Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing one of my dearest friends, Gina Ardito. After first meeting Gina, it didn't take me long to realize this is one fun and whacky woman. She's a woman of substance to her family and friends. She's smart, she's compassionate, she's a nurturer who always puts others needs before her own, and she's a reincarnation of Lucille Ball, rich red hair and all! And she's my best bud. And now, without further ado, I introduce to you, my kindred spirit, Gina Ardito.
When did you first know that you were destined to be a writer?
Two things happened to me when I was six. The first was a slogan contest for Safety Week at school. I won first place with the now-world-famous <insert sarcasm here> “When we’re in a bus, we keep our hands to us.” I then won a second contest for Dental Health Week with my story, Billy and His Tooth, which was about a kid who had a nightmare about his teeth rotting out of his head after he went to bed without brushing.
Truly, I’ve grown as a writer since those days so don’t hold those two examples against me.
What part of writing do you find most satisfying?
Okay, this is going to sound totally narcissistic, but I love hearing from other writers (and readers) who’ve somehow connected with one of my characters or learned something from my writing.
What part do you find most difficult?
Marketing. I know this will get people in stitches, but I am genuinely shy when it comes to talking about myself. So to push my books and announce new sales, good reviews, etc., takes me out of my comfort zone. It’s the necessary evil in the business.
What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting?
It varies by story. For Eternally Yours, I woke up in the middle of the night with the term, “Death’s Bounty Hunter,” running through my head. It literally jolted me out of sleep. That’s all I had: three words. The next morning, I tossed it out at the breakfast table, and the family and I started hashing out what kind of story I could build from that.
Tell us about Eternally Yours, which is available in print and digital at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords.com
Eternally Yours is truly the book of my heart. It throws together my love of both contemporary and historical romance, mixes in a paranormal element, and yet maintains my quirky humor. Most of the ghosts in the story are based on my daughter’s friends—at their request.
Once I had “Death’s Bounty Hunter” as a theme, I remembered a line from the movie, Beetlejuice: “You know what happens to suicides in the Afterlife? They become civil servants.” Voila! A storyline was born.
Jodie Devlin, my heroine, has survived a harsh life, but one too many disappointments convinces her to commit suicide to find peace. When she arrives in the Afterlife, she discovers she’s arrived before her time. Now she’ll have to take a job there until a new life path can be arranged for her. She becomes a bounty hunter, retrieving ghosts who’ve lingered on Earth to clean up unfinished business.
Her trainer, Luc Asante, is in a similar predicament, except in his case, his wife yanked him off life-support before he should have died. Is it any wonder he doesn’t trust women? He’s as hard-hearted as Jodie is soft, as methodical as she is impetuous. If they weren’t already dead, working together would probably kill them.
How about sharing a scene?
Gladly. In this particular scene, Jodie and Luc have gone after the ghost of a punk rock star who killed himself after his girlfriend died of a heroin overdose. He, along with dozens of other ghosts, are haunting an old NY City hotel called The Shiloh.
The cream-colored walls reverberated with creative energy, a low hum that whispered of Lenin, Warhol, and Lennon. With so much noise and so many ghosts, Jodie couldn’t locate their particular bounty any easier than she’d find a particular gum wrapper in a dirty subway train.
Past where Luc landed beside her, a blur of motion caught her eye.
One of the bearded card players lifted two royal blue chips in his fingers before dropping them into the kitty in the center of the table. “Call,” he said firmly.
This is ridiculous. Frustration inched up Jodie’s spine while her gaze continued to scan the room. Note to self: advise the Board to include a physical description along with the biography from now on…
“Tito Alexander?” she shouted over the murmuring voices.
“Who wants to know?” The demand, cracking with the accent of London slums, echoed from the farthest occupant of the card table.
Aha! Found: One punk rock star. With his F-you attitude behind haunted dark eyes lined in black, he was hard to miss. He leaned, chair balanced precariously on its two spindled back legs, his head tilted at a careless angle. Eggplant-hued hair spiked in a dozen different directions, like someone who’d spent a restless night sleeping on an open tube of Krazy Glue. Tattoos of snakes and skulls painted his bare arms. A distressed black t-shirt declared Life sucks, then you die. And that sucks too.
Obviously, Luc shared the contents of his closet. With Tito Alexander.
“Well, well,” Tito said, glancing up from his splayed cards. “Look who’s here. Luc Asante, bounty hunter to the stars.”
“Tito.” Luc offered a terse nod as he floated forward to hover near the table. “Interesting hand.”
Whatever cards Tito held, he set them down and covered them by spreading his hands on the green felt table. “What do you want, Asante?”
Energy screamed in the air between the two men, and Jodie hung back. Let the big bad alpha males have their machismo conference. Once the testosterone mist eased and she clearly understood the static between them, she’d consider jumping into the fray. Until then, these two baboons were on their own.
“You know why I’m here.”
Tito waved in dismissal. “Forget it.”
“I can’t forget it.” Luc’s tone chilled the air. “You’ve been called up. You know the drill.”
“Yeah, I do.” Tito grinned, showing gleaming white teeth behind purple painted lips. “And I also know I can burn you if I refuse. Ruin that perfect record of yours.”
“You’re going to let an old rivalry keep you from moving on?”
A draft slipped through Jodie, and she hugged herself to keep from shivering.
“Has nothing to do with rivalry, Luc. I’m just not leaving until Sari comes back.”
Sari. The girlfriend. The woman who had died in this very room. If she focused hard enough, Jodie could visualize that poor woman’s body, pale and cold as white marble, lying on the unmade bed. Sari Snell had suffered her death throes encased in an opium haze. Had she heard Tito’s frantic cries for her to wake up, to open her eyes, to sit up and look at him?
Shaking the horrid images from her head, Jodie stared at Tito in time to catch him surreptitiously slip a card from the deck and palm it beneath the table.
Oh, my God. The man was cheating. She quickly scanned the room. Had anyone else noticed? No. The other players were all too busy studying their own hands or watching the byplay between Tito and Luc.
“Sari’s soul has already moved on,” Luc said. “You’d have a better chance of reuniting with her if you’d give up the ghost here and come with us.”
“You’re wasting your breath, Asante,” Tito replied. “Here’s where she died; here’s where I’ll wait.” A bland expression softened his features as he set his cards face-up before his friends. “Read ‘em and weep, suckers. Four aces.”
“You cheated!” One of the card players, a scruffy cowboy, pointed an accusatory finger at Tito. “Ain’t no way you could get that fourth ace unless you had it up your sleeve.”
“Oh, for Chrissakes, Jesse, I don’t have sleeves,” Tito retorted, flicking imaginary dust off his shoulder.
“That does it!” Jesse shot to vapor, but his voice remained firmly in the room. “I’m not playing with you anymore.”
“So go, you useless sot,” Tito replied.
The cowboy’s essence washed the wall behind him in dusty clay as he zipped to the farthest corner of the room—away from the players, away from where Luc and Jodie stood. “I ain’t nobody’s fool. And I don’t play with cheats and liars.”
Screwing up his face, Tito mimicked the words Jesse threw, and then sneered. “Sore loser. Who needs ya?”
Another ghost at the table, this one decked out in a zoot suit with a black fedora perched jauntily on his head, leaned forward. “Actually, we do, old chap. We’re short a fourth now.”
Tito’s gaze scanned the room, finally landing with acute interest on Jodie. “Let’s get the girl to play.”
How are the Katherine Brandon books different from Gina Ardito books?
Katherine Brandon is my pseudonym for historical romance. Those stories are more epic, meatier, and a bit darker.
Why did you decide to use a pseudonym?
Gina Ardito is my real name…well, as close as you’re going to get to my real name. To me, “Gina” is a fun, light name. Since (as I stated in my answer to the previous question), my historicals are darker and more epic, I felt they needed a different persona. Katherine and Brandon are actually the middle names of my children. So the pseudonym felt like a natural fit.
What other projects are in the works?
I’ll be releasing another fun paranormal, Chasing Adonis, in the next few months. This one takes the Greek legend of Aphrodite, Persephone, and Adonis and turns it inside out. Then, of course, I’m also working on a brand new contemporary series: The Calendar Girls. Book I, Duet in September, is completed and I’m halfway through Book II, Reunion in October.
What else do you do when you're not writing?
Do you have a schedule for writing or do you squeeze it in when you can?
I compare my writing schedule to the life of a crack addict. I’m truly addicted to my writing. I get up an hour early before work to write. During the work day, I write on my break and lunch hour. I come home and write some more until it’s time to cook dinner. After dinner…yeah, you guessed it. I’m writing. If I could do without sleep for a few years, imagine all the writing I could get done!
Plotter or pantzer?
Pantzer. All the way. If I know the ending too soon, I scrap the story. It’s important for me to be as surprised as my readers by how my characters achieve their Happily Ever Afters.
What refreshes you creatively?
Water. While I hate actually sitting on a beach in the summer, I love being near water (provided I’m in the shade) so I never argue when the hubster and kids want a beach vacation, provided our hotel is oceanfront with a balcony. Waterfront property in cold months is even better! When I can’t travel to the shore, I’ll opt for a shower. I get some of my best ideas in the shower and I often run dialogue while shampooing my hair.
Where can we find you on the web?
My website: http://www.ginaardito.com/
My alter ego’s website: http://www.katherinebrandon.com/
Gina has graciously offered to provide a digital copy of Eternally Yours to two lucky winners. Winners will be selected at random and contacted.