Born in 1960, author Gina LoBiondo grew up loving faerie tales. Not surprisingly, Cinderella was her favourite. She began writing stories of her own when she was 13 and continues to do so today whenever time and ideas allow. In 2008 she formed Nephthys Publications and in 2011 published her first book Pegasus – A Dragon’s Tale, an eleven-time book award winner. Other books by her include Button Nose the Sad Little Bear (winner of six awards), Cinderella – A Play in Two Acts and Pegasus – Another Dragon’s Tale (to be released soon). Gina enjoys reading, writing, listening to old-time radio programmes and watching classics.
AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH GINA LOBIONDO:
Joining LitPick for an author interview is Gina LoBiondo, author of middle grade and children’s books, such as Cinderella – A Love Story, Pegasus – A Dragon’s Tale, and Button Nose the Sad Little Bear.
Some of her books have received the Five-Star LitPick Book Review Award and the LitPick Top Choice Book Review Award. They’ve also received a variety of other awards and recognitions.
Her newest book, Cinderella – A Love Story, takes the familiar fairy tale and adds a few new twists. Our student reviewer said, “The author did a creative job rewriting it, giving it a few twists and unexpected elements.”
***Do you like to write by hand or on the computer?
Years ago, I used to write everything by hand. In fact, I wrote out the entire stage play version of my Cinderella book in long hand, using different colour pens for each character. It looked great but was a lot of work. Today I do almost all my writing on the computer, with a few exceptions. Typing is so much faster and it makes it so much easier to do corrections than using White Out!
***What was your favorite childhood book?
My favourite book when I was really small was the Top Top Tales Cinderella, illustrated by the brilliant but sadly late Catherine Barnes. My mum sold it in a yard sale, but I found it years later in Australia! When I got older my favourite book was an abridged version of Heidi. I still have it and enjoy reading it every once in a while!
***What is the most exciting part about being an author?
For me, the most exciting part is winning the awards! To date I’ve won a total of 18 awards for my three books – Pegasus – A Dragon’s Tale has won 11, Button Nose the Sad Little Bear has won 6 and Cinderella – A Love Story has just won its first award.
***What is the most challenging part about being an author?
Without question, the promotion! I have a very tight budget, so I have to pick and choose who I contact. I try to contact the people I’ve used in the past so they promote the book on their websites or blogs.
***What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I have time, I like to read. I do have a pile of books I have yet to read, though, so finding the time is hard. I also like watching my DVDs or going to the movies. My brother and I enjoy all the superhero and monster movies and so do our cousins, so we get together whenever we can.
Gina, it was so nice to have you join us again. Congratulations on all the awards your books have won. That’s quite an accomplishment. We look forward to hearing more about your upcoming books and sharing them with our reviewers.
EXTRA CREDIT WITH GINA LOBIONDO:
Joining LitPick for an Extra Credit Interview is Gina LoBiondo, who grew up loving fairy tales. She began writing stories of her own when she was 13 and continues to do so today. Her first foray into this exciting business is ten-time book award winner "Pegasus - A Dragon's Tale." A sequel to it is being planned. "Button Nose the Sad Little Bear," a five-time book award winner, is her second book. Keep an eye out for her next book—her own retelling of the Cinderella story (she offers us a sneak peek today).
***Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
Sometimes I’ll write an outline of sorts to give me an exact direction to go in. For example, when I was writing my sci-fi stories, I would write outlines so I wouldn’t stray from my intended plot. My Cinderella story was easier because everyone knows the story, but my version has a twist that no other version has. With that book I didn’t really need an outline either because I originally wrote it as a stage play, so I took each scene in the play and wrote a chapter around it. If anyone would like to get a sneak peek, you can check out the first three chapters here --
***Has someone you’ve known ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
OMG! It’s so funny that you asked me this! Actually, yes, that happened in a short story I wrote years ago that took place in the Star Wars universe. I used the nasty guy that my brother knew from high school as the villain and he gets his comeuppance at the hands of Darth Vader. So, for me it was a bit of karma at work.
What do you do when you get writer's block?
That’s been happening a lot lately! LOL What I do is just try to work on something else, whether it’s another story or a letter or email. Then I reread the story from the beginning and that usually gets me over the block.
***If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose?
Oh, without fail, I’d love to live in Heidi’s world – to run around barefoot in the meadows all day playing with the goats and eating fresh bread and cheese and drinking all that delicious goat’s milk! I would be in heaven!!!!!
***What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
This was a tough one, but I now have to say the latest movie version of Heidi, starring the adorable Anuk Steffan. It came out last year with the entire cast speaking German. The copy I have just came out, dubbed in English and it’s a wonderful movie. It’s one of the absolute best versions of Heidi that’s been made and really sticks close to the original tale by Johanna Spyri. There are some subtle changes to the story but nothing I found annoying, and I just loved it! I highly recommend it as a delightful family movie!
***If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
Dead would be Walter Farley, who wrote the Black Stallion series. Those books added to my love of horses. Alive I would love to have lunch with J.K. Rowling – she’s just so awesome and a real inspiration.
***We’ve heard you created your own publishing company. What inspired you to do that?
Well, as you know, I’ve been writing a very long time -- I started when I was 13. Once I finished my Cinderella book I started sending it to various publishers in the hopes of getting it published. I didn’t have any luck. One of those companies turned out to be a vanity publisher (which I didn’t understand back then) who wanted me to pay them $5,280 to print my book!! I was so disgusted and discouraged that I stuck the script in a drawer and it stayed there for 17 years until in 2001 the Audio Book Club announced their Short Story Contest.
I dusted off my manuscript, retyped it in proper format and submitted it. I wound up being one of five finalists, so that really inspired me and I started sending Cinderella around again. But my luck was no better this time around! I even got scammed by a phony agent out of Texas who stole $300 from me and wasted a year when I could have been looking for a real agent!
Finally, in late 2007 (after 16 years of comments like, “It’s good but it’s not what we’re looking for.”), Amazon announced their first annual Breakthrough Novel Award. I entered Cinderella, but didn’t even get passed the first round!
However, my prize was an account with CreateSpace, where I got a printed copy of my book. That’s when I decided to become my own publishing company and got my DBA. I was originally going to call it Isis Publications but it turned out that name was already taken, so in keeping with the Egyptian theme I changed the name to Nephthys Publications. My ultimate goal is to one day be able to publish other people’s books as well as my own.
Gina, thank you for spending some time with us and sharing the inspiration behind creating your own publishing company. You are proof that when things don’t work out how we imagined, there’s always another door waiting to be opened.
SIX MINUTES WITH GINA LOBIONDO:
Joining LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author is Gina LoBiondo, who grew up loving fairy tales. She began writing stories of her own when she was 13 and continues to do so today. Her first foray into this exciting business is ten-time book award winner Pegasus - A Dragon's Tale. A sequel to it is being planned. Button Nose the Sad Little Bear, a five-time book award winner, is her second book. Keep an eye out for her next book—her own retelling of the Cinderella story.
***How did you get started writing?
Oh, boy, it’s been so long! Well, I always had an active imagination, and my brother and I used to play “games” where we’d put ourselves into stories we read or movies we watched. When I was in 7th grade I got the desire to start putting some of those ideas on paper, so I went out and got a brand new spiral notebook to begin my 1st story.
***Who influenced you?
I don’t think there was anyone in particular. Once I got over my reading difficulties in 4th grade, I turned into a voracious reader. I read everything from Heidi to Black Beauty to the Little House books and The Black Stallion series, so it was probably a little bit of all of them.
***Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
When I was very young, my absolute favourite book was Cinderella, illustrated by the brilliant (and sadly late) Catherine Barnes. I never forgot the artwork and searched for it for years. Thankfully, I found it a few years ago in Australia and ordered it. It was delivered a week or so later, but it felt like forever. That was probably why my first major writing project was my own retelling of Cinderella. I will be publishing that book once I find the right illustrator. Then, when I was 9, the first book I ever really read on my own was Johanna Spyri’s classic Heidi and it’s become an all-time favourite. I enjoy collecting different editions of it (and Cinderella) on eBay.
***What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Never give up, and just write, write, write. When you first start, your writing may not be so great, but keep at it every chance you get and one day your work will shine! I’ve been writing since 28th October, 1973, so for me, it’s second nature; it’s like breathing!!!!!!
***Where is your favorite place to write?
I haven’t written in a while for various reasons, but I usually do it in the kitchen or living room while I’m watching TV. I get so wrapped up in what I’m writing that I don’t even hear the TV or radio.
***What else would you like to tell us?
I’d like to thank your reviewers moseso and jowill for the two fabulous reviews they gave my books! I’m so glad they enjoyed the stories, and I look forward to more reviews by the students! Thank you, as well, for having me on here!
Gina, congratulations on all the awards your books have won. We can't wait to read your retelling of Cinderella.
OTHER INTERVIEWS WITH GINA LOBIONDO:
Check out the book trailers:
Pegasus -- A Dragon's Tale
Button Nose the Sad Little Bear: