I hope you haven’t forgotten about the ASF Short Story Contest winners! Today we have the privilege of getting to know …
Joy E. Rancatore!
To keep you entertained and make sure our interview is fresh, we made sure to steer the conversation to the unusual. Hope you enjoy!
Joy! Thanks for taking the time to come over today for our interview. We’re really looking forward to getting to know you better.
FYI y’all, Joy’s story, “Ealiverel Awakened” won 2nd place in the contest!
First question, Joy! When and where were/are you happiest?
J: As cheesy as it sounds, I am happiest either writing stories or reading a delightful book—preferably with my cat Tolkien on my lap. While I can do both anywhere, a cabin in the mountains is always where I’d rather be.
R: Oh, that’s a great name for your cat! I’m totally with you on the preference of a cabin in the mountains. If you can’t be writing, though, what sorts of books do you prefer? What’s your favorite? I’m always looking for new reading material (we’ll just ignore for a moment that my TBR is long enough to reach the moon).
J: I am with you on the TBR pile! Some days I get a little teary when I think of all the books I won’t have time to read. And then I dry my eyes and keep on reading! My favorite books fall in the historical fiction, literary fiction and fantasy genres. I am one of those oddballs who adores rich prose and flowing descriptions. J.R.R. Tolkien is far and away my favorite author. My top three/four books of all time are: The Silmarillion by Tolkien, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (they’re tied for second!) and Quo Vadis? by Henryk Sienkiewicz. My favorite contemporary authors are Lisa See, Susanna Kearsley and Daren Wang. Mr. Wang’s debut literary fiction, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires, knocked me over the head with the realization that this may just be the perfect genre for me as a writer.
R: From my enjoyment of “Ealiverel Awakened” I can see how you’ve been influenced by the authors you mention, but a few of them I’ll have to check out their work! I’ve never read anything by Henryk Sienkiewicz (and don’t ask me to pronounce his name!) or the other contemporary novelists you mentioned! To my shame, I’m sure.
If you couldn’t be a writer like these, what talent would you most like to have?
J: I would love to have a beautiful singing voice, but I’d probably let all that talent go to my head.
R: I used to fancy myself a good singer. Haha Sometimes it went to my head, I think, so that’s a fair concern. Was there ever a time you thought you were singing like Adele and someone surreptitiously slipped their fingers in their ears?
J: Oh, I can rock the hairbrush mic in front of my bedroom mirror! (Don’t worry, I haven’t actually done that since I was a kid, but I bet I’ve still got the skills.) When I was younger, I had a few solos in church. I always worried it was because my dad was the preacher and my mom always sang in the choir and people thought they had to ask me—but I really sucked. Maybe I should audition for Simon Cowell; he’ll tell me the truth!
R: LOL Right?! Simon, Joy wants to come audition for you! haha I think the same thing about myself nowadays! But I’m thinking we need to escape and get as far from Simon’s astute criticism. So, if given an opportunity to go to Antarctica, would you take it? Why (not)?
J: Would I go to Antarctica? Oh boy! My cold weather-loathing self says, “Absolutely not!” My writer self starts outlining an icy fantasy series or brainstorming a post-war planet where aliens from a frozen galaxy have taken charge. Research trip!
R: Oh yes! I love the way your mind-cogs spin. The chance to experience it firsthand and apply all that newfound knowledge to our writing would totally make every second of that adventure worthwhile. What do you think would be your biggest takeaway from that trip? The sights, sounds, sensations? The ways of staying warm or traveling across the eternal winter landscape? Or???
J: The takeaway for me would definitely be sensory—the feel of the wind’s bitter chill, the endless sea of white accompanied by what I would imagine is an overwhelming sense of loneliness and insignificance. I’m a huge fan of Jack London’s books with the man vs. nature conflict and Jean Craighead George with her immersive descriptions of nature.
R: Nice! I wonder how many people are now imagining themselves lost in the barren, frozen wasteland of Antarctica with nothing but the parka on their back and a pickaxe in their hand. I imagine in that place a character named…Destiny Fulton. She’s tough but totally unprepared for the wilds of the south pole. Speaking of character names, what are your favorite names?
J: I may be partial but I think my main character in “Ealiverel Awakened” and her best friend have the greatest names—Elspeth and Arabel.
R: I love Elspeth. I say it in my head, and I’ve said it out loud a couple times, but I wonder if I’m saying it right. Haha Speaking of Elspeth and Arabel, how did they come to be friends?
J: HA! Yes, Elspeth is a little bit of a tongue-twister! I have practiced it many times myself. The bond between Elspeth and Arabel may be my favorite part in this fantasy series I’m creating. They go back to birth, really. No spoilers, but Elspeth is adopted into Arabel’s family early on. The girls’ bond transcends time and space, though.
They feel this truth, and the readers will discover more about it along the way. Elspeth and Arabel call themselves “sister-friends,” and that is fitting since each title holds such deep meaning. Together, they’re a force to behold—a force the powers of Darkness eagerly seek to stop.
R: I could see a glimpse of that reading “Ealiverel Awakened” and have no doubt you’ll be able to better explore that beyond our short story anthology! Just like these characters have a bond expressed in a title, in words, do you have a motto? What is it?
J: As a matter of fact, I do have something of a motto! “My soul overflows with stories, so I frantically write; for they are immortal, but I am not.”
R: I love that motto, and this picture you took is a perfect background for it! Nice work.
Thanks for sharing it, by the way. I think all of us could use this sort of inspiration in our lives. To know the written word is immortal puts a certain level of gravitas on it that might sometimes be neglected. What do you think? How important might it be that we use our words wisely?
J: You are so right, Rachael. (I feel a blog post on this topic coming in the near future!) I think especially now in our social media culture, we too easily toss words to the world around us with no care in their choosing or consideration of their effect on others. Instead of seeking to do good to all or to encourage others, our words far too often do the opposite. Plus, they can’t be pulled back.
That’s something I’m trying to teach my kids. Whatever you release online sticks. It doesn’t magically disappear. I have a little section on my website where I expound on this concept of “Powerful Words.” We have a huge responsibility to take our role as word-guardians seriously and to use their great power with even greater wisdom.
R: That’s beautiful, Joy! On another slightly related note, tell me more about your writing. Where you started and where you are now. What you’ve written that you’re most proud of and anything else quirky or fun you can think of that relates to you as a writer.
J: Honestly, I’ve written my entire life. I made up stories to jabber to my stuffed animals and then began writing them down once I got older. My career as a writer began in high school at a small weekly newspaper—where the editor frequently ran my byline as Joe E. I went on to write for four more newspapers before switching to freelance writing, editing and proofreading for magazines, businesses, web developers and fellow writers.
I took my first baby steps toward becoming an author in 2010 when I wrote a few children’s books and began a memoir. I let fear knock me off course then and tucked everything away. When I came back to the writing track in 2016, I sprang out of the gate and haven’t looked back. Since then I’ve written a narrative nonfiction book, a literary fiction novel, numerous short stories and poems and several world-building scenes for my fantasy series. The goal is to be a published Indie Author within the next year!
Hmmm … a few quirks about me as a writer: Deadlines drive me—it’s the journalist in me, I suppose—so I quickly learned I have to set them if I’m going to complete anything. I write best at night … 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. is the best time, in my opinion! Also, I write to different music, depending on the story. For “Ealiverel Awakened” and the rest of this fantasy series, I choose bagpipe or piano music, Enya and movie soundtracks (think The Last of the Mohicans and Dances with Wolves).
It’s amazing how fear can completely stop us in our tracks if we let it. I will forever love the quote: “Fear is the mind-killer” from Dune by Frank Herbert. Fear steals our joy, Joy! Fear is the ultimate culprit of what a lot of writers call writer’s block.
Thank you so much for coming to the blog today and sharing about yourself so freely! We appreciate it!
J: Thank you so much for these great questions and for your beautiful vision for this anthology, Rachael! I have already loved working alongside you on this project. You kinda rock!
Ah, you’re REALLY too kind. I’m so far behind on this amazing project, but it’s still plugging along at a snail’s pace. I am so thankful to all the writers who are participating
Oh, before I forget, I’d love share a list of social media and writerly links with our friends.
J: Absolutely! I love to chat with fellow readers and writers!