Christian author Linda (Cassells) Bello-Ruiz has written an award-winning memoir called From Tears to Triumph, My Journey to The House of Hope. Originally from Redwood Valley, CA she co-founded and directed The House of Hope in San Jose, Costa Rica. After returning to the United States Linda earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco and a master’s degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California.
Linda worked as a bilingual vocational rehabilitation counselor in Santa Rosa, California for twenty-six years and consulted as a vocational expert on disability in litigation for five of those years. The mother of four grown children, she is now retired and divides her time between Lincoln, California and Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico. She is active in Rotary, the Sun City Authors & Writers Resource Group, Inspire Christian Writers, and the Northern California Publishers and Authors Association.
I recently asked Linda when she first began writing this memoir.
The story percolated within me for over thirty years, but I didn’t have time in my busy family/professional life to sit down and put my memories onto paper. I finally retired and started writing my memoir in June 2010. From Tears to Triumph was published in August, 2013, resulting in a three year, two month journey of continual writing, editing, polishing and preparing for publishing.
Tell me about the award your memoir has won.
From Tears to Triumph just received the gold medal in the national 2013 Illuminations Book Awards (biography/memoir category). This particular annual book competition is for Christian-themed books. It’s quite an honor and I still haven’t come down from “Cloud Nine,” and from praising the Lord for this. Below is a bit about the awards:
The 2013 Illumination Awards are intended to celebrate and recognize the exemplary books produced by the ever-growing Christian branch of publishing and bookselling. A vast array of new titles is released from this thriving sector each year, bringing inspiration and answers to millions of readers exploring their faith.
“Our world is filled with anger and selfishness, and people are looking for something to have faith in, something beyond themselves,” says Awards Director Jim Barnes. “The Bible was the first ‘self-help’ book, filled with stories meant to show us how to live together in peace. These awards are dedicated to that spirit, and to books that help answer the simple question: ‘What Would Jesus Do?’”
Where did you get the idea for this book?
Every time I shared my personal story with people, they’d say, “Your story sounds like a book or movie!” I knew they were right. I’d never met anybody who had been abused, sat on a beach contemplating suicide, joined a religious commune, gone to jail while preaching the gospel, called by God to move to Costa Rica, called to set up a Christian halfway house for street girls, runaways and underage prostitutes…and who’d been “gifted” a young girl by her desperate father. Most people have never had even one of those life experiences and I had them ALL! And I had five years worth of letters I’d written home to my parents during my adventures, letters that helped me recall details.
Do you have your next book in mind?
My next book, Love Thy Neighbor, Omar, is about a drug dealer in Mexico who God encouraged me to love and reach out to. Although afraid, I did just that, enveloping him, his wife and children into my life. My heart broke when he was gunned down last year. This next book is “based on a true-story” and explores his early life and our friendship. He was only twenty-six-years old when killed.
Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
After considering all of my publishing options (and there are many!) I chose to start my own publishing company – Mariah Publishing. Doing so allowed me to keep ownership of my book(s) and make all major decisions. The royalties are higher than going other routes, but the marketing responsibility remains the same. It doesn’t matter “who” publishes your book. YOU must put your time, energy and resources into marketing.
What do you read and what writers have influenced you?
Mid-stream in my writing journey I hired a writing coach: Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW). An important piece of advice she gave me was: “Read what you write.” Since I was writing a memoir, I filled my office with other people’s memoirs and read only memoirs for nearly a year. From that experience I learned what I liked and didn’t like in how others wrote. For example, many memoirs are “dark” with the author pouring out her/his soul and all the bad things that happened to them. I would end the book feeling depressed.
I didn’t want my readers to have that experience, so my book is full of faith and hope. Yes, bad things happen to good people, and bad things happened to me…but my story is about determination and hope and the power of God in my life and the lives of the girls who came through the doors of The House of Hope.
Interview by: Katheryn Mattingly, author of Benjamin and Fractured Hearts.
Kathryn Mattingly has always had a passion for writing. Her short fiction pieces have received recognition for excellence in Writer’s Digest Award Winning Stories, Mind Trips Unlimited, Beacons of Tomorrow and Internationally Yours: Prize Winning Stories. Her work has appeared in 8 different anthologies, Dark Discoveries magazine, and The Possibility Place. Kathryn’s debut novel, Benjamin, was a New Century Quarterly Finalist. Ms. Mattingly’s short story collection, Fractured Hearts, was released this January 2014. Her second novel, Journey, will be out in November. She currently teaches Creative Writing at a local college and is a reader/judge for the Pacific NW Writer’s annual literary contest. Kathryn is inspired by real-life events and places she has lived or traveled. She currently resides in Northern California.