Gina LoBiondo has published two award-winning picture books. She is presently working on her first novel.
Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Gina. Pegasus was your first published book. You hired an illustrator to create 25 black and white illustrations to keep down the cost of the book. In 2011,you changed it. Why?
Gina LoBiondo: Hi, Bonnie, first thanks for having me here! Yes, the original illustrator did the artwork in black and white. I have several editions of Johanna Spyri’s HEIDI, which have black and white illustrations, so the decision to do Pegasus that way was mine. I thought the artwork was adorable but no one else seemed to like it! I had several judges at book award competitions that really criticized it so I made the decision to redo the artwork in full colour. In addition to that, I also changed the size of the book from the original 6×9 to the current size of 8×10. After I made the change the book started to sell and win awards so I guess I made the right choice. I think the most difficult part of creating the book was that neither Stephanie nor I knew about saving the artwork at 300 dpi. Once she gets the time, we plan to redo the illustrations and I’m going to add to the book, with sections similar to what I did with Button Nose the Sad Little Bear.
Ferrante: Pegasus won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the Category of Children’s Interest. Please tell us about this award and how your book was chosen. Why do you think it has so much appeal?
LoBiondo: Well, according to the website, the Pinnacle Awards are chosen based on book content, quality, writing style, presentation and cover design. Pegasus is the story of two young bear cubs who find and raise a baby dragon and follows the friendship of the three characters. Since I’ve been writing for so long I’ve pretty much got the quality, style and presentation down pat. As for the cover, I designed it myself, as I’ve done with all my books. I think the story is so appealing because it touches on something that many children’s books today don’t – real friendship and the bonding of the three characters.
Button Nose the Sad Little Bear is based on a toy you had as a child and found again on eBay as an adult. Why did this bear appeal to you so much? Why do you think it connects so much with children today?
LoBiondo: You know, Bonnie, it was just one of those things where this little bear was just so appealing to me. I think it was his sad little face that must have touched my young heart ‘cause I hugged him and cuddled him all the time. Even today I still love him to pieces and was so thrilled when I found him on eBay. I also had a medium sized bear and a very large bear that I called his mommy and daddy, but I wasn’t attached to them like I was to him. I really don’t know if kids today have that kind of bear – Knickerbocker went out of business years ago! I love the Build-A-Bears and even got one for myself after giving several as presents, but all their bears are smiling and I don’t know what else is out there. I think the more sensitive kids like me are missing out.
Ferrante: Did you approach your second picture book differently than your first?
LoBiondo: Actually, yes I did. I had already learned about saving in 300 dpi, so I made sure when Brittany had her artwork scanned she did it that way. Then, I added more reviews at the beginning and then the photo gallery and other books section at the end in order to expand the book. With Pegasus being only 34 pages, I had a hard time finding a printer who would print the info on the spine. Many bookstores refused to carry it because it lacked the spine info. I use CreateSpace to print Pegasus and they won’t print the spine info on books less than I believe either 120 or 130 pages. Fortunately, I use Lightning Source to print Button Nose and they will print spine info at 48 pages. With the added information, Button Nose came out to 54 pages.
Ferrante: Both your picture books have received a large number of awards. Do you feel the effort and expense of entering these award opportunities is worth the increase in sales of your books? Or are you looking at the long tail?
LoBiondo: I’m still weighing the awards – I have spent quite a bit entering the competitions but, sadly, I don’t think they’ve really made much of a difference in sales, at least for the short term. Since Pegasus has been out for 5 years, I’ve sold more books and have sold some of Button Nose, but not nearly as many and sales seem to be stalled on both books. I’m hoping that will change closer to the holidays.
As for the competitions, I do enjoy entering them and especially winning. I actually created one label to put in the corner of the books that says “Multi Book Award Winner” instead of putting award labels all over the cover. I think the single sticker looks much more professional.
Ferrante: I understand your next book will be a novel based on the Cinderella story. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
LoBiondo: Yes, the title will be Cinderella – A Love Story and it’s my own retelling of the classic faerie tale. It was always my favourite story as a child – I had a beautiful book illustrated by Catherine Barnes that I read a gazillion times – so it was only natural that one day I’d write my own. I originally wrote this story as a full-length, 2-act stage play – I had taken a theatre course in my last year of high school and loved it so I decided I’d try my hand at it. By that time, I had already been writing for 6 years. My version is the traditional tale but with a twist that no other version has that really makes it unique. It doesn’t happen until chapter 8 so you have to just keep reading.
Ferrante: You have posted chapter 1 of your Cinderella novel on Create Space asking for feedback. Have you received many responses? Have they been helpful?
LoBiondo: Sorry to say I’ve only received 7 responses – they’ve all been good, though, except for one guy who complained. He said the story was so familiar he didn’t feel the need to read any further. However, when I was trying to find an agent years ago, I had one tell me “Taking on faerie tale icons is a tall order and you’ve done a good job.” So that was encouraging. Everyone who has read this book has given it positive reviews so I think it will do well. My only problem now is the one I’ve had for years, that being I can’t find the right illustrator. It’s kind of frustrating ‘cause I really want to get this book out!!!!!
Ferrante: I think 7 responses is worthwhile. It isn’t that easy to find feedback on a work in progress.
Ferrante: If you could at this very moment to take a ride on anything in the world, what would you most want to ride?
LoBiondo: My bicycle! I used to ride all the time before I got my driver’s license; when I was a teenager there were still Blue Laws on Sunday, where all the stores were closed. So my brother and I would ride up to our local shopping centre and just ride from one end to the other as fast as we could! It was awesome and boy, do I ever miss doing that!!!!!
Ferrante: What is one major problem, either in your own nation or throughout the world, that you honestly feel we will have pretty well solved within 20 years?
LoBiondo: I’m hoping for a cure for either Alzheimer’s, diabetes or ALS. I lost relatives to all three so it would be awesome if they could all be part of history during that time.
Ferrante: What is one vacation destination that many of the people think is just fabulous, but which you personally have no desire to ever visit or (revisit)?
LoBiondo: I would have to say Mexico or South America, and this is in no way saying anything against the people there. They’re just not places I’d have any interest in visiting and I, personally, can’t see the appeal.
Ferrante: I enjoyed seeing the Mayan ruins in Mexico and I love the food. I guess it all depends on what appeals to you.
Thank you for talking with me today. Good luck with Cinderella.
https://youtu.be/3EHLKZj6aRE for Pegasus
https://youtu.be/pabJ5ZOhCdA for Button Nose
Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale was reviewed on this blog January 16, 2017.
Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.