Friday, June 8, 2012

Interview & Giveaway with Carole Bellacera

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Hello, My Sweets! I have a book that I want to share with you all today. Well, I always have a book I want to share, but this one is special to me.

A few months ago I received an email for a review request. I love when I see those in my email, as do most bloggers I would think. I get all giddy inside when I see them. Anyway, I said yes to the request, but told the author it wouldn’t be anytime soon because I was backed up with other reviews- which was ok with her.

When the time finally came to read the book, it was as if it had been calling my name saying, Taryn, read me, please! I am what you need! ….and it was. I had been thinking about the book since it came in. It was always lurking in my mind. I knew from the description it wasn’t my normal read, but I had the strangest feeling it was going to be just what I love the most and look for in a book- Emotion, deep seeded emotion that hits you hard from every corner possible.

I think I can speak for all of us readers when I say, we're always looking for that book. The one book that will take us away with a story so captivating we forget all around us. The one book that will make us feel every written word down to the bone. The one book that will stay in our hearts, leave footprints and never let go.

And that’s how I felt when I read LILY OF THE SPRINGS by Carole Bellacera. I loved that book to pieces! It’s definitely one of those books that I will never ever forget. One of those books that I would stand proud on my bookshelf. In fact, I loved it so much, I asked Carole for an interview…and she agreed!


If you'd like, you can read my book review HERE for LILY OF THE SPRINGS.

So please welcome Carole Bellacera to My Secret Romance today! She has graciously offered to answer every single question I gave her- which was a shock to me! I hadn’t expected every one answered back. Thanks, Carole! 

Also, One lucky reader will have the chance to win LILY OF THE SPRINGS!!!

 
Hey Carole! Thank you so much for being on My Secret Romance. I really appreciate you taking the time out for an interview. I absolutely loved LILY OF THE SPRINGS. One of the best books I’ve read this year…and ever, to be honest. It’s one of those books that will stick with me forever.
Awww…your words melt my heart.  This book is so personal to me—all my books are so personal to me—but this one, especially.  I’m just so thrilled I brought Lily to life the way I wanted to, and her story touches readers like you.  

But first, please tell us a little about yourself. Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you get started in it?
I was born a writer, I think.  I grew up in the country in Indiana, and I used to spend the summers writing stories and plays.  I’d make the neighborhood kids act them out.  I wrote my first novel in 5th grade, (in a loose-leaf notebook) and it made the rounds of all my girlfriends.  

Do you have any projects you are currently working on at the moment you can share with us?
Yes, I’m about halfway through a novel titled INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS about a combat nurse serving a year in Vietnam in 1970-71.  I’ve had to take a little break from it to promote LILY OF THE SPRINGS, and I’m itching to get back to it.  I left my heroine, Lt. Cindy Sweet, in quite a precarious predicament.  She’s probably wondering where the hell I’ve been. *g*  (Yes, our characters really do feel alive to us.)

You were already published with a big publishing company. Why did you choose to go the self-publishing way? Do you find it difficult to do it on your own?
It’s not like I had a huge choice in the matter. My publisher dropped me after my first four books didn’t sell the way they hoped they would.  (Yes, to their credit, they kept giving me a chance by publishing four books, but in the end, they finally gave up.  They didn’t know how to market me and my work; guess I was impossible to “brand.”)  I tried to find another New York publisher with a big-name New York agent, but she had no success (guess the word was out on my sucky sales.)  And she finally quit returning my phone calls and e-mails, so I fired her and took a three-year hiatus from the business.  I concentrated on writing LILY, and when I was finished, I started all over again—querying agents and editors.  No luck.  The consensus was that a book set in the 50’s and 60’s was not “marketable.”  Even though I gave them written proof that the major book buyers were baby boom women of a certain age.  One editor at Pocket loved LILY. She didn’t come right out and say it, but I got the distinct impression that she’d taken it to a board meeting and got shot down.  A year later, she wrote me out of the blue and asked if I’d sold it yet, and if not, would I send it to her again.  (Something there had changed and she thought it was a real possibility that she could do something with LILY.)  Alas, that didn’t happen.  Next thing I knew, that editor was moving on to another job, and that was that.  That’s when I turned to self-publishing with CreateSpace.  I was sick and tired of sending out what I knew was a wonderful book and getting rejected for some squirrely reason.  I decided to take back my power and publish it myself.  I’ve never looked back.  And I’m re-issuing all of my backlist that has gone out of print with my New York publisher.  (So far, I’ve released my first novel, BORDER CROSSINGS, and the next one, SPOTLIGHT, should be available later this month or in early July.)  

Ok…I am dying to talk to you about LILY OF THE SPRINGS. What inspired you to write LILY OF THE SPRINGS? How did it come to be?
My mother was the inspiration for Lily.  She was one of the most vivacious women I’ve ever known.  When I was a kid, I used to look through her high school yearbook and see her dressed in beautiful formals, and surrounded by friends.  I could tell she was really popular and fun-loving.  But marriage had changed her.  She always maintained a strong spirit, even though her marriage to my father was rocky, but I often wondered where that free-spirited, effervescent teenager went—and what life would’ve been like for her if she hadn’t married so young.  My mom, Lillian, died in 1998, just a few months before my first novel came out—something I think I’ll never get over.  She’d divorced my father (who, by the way, was nowhere near as ornery as Jake) after 20 years of marriage, but on her deathbed, she was still talking about him and how she’d never stopped loving him.  He really was “the love of her life.”  (If you’ve seen the book trailer, that’s the song. http://animoto.com/play/5oDSGDGlrZCdBgGX5hkuxg)  I knew then that someday I’d have to write a novel loosely based upon her life.   

Do you bring your own real life experiences to your writing? If so, how?
I think every writer does, and I believe that’s what make your writing rich—your experiences, your memories, your personal integrity, the way you feel about things.  I can’t imagine a writer who doesn’t do that.  

Describe Lily to us in three words.
Feisty
Innocent
Hungry

I found Lily to be an extremely strong woman, stronger than I could ever be.  She really put up a lot with Jake for many years. I honestly believe she loved Jake, despite all of his actions. But did Jake truly love Lily? Personally, I’d like to believe he did.
I believe Jake loved her, too.  No, I know he loved her.  Deep inside, he believed that because Lily loved him, it would make him a better person.  But he couldn’t get past the demons that shaped him into who he was from his childhood.  And I don’t think it was just that that made him do such reprehensible things; I think it was the time period.  Men were brought up to believe they were the lords and masters, and that they should just be able to do whatever they wanted.  In other words, they just let their ids take control.  If it felt good, do it.  Screw what anybody thinks—especially the wife waiting at home.  But I think Jake really wanted to be good.  He wanted to be deserving of Lily—but he just couldn’t.  Like the snake and turtle story—it wasn’t in his nature.   

One thing I loved about this book was that Lily had a wonderful friend in Betty. Betty brought Lily a lot of joy and happiness when life wasn’t so easy for her. Was Betty inspired by anyone close to you or is she a character you made up? Either way, Betty sounds like my kind of friend.
Betty is totally made-up.  She was one of those magical characters that just came to life in full-fleshed three dimensional color!  I knew I wanted Lily to have a worldly friend who could guide her in her first months out of Kentucky for the first time.  I really loved Betty!  She was the kind of friend I’d love to have, too. 
 
Lily’s children, Debbie Ann and Kathy Kay, were such sweet girls even if they were a little challenging. But what kids aren’t? They’re parts in the book felt so real and they really played on my heart. How did you bring their story to life in this book?
A lot of the book in regard to the children came from being a mother myself, and remembering the challenging times.  I remember once when I was so stressed out, I locked myself in the bathroom—with the two kids outside in the hallway, and just screamed.  I’m ashamed of that now, but my daughter, Leah, tells me it was better I did that than to scream in front of them.  But I also easily wrote the characters of Debby Ann and Kathy Kay because they were based upon me and my sisters, Kathy and Sharon.  (I combined them into one character for brevity’s sake.)  I heard stories about how I, the first-born, was quite the pill.  Yes, I ate out of the cat’s dish (Carol Ann Kitty) and terrorized the poor thing.  Apparently, I had quite the temper, and being the first grandchild on both sides, was a bit spoiled.  Okay, a lot spoiled.  I also had that rather dramatic hospital visit when they found I was alarmingly anemic.  Apparently, no matter what my parents did, I wouldn’t eat.  And although that part of the book was true, my dad was at the hospital with me, and even donated blood for my transfusion.  

Let’s talk about Jinx and Jake for a minute. HOLY FREAKING COW! How could Jake do that to Lily and then be so….apathetic about it when she questioned him? I felt utterly numb when I read that scene and I shut down after it. How did you feel when you were writing it? What kind of emotions and feelings were running through you?
Again, the apathy, I think, was a sign of the times.  Men felt they deserved to take what they wanted, and women were just supposed to accept it.  I really think Jake felt like it was no big deal that he’d been diddling Jinx for years.  And come on! We don’t really believe it was just a few times, do we?  How did I feel when I was writing it?  Relieved.  That Lily was finally, finally facing the truth about her husband.  And that she’d decided she damn well wasn’t going to take it anymore.  (Honestly, as for the Jinx/Jake thing, I wondered if I’d given too much away back at the beach scene when he’d ended their vacation to go home early when Jinx’s son was hospitalized.)  Of course, now, I’m giving away too much.  MAJOR SPOILER!  

At the end of the book when all was said and done with Jake, I started to feel like Lily found her way home. But when she walked through the doors to her high school reunion, everyone stopped and stared at her. Why is that?
It’s because she was now a major celebrity in her high school class.  A big-time romance author!  I’m thinking of the Nora Roberts caliber!  

Why did you choose the ending you did for Lily? Are we to think she finally did find her way home when Chad walked in again, that she got her happy ending?
Oh, yes.  I’d hoped that was clear, but maybe it wasn’t.  I just didn’t want to have a sappy ending where they fell into each other’s arms.  That’s just so predictable.  I wanted to leave the image in reader’s mind that Lily was making the choice to walk into her future with Chad.  

There are recipes in this book that look divine! One day I would love to make some of them. Are they your family recipes?
They are, most definitely.  Last summer as I was finishing the end of the book, I visited my sister in Kentucky and we went through old recipe boxes that belonged to my mother, my grandmother and my great-aunt. So, all those recipes come from there.  I haven’t tried them all, but I’ll tell you right now some of my favorites—Mother’s Kentucky Oatmeal Cake, (oh, God.  You know I’m going to have to go bake one now, right?  Happens every time I think of it.)  Mother’s Kentucky Butterscotch Pie.  Mother’s Apple Dumplings.  Hmmm…have you noticed?  All my favorites are desserts.  Imagine that!  It’s a wonder I don’t weigh 200 lbs.  

What do you want your readers to take away from reading LILY OF THE SPRINGS?
I want readers to take away a feeling of celebration for Lily.  You go, girl!  You gave it the old college try, and you walked away a winner.  


What’s something readers wouldn’t know about you?
Unless they keep up with blog, they probably don’t know I love to sing!  I’m the leader of a local karaoke group in my town of Manassas, Virginia, and I perform in an annual variety show at church every August.  Last year I did a medley of Carole King songs, and this year, I’m doing a medley of Karen Carpenter songs with a full band backing me.  This past March, I performed in a USO-type show, a fundraiser for Fisher House, a home for disabled veterans, portraying Karen Carpenter, Nancy Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.  What a hoot!  I loved it!  What woman out there has never wanted to play Marilyn?  It was on my bucket list, and I didn’t even know it!  (Readers can see pictures of me as Marilyn, Karen and Nancy on my Facebook page, but they have to “friend” me.  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1449559079#!/carole.bellacera

Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?
The absolute most important thing—don’t ever stop believing in yourself, no matter how many people say “no” to you.  If you know, without a doubt, that writing is what you’re destined to do, don’t let anyone stop you. 

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
I remember one agent told me my work was “melodramatic.”  That hurt.  I’ve had one really scathing review for my third novel EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON (been pretty lucky with reviews) but this one was so bad, I almost cried.  Almost.  But then I just cursed her out (in my office) and ignored it. 

I’ve had a lot of really nice compliments.  Your initial letter, Taryn, will rank right up there with them.  But the one compliment I’ve heard that stays in my mind is that they didn’t want the book to end.  They didn’t want to let my characters go.  If a writer can do that—create a book that lives on long after you’ve turned that last page, what else could a writer possibly want?  One of my favorite books is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  Scout and Atticus still lives in me, even though it’s been years since I read it.  Isn’t that the greatest compliment a writer could ever receive?

Where can we find out more about you and your work?
You can visit my website at www.CaroleBellacera.com, and read all my reviews and the opening chapters of all my books.  You can also enter to win my monthly contest where I give away one of my books and a piece of jewelry from Beautiful Evening Beads.  (Oh, yes, I make jewelry, too, and sell it at craft fairs.  You can check it out at http://www.etsy.com/shop/Beautifuleveningbead.)   


Was it was really emotional for you to write Lily's story based on how personal it was?
I wouldn't say it was especially emotional.  I got caught up in the story, and of course, as I always do, I put myself in the place of my main character, and felt the emotions she was going through.  But that's nothing different from how it is with all my novels.  the inspiration for LILY was, of course, more personal than my other books, but I wouldn't say it was more emotional to write it. 
Was Lily's personality (which I loved) based on your mother?
There is a LOT of my mother in Lily.  The effervescence.  The love of life, the love of people.  But I left a lot out of Lily's character that was reflected in my mother, and maybe this was a mistake.  My mother often had a darkness in her--she suffered from depression and low self-esteem.  I could've brought that out more in Lily's character, but it just didn't happen.  Like I've said, I get caught up in the story, and I let the character's guide me--and I guess Lily just didn't want to go there. 

Would you ever to do a follow up book on the Lily's daughters to see how life panned out for them so we could also get an insight into how some of the other characters got on in their future.
Funny you should ask this.  My original idea with LILY was to write a trilogy--a book about Lily, a book about Debby Ann, and a book about Debby Ann's daughter.  Debby Ann, as you know at the end of the book, became a nurse and wanted to go to Vietnam.  That was my intention with the second novel.  But logistically, it just didn't work out.  With the time period covered in LILY, there is no way Debby Ann could've graduated high school, got her nursing degree and ended up in Vietnam before the end of the war.  I really wanted to write a book about a combat nurse (my WIP in progress, INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS) so I decided to go forward with that idea with a completely new character,  Lt. Cindy Sweet.  Who knows, though?  I may someday take up Debby Ann's story and see where that leads me. 
I loved all the references to the particular eras and how you subtly wove them into her story - was it hard researching this?
No, that was one of the easiest and most fun parts of working on LILY.  I really enjoyed listening to 50's music, and combing through old magazines set in the 50's & 60's.  It really put me in that world, and I think it made it so easy to "world-build" my story because I was so immersed in the research. 

Thank you, Carole, so very much for being here today. Thank you Jenny, who also added questions of her own to ask Carole.
   
To enter the contest, all you have to do is leave a comment or question for Carole, and LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE. Thanks!

8 comments:

Tessa N said...

Wow! What an awesome interview!! This will be my next read without a doubt!!!

amandakgc said...

Fantastic interview!

@Carole, I read Taryn's review on Goodreads and I got it and read it in one day. My hands shook at one point in the story. I texted Taryn and asked if Jake and Jinx were having an affair and she replied..."I ain't saying shit". LOL! I absolutely loved this story! And the recipes sound yummy. Looking forward to more of your work.

Natasha said...

Great interview! Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Maria D. said...

Great interview! I love that Carole didn't give up even after her publisher stopped printing her books and kept plugging away. I love that "go get them" attitude. Thanks for the giveaway. I already like your Facebook page.

Musing Sallie said...

Goodness, this is beautiful. I'm putting this in my to be read pile. And for $2.99 on Amazon? Wow.

Review well done.

Gale Nelson said...

what a great interview!! Look forward to reading this book. Thanks! Gale Adkins Nelson pgan427@yahoo.com

Carole Bellacera said...

Hi, everyone. this is Carole. I'm so glad you enjoyed my interview. Such unique and fun questions to answer! :) I hope you all enjoy LILY as much as I enjoyed writing it.

jessiel said...

Thank you for the interview & more background about the book. I saw it when I was browsing Amazon last week & now, after reading this post, I know alot more about the book. I admire this author's perservance. Did I spell that right? And she started writing at such a young age.

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