Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Release Day: Just Beginning by Theresa Rizzo, a Guest Post, and a Giveaway!

Just Beginning
A Prequel to Just Destiny

Just Beginning: A Prequel to Just Destiny (#1) by Theresa Rizzo
Paperback, 263 pages
Publication date: December 10th, 2014

Twenty-something Jenny Campbell's life has been a series of screw-ups, and the latest one endangered her little brother's life. But when she falls for sophisticated Gabe Harrison, she has a chance to turn her life around...if she can keep her past a secret.

Gabe's career as a successful doctor has left just enough time for his teenage children and little else. But when beautiful, vivacious Jenny comes along, she breathes love and happiness into his lonely life. There's only one problem: their families are opposed to their relationship. Money and age differences mean nothing to Gabe as long as they have trust, love, and respect.

But can two out of three be good enough?

My thoughts about Just Beginnings ~~

Just Beginnings takes us back to the world of Gabe and Jenny, who we got introduced to in Just Destiny earlier this year. This story shows us how they met and how their love grew. Just Destiny is a wonderful story on it's own but the reader gets dropped right into the middle of their world. We never really get the backstory of the two of them. Just Beginnings gives us that. 

It was wonderful to find out more about Gabe and Jenny and to be able to see what their lives were like before tragedy strikes. Things fall into place that help explain Jenny's passion and the decisions she makes. We also get a better idea of what Gabe really was like and what he thought about things, something that we mostly get second hand in Just Destiny

I thoroughly enjoyed being back in Gabe and Jenny's world. Theresa writes such wonderful stories and I love these two characters. I want to reread Just Destiny again just so I can continue on in their lives. I think it would be interesting to find out if I perceive the story any differently now that I know what their lives and relationships with others were like before.  

I am a huge fan of Theresa's and have enjoyed all of her books. I get so excited when I know she has another book out., I know it's going to be a story I am going to love. If you have not read Theresa's stories before, you really should! 

Guest post
Welcome to The Book Bag again, Theresa! I loved this story where we get to see how the love of Jenny and Gabe started and developed. You released Just Beginning, which is the prequel to Just Destiny after Just Destiny was published. Tell us how that came about. What made you go back and write a prequel? Was that the plan all along, to write the back story after the fact? How did Just Beginning come about and evolve?
Hi Susan,

Thanks for having me back at the Book Bag!  Back in 2005 I had a well-respected NY literary agent who tried to sell Just Destiny, and failed. Several editors felt the story started in the wrong spot, that it should start with Gabe dying and the “real story” was what Jenny decided to do afterward.

I thought it was odd that a woman would want to have her dead husband’s baby and therefore thought readers needed to see Jenny and Gabe’s romance and understood their marriage, to support Jenny’s motivation for wanting his baby.

Apparently I was wrong. The general consensus was, kill Gabe and move on with the “interesting” part of the story. So I did. I cut the opening 180 pages of the original story and expanded the rest of the book. And the agent still couldn’t sell Just Destiny. But I believed this was a story readers would enjoy, so I self-published it earlier this year.

Just Destiny was so well received and enjoyed, that I asked readers if they would like to know how Jenny and Gabe got together and they responded with an enthusiastic, “yes”. Since I already had it written, I thought it’d be an easy thing to put it together and put the book out there. That was my first wrong assumption.

Firstly, my writing had improved a lot since 2005, so I had more revising to do than I’d thought. Simple things like, I’d failed to set many scenes properly.  I’d just start characters talking or doing something without cluing the reader in as to where the heck the characters are—in the kitchen, outside, on a boat…whatever.

And then, in my enthusiasm to get to the “exciting” part of the story, I failed to sufficiently develop the characters and short-changed Jenny and Gabe’s romance. I didn’t even show their wedding or event leading up to it—one chapter, we found out they’d married.

So it took me a bit of time to properly flesh out their early story, to let readers really understand the history behind Jenny and her mom’s conflict, and I had to do everything within the constraints of what I’d already set up in Just Destiny. I couldn’t add any great backstory that hadn’t been utilized in Just Destiny’s trial or anything that would change the trial.

And I didn’t want to prejudice the reader as to if Gabe would have really have wanted another baby. Even to this day, I’m not sure what his decision he would have made.

So though Just Beginning turned out to be a prequel, I actually wrote two-thirds of it first and intended it to be the opening of the story. If I were coming new to the entire Destiny books, I’d probably want to read Just Beginning first. Even though Just Destiny came out first, Just Beginning is, well, the beginning, yet I think it still has valuable entertainment value for those who have read Just Destiny.

What would you recommend, Susan?  
Thank you so much for this insight to your book, Theresa! Sounds like Just Beginnings was a bit of a challenge to write in some ways. I am not really sure what I would recommend. I could go either way. I  enjoyed Just Destiny so much and it was a treat to go back and learn more about Gabe and Jenny's relationship in Just Beginning. These were characters I had come to love and it was wonderful to spend more time with them.
And like I mentioned above, reading Just Beginnings now makes me want to go back and read Just Destiny again so I can just continue on with their story. So in that sense it would be nice to read the prequel first so that the reader has the whole story. But honestly, I felt like I got enough of a story with the first book and I enjoyed it immensely. 
I'm not sure I helped a whole lot, Theresa. Both books are wonderful, no matter what order you read them!   
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.

Theresa’s debut book, He Belongs to Me was a finalist in the General Fiction Category of The 2013 USA Best Book Awards!  Her second book, Just Destiny, was released in March of 2014.

Connect with Theresa

Theresa has very graciously offered an e-book of Just Beginning for one lucky person here at The Book Bag.

Also, she is going to pop in periodically today and would love to chat with you. Leave a question or comment for her and she'll be back to respond.

Be sure to check the sidebar for my current giveaways!


  1. I haven't read either book yet, but I think I'll start with Just Beginning, the go on to Just Destiny. I'm glad you got the chance to go back and give us the story of their beginning and to explain why the characters did the things they did. Are you sorry you couldn't keep the whole story in the first book published, or are you glad you could go back with your improved writing skill and flesh out the story? I just don't understand why the publishers wanted to start the book in the middle, with no background. But, maybe it turned out to be a good thing.
    Merry Christmas!

  2. I've been wanting to read the first book in the series so now I want to read this one too. =]

  3. Hi Vivian, You know, it made sense to me to start with Just Beginning, but nobody who read Just Destiny complained about where it started. And if I combined the books into one, it would have been nearly 700pgs--too long for anyone short of JK Rowling to pull off IMO :).

    Just Beginning is really very much a coming of age love story and Just Destiny is more a Jodi Picoult/Nicholas sparks kind of issue book with a best friend love story subplot. I'm just happy that readers enjoy both books. I'd be interested to hear from you after you read them, which order you read them in. Please write a review so I can see what you think!

  4. Hi Jessica, thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoy the books. Be sure to let me know! Happy holidays!


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