1 September 2014
Interview with Gina Briganti, author of Keep It Simple, The Dreaming and upcoming sequel Desert Sunrise.
What is your first memory of writing?
My first memories of writing are a series of poems I wrote in junior high, and a fan letter to Danielle Steele. I thought she was the best author in the world at the time.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself a writer when I started filling notebooks with story ideas, poems, and songs.
What inspired you to write your first book?
What inspired me to write my first attempt at a book, a novel I attempted back in junior high, was going to the beach with my dad early one morning for fishing. Apparently some frustrated writer had given up, and let his manuscript float all over the sand. I collected those crusty, damp pages, tried to put them in order, and read them. There wasn’t much of a story there, but the feel of those pages in my fingers gave me an itch to give it a try. My first attempt at a novel was a Sweet Valley High inspired love story about the shy underdog landing the best looking guy in school, leaving the most popular girl in school unhappy. I haven’t thought of this in years. Thank you for a great question.
Are experiences based on someone you know or events in your own life?
I weave all kinds of real life into my fiction and non-fiction books. It’s real for me, and I believe it makes it real for the reader, too. For example, Jenny and Jason from The Dreaming, are based on my children. When I was toying with the idea of giving Jason a drug problem, my son protested, saying “Thanks, mom, for giving my character a drug problem.” That was a funny moment. He was really offended. However, my characters aren’t replicas of the people and events who inspire me. For example, when I chose to have Jenny drive a VW bug, it was because it fit Jenny, when my daughter actually wanted a Nissan Altima.
What books have most influenced you?
There are many books that have influenced me, but if there is one author who holds my heart, it is Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb. She has an incredible talent. My first Nora book was Dance Upon the Air, the first book in the Three Sisters Island trilogy. Her paranormal romances have influenced me immeasurably.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
My good friend, editor, and co-author on an upcoming cookbook, Lynn Burton. She has lovingly guided me through so much of the writing process.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have had to learn to limit my use of the words just, really, and very. I can’t tell you how much I learned from crafting sentences without them. It was challenging. I just really miss those words very much, but I know how much I have improved without them.
How long does it take you to write a book?
My first four manuscripts that I attempted as an adult have taken a month or less each for the first draft. Editing takes about another six weeks.
Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
I don’t know if these could be considered quirks, but I talk to my characters, daydream about them, and then write the scenes that move me the most. I fill in more of the story as I go along.
What does your family think of your writing?
This is a great question to ask me! My children are proud that I am pursuing my passion. My boyfriend can see how much I love writing and wants me to be able to make it my full time career. My brother thinks I write trashy novels and is shocked that I want to write romance, of all things.
Now, if you’re asking about their feedback on reading my writing, that’s a different story. My daughter has dutifully read my first two published books and countless songs and poems. She thinks I’m a good writer. I wrote one story that impressed her so much that she asked if I actually wrote it, which told me that I had reached a new level in my craft. I don’t know where she thinks I might have got it, or why I would have told her it was mine if it wasn’t, but I’ll take the compliment.
My brother reads everything he can of mine that isn’t graphically sexual (because it’s too creepy to read love scenes written by his sister, thank you very much) and thinks I am a gifted writer.
My mother loves everything she has scanned, because she’s my mom. I’m honored, because she isn’t a reader. When I told her my books were getting a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews, she basically said that she expected no less, because I’ve been writing for so long.
Do you start with character or plot?
I usually start with the characters. They really are my favorite part. As a reader I’m drawn to character-driven stories.
In your words, what defines a good story?
I love this question, too. A good story can take so many avenues. I find it amazing that a 100 word flash fiction can pull me in as well as a 100,000 word novel. What defines a good story, for me, is how much I enjoy going along for the ride the writer is taking me on. If the writer makes me laugh or cry, or even groan a few times, I consider that a good story. If I get lost in the world I’m creating in my head through the writer’s imagination, that’s a good story. If I can’t wait to turn the page, that’s a good story. If I put off reading the book for a day because I don’t want it to end, that’s a good story. If I love what I’m reading so much that I have to hold someone down and read parts of it to them, that’s a good story. If I keep the physical book and read it again and again, that’s Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts, or Naked in Death by J.D. Robb, the definition of good storytelling.
Gina has been a great source of inspiration to me; she is a kindred spirit. You will find information about her upcoming release Desert Sunrise, as well as her other projects, by visiting her website here.