By Michelle Hurrell, Contributing Writer
Carole has a ﬂair for Americana. Reading one of her novels is the literary equivalent of viewing a Norman Rockwell painting; the longer you stay with the work, the more nuances are revealed,” said Hope Tarr, author of numerous historical and contemporary romance novels. However, local author Carole Bellacera desires to be a writer undeﬁned by genre. She succeeds by delivering truly unique stories. Many of her novels deal with the common theme of a woman ﬁghting to deﬁne herself, although this dilemma is dealt with distinctively in each book.
In “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” an adulterous senator’s wife must ﬁnd solid footing after her family’s discovery of her aﬀair. In “Understudy,” a young girl struggles to ﬁnd her own identity after taking over the life of a friend killed in an accident. “Lily of the Springs,” her latest published work, casts a spotlight on an abused wife facing few viable options of escape in the 1950s, a time when a woman’s worth was solely determined by her male relationships.
Bellacera, who lives in Manassas, writes every day, at the local Panera Bread or Starbucks. “I write on a schedule, whether I feel like it or not. Nine times out of 10, inspiration comes when I start writing. It just takes over,” she said.
Bellacera’s gift of storytelling emerged when she was a child. At the age of 12, she wrote and illustrated a novel of several pages in aloose-leaf notebook. Her ﬁrst published novel, “Border Crossings,” features a couple living amidst the political violence of 1990s Northern Ireland. The book was nominated for a RITA® Award, which recognizes outstanding romance novels and novellas.
Currently the author is revising her new book about a nurse’s harrowing experience in the Vietnam War. The title, “Incense and Peppermints,” from a famous ’60s song, evokes thoughts of something bittersweet and mysterious, juxtaposing the incense used to mask the smell of marijuana smoke with the sweet peppermint taste of childhood.
“What I have always enjoyed about Carole’s books is that no two novels tell the same story. Each book takes you into a diﬀerent world,” said playwright, screenwriter and author Kathryn O’Sullivan, who is also a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.
Stephanie Elliott, an employee at Working Partners Ltd., a London-based ﬁction packager, was Bellacera’s editor for “Border Crossings,” “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” and also her novel “Spotlight.” “I enjoyed working with Carole. She writes very relatable female characters who have to make such diﬃcult decisions. You understand personally how they feel,” Elliott said. “She writes with a lot of emotion, and her writing pulls you in. You don’t want to take a break from the characters or the books; they stay with you.”
Bellacera also creates unforgettable characters. “Whether hero or heroine, villain or somewhere between the dualities, Carole’s characters are vivid portrayals of the human condition … [and] always make her books a straight-through read for me,” said Tarr.
Editing specialist Danielle Poiesz, owner of New Jersey-based editing service Double Vision Editorial, is familiar with Bellacera’s work. She said after reading “Lily of the Springs,” “I was drawn into not only Lily’s life, but into her spirit. She is a wonderfully real character who jumps oﬀ the page, and readers will be able to relate to [her] in some way.”
As it turns out, it is a story born of truth. Though the reader spends much of the book mentally pleading with Lily to leave the unpredictable Jake, the cycle of abuse that leaves Lily frozen and inert is accurately portrayed. “Lily was based on my mother’s relationship with my father,” Bellacera said.
In addition to being a published author, Bellacera is a mentor and teacher. She teaches two online writing courses for Long Ridge Writers Group®, a program that for 20 years has taught thousands of aspiring authors how to improve their writing and succeed in the market. Available at www.longridgewritersgroup.com, her courses are entitled “Breaking into Print” and “Shape, Write and Sell Your Novel.”
Bellacera is quick to oﬀer advice to would-be novelists, suggesting that they create a storyboard that not only maps out their entire book, but includes drawings or cut-out images of what their characters and settings look like.
For example, she developed an imagined ﬂoor plan of the apartment where her character Lily “lives.” “My storyboard is my own personal road map. It is my security blanket,” Bellacera said.
She cautions writers to not be so tied to the storyline that it deters the writing from developing naturally, and also speaks of the value of researching the setting. She traveled all the way to Ireland to make certain “Border Crossings” was accurate.
“Be a rock star in your own life,” Bellacera advises her students, implying that a well-lived life is the basis for good writing. She also cautions, “Writers always hear the word, ‘No.’ Never let it stop you.”
Of her own work, Bellacera admitted that in the past she was obsessed with writing, but is “enjoying life now by embracing other interests,” she said.
Those include jewelry making and singing. She said that last year she sang as Marilyn Monroe at a USO-type dinner show at The American Legion in Manassas. The show, “Shining Stars of Liberty,” was a fundraiser for Fisher House, a nationwide program oﬀering a home away from home for families of patients receiving care near major U.S. military and Veterans Administration medical centers.
Information on Bellacera’s interests, including a link to her jewelry shop’s website plus full-screen trailers for her books, can be found on her website, www.carolebellacera.com.
Freelance writer Michelle Hurrell is a recovery support specialist for McLean-based PRS, Inc. She teaches classes at the organization’s D.C. Recovery Academy, which opened this April in the nation’s capital. The academy helps those with intellectual disabilities and individuals with mental illness or substance abuse challenges reclaim and achieve personal and professional success.