September 2014 AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT
(To view Author Spotlight archives, Click here)
SPECIAL NOTE: This month, Lisa has agreed to give away a digital copy of her book, Shenandoah Dreams, to one of my lucky newsletter subscribers.
Check out my CONTEST page for details.
WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
LB: Hi Winnie. Thanks so much for having me over to visit. I was born in Boston, and grew up just outside the city. I love New England, but I confess to heading south as soon as I graduated college. I spent twenty years living in Florida, before moving back and settling on Martha's Vineyard. I love the Island, though I'm not too fond of winter. My daughter has one year left of high school, and then I'm hoping to spend my winters in Florida, enjoying the snow from miles away - lol.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer?
LB: Writing has been a journey, that's for sure. Halfway through college, I changed my major (for the third time) to journalism. I was fortunate to graduate and land a job with The Chronicle of the Horse, a weekly sport horse magazine. I loved working for the mag, traveling the world, and meeting wonderful people. When I became a mom, my focus shifted, and I wanted to work from home. I spent years working as a sponsorship coordinator for youth non-profit groups.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
LB: I'm a natural blonde, and there are times I live up to that fact! I heard about the Writing for the Soul conference and decided I should go. I didn't have a manuscript, or even a WIP. I sat in my three editorial meetings and asked a lot of questions. I had no clue that other writers were there hoping to pitch a book. I loved the classes, and felt I had found what my heart was longing for. I went home and started writing short stories. A few years later, I chaperoned my daughter's weeklong sailing adventure, and the idea for Shenandoah Nights was born. A year later, I had a rough draft and a bigger dream.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
LB: Shenandoah Nights was my first novel. I was truly blessed to sell it, and be offered a contract for an additional two books.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
LB: I started writing stories as a child, but nudge to write novels came twelve years ago shortly after I was baptized. Ideas came at me from everywhere - standing in line at the grocery store imaging two people meeting in the produce aisle, waiting at the airport and watching couples interact and scripting their dialogue, listening to music and extending the lyrics for another three hundred pages - it seemed as though the world was shouting out story concepts. My personal reading had shifted to mostly Christian books, so I knew whatever I wrote I wanted to be clean and inspirational.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
LB: I spend way more time online. I had no idea how much time I would need to spend on the promotional side of the business. I'm still trying to gain a presence on Twitter, while Instagram and Pinterest are looming in the distance.
WG: What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
LB: The best part of being a published author is the pride I hear in my daughters' voices. I love listening to one of them tell their friends, or strangers, that their mom is an author. What I hope they've learned is that pursuing a dream is the best way to achieve a goal.
WG: What about your writing process? Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
LB: My "work" day begins at the gym, seriously. Four or five mornings a week I print out my previous day's writing, and head to the gym to either run on the treadmill or the elliptical. While I'm running for an hour to an hour and a half, I edit. Once I'm home, clean, and back in my office, I'll type in my edits, and then set about reaching my word count goal for the day. I tend to take a break midday, especially in the summer months. And I love writing at night. It's the most peaceful time for me.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
LB: I do now. When I wrote Shenandoah Nights, I wrote when I had time or felt motivated. Now I write five days a week. The days might change (it's a Saturday as I'm typing this), but I have to stay focused if I'm going to produce at least two books a year.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
LB: As crazy as this might sound, my morning runs set the tone for my writing time. The editing I do as I run gets me back into the story, and I often make notes as thoughts, dialogue, and scene details, come to me while I'm logging in the miles. On the days I don't run, which is only three or four a month, my brain does not work as well. :)
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
LB: I have an idea where the story is going, but I tend to dive into the writing. I'm not one to outline or plot out my story.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
LB: I start with a storyline and two or three characters. They seem to "arrive" at the same time in my thought process - normally when I'm working on another book. I jot down some notes, and come back to them when that story calls to me the loudest.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
LB: Hmmmm, not so much. I'm writing books four and five now, so ask me when I'm on book 20. I've jumped from time travel/historical fiction in the first trilogy to contemporary romance in the new series.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
LB: I have so many stories bouncing around in my head, and new ones popping up weekly. I'll never run out of ideas for the next book.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
LB: My biggest obstacle is everything else in life that has to get done. Is there anyone who can't relate? Work, children, family, volunteer projects, the house, the yard - eh gads there is always so much to do. I have to set aside dedicated time for writing. If I don't, I can get far behind on a deadline.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
LB: I am more productive in the winter when it's cold outside and I have no desire or need to work in the yard. My office is warm and cozy, and I want to be there. :)
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
LB: I'm a sap for happily ever after. I'll read a mystery, western, historical, time travel, regency, contemporary - as long as there's a good love story involved, I'm a happy reader.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
LB: I would love to write a murder mystery one day. Nothing violent, because I'm a total wimp when it comes to blood and guts and fists and guns, but a good mystery with a touch of humor would be a blast to explore one day.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
LB: The best advice I was ever given, and followed, was to "write every day." Whether you write a paragraph, a page, or a chapter, write something about something so you continue to hone your craft. And, if you're writing a novel in your spare time - after working a day job and raising children - every sentence you type is one sentence closer to typing "The End," so write whatever you can when you can.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
LB: My ah-ha moment was becoming a member of a writing group. We meet every week, reading a chapter from our work in progress and critiquing each other's writings. Not only do I receive feedback, encouragement and suggestions on my writing, but as I critique the other members' chapters I am honing my skills. Wednesday night is my favorite night of the week!
WG: Rejections, less than stellar reviews and notes from unhappy readers are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
LB: As you said, Winnie, rejections and bad reviews are part of the business. I try to glean what I can from a rejection if there are comments about why the story didn't impress an editor or judge. I'm always disappointed when a reader didn't enjoy my book, but I try to keep it in perspective. The reality is that I don't enjoy every book that I read, so why should I think that every reader is going to love my stories. And chocolate always helps - lol.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
LB: I once took a class on writing where the instructor insisted that we writers needed to plot out our stories, as in paragraph plotting. I tried. I seriously tried. But I spent hours straining my brain cells and closing down my creativity. I'm better off writing as I go without too much structure.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
LB: I love meeting and talking to readers, sharing stories of faith, what we love about books, what books are our favorites. I struggle with the publicity/media aspect. I've signed up for another online class this fall. I'll keep plugging away at till I get it, but I'd rather be writing. :)
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
LB: I go to the beach. I love, love, love the beach. I can walk the shoreline for hours. The water soothes my soul.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
LB: I dreamed of riding horses all day, every day.
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
LB: I live on an Island and rarely, maybe once a summer, go in the water to swim. It is too darn cold for me!
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
LB: I don't watch TV, but I do LOVE movies. In no particular order, here are my top ten at the moment. I've watched all of these at least three dozen times! Notting Hill, Ever After, Something's Gotta Give, Love Actually, The Proposal, The Notebook, Sweet Home Alabama, Sense and Sensibility, Frozen, and Beauty and the Beast.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
LB: I have two hanging in my office:
1. Eat * Pray * Run -- a marathoners take on Eat, Pray, Love. I often joke that mine should read: Pray, eat, pray, pray, run, pray, and continue to pray.
2. "We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes." -- I read this quote by Chuck Swindoll over ten years ago. I carried it around in my wallet until the paper crumbled. My hope and my goal is that my attitude will be and remain positive through life's many circumstances.
LB: Shenandoah Dreams, the third book in my Winds of Change trilogy, was released this summer. The first two books, Shenandoah Nights and Shenandoah Crossings, each mentioned Melissa. We met her briefly in Shenandoah Nights, but she demanded a book of her own. Melissa's story is really what started it all, though the reader doesn't discover how and why until Dreams. All three books are historical fiction with time travel. I was able to indulge my passion for the American Revolutionary War and pretend that I was there, at least for a moment through my characters.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
LB: Living on Martha's Vineyard, our children experience different field trips than some of my friend's who live on the mainland. Every student graduating from fifth grade has the opportunity to go on a weeklong sail aboard the schooner Shenandoah with his or her school. I was fortunate to be a chaperone on two school trips. The Shenandoah is a true sailboat - no electricity. The students, and chaperone, lived for a week as though we were in the eighteenth century. Our cell phones, game boys, computers and modern-day devices were left at home. As the days passed, I began to fantasize that I had stepped back in time. I wrote down my thoughts, took notes about the ship, snapped dozens of pictures, and began to formulate a story idea. A year later, I had written Shenandoah Nights. My editor, Ramona Tucker of OakTara Publishers, asked if I could write a trilogy. I said, "Sure thing!"
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
LB: The first two books in the series required a lot of research, gaining information about American forces and British troops. By the time I started writing Shenandoah Dreams, I had the bulk of my research done. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the American Revolution. I probably read more than I had to because I couldn't get enough of that time period. I've visited the Freedom Trail in Boston at least half a dozen times, and I never tire of it.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
LB: I am working on two books at the moment. A Dream for Love is the first book in a new trilogy. I'm having a blast with these characters. A single mom wins a week's stay at a movie stars summer home. She's thrilled, until the Hollywood bad boy shows up after being kicked off his movie set. He wants her gone. She wants him gone. They set one another off on a daily basis, and sometimes they're not arguing! The second book, Breaking Silence, steps into the final days of an abusive marriage and follows the woman's journey to healing. It's a powerful story, and it touches my heart daily, but also find myself needing a walk on the beach sometimes to clear my head and renew my spirit.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
LB: I'm active on my author FB page: www.facebook.com/belcastrolisa and on my website: www.lisabelcastro.com as well as dabbling with twitter:www.twitter.com/lisabelcastro19
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!
LB: Thanks so much for having me Winnie! All the best to you and your readers.