Friday, June 21, 2013

He Belongs to Me by Theresa Rizzo

Today I'm interviewing debut author, Theresa Rizzo.  I first met Theresa when I attended the Crested Butte Writer's Conference in Colorado.  Let me tell you, if you ever can only choose one conference I highly recommend this one. It is in a beautiful setting. The attendance is low which provides for a more intimate experience where you are not lost among thousands. It has great opportunities for one-on-one time with editors and agents.

Anyway, Theresa was my contact for the Sandy contest and for the conference and she is simply a delight to be around.  So, when I heard about her debut novel coming out, I absolutely wanted to feature her on my blog.  First let's learn about this wonderful book.

He Belongs to Me

. . . a tale of betrayal and deception and of a young mother's determination to recover what belongs to her. 

Catherine Boyd will do anything to regain custody of her young son . . . Even reconcile with the husband accused of killing their son’s twin.

Catherine graduates from college, eager to start a new life with her six-year-old son, Drew. But when she tries to bring him home, her parents refuse to relinquish control of the grandson they’d raised. 

Wrongly accused of a horrible crime, Thomas Boyd has buried himself in his career, determined to forget his painful past and the family he lost. But now, five years later, Catherine is back, requesting his help to regain custody of their son — custody he thought she had. 

Though older and wiser, when courtroom battles reveal lies and secrets and generations of pain, will Thomas and Catherine find more tragedy and loss, or will old wounds finally heal?


What are your roots?

I’m Irish/Italian. Sicilian Italian to be specific. Yeah . . . we’re not quiet, calm people.

Has your own family story impacted your writing at all?

Aw now, Maggie, you’re gonna get me in trouble here.  All families have secrets, don’t you think? My parents were strong-willed people—not nearly as bad as Eric and Sarah, but they definitely had their opinions and I grew up in a family full of rules. I was engaged at 19 and married at 21 and now, I get why my parents freaked out. I remember vividly what it was like to be a young adult –and I looked younger than I was-- and I remember how adults treated me and my husband in our early 20s. It wasn’t easy.

How do you describe yourself as a writer?

Determined. I’ve been learning the craft and writing for more than a dozen years. I’m finishing my 6th book. Even though I’m a hybrid author—this book is romantic, yet it’s not classified as a romance—I’m determined to put my books out there and see if they have an audience even though they don’t necessarily fit in a neat genre.

Why did you pick this particular genre for your writing?

The genre picked me really. I write about what fascinates me, and apparently people and relationships are one thing that interests me.

Why was it important for you to write this particular novel?

Because I empathized so much with Catherine and Thomas. I read this article in the newspaper about a guy whose baby died and he was accused of shaking it to death and then was later acquitted. Even though he was exonerated . . . how’s that couple supposed to go on? What chance does that relationship have of surviving? The whole situation fascinated me, so I built a story around it.

What was hard for you in writing this novel?

I had to learn a LOT about trials and child custody laws and procedures. I suppose the real challenge was in making such damaged people sympathetic so that the reader would like them and root for them. They made some HUGE mistakes and I needed the reader to stick around long enough to understand what happened and why, and not simply judge them as pathetic losers and not want to read their story.

Are there themes that recur in your work?

Redemption seems to be a reoccurring theme for this optimist.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing one last revision on my next book, Just Destiny, that is supposed to come out in the fall, but won’t be out until early 2014. 

We unexpectedly sold our house, scrambled to find another home that’s being built and won’t be ready until the fall, so we’re moving into temporary housing for several months.

Just Destiny blurb: Jenny is a beautiful young woman whose seemingly perfect marriage to Gabe is shattered by a tragic accident that leaves her husband brain dead. Devastated at the sudden loss, she decides to preserve the best of their love by harvesting Gabe’s sperm for later insemination. 

But her husband’s powerful, grieving uncle, the man who raised him, thinks of Jenny as a gold digger and is willing to risk exposing long-held family secrets in court to stop her.

The prospect of a grueling trial tests Jenny’s resolve, until an unexpected ally comes to her aid giving her the opportunity to win and the possibility of a second chance at happiness. 

What would you like to write in the future?

Whatever moves me. I’ve finished a rough draft of a suspense and then I’ve got a few other ideas percolating.

What three books did you read in 2012 that you loved and would recommend to others as excellent? 

Kaki Warner’s Heartbreak Creek series. I loved the Hunger Game series by Suzanne Collins—though book three didn’t bowl me over the way the other books did.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of this blog?

If you read He Belongsto Me , please write a review on Amazon, contact me on Facebook or through my lovely website and let me know what you thought of it.  I’m always eager to see how my book was received and because of the early reviewers comments that they wished I’d written an epilogue . . . that’s on my to-do list after I polish up Just Destiny. 

I’ll write an epilogue to He Belongs to Me and post it on my website.
Happy reading!

My Review 

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect of this book. I always have a little trepedation when reading a book by a debut author.  As anyone who follows my reviews, you know I'm pretty darn picky. Anyone who knows me, knows I love good issues, building and trusting relationships, and definitely forgiveness of all kinds. However, writing that kind of book is VERY difficult and I often find myself disappointed.  Not so in this case.

In HE BELONGS TO ME I found issues, relationships, tragedy and triumph in spades, and none of it was won easily--none of it was tied up in a neat little bow.  I was sucked in during the first chapter watching the setup play out between Catherine, her son Drew, and her parents.  I was crying by the time the chapter was over. Then the involvement of her estranged husband, Thomas, and watching the ups and downs of that relationship kept me turning the pages and hoping against hope that these two young people would find a way to survive their past and move forward.

Adept strokes with characterization, description, a little humor at just the right times all conspired to make me fall in love with this book.  By a third of the way through, nothing could stop me from continuing to read.  This is not a light-hearted book, but it is a book with amazing heart.  Ms. Rizzo slowly tears away the skin of masks, self-deception, and guilt as she takes the reader layer by layer into the families of Catherine, Thomas, and their own tragic beginning with marriage at a very young age.  It is indeed a tearing of skin as each person faces up to his or her past and has to try again and again to find a way to move forward in spite of it.

This book is not a romance in the traditional sense, but the romance between Catherine and Thomas is one for the ages.  Not an easy romance, but one that is so hard fought and so realistic that you truly believe they will make it for the rest of their lives. Even the dysfunctional romance of Catherine's parents is one to carefully evaluate and understand. Though I hated so many of the parents' choices,  I still found myself rooting for them to recover from their own mistakes, to forgive themselves so they could move forward.

Much of the latter part of this book revolves around Catherine's court case to regain custody of her son.  It is through that venue that the author chooses to reveal all of the family relationships and their myriads of interconnections, pain and tragedy--but also to provide healing.  Just as in therapy one needs a third party to help see the truth, sometimes in dysfunctional families it is the court that provides that third party and allows the truth to come out. Unfortunately, learning the truth in court is one of the most difficult ways for a family to recover--many never do.

I heartily recommend HE BELONGS TO ME anyone who has the heart to cheer for three families, in all their brokenness and tragedy, to survive their pasts and somehow find a future together.  As a psychological character study and a romance that becomes stronger, because of survival and forgiveness, this book is a triumph.  A Very Strong 5 Stars!!!

About The Author

Theresa Rizzo is an award-winning author who writes emotional stories that explore the complexity of relationships and families through real-life trials. 

Born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado with her husband of thirty years. She’s raised four wonderful children who are now scattered across the country.

Find Theresa On the Web:  Website |  Facebook  |  Twitter  | Goodreads


Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to do an interview with me, Theresa. As you can tell, I LOVED your book. I don't give very many 5 star reviews, but when I do I tell absolutely everyone about them. :)

Evelyn Bohn said...

Wow! Maggie called me late last night to tell me about this book. I've never heard her so excited. She knows I come from a pretty dysfunctional family (not rich like the ones in your story). Anyway, I went to download it at Kobo but saw it was only for Pre-Order. Darn! I ordered it anyway, so it will load as soon as it's available.

Theresa said...

Hi Maggie, Thank YOU so much for having me on your blog. I'm sorry I'm a bit late in visiting with you, but I'm at the conference and had some internet issues. Anyhow, THANK YOU for the lovely, eloquent review! I'm glad you enjoyed the book!
And Evelyn, I"m sorry Kobo still has it as pre-order. It should have released. I'll look into it right away and I hope you enjoy it too!
Thanks for chatting with me, Ladies!

Theresa said...

OH--I forgot to mention that having a fellow writer--a really good writer-- appreciate my story means a lot to me!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

I figured you were at Crested Butte, Theresa. Not sure why more people aren't visiting. I'll have to push it out again. I hope the conference is going well.

As to your book, it really is special. Huge Congrats.