A “spotlight” is defined as “intense scrutiny or public attention.” “A lamp projecting a narrow, intense beam of light directly onto a place or person.” Or in my case, possibly a great author. Come back regularly to check out my latest Spotlight!
Today I had the chance to interview Liz Galvano, author of the Casa Bella Chronicles. Liz, please tell us about yourself!
I grew up in a house full of people; Mom and Dad, four brothers and two sisters, plus an array of aunts, uncles and cousins. I’d say we are a typical Italian American family. We did everything together, work, school, chores, church, and especially golf because golf was our family business. Every night we would gather around the dinner table, no excuses.
I met my husband Jeff in my twenties. I told my girlfriends he was the one guy I knew who I could NOT bring home to my parents. At the time, he had long hair and knowing my ultra conservative parents, well, let’s just say I knew they wouldn’t approve. So I married him.
Thirty years later, everyone gets along! LOL. Jeff and I have spent a good portion of our married lives in ministry. We’ve worked with every age from the cradle to the grave. A few years back, we started Refuge Ministries, a platform from which we counsel and speak.
I credit my love of writing to my love of reading, and this I learned from my mother. She faithfully read to us kids most every night; not just picture books but big long books, like Pilgrims Progress. I began to read and I read everything I could get my hands on. Wisely, mom steered me towards the classics, especially C.S. Lewis. These classic tales, so strong, so empowering, changed my life. Maybe I could be this creative too. I was so enraptured by the idea of my own world that I began writing at a very early age, but I never took it seriously.
About ten years ago, I noticed that all the kids I knew were obsessed with a particular vampire series. Being a career kid person and an avid reader, I try to at least keep up with what’s going on in order to have intelligent discussions with those around me. So I read this series. I was both drawn in and repulsed at the same time. The heroes were selfish and shallow, and the story overall, a bloody mess. This, I noticed, was a common theme among popular books. No sense of right and wrong. No firm moral compass to guide them and definitely no God to keep their motives pure. I found nothing in these books worth living up to. I began to pray and I began to write.
I write as a direct answer to the above dilemma. There is a God and He is good. He urges us on to be more than we think we are and to live with reckless abandon for Him. Real adventure begins when you commit your life to Him and follow His lead. Like all the tales of the great authors, the road is rough, it’s long, and you could die. But would you rather die in the middle of an adventure or of old age in a rocking chair never having lived at all? It’s my prayer that through the stories I write you will see more clearly Who the Author of Life is and how we are called to follow.
If you’d like me to speak to your group I’ll talk your ear off and I’ll bring my skillet and teach you an authentic Italian recipe. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
When did you first hear of the event that happened in Messina, Italy? What made you want to write about it?
Liz: I love, love history! I first read about the earthquake at Messina while digging through Italian history. I was so surprised. Why hadn’t I heard of it? This was the largest natural disaster of the 20th century. Over 100,000 people perished and yet no one knew about it. It was as if we’d forgotten about it. It was international news at the time, which in itself was amazing. The earthquake at Messina was a catalyst for so much, including Mercy Ships, modern triage, and international travel of the American Red Cross. This was their first international undertaking. Many, many famous people at the time came to visit the ruins, including Teddy Roosevelt and author Maude Howe, who penned a book on the subject. The people of this era were en-large, Christians, and according to Maude Howe, acted on their faith to dig Messina out from tons of rubble. So many willingly laid their lives down in the process. This story needed to be brought forward again. I could talk all day about it!
What do you hope readers take away from Messina?
Liz: Several things. The first comes from the scripture reference at the beginning of the book; Romans 8:28 “And we know God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” No matter how horrible the circumstance, God will bring good out of it if you let Him.
Next; exactly what it means to be a hero and Christian. A few years back a good many dear friends were reading a number of very yucky books. The main characters were very selfish and self-centered and yet the author portrayed them as heroes. Everyone seemed to be hooked; following as though their lives depended on it. So I started praying…and this thought occurred to me …What if God had a set of heroes? You know, a family of heroes from an old family? Who would they be? How would they live? How would they die? They would be human for sure, with failures and misgivings. But what if?? What if there was one family who since the days of the Emperor Diocletian served God in unbroken succession? What would God do with them?
That’s how the Castello family came to be. They are heroes who live and die in absolute service to Christ. In Messina the reader is introduced to this family through the eyes of an American doctor, Lucy James. Lucy is ready to serve God no matter the circumstance. As is Giovanni, even though he is a prodigal and has yet to acknowledge his calling. Hopefully through the example of this family of people, we can, as is stated in the traditional marriage proposal of the House of Castello: ‘Willingly follow the footsteps of Christ even if it means certain death.”
What was your favorite scene in Messina? Which was the most fun to write? Which was the hardest? Why?
Liz: There are many scenes that stand out. The dinner scenes, for example, because they reflect how I was brought up. The scenes where Lucy proves herself or when Father Dominic soundly puts Giovanni in his place…but by far my favorite scene is the proposal…so very romantic…I’ll not say much about it because if you haven’t read it, you should.
What inspired Anna Lucia, book 2 in the Chronicles?
Liz: What inspired me to write Messina also inspired Anna Lucia. There were, at the time, no Christian fiction novels about Italy, and very few about an older couple. You know, someone my age. Okay…. C.S. Lewis said, “If you can’t find the book you want to read, then write it.” So I decided to tell the tale of the woman who helped to make Lucy (from Messina) so insecure. Everyone has a story. What was it that happened to Aunt Lucinda to cause her to be so hard on Lucille? Once I met Vincenzo, I knew. This story, in the first half, is a reflection of God in His pursuit of us, unconditionally. The second half is the tale of a Christian coming to maturity. Plus I love a love story. So there.
How do you get inspiration?
Liz: My favorite place to think and pray is on the back of my horse, Murphy. He’s a slow-going Quarter horse who really enjoys a walk through the woods. The Florida wilderness is one of my favorite places. You never know what you’ll see; anything from deer to bears (hopefully not), alligators, and snakes, and all kinds of birds. I also get inspired by the people around me. The next installment of The Casa Bella Chronicles will include two ladies who are actually friends of mine; Ashley and Jessica. They are wonderful young women, strong and vibrant Christians. I couldn’t help but model my next characters after them. So I asked and they said yes! Yay.
I know you’re working on the third book in the Casa Bella Chronicles. What can you tell us?
Liz: Well, Book 3 will be called The Iron Door. It takes place during World War 2 and will be the ultimate test of the Castello’s commitment to do justice and protect the weak and innocent. Franco, the son of Anna and Vincenzo, and Gio, the son of Lucy and Giovanni, will be the principal characters, along with Ashley and Jessica who I mentioned earlier.
Can we get a sneak peek at The Iron door?
“Americani?” He shouted at the plane.
“Inglaese, perfore!” From across the glade the older man spoke. “American’s, stand up please.”
Ashely could hardly keep her knees from shaking. She took a deep breath and stood. Lord, Jesus.I need your help. She prayed in her heart.
“The other one too. Let me see your hands.” The man approached. His hardened face made his age a mystery.
“My shoulder is dislocated and my friend is hurt.” Ashley first looked the man in the eye then down at Jessica, who lay still on the grass. “She’s in need of some medical attention.” Would she have to plead?
He followed her gaze with his own, but remained silent.
The other three men approached her now; another about the same age as the first, the other two, younger. They carried their weapons as though they had done this for many years. Covered in dirt, head to toe, one had a moustache the other quite clean shaven for someone out in the wild.
The unnerving quiet made Ashley shiver. Here they were two women in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by men, who obviously were not friendly. What would become of her? Of Jessica? She shoved the thought from her mind and steeled her jaw. She wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“Giovanni,” The old man, before them, spoke.
“I’ve got it.” The one with the moustache dropped to his knees. He leaned over Jessica and gently peeled the bandage off. Then he unbuttoned her flight suit.
They’d have to kill her first. “What are you doing?” Ashely swung around and knocked the mustached man off his feet with her good arm.
“Mamma mia!” The man she’d shoved caught himself.
The clean-shaven guy grabbed Ashely and held tight. She cried out with pain from her shoulder.
“Let. Me. Go; wop!” She fought with all her strength, but he was just too strong.
The fourth man motioned with his hand, palm down. “Franco, dolcemente. Lei teme.” His dirty face and scruffy beard, hair in a mess on top of his head; was that compassion in his eyes?
“Giovanni’s a doctor.” Franco let go, but not before he turned Ashley to face him.
“Arrgh!” Ashley took a swing at him. He caught her arm before she had a chance to connect.
“Basta!” His frown looked imposing. He shook his head. “Stop. We’re helping her.”
“Maybe you should go check on the pilot.” One of the old guys spoke.
Franco narrowed his eyes at Ashley, then trotted off to the nose of the plane.
“My name is Michele.” The man looked at her directly. “This is my brother Antonio,”
“Hello.” Antonio smiled slightly and gave a quick bow.
“Those are our nephews, Franco, the one you tried to hit,” Michele smirked but kept his voice soft, “and Giovanni, the one you did hit,” he grinned. “but he likes to be called ‘Gio’.” Michele rolled his eyes.
Okay, Liz, tell us something fun about yourself! I just happen to know that you’re a Disney fan. Why is that?
Liz: Why do I love Disney so much?
I love the Golden age of Disney; when Walt himself had his hand in everything. I once read an interview in which he talked about the elements of a great story: Good guy and gal, bad guy, and good always winning. This story line seems a little old fashioned now, but I think he was right. This theme is something we’re lacking. We need more tales of selfless sacrifice and of heroics. A lot has changed at Disney World over the years, but they still have Walt’s passion for children and for details. A great story isn’t in the narrative; it’s in the details that the author has taken the time to fill in. The sights, sounds, and smells. Disney inspires me to push on and create the very best story I can tell.
You love to cook. What’s your go to dinner when you’re tired or in a hurry?
Liz: I always fall back on what I know… Italian. It’s quick, easy with very few ingredients, and always fresh. I love to make pizza or a quick Olio. (olive oil and garlic sauce). Poor Jeff. He’s been given Italian stuff for so long there are times he’ll look in the fridge and ask, “Don’t we have anything… … normal?”
Me. “Normal? It’s all normal.”
Thanks for being with me today, Liz. You know I’m a huge fan of the Casa Bella Chronicles. In fact, both books are among the best Historical Fiction that I’ve ever read. I’m in love with the Castello family! I so look forward to book 3, The Iron Door.
Seriously, friends, if you enjoy Christian Historical fiction, you have to read these! You can get them on Amazon today. Just click here!
Welcome to my blog, Alexa. Please tell me and my readers about yourself and your new book.
Thank you so much for interviewing me, Vicky! Happy to be on your blog.
Probably the most interesting thing about me is that I speak five languages. I lived in both hemispheres, and I currently call a small town in south Texas home. It serves as an inspiration for the fictional setting, Rios Azules, in nearly all my books.
Hey, you have a new release. Fill us in!
I’m so glad you asked! Rapsodia is Book 3 in a multi-author series, A Tuscan Legacy, and it just became available for pre-order for the special price of 99 cents. This price goes up a week after the release, but the book will be available for free in Kindle Unlimited.
Why did you decide to participate in this project?
When Marion Ueckermann and Autumn Macarthur asked me to join, I couldn’t say yes fast enough! I enjoy writing Christian romance and suspense, and I absolutely loved the idea of the series about faith, love, family, forgiveness, and yes, Italy! Here’s a little more about the series.
Eight grandchildren– one legacy!
When Isabella Rossi invites each of her adult grandchildren to her estate in the Tuscan hills for her eightieth birthday, she hopes to reunite a family fractured by distance, death, and secrets.
The birthday gift of a painting, arriving unsigned and with no sender’s details, rips open old heartbreak. One family secret has already been revealed, her youngest son Albertino’s illegitimate English daughter. Now it seems there could be yet more secrets.
Returning home, the cousins scattered across three continents each discover their lifetime love. When they gather again at the villa as summer ends, the remaining secrets are revealed. But can they be forgiven, or will the mistakes of the past be repeated?
What’s your favorite part about writing?
I love writing stories that hopefully bring people closer to God and give them hope. It’s always a huge joy for me when my book touches someone’s soul.
And I enjoy so much to immerse myself in my stories. Sometimes, I live vicariously through my characters. While Samantha, the heroine of Rapsodia, has to endure and learn a lot on the way to her happily ever after, who wouldn’t like to have a hunky Italian executive fall in love with her? Of course, I can’t fight the way Samantha does or have her talent for taking amazing photos that won awards, but from time to time I found myself repeating her gestures. And it was so much fun learning about one of my favorite Italian dishes, pizza.
Apparently, I have many favorite parts about writing, but the first one is the most important.
Where readers can learn more about the series?
Thank you for asking! We’d be so happy if readers visited and/or followed the series Amazon page here and visited our website here. There’s a lot of information there about the books, releases schedule, excerpts, and so much more!
Thank you so much for being with us today!!