Working for the Happily Ever After (Joy Preble)

I come from a long line of unhappy but strong women. My maternal grandmother, Lena, immigrated from somewhere near Belarus to America when she was still a teenager. She came to America alone, in love with a man she—for reasons I’m not sure of—did not marry. Instead, she married my grandfather, a man I don’t think she ever loved. Eventually, he ran off, leaving her with four children. Some time after that, he took his own life at his sister’s house in Atlanta. My mother and her twin sister were the youngest of Lena’s children. It was a later–in-life pregnancy; my aunt Sylvia was twelve years older, my uncle older than that. The story goes that Lena was so depressed about having not only another child but twins, that she let the nurses at the hospital name them. My mother came out first, red-cheeked and crying. They named her Rose. Her twin was quieter and born second. They named her Lily. It was not an easy childhood. Or beyond that. My grandmother self-medicated with whiskey and a variety of other things. She lived, unhappily, until she was 97.

There’s more I could write about this, but I’ll leave it here. I’ve just finished the final book of the Dreaming Anastasia trilogy, Anastasia Forever, which will be out from Sourcebooks in August of this year. As I look back on the series, I know that my grandmother’s life influenced these characters, who like my Grandma Lena, have Russian lines of descent, even the fairy tale ones. I see her in Anne’s mother Laura. In the rusalka, Lily, who I did name after my aunt. I see her mostly in Baba Yaga, whose story gets a final unfolding in book 3. Baba Yaga who wants to mother, but can’t because of choices and destiny.

Russian fairy tales do not end like Disney-ized ones. The narrator often says something like, “And they lived as happily as they could.”

I wanted Anne, the hero of the DA series, to be strong enough to break that mold. And when you get to the end—and I am so darn excited for the last book to come out so you can see how it all turns out!!—I think you’ll see that Anne has decided that destiny is only part of what molds a life.

I think now that maybe I was trying to rewrite Lena’s unhappy history. Give her the Happily Ever After that everyone deserves.


  1. I love that line - '...destiny is only part of what molds a life.' Knowing that it isn't the be all and end all of it, is important. I also believe we can choose our destiny. Not all the time, maybe, but we do have quite a few choices.

    Thanks for sharing your grandma's story, Joy.
    And CONGRATS on finishing the third book! :)

  2. My dad suffered from depression and I think it finds it's way into my writing, even when I don't realize it. This was such a moving post, Joy--thanks for sharing it. Congrats on that 3rd Book!!!!

  3. Maybe that line about how they lived as happily as they could is about survival and gaining strength from that. But of course, people have to do more than just survive, because otherwise life can become even tougher. You're right in that destiny is only part of what molds a life, because if we put everything into the hands of fate, our own choices would be influenced by that, in a sense, and then things could turn out in ways that we didn't want them to.

  4. You know what was interesting is that my mom and aunts all lived life very fully no matter what. One aunt traveled very widely (and often took me with her!). My mom's twin stayed single til her forties but then met the love of her life and married within a week and did live very happily with this wonderful man until illness came along. My mother loved to entertain and cook and try to new restaurants and go to movies... So while they were affected by their childhood, it did not define them.

  5. What a cool post...Congrats on both the book and the happily ever after!

  6. Thanks, Holly! You know I first started writing about my college taste in bad boys... but then I began reading the other posts and it seemed that most of us liked the bad boys... And so this evolved.

  7. Excellent post. You have a fascinating family history. My family saga is checkered, too, with scandal, depression, and suicide. Gives us more to draw on, I think.


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