As part of our Exploding Hearts series, we’re interviewing as many romance novelists as possible between now and Valentine’s Day. Let your heart grow three – or even fourteen – sizes this February and check out these authors’ books, from the sweet and inspirational to the spicy hot.
Gina Ardito is the author of the indie romances Duping Cupid and Chasing Adonis, as well as a variety of romance series titles, including the Afterlife series, the Kismet series, the Nobody series, and the Calendar Girls series. We recently had a chance to ask her a few questions about her writing and influences. Here’s what she had to say.
Who are your top 5 authors or influences, and why?
In my fantasy life as an author, I’d love to be as productive as Nora Roberts, as humorous as Kristan Higgins, as innovative as Nalini Singh, as charming as Carolyn Brown, and as tenacious as J.K. Rowling. In truth, I learn something from every author I meet, published or unpublished. I don’t believe anyone is too old, too experienced, or too good to learn from anyone else.
What fuels your writing?
Coffee, tequila, and no sleep.
What inspired you to write your latest book?
At any given moment, my brain is like The Cloud—with millions of snippets, scenarios, and great sentences zipping around in the ether. Whenever I’m ready to write a new story, I mentally reach into the void and pull out the one that’s calling to me strongest. I wish I could tell you it’s more magical, like I’m inspired by a baby’s smile or even my fear of clowns, but… no.
Do you have a favorite quote about the writing process?
“The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.” – Douglas Adams
How (if at all) does your geographic location influence your writing?
Most of my books take place near where I live (Long Island) or places I’ve visited frequently. A story’s setting often plays an important role in my books, so I prefer to write what I know. I remember once reading a memoir written by a famous screenwriter and native New Yorker. She mentioned driving out to Montauk—the most eastern part of Long Island—on a major highway that goes north and south and is situated forty miles away from Montauk. I never read another book by her, and she was a prolific writer. I loved her humor, but for me, that was an unforgiveable error that blew past her and her editorial staff.
As a romance author, what inspires the types of stories you’re drawn to tell in your books? And what kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
I love to write meaty stories that tackle issues we all face or know someone who’s faced. My characters are everyday people: no sheikhs or billionaires among them. I truly believe all of us, no matter where we live or how much money we have, deserve a happy ending. As a kid, I often wondered, what about Cinderella’s neighbor or one of the servants in Snow White’s palace? How come they never got a shot at true love? In my books, they do. Reading-wise, I’m up for just about anything as long as it’s done well, but I have a real fondness for romantic suspense.
What’s your writing routine like? Are you a plotter or a “pantser”?
I’m a “pantser” all the way. Every one of my books was written that way. I can’t keep a secret, so if I know how a book is going to end too early in the writing process, I tend to rush to write it down and the story suffers. I’m much more comfortable writing myself into a corner and then fretting about how I’m going to get out of it. In fact, I’m currently developing a workshop on pantsing successfully without a plot or outline. My writing process is as sporadic as my method. I do try to write every day, but don’t set word count goals or hours aside. I work a full time job outside of home, have a family, and a freelance editing business. I do take a notebook with me wherever I go so I can write long-hand and transfer to my document on my laptop when I get home. It could be a quick sentence in a work meeting, that idea to get out of my latest corner while I’m stuck in traffic, or a snippy piece of dialogue in the middle of the night. I’ve written during concerts, sporting events, and parties. Yet, I’m still invited. Go figya.
How much time do you usually spend researching a novel before you begin writing?
It depends on the novel. When I wrote my first historical novel many years ago, I spent months researching and dug myself a huge hole—so deep my hero and heroine didn’t meet for the first 150 pages. The final manuscript clocked in at a whopping 800+ pages! I can’t imagine why it didn’t sell. Nowadays, I do a minimal amount of research to understand my locale, career choice, or time period before I start, then do more research as I go along and need it for the story.
Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions or music that inspires or helps you to write, and what’s the story behind them?
Each of my stories has its own soundtrack and props. I teach a workshop on Method Acting Exercises for Writers and one of those exercises is to link your character to a prop that you can hold or refer to while you “become” the character. I’m a firm believer in becoming my character to write in a deeper point-of-view and truly understand how my characters will react to any given situation.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Frustrated, probably. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t making up stories in my head. Writing allows me to give voice to those stories. I took no special training or education to become a writer; it’s a passion inside me. Without writing, I’d still be the same mom, wife, and employee I am now. I’d just have less joy in those aspects of my life.
What are some of your hobbies or sports of choice when getting out from behind the desk?
I’m a total nerd. I love word and trivia games, traveling to historic places and museums, and basically learning anything new. I used to ski because my husband loved it, but I never gained confidence enough to feel comfortable and when my kids surpassed me, I hung up the skis for good. I’ll play tennis, but don’t expect me to run down the ball; I have no competitive spark. I still play a mean game of backyard badminton though, a leftover skill honed since childhood.
What are you currently working on, and why will it melt hearts?
I just started my first book for Kindle Worlds, which takes place in Carolyn Brown’s Blame It on Texas world. It’s my first western and will feature a very brash New York heroine who winds up doing what’s traditionally considered a man’s business in that canyon town. I’m expecting it, like all my books, to have that same snarky humor and complex characters you’ll recognize as your best friend in real life.
Get a free copy of Duping Cupid
From February 11-15, Gina’s winter short story romance, Duping Cupid, will be free on Amazon. Be sure to download yours!