Two characters are sitting on my Casting Couch today because author Gina Ardito is talking about Nia and Paige, the identical twins who feature in her latest book Duet in September (available at http://amzn.com/B00CNKB0XG)
Gina is a terrific writer and, as one of her fans, I always look forward in pleasurable anticipation to a new Gina Ardito book. Consequently I consider it a great treat to be given a preview of Duet in September as it goes to publication.
For those of you who have yet to meet her, a visit to her blog at http://ginaardito.blogspot.co.uk will tell you a great deal about her. On it she not only shares her laughter but also offers invaluable advice to writers of all ages and stages. It is an exhilarating blog which certainly achieves what she says is her main goal, which is to connect with her readers, whoever they are.
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A while back, for some reason, I kept picking up books about twin sisters—always identical in looks, but polar opposites in personality. It started to drive me crazy. I know a lot of twins, some identical, some fraternal. They run in my family and I’ve dated more than one guy who had a twin sibling. While twins do have different personalities, they’re not polar opposites. One might be more right-brained and the other more left-brained, but if they grew up in the same house, with the same circumstances and were taught the same set of values, they’re going to have quite a lot of similarities as well, so I decided to write a story that featured more realistic twin sisters.
At the same time, my daughter announced she planned to do a Thirty Day Experiment, wherein for thirty days, she planned to do one thing differently each day to see if it would incite changes in her life. I melded the two ideas and Duet in September was the result.
What a great idea. It is so easy to miss out on the realism of a situation when writing a book, so I'm glad you're putting the reader right about twins. I love the fact that you are using your daughter's idea too. Once you had the framework did you work through the plot first and then cast the characters, or was it characters first?
Both at the same time. I’m a pantser so I never plot. I generally start with a brief sketch of my characters and an even briefer idea for a story. Both characterization and plot develop as I write.
Which character was the hardest for you to develop and why?
Probably Nia, one of the twin heroines. She’s artistic, which I’m not. I can’t draw, paint, decorate, or even trace. I’m a total failure with crayons, paints, yarn, and icing. So I really had to dig into that kind of mindset to figure out how she’d react to different scenarios. I spent a lot of time learning about glass-blowing (Nia’s chosen art medium) and realized that it was a perfect metaphor for Nia, herself: strength and adaptability under fire.
I love that but I guess you're never going to be an expert glass-blower, however much you know in theory, given you self denigration of your artistic talents. How did you decide how your characters should look? Did pictures inspire you or did you just rely on an active imagination? Maybe you even based them on someone you know or someone you saw walking down the street. Do tell!
Since I had two heroes and two heroines for this story, I really needed images to keep everyone straight. I went into a few databases for models and came up with the perfect combinations, then taped them to the wall behind my desk for easy reference.
What a terrific idea. I've always kept mine in a folder but in future they will pinned to the wall. How did you develop their character traits? I know some people use Tarot or Astrology. Others produce detailed life histories. One writer I interviewed is so organized she even uses a Goal, Motivation and Conflict chart. What about you?
I have a secret weapon: a book I use for every story I write called, “The Secret Universe of Names.” It lists every name imaginable based on significant letters and gives me a full-page breakdown of how those letters influence a person’s childhood, career choices, love life, etc. Once I’ve chosen a character’s name, I read the summary in the book and take notes that will help me write my heroes and heroines out of all the problems I toss their way.
What a fascinating insight into how you work with your characters. And The Secret Universe of Names sounds more like a book of spells than anything else. No wonder you write such magical books. Given that all characters have goals, can you sum your characters’ goals in a word or two, or are they multi-layered? Did they keep to their original goals or did things change as you wrote the book? If they did, then please give some examples.
For Duet in September, my goal was originally that “Do Something Different Every Day for Thirty Days” idea. But with each day that unfolded, new problems and awareness cropped up, based on those “something differents.”
It sounds complicated, and then of course you had to deal with motives because they drive a character. How did you discover your characters’ specific motives? Were they based on back-story or did they develop as you wrote the book?
Both! Nia and Paige, my twin sisters, are unique individuals with some differences in personality, but they’re linked by blood, the sins of their mother, and the small town where they grew up. It’s their differences that force them to react the way they do, but their similarities that help them solve their conflicts together.
I'm really looking forward to reading Duet in September. Your answers are so tantalising that there is already a lot more I want to know about Nia and Paige. There's one other thing I want to know as well. Do you like the characters in Duet in September? Are they people you would want to spend time with and if so, which one is your favourite, and which one would you most like to meet and why? That might be the same person of course, but there again, it might not!
I always fall in love with my characters. If I don’t want to spend time with them, I can’t write their stories. For Duet in September, if I had to choose a favorite, I’d probably say Paige—only because there’s more of me in her than in Nia. Paige is the “smart” one, with my sarcastic edge. Her lifetime nemesis is now the town’s chief of police, Sam Dillon. And it seems that no matter where she goes in their tiny seaside town, Sam is always there to see her at her worst. Oddly enough, I’d love to meet Nia. Paige is more me and, quite frankly, the world could not handle two of me. But Nia’s got qualities I admire and will probably never acquire, making her someone I’d love to spend time with.
Thank you for sitting on The Casting Couch Gina. I've really enjoyed talking about your latest book and we didn't even touch on the heroes. I guess I'll have to buy the book for that:-)
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Gina Ardito is a multi-faceted author who writes lighthearted contemporary, paranormal, and sweeping historical romances. She is also a freelance editor for fiction writers so if you need some help editing your manuscript then contact Gina at Excellence in Editing at http://excellenceinediting.blogspot.co.uk
You can also visit the site to take advantage of her helpful tips on how to perfect your work.