Thursday, September 5, 2013

Roberta Capizzi ~ HUGGED BY AN ANGEL Interview & Excerpt

How can you ever love again when tragedy has crushed your heart?
Kathleen used to love life. She had plans, dreams, and faith in life; but that was before the accident that took it all away from her in an instant. Now that her beloved brother is dead and she’s confined to a wheelchair, her future is but a dark cloud hovering above her head. How can she ever find the will to move on and keep living without him? Even the cares of the happy-go-lucky American physiotherapist who’s helping her with her rehab therapies are all in vain. Life seems to have lost its meaning, until one night she receives an unexpected celestial visit…
Colin has been working as a physiotherapist in Dublin for almost five years, but he’s never bonded so much with a patient like he is bonding with Kathleen; there’s something about those sad blue eyes that makes him want to help her, to take away the pain that reminds him so much of his own. Having lost both his parents in a plane crash when he was only sixteen, Colin knows how it feels to have someone you love taken so abruptly away from you, and he makes it his mission to help Kathleen find her faith in life again. But something changes along the way…
Sometimes love can work miracles. If you believe.

Hi Roberta.  Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews.  Congratulations on releasing your second book, HUGGED BY AN ANGEL.
Thanks for hosting me again, Kim! I’m really excited about the release of the book and this tour.

Tell us about HUGGED BY AN ANGEL.
Hugged By An Angel is a story of miracles and angels, of tragedy and pain, but ultimately it is a story of love and how it can heal the most shattered soul.
When I wrote the first draft, nine years ago, this was Kathleen’s story only. It was told in her point of view and although Colin did have a part in her life, it was Declan (Kathleen’s dead brother) who played the biggest part in her life. I mainly focused on how she coped with the pain and the loss of her brother, and how she managed to heal and find faith in life and love again. I’m happy I decided to change the story and include Colin’s point of view as well, because I really loved him and I wanted him to have an important role in the story. And, at the end of the day, it’s a romance so there has to be a love story in it!

Anyway, I think I’m digressing a little, so I’ll get back to the question. Hugged By An Angel is the story of Kathleen, as you already have guessed, a 23-year-old Irish girl who is involved in a terrible car accident while she and her beloved older brother Declan are on the way to the airport, where they will take a plane to New York to start a new life. The story starts with Kathleen waking up in a hospital bed, with no memory of why she’s there, and with the awful realization that she cannot feel her legs anymore. Here’s where Colin enters the story. He’s a physiotherapist in the hospital where Kathleen’s been taken and he immediately feels a connection with her, as he can see in her eyes the same pain he’s been feeling over the last thirteen years, since he lost his parents in a plane crash.

Although at first Kathleen is emotionally broken, he makes it his mission to help her get over the pain, and they slowly become friends. I don’t want to say more about it but you can guess, since there is a romance, that things will change between the two of them. There’s also another important character in the story: Declan. He’s now Kathleen’s guardian angel and he’s been sent back down to Earth to help Kathleen, as well as Colin, so that they can both heal and be happy again.

Your books seem to have the theme of tragedy bringing people together, with them finding love.  What is it about these types of stories that appeal to you?
Ha ha, that’s true! I could say I’m not the most optimistic person on earth and this is why I always include tragedy in my stories but the truth is, it was a mere coincidence. Hugged By An Angel was never meant to be published, if I have to be honest with you. Like I said, the first draft was Kathleen’s story and it wasn’t even in English; it was something I wrote soon after my dad died: I found writing a good therapy to keep my mind busy and get over grief, and I poured most of the emotions I was feeling back then onto the pages.

Kathleen was me, her pain was my own and it was good to let go and express the way I was feeling without anyone knowing it. I never meant to let anyone read it. It was only after I published my debut novel (The Melody In Our Hearts) that I opened the manuscript again. I had actually started working on another story (with no tragedy in it!) but Hugged By An Angel had a special place in my heart, so I eventually decided to revise it and change it a little so that other people would read it.

I actually stopped to think for a moment about what people would say if I published another book involving doctors and hospitals, but then again I really wanted to share this story with the world, so I hoped nobody would notice. It seems you caught me red-handed, Kim! LOL. So, you see, it really was just a coincidence and, although I can’t promise my next books won’t include a tragedy, I can assure you there are no deaths or hospitals in my next novel (which I’m hoping to have ready some time next year).

Sorry, Roberta.  That was the first thing I noticed.  I kept thinking darn her, she wants to make me cry.  What are the strengths and weakness of Kathleen and Colin?
Hmm…good question! I think Kathleen’s main weakness is depending totally upon her brother. He was her guiding light, her best friend and basically her hero ever since she was little, so losing him has left her feeling totally lost, “like a ship trying to approach a dark harbor with no lighthouse to guide it”, using Colin’s words.

Her strength? I’d say her big heart and selflessness. Although she’s broken and knows her life will never be the same again, she always try to put on a happy face and pretend she’s okay, so as not to hurt her parents any more than they’re already hurting. Oh, and her stubbornness, too. Once she accepts the fact that she won’t be able to walk again, it’s the only tool she can use to fix her life.

Colin’s weakness is his sense of guilt. Ever since his parents died, he decided to punish himself and to not let anyone close to him or to his heart. Even when he meets Kathleen, he knows he will never allow her into his life or his heart because he feels he’s not worthy of being loved.

His strength is his determination. Although Kathleen keeps pushing him away and doesn’t want to accept his help, he’s determined to be there for her and help her get back to a normal life, so he doesn’t let her behavior discourage him.

You mentioned that your emotions fueled Kathleen and the book.  What was the hardest thing to write in HUGGED BY AN ANGEL?
I think the hardest thing was trying to put myself in Kathleen’s shoes and imagine what it would be like to be in a wheelchair. Sometimes I had to stop and ask myself: “Would she be able to do this?” or “How would she get over this obstacle?” Luckily my brilliant editor pointed out when there were inconsistencies so I could go back and change them so that they would make sense.

And if I have to be totally honest, I hated keeping Colin and Kathleen apart so long and putting obstacles on their way to happiness! It was really hard for me to write those scenes because I really wanted them to be together. Okay, you are officially allowed to say I’m crazy. LOL.

What is it that you hope readers take away from this story?
I don’t really want to lecture anyone, but I do hope that this story will help people realize that it’s possible to find happiness even through tragedy. I know it’s cliché, but “everything happens for a reason” really fits this story. Even when we can’t understand why something terrible happened, we must always try to find the bright side and get on with our lives. And I hope people will understand the power of love and how it can heal our hearts and souls. Was that too soppy?

Soppy? LOL.  I’m sorry, I keep forgetting that American English isn’t your first language.  No.  I don’t think it was soppy at all.  Okay, final question.  Since this is your second book, how was writing this one different from writing your first one?
Technically, this book had been written long before the first one, but since I’ve changed most of it, it was almost like writing it from scratch. Anyway, I have to say that I was really barely a kid out of first grade when I wrote my debut novel; now I feel like I’ve finished high school and I’m ready for college. I know it might sound silly, since only eight months have passed since I published my debut novel, but I’ve learned so much, thanks to bloggers, fellow indie authors and readers that I really feel I’ve grown up so much since The Melody In Our Hearts.

If I go back and read a random chapter of my debut novel and read a random chapter of Hugged By An Angel, I find it hard to believe that they were written by the same person. I’ve learned what are the most common mistakes “newbies” make and I’ve tried to avoid them in my second book; I’ve read lots of books in English (thank you, Amazon!) and enriched my vocabulary with new words and slang (since you know I’m not a native English speaker!); I’ve also learned how to perfect my writing style and all the tricks to become a better writer, and although I know there’s still a long way to go, I’m confident it’ll keep getting better day after day.

Most of all, I’ve had fun writing this book! With The Melody In Our Hearts I tried hard to make it a good book, perfect down to the last comma, because I was trying to get an agent and a publishing contract, so I tried to make sure that it would be something an agent would enjoy reading and would desperately want to represent. Ever since discovering the indie world, I’ve had much more fun writing, because I can write what I want to write (and read) and not something that would appeal to an agent but won’t feel like “my baby” anymore. And boy, was that fun!

Hey, I’m glad you’re having fun.  Thank you Roberta.  It’s been a pleasure talking to you.  Good luck with the book.
Thank you for having me, Kim. I had fun answering your questions and forgive me if I was a little too “verbose” at times. That’s always my problem: I get all shy when asked questions about me, but once the dam opens, the words flow out like a river!

That’s okay.  I’m the same way.  

HUGGED BY AN ANGEL can be purchased from:

I woke up in a bed that didn’t feel like my own. I opened my eyes and the white light was so bright it stung, so I quickly shut them again.
I couldn’t remember where I was and I felt weird, as if something were wrong, although I couldn’t quite define what or why.
I took a deep breath and suddenly realized there was something stuck in my nostrils. Instinctively I brought my hand up to touch it; but when I did I felt a piercing pain in my arm. My eyelids fluttered open and my eyes slowly adjusted to the bright light. I saw a needle piercing my skin and I shivered. I had never been a fan of needles and the sight of one pulsing fluids into my arm was enough to give me the creeps.
I looked away and noticed a screen next to my bed from which a steady, rhythmical beep came, echoing in the empty room. Okay, I was in hospital; it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.
But why was I there? I tried to remember where I had been or what I’d been doing before everything had gone black but, as much as I tried, it was all blurred. I attempted to turn my head to check if there was a clock or something that could give me a clue as to what time it was but my neck felt constricted and I noticed I was wearing a neck collar.
Grand. So I had a stiff neck, too. I really needed to find out what hospital I was in and why, because the uncertainty was driving me crazy.
I could hear distant voices outside the room echoing down a corridor, but I wasn’t sure they would hear me if I called for help. I needed to get out of bed, but when I tried to move my legs something just didn’t feel right. It took me a couple of seconds to realize I couldn’t feel them; it was as if my body ended just below my waist. A chill ran down my spine, taking my breath away.
With shaking hands I slowly lifted the sheet covering the lower part of my body and I squinted, not sure I was ready to see if my legs weren’t there anymore. But they were, just where they’d always been, so I opened my eyes wider and touched my thigh with the tip of my finger.
I pinched the bare skin, but it felt weird, as if I were touching someone else’s leg. I couldn’t feel my thigh, although my fingers were still pinching as hard as they could. Panic overcame me and I propped myself up on the bed using my arms to support my weight; however I wasn’t as strong as I thought and when my left arm, the one the IV was attached to, gave in, I slipped and fell, crashing to the floor. I pulled everything attached to my body down with me except for the oxygen tube that was wrenched out of my nose.
I didn’t feel pain though; at first I didn’t feel anything at all. Then sudden despair took hold of me as I lay there, facedown on the tiled floor of a hospital room, and my first thought was how much I needed my brother Declan to wrap me in his arms right now.
“Oh, dear, what happened to you?”
A woman came rushing in wearing a pair of those green rubber slippers only doctors and nurses wear. She turned back toward the door and I heard her shout: “Colin, come here now, will ya? I need help.”
A minute later, I saw another set of feet in white sneakers and two strong arms lifted me up; shortly afterwards I was back in bed.
“Trying to sneak out, were you?” a soft, deep, male voice said and, as I looked up to match a face to the sound, I was a little taken aback by the unexpected vision. A young man was standing by my bed and my first impression was that he reminded me of Declan.
His eyes were blue, the same shade as my brother’s, and he had brown hair just like him—only his was wavy and tousled and it slightly curled up on the back of his neck, while Declan’s had always been short.
The nurse fixed the nasal cannula back into my nose, checked that the needle was still in my arm and, when she looked at me again, I noticed she had a friendly smile. She looked in her mid-fifties, and her face was round and rosy; her uniform seemed a little too tight for her generous curves and her manner was somehow reassuring, very motherly. It was silly, but it made me feel a little better.
“I’m Judith, by the way. I’m the head nurse in this ward and you can call me whenever you need anything.” She smiled and I nodded. “Good, now I’ll leave you in the capable hands of our best physiotherapist. He’ll keep you company until Dr. O’Donnell gets here. You don’t mind, Colin, do you?” the nurse asked, turning toward the man in a white t-shirt and pants. He smiled and nodded; then the nurse looked at me and said she’d be back later.
I didn’t say a word; besides being in shock, I was too scared to find out if I’d lost my voice, too.
I looked away, taking a long, deep breath as I stared at the gray-paneled ceiling, wondering what was going to happen next.

An avid reader since her childhood years and being an only child, Roberta always enjoyed the company of her fictional friends from the children’s books she loved reading, while she dreamed of writing her own stories one day.
It was when she discovered novels by authors Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy in her teenage years that she realized it was time she put down in words the stories she had kept well hidden in her mind until then.
What started as a hobby, soon turned into a real passion and a way of life, until she could no longer keep the stories to herself, and decided to get over her fears and share them with the world.
Roberta lives in Italy, but her dream is to move out of her country and live either in a thatched cottage in the Irish countryside or in a country house with a swing on the back porch, somewhere in the United States, where she would love to spend her days writing novels as a full-time job, and maybe one day even get as far as writing a screenplay for a movie.

Places to find Roberta Capizzi:

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