That’s the first thing I saw when I went to Gina Ardito’s website. I was hooked; I had to know more about this writer. I read on and wasn’t disappointed. Gina combines what she believes are life’s two most important qualities, love and laughter, in her books. When she’s not writing, she loves and laughs in Long Island with her husband, two children, a bionic dog and two cats. Sounds like my kind of a person. There's more: not only is Gina good-natured, she’s generous. Leave a comment here and you might be one of two lucky readers to win an autographed copy of her latest book, Nobody's Darling. Now, let’s hear from Gina herself.
SANDY CODY: Tell us about Nobody’s Darling.
GINA ARDITO: I came up with the idea for Nobody’s Darling after a family ski trip a few years ago. When we arrived home, spring had truly sprung in our neighborhood. So my husband and kids immediately took off on a long bike ride to our local Italian ice shop while I unloaded the car then headed to the kennel to pick up our dog. I brought the dog home, gave her a bath, and then unpacked the suitcases and started putting things away. That’s when it struck me: I need a wife. My heroine in Nobody’s Darling, April Raine, runs Rainey-Day-Wife, a parenting services organization that offers families the gift of extra time by taking care of all those little details that pile up. Dr. Jefferson Prentiss, a television psychologist known as Dr. Jeff, believes April’s business actually hurts families by putting their basic needs in the hands of profit-seeking strangers. So the two agree to spend a month in a "Big Brother" style cabin in the mountains in an updated battle of the sexes for the benefit of a daytime talk show. When the dust settles, who will win? The mom or the doc? Or will love prevail?
SANDY: What do you personally like best about this novel?
GINA: This is actually the first in a three-book series. Three sisters who’ve never really been close find new love, which opens them up to personal growth, bringing them to a better understanding of each other. Each sister became special to me as I discovered who they were and what made them tick. I can honestly say writing the stories of the Raine girls brought me to a better understanding of myself.
SANDY: Do you use personal experiences in your books?
GINA: Boy, do I! April Raine and her sisters, Brooklyn and Summer, are actually based on an old family joke. My maiden name is Rean and my dad always used to say he should have named my sisters and me, "Subma," "Aquama," and "Lista." There are several scenes in Nobody’s Darling that are taken directly from incidents with my husband, most notably the tuna scene which happened almost exactly the way I describe it.
SANDY: Tell us about your previous Avalon books.
GINA: I have two other books with Avalon: The Bonds of Matri-money came out in 2007. I describe it as "Survivor meets The Newlywed Game…with handcuffs." A Run for the Money was published in 2009 and is the story of two strangers who must participate in a scavenger hunt in order to inherit a great treasure.
SANDY: What other projects are in the works?
GINA: Book II of the Nobody series, Nobody’s Business, will release in August of this year and I’m currently halfway through Book III, Nobody’s Perfect, which is scheduled for release in December. It’s a busy year for me! I’m toying with the idea of a possible fourth book, Nobody’s Fool, but that’s still in the thinking stages with nothing concrete planned just yet.
SANDY: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer.
GINA: I was six years old and my first grade teacher made me "director" of the class play. Unfortunately, she chose a romance style where the hero had to kiss the heroine at the end. No six-year-old boy wanted that starring role. When I complained to my teacher, she told me as the director, it was up to me to figure out how to make it work. I rewrote the play, added a dragon who kills the hero at the end. Suddenly I had boys eager to play the part just to die onstage. I then won an award for my slogan for Safety Awareness Week and another for the play I wrote for Dental Health Week. Tasting success that early made me realize this was what I wanted to do.
SANDY: What part of writing do you find most satisfying?
GINA: Honestly? All of it. I love creating new characters and a new story line. I love plotting what to do to those characters and writing them out of whatever I’ve thrown them into. I love The End. I love seeing every new cover, and holding my book in my hands. I love meeting and talking to readers or helping new writers find their way.
SANDY: What part do you find most difficult?
GINA: It depends on the story. Sometimes getting started is the hardest for me. Sometimes, it’s keeping the tension taut in those middle pages. And because I don’t really plot in advance, I often struggle with ways to get my characters out of the mess they’ve made. But somehow, it all works out at the end and then I’m back to satisfied.
SANDY: What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting?
GINA: I usually start with a character or a one-line plot. Like the "I need a wife" bit. When I originally began that story, all I knew was my character’s name and the type of business she ran. It was only after I got deeper into the storyline that I realized that April needed to repair her relationship with her sisters in order to truly be happy.
SANDY: Where do you find inspiration?
GINA: Everywhere. I’m a people watcher by nature. When I’m stuck in traffic, I’ll glance at the cars around me and create stories about where they’re going, where they’ve been, what they’re thinking. I’ve created stories based on dreams or conversations I’ve overheard. One of my historical novels (written under my pen name, Katherine Brandon) came about because my husband’s boss asked me what kind of hero and heroine he and his wife would be. I wrote a contemporary with another publisher, A Little Slice of Heaven, because my local pizza guys complained no one ever wrote a romance that took place in a pizzeria. I promised I would and delivered on that promise.
SANDY: What other authors do you especially admire?
GINA: I admire the work ethic of Nora Roberts, the heroes written by Suzanne Brockmann, the humor of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the prose of Shelby Reed, the characterization of Barbara Freethy and the world building of Katherine Allred. I read a variety of genres and love to discover a new writer to add to my automatic buy list. Most recently, I met Virginia Kantra at a conference, liked her personally and picked up the first book in her latest series. I was wowed by her voice and her imagination. I just ordered the rest of the available books and can’t wait to dive in.
SANDY; What do you do when you're not writing?
GINA: Sleep. And read.
SANDY: Do you have a schedule for writing or do you squeeze it in when you can?
GINA: I write whenever I can, which, lucky, for me, is often. I work part time and hit the gym 4-5 times a week, but even when I can’t physically write, I’m thinking about my next scene, my next chapter, my next story. When I don’t write, I blog about writing, teach courses about writing (online and at conferences), and talk writing with my chaptermates at Dunes & Dreams Romance Writers, the chapter of Romance Writers of America that I co-founded.
SANDY: What refreshes you creatively?
GINA: Water. When I’m blocked, I take a bath or shower or head to the shore with my laptop. Something about water rejuvenates my creative spark.
SANDY: Any secret goals or dreams?
GINA: I don’t think it’s much of a secret. I want to keep writing and publishing until they pry the laptop from my rigor mortised fingers.
SANDY: Thanks so much, Gina, for taking time to share your thoughts with us. And to Avalon Author readers: If you want to learn more about Gina, you can go to one of her websites: http://www.ginaardito.com/ or http://www.katherinebrandon.com/ Don’t forget – if you leave a comment here, you might win an autographed copy of Nobody’s Darling.