that would fit in our typically small Japanese apartment, that’s for sure.  Besides, I’d rather save that precious space for books!


Thanks Nat, this was so much fun getting to know you!  Readers, please take time to stop in and see Nat’s gorgeous blog and leave her a comment or two or three….  😀  She will also be interviewing me today!


A Royal Spotlight!

park ave

I am so excited!  I logged on this morning to discover that the Spotlight Interview I completed with Amy at Park-Avenue Princess is on her beautiful blog today!  Color me *Giddy*!

I love interviewing other book  bloggers and hearing their stories and it was fun to share mine with Amy.  If you go over and read the Spotlight post I am offering up an Amazon Gift for her to give away – and who doesn’t like gift cards?  Amy’s giveaway is open international so everyone click your way over to Park-Avenue Princess.


In honor of this great guest spot that Amy has given me, I too want to offer up a $10 Amazon gift card here as well.  To qualify here is what you can do:

1.  You must leave a comment on the Spotlight post over at Park Avenue Princess

2.  For an additional entry – come back here and comment on one thing you learned about me from the spotlight interview

That’s it!  🙂  This giveaway is open internationally as well and I will end this on the same day that Amy is, on October 30th (mine will end in the morning however as that is the day I leave for Honduras).

BBAW – Interview Swap: Ryan of Wordsmithonia

What has been fun about this particular interview is that Ryan and I had connected through Book Blogs early on and were already chatting back and forth through Twitter and on our blogs.  I was excited to do this interview and get to know him even more!  ~ Sheila


Ryan, first I want to know about this avatar that you use.  Who is he?

Dr. Strange RyanThe characters name is Dr. Strange.  He is a Marvel supherhero.

When did you develop your love for books?

I had an unusual childhood.  We moved around a lot and even ended up traveling with a carnival for many years.  Needless to say I was never in one place long enough to really learn how to make friends.  It’s a deficit I’ve since gotten over but as a kid it was hard.  I had learned to read before headstart and I found myself turning to books for comfort.  They were the friends I didn’t have and they were my source of strength and escape as a kid.  They were my first love and still have a hold on my heart that is eclipsed only by my son.

Are you a lone reader or did your book interest come from a family member or friend?

I was and still am a lone reader of the family.  Now that’s not talking cousins and extended family cause I really have no clue as far Dr strange 2 this oneas that goes.  I am teaching my son the love of books and it seems to be one he is taking too.


Why read as opposed to do something else productive like errr…. lets say… sky diving?

Actually, I love sky diving, camping, hiking, horse back riding, snowmobiling, cooking, dancing, and a million other things.  I actually want to learn how to fence.  With foils and epees not sell stolen merchandise.  Reading however is my escape.  It’s how I relax, decompress, and feel better about myself.  It’s what has saved my sanity a million times and will probably do so a million more.


Favorite book?

Gosh, what a hard question.  I’m not sure I could break it down to one or even 10 or 20.  Some of my favorites that come to mind at this moment in time are: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, The Eight by Katherine Neville, Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory, The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, Watership Down by Richard Adam, Looking for It by Michael Thomas Ford, and the Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  There are so many other books I reread all the time that I almost feel bad for not mentioning them.

Favorite genre to read?


dr strange powFantasy hands down.  It allows me to escape into a world that is totally different from our own that I’m able to forget everything else and allow myself to “be” there in that world for the period of time the book is open.  I’m starting to read horror/suspense right now as well.  Though I think it has more to do with the approach of Fall then anything else.


When did you start book blogging and why?

July 19th, 2009.  A good friend at B&N bookclub site, Deb of Bookmagic, had started her own blog a month or two before that and she seemed to be having a lot of fun with it.  So I thought, why not? So here I am a few months later and having a blast though when I started it I wasn’t sure how involved I would be with the whole thing.  I thought I would just pop on every once in a while and post something about the current book I was reading.  Now I’m having so much fun that I can’t help but log in and post.
What do you think is the best blog post you have written?

I’m not sure if it’s my best but the one that was the most personal to me so far was my first post in my Favorite Fictional Characters series. Vanyel Ashkevron is the main character of The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and is the first character that I was able to connect to on such an emotional level.  He is the one character that when I’m really feeling down I’m able to visit and feel at home with.  This was a character that went through a lot of the same issues I had as a teenager and had come out OK.

Your blog title, Wordsmithonia… where did that come from?

From Barnes & Noble’s bookclub site again.  A few months prior they had started a laurel system in which users could give laurels to posts they like for any reason.  Along with the laurels we were given different ranks as well bases off a still a not completely understood criteria.  One of the higher, new ranks was that of wordsmith.  On a lark another user, Kathy, made up the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia and appointed me her son and heir the King of Wordsmithonia.  It started as a lark and grew into something that is just now losing steam.  I love the idea though of a place were words and the usage of them is celebrated and revered.  So that’s the name I chose for my blog.  Not sure if I’m living up to it yet or not but I’m striving for it with every post.


Do you only blog on books or do you have other blogs out there on other topics?

Right now it’s been about books with the occasional appearance of movies and TV shows.  I had intended to maybe sprinkle some political posts in there as well but it doesn’t seem to fit in.  I’m a political junkie and one day if time ever permits I may start a separate blog for that purpose.


What do you find to be the best part of book blogging?

The community I have found of other book lovers is amazing.  I have found everyone to be supportive and welcoming and I’m not sure I was expecting that.  I think it’s one of those aspects that keeps me coming back day after day to post and read other blogs.

What do you think is the best blog post you have written?

Since it just happened last week I do.  I got Dark Time by Dakota Banks from the publicist.  I was so excited I did my own version Dr strange 3of Snoopy’s happy dance.  I had recieved ARCs from the First Look program on B&N’s site before but this was different in a way I’m not sure I can fully put across in words.


What have you learned from blogging that you wish you would have known in the early stages of your book blog?

Since I’m still in my infancy I’m not sure.  There is still so much for me to learn that sometimes I feel like I’m playing catch up in school.  I still have a heck of a time trying to get two or more images into one post without them staying together.  I was so thankful when I finally figured out, with Deb’s help, how to change to a 3 column blog.  So I’m looking forward to learning more and hopefully being at a point where I can be the one to help out.

What do you look for in blogs that you enjoy reading?

The blogger’s personality to come through in how they write is what I connect with first in a blog I haven’t been to before.  Great reviews or features are an added bonus as well as an introduction to books I haven’t heard/read before.


Share with us a little known fact about you.

I was a state officer of Health Occupation Students of America when I was in high school.  After 5th grade and until I started high school, we traveled with a carnival and I would go to school week by week in whatever town we were in.

Thank you Ryan! Please stop by and see Ryan at the very cool Worsdsmithonia!

Interview with Kaleb Nation, Author of Bran Hambric

I am pleased to welcome to One Persons Journey Through a World of Books, Kaleb Nation.  Kaleb is the author of Bran Hambric, the wonderful book that was just released on 9/9/09.

kaleb-nation-photo-creditWelcome Kaleb!  Please make yourself comfortable.  When I first started hearing about Bran Hambric I had also heard how the story came to you on March 3rd, 2003,  3/3/03.  You were 14 at the time.  That amazes me.   Would youplease tell us a little about what that was like?

I remember jumping out of bed, scrambling down the ladder of the bunk bed I shared with my brother, and dashing to my desk to write the idea down. For some reason, on that night, I knew that the date would be important, and that’s why I made sure to write it down in my notebook. I don’t know if I just had a feeling that the book would eventually be published, or if it was just part of my interest in strange and unusual calendar dates, but I’m really happy I made sure to write it down!


I can visualize that!  How amazing!  Did the idea for the book come to you as whole or were there parts you really had to think on and add to make it flow?

The main story came to me at once: I knew that Bran was being hunted by a creature, I knew that he lived in a modern city that banned magic, and I knew a lot of specific parts about his past. Most of the details of the story, however, had to be developed over the following years of writing.


I picture you as this young boy writing this book and have to wonder what did your parents think at the time and/or your siblings?  Did they think you were on to something or just using your time productively?

Luckily, I was home schooled, so my parents actually made my writing a part of my school schedule! They were very supportive, even when I would spend hours on end writing (it got so bad they had to set time limits on my writing time!). My brother Jaden and sister Maddi were my main readers for years, and know about all the deleted scenes and characters that got cut over the years. I’d always know if something was good if they liked it, or what had to be taken out when they started to get bored.


Any friends, extended family, etc… were they supportive of what you were writing?  Involved in any way?

I had a cousin who had published technical writing and fiction for magazines before, and she was a huge help in the beginning! She would read my early drafts and make long-distance calls to me on the weekends to discuss it. I was a bit starstruck that my cousin was a real writer and was actually helping me with editing. I also had a lot of great friends who read the drafts and made comments on things they liked or didn’t like.


At the age of 14, what book was your favorite?

It’s hard to remember. I know back then that I liked The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.


When you completed the book, did you have a publisher ready or did you have to go and market it?.  Share a bit about that experience.

After I finished the book, I first had to find an agent. I had been researching the publishing business for years and knew a lot of the process already, thankfully. I sent out a bunch of email queries and had a few agents who were interested, but after a while of nobody taking it on, I had to rewrite my query. After the rewrite, suddenly nine agents were interested (never doubt the power of editing your query letter!). I signed with my agent, and worked with him to get the book ready for a publisher.

Is there plans for another book?

Yes!  I am writing the sequel to Bran Hambric now.


Thank you Kaleb so much for your time!  I imagine your life is quite busy now and with the release of the book, probably only getting busier!  Readers, you can find Bran Hambric on sale now!  Be sure to see my review of Bran Hambric here.


Author Interview with Laura Bingham (author of Alvor)

For the last couple of days you have heard me gushing about the YA fantasy I just completed.  After reading the book, I knew I wanted to know more about the author behind this amazing fantasy, Laura Bingham.  Laura and I had first connected in July when she offered me the opportunity to read her book.  I connected with her again with questions after I had finished Alvor and Laura was gracious enough to drop everything and come visit me at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.  (Ok ok, maybe she didn’t drop everything… but she did answer my questions that I am now going to share with you.  🙂


Please welcome, Laura Bingham.

Sheila:  Hi Laura!  Thanks for stopping by today!  Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and lets chat awhile!  I just finished reading your book Alvor and loved it!

Laura:  Yes! So glad to hear.


Sheila:  What gave you the idea to write this style of book?

Laura:  Good question with kind of a bizarre answer. The whole story fell into my head about five minutes after I said that I’ve always wanted to write a book- but I didn’t always want to write a book. I still don’t know why I said that or why the story came to me.

Sheila:  Did you have a set audience in mind for this read when you wrote Alvor?

Laura:  I wanted to write a story that captured the elements of my favorite kids/YA books. It was meant for kids and teens, but I also wanted the story to have an element that sucked adults into it as well.


Sheila:  Is this your first book?


Laura: Yes, the first of many.

Sheila:  Well that is exciting news! I really enjoyed how you used twins, a boy (Bain) and a girl (Erin) as the main characters.  Why did you create twins for this main role in your book?

Laura:  That’s the way the story came to me. I even tried to figure out how to make the story not be about twins, but it didn’t work. It had to be twins. It helped that I have my own set of boy/girl twins and could project some of their characteristics into the story.

Sheila:  The word “Alvor” to me just speaks of mystery and fantasy… I look at the cover of your book and knew from first site that I wanted to read it.  Where did the title come from?  Does it have special meaning?

Laura:  Before I started writing, I spent a week researching the elements in the story to build a stronger foundation. That’s when I stumbled across alvor, alva and alv. They are Scandinavian words that speak of old legends. Alvor means fairy, but also the Latin root vor means truth- I couldn’t pass up such a perfect title.

Sheila:  Growing up did you have a favorite book?

Laura:  Growing up I wanted a favorite book. I read Watership Down, The Lord of the Rings books, and tons of junky books about babysitting or freaky girls- but none of them really were my favorite. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I finally started finding books that I loved.

Sheila:  Do you have a favorite read or author now?

Laura: That’s a tough one. I admire different authors for different reasons. Some for the way they write and others for the way they broke out into the world with no fan base and a small press. I have so many favorites now that I hate listing them.

Sheila:  What is a little known fact about you?

Laura:  I spent a month touring Australia and New Zealand with a college dance team and I performed clogging, modern, jazz, ballroom and some folk dances. Most people put me in a clogging box since I own a clogging studio- but I have spent years doing other things. I coached drill team for a year, have competed in ballroom and Irish dance and have taught ballet, jazz and (swallowing hard) tap. Yes, tap. My Cloggers don’t even know that about me.


Sheila:  Wow!  Thanks for sharing that!  Without giving too much away, the ending of this book left a sense of more to come.  Is there plans for a second book?

Laura: My second book is undergoing revisions and editing right now. I love book 2. In so many ways I have liked it even more than the first one. As it stands- there will be a third book in the series as well.

Sheila:  A second and a third book?  Oh I cant wait!  That is such great news!

Thank you Laura!  Your time is appreciated and I hope that many of the readers here will go out and purchase Alvor.  I think this is an incredible read with a bright future!

Lauras website

Lauras blog

Author Chat with Donna Woolfork Cross (Author of Pope Joan)

donna2006

If you have been reading here at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books for any amount of time you know that one of the best reads for 2009 has been Pope Joan by Donna Woolfork Cross.  I loved the character of Joan, this strong independent woman born in a time when women were not considered worth much more than for birthing children.  I cant even put into words how I felt as I read this book and followed Joan from birth to Pope.

Through several email conversations, I have communicated with Donna Woolfork Cross about this book and about the upcoming movie of Pope Joan due out yet this fall!  I can not even imagine what Donna’s life must be like right now, I know she has observed filming and met with producers…. and yet, she took time to chat with me so I could share with all of you a little about Donna, Pope Joan, and whats next…

Please welcome the amazing Donna Woolfork Cross!!!


Sheila:  Thank you so much Donna for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat a bit with me.  I am so thankful for your kindness and continued communication.

Donna: Hi, Sheila!  My gosh, any author should be very grateful to have you on her side!  Thanks SO much, yet again, for your heart-warming–and energetic– support!


Sheila:  Donna, Pope Joan is an incredible historical fiction read that I for one (and I know I am not alone) could not put down.  Have you always been a fan of history?

Pope JoanDonna:   Thanks for the kind words, Sheila!   The truth is that I HATED history in high school and college, for it was so boring–filled with “memorized” information like dates and names of battles and lists of kings, etc.  As I was a good student, I faithfully learned these dry facts and put them down on my exams–and then promptly forgot them.  It was years later before I realized that history isn’t composed of dry old facts and dates and names;  it’s the most fascinating subject of all, for it’s composed of stories–of people who loved and fought and lost and grieved and sacrificed.  What could be more interesting than that?  Story-telling is a very primal act for humans; when we lived in caves we sat around the fire and told tales to each other.  Children crawl into our laps and beg, “Tell me a story!”

Historical fiction captures this story-telling essence of history.  It’s “You Are There” history;  it transports us in time, makes us feel that we have walked those streets, drunk that wine, worshiped those gods.  That’s why it’s my favorite form of leisure reading!


Sheila:  How did you come to the decision to write a book about Pope Joan?

Donna: I had written four previous books–non-fiction works about word and language.  They did well enough, but let me tell you, no one’s ever going to be able to retire by writing word books!  It was my daughter who suggested to me that I might want to write the kind of book she knows I most enjoy reading–historical fiction (for all the reasons mentioned above).  I was mulling that idea over–wondering if I could make the leap (no small one) from non-fiction to fiction, when I stumbled across Joan’s story in a piece of chance reading.  At first I thought it was a typo–an amusing accident that substituted the name “Joan” for “John”.

But a couple of weeks later,  I happened to be in a library.  And idle curiosity led me over to the the “New Catholic Encyclopedia”, just to check out that odd passing reference to a “Pope Joan.”  Tell you the truth, I didn’t expect to find anything.  But when I did find an entry for her in the NCE, I stood in that library with my jaw dropped open.  I couldn’t believe it–here was a story included in the work of  famous writers like Petrarch and Boccaccio and Platina, librarian to several Popes–and I hadn’t even HEARD of it?  I think I knew on the spot that it’s what I wanted to write about.  I thought then–hey, I still think–that it’s a “drop-dead” story.  I couldn’t believe I’d had the great good fortune to stumble across it!


Sheila: I think it is exciting enough to be a write (a dream I have always had!), but I can hardly imagine what it would be like to write something that is destined to be a movie.  Can you share a little bit how that happened and what that had to feel like?

Donna: If you dream of writing, Sheila, then you will one day do it!  For the simple truth is that writing is much more “perspiration” than “inspiration”!  Whether someone likes my novel or not, I can tell her this: it represents the very best I could do.   Over the long course of seven years of seven years of research and writing, I really came to care about Pope Joan, and to admire her, so I gave this story my all.  Naturally, I was nervous about what the movie version would be like (one fellow writer described optioning our novel to Hollywood as “handing your child over the the Charles Manson Day Care Center!)

Fortunately, I was lucky.  The movie stays true to the “female empowerment through learning” theme of the book that was so important to me.  And the acting is terrific!  Johanna Wokalek, a newcomer to U.S audiences is brilliant as Joan;  John Goodman is a PERFECT Pope Sergius;  and David Wenham (voted “Sexiest Australian of 2007) is very powerful in the part of Gerold (when he asks Joan to go away with him, giving up everything that she has become and achieved, you really understand her temptation!).

When I was standing on the set, watching scenes enacted that I remember writing in the privacy of my study, I was very moved.


Sheila:  What at this time as readers can we be doing to make sure the movie and the book, get around to where people all over the world can enjoy them?

Donna: What a dear and thoughtful question to ask, Sheila!   There’s two things one can do immediately:

1.  Buy the book in August!  For healthy book sales in August will help persuade U.S. movie distributors that there’s a broad audience for this story in the U.S.  Also,  if you purchase the book on or before August 9th, you are eligible for my unusual “Walk the Red Carpet” offer–an opportunity to join me and my family at the U.S. movie premiere.  Details are at http://popejoan.com/2009promo.htm

2.  Let U.S. movie distributors know if you’d like to see the movie open in a theater near you.  You can do this by going to http://popejoan.com/moviemap.htm.   If you would attend with others, such as book group members or friends and family, mention that too.  Your words will go straight to the producer’s ears!


Sheila:  What’s next for you?

Donna: Just at the moment, I’m working so hard to promote Pope Joan, long labor and work of my heart,  that I’ve had to put aside my next novel for a while.  I hope to resume work on it this fall.  It’s about another strong woman from history, this time from 17th century France. I admire her for many of the same reasons I came to admire Joan–reasons best summed up with a quote from George Bernard Shaw. “Reasonable people,” Shaw wrote, “adapt themselves to the world the way they find it. Unreasonable try to change the world to fit their own vision of it.  Therefore, all progress depends on unreasonable people.”

Following that (in my view) very complimentary definition of the word, Joan was, in fact, an unreasonable woman. So is my next heroine, whose name, I bet you’ve noticed, I have artfully not mentioned (my agent tells me that she’ll cut out my tongue if I do!).


Sheila:  Thank you Donna so much for taking time to hang out with us here.  I am excited to see the movie come out and hopefully a push from my fellow book lovers can help move that along!


Please see my review of Pope Joan here