Saturday, April 12, 2014

Featured Debut Novelist: Lisa Belcastro

Lisa Belcastro lives with her family on Martha’s Vineyard. She was inspired to write the Winds of Change trilogy while chaperoning two Tisbury School summer sails aboard the schooner Shenandoah with her daughter, Kayla. The week-long adventure, sans electricity, Game Boys, iPods and modern conveniences, kindled her imagination to dream of an altogether different voyage. 

Lisa currently writes the cuisine column for Vineyard Style magazine. She has worked as a staff and freelance reporter and photographer for The Chronicle of the Horse and as assistant editor at The Blue Ridge Leader. She has written articles for USA Today, Dressage (London), USA WEEKEND Magazine, The Blue Ridge Leader and Sidelines. Lisa co-authored and edited two non-fiction books, American Horses in Sport 1987 and American Horses in Sport 1988.

When she’s not at her desk, Lisa is living in paradise, volunteering at her daughter’s school, serving in her church community, planting and weeding her numerous gardens, trying to run a marathon a month or walking the beach looking for sea glass.

The following is an April 2014 interview with Lisa.


Be in to win copies of 
Shenandoah Nights &
Shenandoah Dreams
by Lisa Belcastro

One Kindle set to be won
Contest open to entrants worldwide.
Contest runs from 11-25 April NZDT

Lisa and her daughter Kayla at the finish of the Honolulu Marathon in December. Hawaii was Lisa's 50th state, and Kayla ran the last mile with.
Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a single mom who enjoys cooking, running, reading, movies, working in the yard, and outdoor adventures. I love summer, and do my best to survive the cold of winter. I confess to complaining about chilly weather (anything below 50 degrees), but you will never hear me gripe about heat and humidity! I live on a small Island in the Northeast, sadly we are not tropical. I love chocolate, probably too much but who's counting calories today.

My cat, Ben, so named after the male lead in Shenandoah Nights, is my full-time writing assistant, sleeping beside, or on, my computer while I work. Ben showed up on our doorstep on a frosty seven-degree day meowing to be let in. I couldn't resist him, and he's been here ever since.

I love the ocean, but the water is too cold where I live for me to brave a swim. I'm a natural blonde who loves blonde jokes! One Halloween I wore glasses and carried a dictionary and said I was dressed up as a Smart Blonde. Love it!!

What inspired you to become a novelist, and did you always want to write?

I have loved reading and books since I was old enough to pick one up. In elementary school, I started writing my own stories. Nothing worth publishing, mind you, but I got the itch to jot down the imaginary world going on inside my head.  I went to college to be a teacher, but writing kept calling out to me.  I graduated with a journalism degree and had a blast over the next ten years traveling the world writing news stories.

After I married and had my daughter, jumping on planes no longer appealed to me.  Working from home got my more creative juices flowing again.  After attending a fiction writing workshop, I decided to further my education -- this time in creative writing. Two years later, I was ready to begin a new career with a dream, a hope, and a few God-inspired ideas.

What do you think is significant about Christian fiction?

When my youngest was around six, we were driving to school and listening to a Christian radio station.  Toby Mac was playing and she said, "Isn't it cool mom? We can rap with God."

I thought about her comment long after she exited the car.  On the whole, I don't like rap music -- too much swearing, too many negative images and words being spoken/sung.  But when Toby Mac raps about his faith walk, God's love, living in grace, then I LOVE rap music and the catching wake-me-up beat.  I feel the same way about Christian fiction - wonderful books that take me away from my every day life and allow me to immerse myself in another character, another world for a short period of time, yet while I'm reading and fantasizing, I am walking with God.  Whether a character's faith is strong or struggling, I'm cheering for him or her to see God's hand in his or her life.  That's a great bonus for all of us who love Christian fiction.

How do you hope your readers react to the stories you write?

First, I hope they have fun.  I hope they get lost in the story and that whatever is going on their lives -- good days, bad days and in-between -- that they'll have a few hours of dreams, fantasy, love, inspiration and adventure. And I pray they'll see how God touches their daily lives just as he does the characters in my novels.

Finishing the first leg of Disney's Dopey Challenge this past January.
What has been the most surprising aspect to becoming a published novelist? 

Well - honestly - how much marketing and promotional work there is to do.  I had no idea!  I now have a  twitter account, a Facebook author page, and I've started Pinterest. I'm told this is only the tip of the iceberg - lol.  My website is in the fine-tuning stages and should be fully interactive within the next month.  I'm working on a newsletter, which I plan to publish monthly.  There is so much beyond writing that I had no clue about.

How has being a novelist impacted your relationship with Christ? 

I pray daily for guidance to write, asking God to give me words that will be engaging and reveal Him at the same time.  I am more cognizant today of how Christ is present in every thing and every one. As I create my character's lives and watch God move in them, I realize how powerful He is in my life and in the "real" world. I love when I'm lost in the story, typing away, and then it hits me: God was there beside Melissa just as He is with Jessica today during her chemo treatment. The storylines reinforce my faith and God's presence in my life. It's pretty cool!

Other than being a novelist, what other goals do you have for your life? 

Last year I completed my goal to run a marathon in all fifty states. Running 26.2 miles is hard and long, but I find it to be a great prayer time.  Somewhere between miles 18-22 I begin asking myself why I wanted to get up and run that morning, but by the time I cross the finish line, I am always glad I started the race.  I am blessed to be a member of TEAM 413 (, an athletic group that competes wearing the message of Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Wearing 'the shirt' has led to some amazing and inspiring encounters.  I've prayed with a woman who lost her mom in horrific farming accident, an alcoholic dad who was struggling to stay sober, people battling cancer, and men and women facing a myriad of life challenges who ask for prayer or a friendly ear to listen. I'm honored that strangers will see 'the shirt' and reach out to me. In November, a group of nine TEAM413 runners will run a 50-mile race for the glory of God. Some of us on the TEAM are turning, or have turned, 50 this year. We decided, or I should say Kiki decided, that we ought to run 50 miles to celebrate our 50th birthdays. My main goal, and hope, is that I will be obedient to God and He will use me for His service, whether through writing, running or an opportunity He has yet to reveal to me.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

I love to garden and walk the beach.  Living near the ocean is a great comfort to me.  The vastness of the sea is a constant reminder of God's great love.  I cannot see the end of the ocean when I stand on the beach, which always reminds me that I will never come to the end of God'd grace and love. Gardening is my hobby eight months out of the year. I enjoy every aspect of growing, weeding, harvesting and enjoying the fruits, vegetables and flowers I grow. When I need to think through a problem in life, a good dose of weeding usually helps me sort through what I need to pull out of my heart or what needs to be tended to.

The Shenandoah anchored off Tarpaulin Cove on one of the kid cruises Lisa chaperoned.
What can you tell us about your debut novel? 

Shenandoah Nights was a "real life" experience for me.  I signed on to chaperone a school field trip aboard the sailing ship, Shenandoah.  The schooner is a true wind powered vessel. No electricity, no motor. The students spend a week onboard learning about eighteenth century maritime life.  Every day aboard Shenandoah I would sit and fantasize what it would have been like to be around during the American Revolution and to have been on a schooner back then.

As the days slipped by and my love of sailing grew, a story began to unfold.  I started taking notes and tons of pictures.  Rebecca, my imaginary teacher chaperone, came to life and I began traveling to Colonial Boston with her.  Rebecca finds herself in a precarious position - transported back in time and accused of being a stow-away. She faces charges of treason, has no idea how to get home or, after falling in love with Captain Benjamin Reed, if she wants to go home.  Her one constant is the faith her grandmother instilled in her. Though her prayer life had been more of the mustard seed kind, Rebecca finds that God is the only source of hope she can fully rely on as her world is turned upside down.  The book was a blast to write.

What stories can your fans expect from you in the days ahead? 

Shenandoah Crossings, the second book in the Winds of Change trilogy, is out in bookstores now, and Shenandoah Dreams is due for release this summer.

I've also outlined the next trilogy, a contemporary set amidst the star-studded gala of the Possible Dreams Auction and the amazing dreams people win.  At the auction, people can and do bid on items such as: lunch with Carly Simon, dinner with Tom Hanks, sailing trips, movie openings, and so on.  In the first book, the sister of the female lead is going to buy a week's stay at a famous movie star's summer home and give it to Laurel.  Laurel's much-needed week away with her 4-year-old daughter will experience a major glitch when Hollywood bad boy Ryan Crandall shows up unannounced after a debacle in his personal life made front-page headlines around the world.  He needs to escape. Laurel needs to relax. Neither wants the other's company, never mind a relationship. I can't wait to start writing, and living, those stories.

What would you like to say to your upcoming fans in New Zealand and around the world?

Thanks for spending part of your day with me.  I hope we can become friends as you get to know me and I get to know you. Please stop by my website and Facebook page to introduce yourself. I love chatting with fellow readers, discovering what books you love and what your interests are. It is my dream to one day run a marathon in New Zealand, and I hope to meet some of you when I'm there. Ellie, you and I must go to Cadbury!

Do you have any parting words?

I love to travel and see the beauty and interesting places all over the world. I'm always looking for new ideas and interesting places. What do you love about where you live? And where is your favorite location to travel to?

Shenandoah Nights

Could this all be a bad dream?
How was she to know?
Rebecca had far more questions than answers.

Tisbury, Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard

The last thing sixth-grade teacher Rebecca O'Neill wants to do during the final week of her summer break is chaperone twenty-five kids on a six-night, seven-day trip aboard the schooner Shenandoah. But after a desperate phone call from the school principal, she doesn't have a choice. Worse, the ship is rumored to be "haunted." Five years ago, during the Holmes Hole student cruise, teacher Melissa Smith complained about hearing voices and seeing visions, then disappeared without a trace-from the very same cabin where Rebecca will be staying.

Everything seems normal on Sunday as Rebecca boards the impressive Shenandoah. But as she sits in Cabin 8, she hears hushed voices that don't sound like they're from this century. Mike, a crewmember, insists he believes the crazy Island story that Melissa time-traveled to Colonial Boston. His eerie interest in constantly tracking Rebecca's whereabouts rattles her nerves.

Her first night onboard, Rebecca drifts off to sleep...and wakes the following morning with memories of a secretive conversation about a battle with Britain. Monday night Rebecca crawls into her bunk after an adventurous day of sailing, swimming, and overseeing students. She's startled awake when a man grabs her and yells, "Stowaway!" Dragged in front of Captain Benjamin Reed, she looks up into the most gorgeous brown eyes she's ever seen....

Purchase Shenandoah Nights (Winds of Change #1)
[ | Amazon Kindle | 
The Book Depository]

Shenandoah Crossings

Spunky Tess Roberts is more than ready for a grand adventure-and a lasting love-of her own. And the Shenandoah might be her last chance. Tisbury, Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard:
Tess Roberts may live on Martha's Vineyard, vacation spot for movie stars and presidents, but the Island feels anything but idyllic. Tess has had it with lousy dates, lying, cheating men, and the rules that forbid her from working on her family's centuries-old schooner, Shenandoah.

Lucky for Tess, she knows a secret-the Shenandoah has magical powers. Her best friend, Rebecca O'Neill, once stayed in Cabin 8 and discovered a time portal that transported her to 1775. A month after Rebecca's "disappearance," Tess's father, brother, and Shenandoah's annoying first mate, Hawk, plan to shut down the time travel for good by dismantling the cabin. But what if Rebecca might someday need to come home? What if Tess isn't ready to say good-bye forever?

Sneaking onto the ship late at night, Tess slips into Cabin 8 and drifts off to sleep. She wakes anchored off the New England coast amidst the American Revolution in 1776. The British frigate HMS Greyhound has seized Shenandoah and taken the crew, cargo, and all onboard hostage. To make matters worse, Hawk is relentlessly tracking her, determined to bring her back to the twenty-first century against her will. Sparks begin to fly, from more than cannonballs and gunpowder....

Purchase Shenandoah Crossings (Winds of Change #2)
[ | Amazon Kindle | 
The Book Depository]

Buy Lisa's Books at The Book Depository

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository


Be in to win copies of 
Shenandoah Nights &
Shenandoah Dreams
by Lisa Belcastro

One Kindle set to be won
Contest open to entrants worldwide.
Contest runs from

 11-25 April NZDT

Please comment about the interview, leave a message for Lisa Belcastro and/or answer the following question when making a blog post comment:

What do you love about where you live? And where is your favorite location to travel to?

 Simply commenting about entering the draw or wanting to win the books does not qualify for valid entry into the draw. 

All entries must be made using the Rafflecopter contest to be eligible for drawing. Winning entries drawn will have their entry options validated before being accepted - if incomplete another entry will be drawn.

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