A huge congrats to Gina Ciocca on the publication of her debut y.a., LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE! Called one of the most-anticipated debuts of the year by Barnes & Noble and Epic Reads…
What people are saying:
“A fresh and raw love story about knowing when to hold on and when to let go. Ciocca’s voice is true and captivating, the perfect blend of angst and hope.” (Lindsey Leavitt, author of PRINCESS FOR HIRE and GOING VINTAGE)
“Last Year’s Mistake hooked me from the beginning and left me with a smile at the end.” (Nicole Williams, New York Times bestselling author of the Crash series)
“A solid, thoughtful romance with plenty of angst.” (School Library Journal)
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decided to move away, she couldn’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn’t ready to let her go…
Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.
Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.
JMC: When and how did you start writing?
Gina Ciocca:I’ve literally been writing since I knew how. In second and third grade, my friend Bridget and I would write stories about each other as the love interests to celebrity offspring during class and then swap notebooks to read them. They were long-winded and plotless, but so much fun! I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t love books and the imaginary worlds they can take you to.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
I absolutely can. It was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. My school used to give us a half an hour or so for quiet reading time, but when I read this book I was so absorbed in the imaginary forest kingdom that thirty minutes felt more like two. I can still remember blinking and looking around as the teacher told us to close our books. It had felt so real to me – the golden trees, the rope swinging over the creek – that I was actually disoriented upon finding myself back in a sterile, fluorescently lit classroom. It was the first time I realized words could create magic.
My other childhood storytelling heroes are probably very common for my generation: Ann M. Martin’s BABYSITTERS CLUB Series (I was totally Mary Anne), Francine Pascal’s SWEET VALLEY TWINS series, Lucy Maude Montgomery’s ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, and anything by Christopher Pike.
Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?
I wanted to be an author my entire life, but I didn’t write my first book until I was almost 30, despite all my bookish obsessions and the fact that I had a BA in English. The latter was probably part of the problem – I had no idea what to do with my degree, and writing so much for school sort of burned me out. Once I graduated, I took an office job that had absolutely nothing to do with what I’d studied – or loved. I didn’t read or write for ages. As a result, I was pretty miserable, but it took me a long time to make the connection. I thought I was unhappy because I worked long hours for terrible pay in a place where I was over-utilized and underappreciated (which didn’t help!). Things got a little easier when I changed jobs in 2004, but it wasn’t until I suffered a miscarriage in 2009 that I took a step back and reevaluated my life a bit. Then a light bulb went off: I’d abandoned my outlet, and I needed to get back to doing what made me happy. I decided I was finally going to write a novel.
When I did, it was truly a rookie mess. 96,000 words, and at least 25,000 of them completely unnecessary. But I had no clue; I was just so proud of myself for finally seeing a concept through from beginning to end. Unsurprisingly, this was not the novel that got my foot in the door. But it *was* the one that broke me in, that introduced me to the online writing community, and that helped me find friends and critique partners that I treasure to this day.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
It was hard, though due in large part to how green I was when I started querying, and the fact that I was querying a novel that didn’t fit in anywhere. It was about college-age girls, which I had no idea was not considered YA when I wrote it, and New Adult was not yet a thing. It was also paranormal in the post-Twilight era, which meant most agents ran screaming from it.
Querying LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE was totally different. I was older and wiser, had a lot more research and experience under my belt, and knew I had a marketable story. Agent responses started off slow, but once I revised my query and started entering contests, the requests really poured in. I think I had 14 or 15 agents request material, and two offers of representation. I chose John Cusick because I loved his editorial suggestions and felt they’d make the story stronger, and because he was so genuinely enthusiastic about the manuscript. The rest is history.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I used to write in my down time at work, but since I had my son in August 2013, I’m now a stay-at-home mom. Some people might think this makes it easier to write. They are wrong. My son cried constantly when he was first born, and I didn’t have time to shower, let alone write. Now, thank goodness, he’s mellowed out enough that I can write during his naps and after he goes to bed. Early morning and post-sunset are my time for my other kids – my stories.
Inspiration comes from everywhere: dreams, memories, people, places, songs. If one of those things makes me feel a certain way, I live for the challenge of trying to replicate it in a novel.
Can you tell us about your next book?
I have two finished manuscripts, the newest of which is a YA Contemporary that was ridiculously fun to write. The other is a YA psychological thriller that I’m currently revising, and I’m also converting a YA romance novella into a full-length novel. My writing cup runneth over, and I love it!
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?
I would kill to have dinner with V.C. Andrews. She passed away in the 80’s, but I bow to her ability to write the dark and twisted. One of these days I’m going to get brave and do a re-imagining of FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. And as I serve her wine at my dinner party, I’ll ask her to tell me on DL if she despised the ghost writer they hired after her death as much as I did.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
I have several. Do your research, don’t be afraid of critique, surround yourself with topnotch CP’s, and write even if you’re not totally feeling the love for what you’re putting on the page. To quote myself, Let Your Suck Flow. http://writersblog-gina.blogspot.com/2011/12/just-let-your-suck-flow.html
Check out Gina’s awesome blog and follow her on twitter.
LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE on Goodreads and order at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.