Interview by Michelle Lynn.
An interview with author Gina Azzi.
What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
Sure! My books are in the young adult and new adult genres. The first book I wrote is entitled Corner of Ocean and Bay. It’s a mature young adult novel that highlights the friendship of Nessa and Jacie during the summer before their senior year of high school. Primarily focusing on teen topics such as underage drinking, family issues, and first loves, the novel explores how Nessa and Jacie navigate these challenges and the impact certain situations have on their friendship.
After writing Corner of Ocean and Bay, I started working on The Senior Semester Series, a new adult and college romance series that follows four best friends as they embark on their senior year of college, new adventures, and love interests! The first book in the series, The Last First Game, focuses on Lila Avers as she completes a medical internship in California and meets football player Cade Wilkins at the airport! Their romance is a whirlwind but things grow complicated as Cade deals with the fallout of a sudden illness and Lila struggles to be there for him. The second book in the series, Kiss Me Goodnight in Rome, follows Mia Petrella to Italy and chronicles her romance with hot Italiano Lorenzo Barca. This book deals with body image issues, family financial concerns, and a looming long-distance relationship. The third book in the series, All the While, focuses on Maura Rodriguez and Zack Huntington and will release January 17, 2017. And the final book is Emma’s Story which is set to release next Spring.
Who’s your favorite character from your books?
Ah, what a tough question! I really like Lila a lot – I think she’s really laidback, fun, and easy to get along with. At the same time, she’s incredibly loyal, family-oriented, and genuine. I also really enjoyed writing Lorenzo’s character as he is rough around the edges, a bit arrogant, and pretty cocky before he falls for Mia.
In your book, The Last First Game, you tackle some pretty huge issues – namely cancer and sexual abuse. Is there a reason you chose to write about these massive topics?
In all of my books, I try to write about themes that are relatable and age-appropriate. The cancer element was really difficult to write about but it’s also something that most people can relate to – having known someone close to them that is struggling with an illness. How do they cope and handle these challenges? How does it change their relationship with this person? Sexual assault was a really important topic for me to include since statistics show that 1 in 5 women on college campuses experience sexual assault. That is mind boggling! It’s also a topic that is finally being covered in the media, discussed in politics, and receiving attention and education on college campuses. The Obama Administration launched the It’s on Us campaign in 2014 to combat sexual assault on college campuses. I think it’s a huge issue that deserves attention and awareness and I wanted to help do so through The Last First Game.
What advice would you give to someone writing about a topic that people tend to have very strong opinions on?
Be sensitive to the opinions of others, be factual in the information you provide, but never be afraid to write about something you believe in/believe deserves attention.
Amidst these big things that are happening to Lila and Cade, you manage to give them some normalcy as they fall in love and learn to rely on each other. Was this difficult?
It wasn’t that difficult since it’s very common for young people to experience a lot of challenges or things that bring them stress and pressure – and in the midst of all of that, still fall in love, form meaningful friendships, have these important relationships with other people. I think people are always dealing with things that are difficult for them but at the same time, trying to cultivate a support system is important, and connections with other people can’t be overlooked.
Were there alternate endings that you considered?
No! haha! I was pretty set on the ending of The Last First Game – I actually wrote it before I finished a good portion of the middle bit!
What authors have inspired you to write?
I’ve always loved reading – I was totally that kid that read under the covers by flashlight at night! Some of my favorite books growing up were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Harry Potter – all of these books and more and so many talented authors have inspired me in different ways to write.
What age were you when you started writing?
Super young! I suppose about 7 or 8 – I used to write and illustrate stories to read to my friends!
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Totally! Sometimes I have to take a step back from my work for several days and just do something completely unrelated before I can go back to it. Having that break from the story usually helps me look at the content with a fresh perspective.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
A little of both. I usually make a general outline with major plot points, themes, scenes and then just free write from there. Most of the time, I begin without knowing the ending and at some point, I sort it out and then write the ending, sometimes before I finish how the story arrives at that conclusion.
Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
Haha not really – they’re real to me because they exist in my mind anyway!
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
It was totally trial and error. I went the self-publishing route as I liked the idea of having complete creative control. I did some research about how to go about the process and spoke with some other self-published authors. Through learning about their experiences – and reading a lot of blogs! – I learned about how to find an editor, a cover designer, a formatter. Little by little it fell into place. Something I love about the self-publishing route is it’s a constant state of learning – and that is pretty exciting by itself!
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
No – mainly because I really enjoyed the learning process and feel like every step of my journey has gotten me to where I am today. It’s tough to skip steps and even the mistakes I’ve made have taught me a lesson. I think experiencing these lessons first-hand is really important for me in order to value what I do and to encourage me to keep writing.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Sure! All the While is a new adult, college romance book releasing on January 17, 2017. Here’s the blurb:
Consumed with grief for her twin brother Adrian’s death, Maura Rodriguez is spinning out of control. To cope with Adrian’s loss, she numbs her pain with bottles of vodka and sex with random men.
Consumed with guilt for his best friend Adrian’s death, Zack Huntington is yearning for a past that no longer exists. Reaching out to the familiarity and comfort an ex-girlfriend offers, Zack aims to recreate what once was but can never be again.
When their worlds collide while running on the trails along Boathouse Row, Maura and Zack find comfort in each other and in the memory of their shared connection, Adrian.
From their unlikely friendship grows an undeniable attraction, an irrefutable desire, and an unexpected love. While Maura and Zack struggle to heal, to forgive, to accept, they also learn how to let go and allow themselves to fall in love, a truth they’ve both known but resisted all the while.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism has been that my characters lack depth. That’s hard to hear as I really want my characters to resonate with readers and if they’re not, then I have to try harder to create more layers for them. Another criticism is the lack of sexual content in my books – I tend to imply sexual encounters rather than write more graphic content. The best compliment is when people tell me how much they could relate to a character and understand his/her challenges, point of view, experiences. That makes me super happy!
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Keep writing! If it’s something you love to do, keep it up – even if it’s for your own peace of mind!
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I’m not sure – I like to write at coffee houses and cafes with my Spotify playlists and a sweet treat! I feel like that sounds pretty boring though.
What others are saying about Gina Azzi:
“This book tackled some very serious issues and it did so with a cautiousness I appreciated. I think it was a true representation of what might happen to a very young, very new couple when faced with these issues. They were very human.”
“Her characters are well-drawn, realistic, and could be people that you actually know (or knew). Her stories are invariably sweet and romantic, stories written about love and all the highs and lows that go with it.”