A Step inside the World of an Intriguing and Passionate Romance Comedy Author
Gina Ardito, who currently resides in Long Island, is the author of several Romance Comedy and Historical Romance novels. Besides her strong interest and dedication to writing, she is the co-founder of Dunes & Dreams RWA, the eastern Long Island chapter of Romance Writers of America. She writes her Historical Romances under the pen name Katherine Brandon. Some of her works include: A Little Slice of Heaven, The Bonds of Matri-money, and A Run For the Money. Besides her writing, she is also deeply devoted to her family.
“I often think there are two people living in my body. First, there's the author who can't get enough time for reading, writing, and supporting others in the business. The author loves the spotlight, has no trouble speaking to total strangers, and juggles a thousand different tasks without ever missing a deadline. The author wouldn't notice if the house burned down around her--until the computer crashed.”
Ardito and her husband have two children, a dog and two cats. She describes herself as a “homebody” who does not concern herself with the mundane aspects of meaningless idle conversation.
“But then there's the mom who loves to bake from scratch, attends every football practice, and hates to leave the house--even on the sunniest day. Mom's a homebody who barely speaks to her neighbors because she's not good at idle chitchat. She serves a fabulous Thanksgiving feast and believes her greatest accomplishment in life is her children. If these two personalities ever meet, they'll bore each other to death.”
Recently she co-founded Dunes & Dreams, which strives to help to help romance writers attain their publishing dreams and expand their careers through advocacy, networking, and education. Fellow authors Debora Dennis and Candace Gold were also members of another Long Island-based chapter. Ardito refers the process as a labor of love for her and her co-founders.
“We considered the fact that, at approximately 120 miles, the Island was too long for any one group to serve all the residents of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Let's face it. Once you get to Riverhead, there are no parkways or expressways. Main arteries are mostly one lane local roads, which makes it difficult for East End residents to travel to meetings in, say, Massapequa. And there are several well-known romance authors who live out east. Bertrice Small lives in Southold. Barbara Metzger is on the opposite fork in Montauk.”
Ardito believed that there was a need for an East End chapter to serve these writers and others like them. Over a holiday lunch in December 2008, Dennis, Gold and Ardito found themselves at a crossroads. They knew the time was right to put their plans into motion. What followed were some hectic, frustrating, but rewarding months.
“Ultimately, our greatest strength--which we still rely on--was that there are no egos among us. We pitched in equally, dividing the workload based on our own particular skills and areas of expertise. Debora handled our online world: creating and maintaining a website, forum, blog, and online social groups. Candace took over the legal and financial paperwork. I became the liaison, overseer, and lead juggler.”
By May of 2009, less than six months after their original discussion, they became affiliated with the RWA. As of December 2009, Dunes & Dreams has fourteen active members. “Currently, we're up to 19 members with two additional in the application stage,” Ardito said.
Members of the affiliation attend monthly meetings, online workshops, and writing programs. There are writing workshops and author talks around the Island and members appear at several fairs in the warmer months. One of their most important events is their Multi-Author Book signing to Benefit Literacy Suffolk.
“Each spring, Pindar Vineyards in Peconic is kind enough to provide us space to sell personalized, autographed novels to the public. A portion of the sales from this event are donated to Literacy Suffolk, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Long Islanders learn to read and write.”
This year's event will take place on Saturday, May 8 from 12-3 pm at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic. With the current economic climate and state budget crisis, Dunes & Dreams is hoping to raise a significant amount to help make a difference. Twelve authors will be participating in this event.
“It's the day before Mothers Day. What could make a better gift? An autographed romance novel and a bottle of wine--that just screams "Love you, Mom!"
When writing her stories, she develops a few personality traits for her hero and heroine before she begins her story. But most of their characterizations develop along with the story.
“I love baby name books for basics. One book in particular, The Secret Universe of Names, is chock-full of info. Based on the syllables in any given name, I can figure out what type of career my character should have, how my character will react with friends as well as lovers, and what my character might value.”
Ardito often bases characters on people she doesn’t know--but not in any recognizable way. “I'll take personality quirks from my butcher, the lady down the street, and a co-worker. Mix them up and voila! I've got a totally unique character.”
Her favorite authors are extensive. She has been a fan of Bertrice Small since she began reading romance novels. Her novel, The Kadin, is still one of her favorite books—thirty years after she first read it. She also enjoys reading the works of J.D. Robb's In Death series, Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooter series, and the ladies of Benny Rosado's law offices in Lisa Scottoline's works. I also love Barbara Freethy, Sabrina Jeffries, Allison Brennan, Jane Heller, and Sarah Strohmeyer.
“Outside of romance, "quirky" really appeals to me. Christopher Moore, Carl Hiassen, and Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series are all on my must-buy list.”
Ardito is currently writing a series of historical romances, written under the name Katherine Brandon, debuting this month. Book I, Kismet's Angel has just been released in trade paperback by The Wild Rose Press.
“These were actually the first books I ever wrote and I'm extremely fond of the characters. To finally see them in print is so gratifying. The historical stories are meatier and more sexually explicit than my contemporaries, so be warned!”
She started her first book, Kismet's Angel, when she was pregnant with her now-thirteen-year-old son and “confined to the house.”
“Knowing it was something I'd always wanted to do, my husband brought home an old desktop computer from his office and suggested that maybe my high-risk pregnancy was some kind of omen that it was time to begin my writing career. At its first completed stage, Kismet's Angel was 800 pages long. I can't imagine why no one wanted to acquire this magnificent doorstop when I first shopped it around. It's a much more manageable 350 pages now.”
Ardito then found Romance Writers of America, learned about the craft of writing, and kept going. She wrote four historical romances in five years. Then a critique partner suggested she write outside her comfort zone and try writing a contemporary novel.
“The first book I sold, The Bonds of Matri-money, was the fifth book I wrote--my first contemporary. Ten years had passed since the day my husband brought home that old desktop from his office and told me to "write the book or shut up about it."
There are specific guidelines Ardito gives herself before she begins writing. “I can't write a word until I have a title. Sometimes, the title is god-awful, and I know I'll be changing it before the story is ended. But I have to have that tangible name to save the document. Once I start the story, I have to write it in order. No piecemeal scenes. For me, writing is a road map. I can double back if necessary, but I can't jump ahead.”
She also does not want to know her plot. “If I know how the story ends, I get bored and won't write it. This means I often write myself into a corner and have to figure out how I'll get my characters out of whatever mess I've written them into. In one particular story, halfway through the book I tossed in a murder. I had to figure out who the bad guy was and then go back and revise the story to make this murderer's presence known but not suspect.”
When asked if she has a specific message or theme that she wants to convey, she replies, “I never thought I had a specific message until a few years ago when I attended a workshop on theme. Suddenly this light bulb illuminated my head. Although it's never been intentional, my storylines and characters always seem to have some common thread. "Love means more than money," "The strong should tend to the weak," and "You've only got one life; make it worthwhile" are recurring ideals in all my stories.”
She advises aspiring writers to always read, write, and believe in themselves. Then, “rinse, and repeat”
You can find more information about Gina Ardito, her upcoming works, and events at http://ginaardito.com/