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Gina Marenna, a longtime East Haven resident, just released the first book in a series she has written under the name Gina Marie Martini. (Photo courtesy of Gina Marenna )
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Ever since she was young, Gina Marenna has been creating stories. She remembers recording her first stories at around 10 years old. She grew up in Meriden but after getting a job at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield when she was 19, she moved to East Haven.
“My grandmother and mom grew up here and it’s always felt like home,” says Gina, who has now worked at Anthem for 30 years. “I found my roots here, and it felt like that even when I was a new resident because of my familial roots.”
While working full-time, Gina earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She has a background in clinical health, and she decided to pursue a master’s in health administration, again earning the degree while working her career full-time.
Even though Gina’s career was a far cry from creating the stories she did when she was young, her passion was never far from her mind. She has always enjoyed reading and while pursuing her master’s an idea for a new storyline began to form.
“I had this story in mind,” says Gina. “I’d wrapped up my master’s and it was the middle of winter and cold. I wasn’t writing papers for school anymore so I thought I’d get it down.”
Gina began writing in her spare time, spending much of her time on nights and weekends in front of the computer. New ideas often kept her up until well past midnight; sometimes she would wake in the middle of the night to jot down notes on the pad she kept next to her bed. While she was passionate about writing down the story in her head, she kept her project to herself, not telling friends, coworkers, or even her two sons.
She began writing after finishing her master’s five years ago and what started as an idea for a single book has become The Affair series. According to Gina, the series is based around Tommy Cavallo, who inherits a hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in the late 1960s. Tommy is gorgeous, charming, wealthy—basically God’s gift to women, she says. He’s a married man, but he also has a girlfriend.
“It’s first classified under historical romance, but it’s a family saga and there are a lot of elements of romance and love,” says Gina. “When I first started writing the first book, I had a completely different ending in mind because it was meant to be a one-time standalone book, but as I wrote, I had so many other ides of where it could go so I changed the ending and kept writing.”
Each book in the series is told from the perspective of a different person in Tommy Cavallo’s life with the first being told by his mistress, the second by his wife, and the third by Tommy himself, and the fourth by his son.
“I already have an idea for the fifth,” says Gina. “Tommy’s wife’s story runs parallel and there are events that cross over into each story. Tommy’s story brings a lot of things together and explains why each of the women are important and how he got involved with the mafia. The fourth is told by his son—he has a child with one of the women—and it’s written in more of the present day with the child looking back on his father’s life.”
Gina has always loved Las Vegas and was intrigued by the city after several visits. When the idea for her book began to form, she traveled to Las Vegas again, this time for research. Though she had the idea for the story, Gina wanted to be as accurate as possible to the history of Las Vegas, the laws, and the time period.
In addition to traveling to Las Vegas, she began reading books about the subjects on which her book would touch, including the mafia, prostitution and brothels, the laws in Las Vegas, gambling, and more. She also watched documentaries on the topics.
“The story is pure fiction. I’ve been asked if it’s based on my life and it’s absolutely not,” says Gina. “I’d like to say I have a creative imagination that takes me to different places, but I had to do a lot of research.”
While Gina originally began penning her novels to just get her ideas on paper, after having three books drafted, she began to think of a bigger possibility. She reached out to a friend, asking them to read a few chapters. Her friend read the chapters and asked if she could finish reading the entire thing, encouraging Gina to look into publishing.
Gina reached out to several other friends for more feedback, getting similar reactions. With her friends’ encouragement, Gina began more research, this time about how to get published. She bought the Guide to Literary Agents and Publishing and began submitting her novel to different publishers.
“I got a lot of rejections, but then one day, I got a call that a publisher was interested,” says Gina. “I was jumping up and down screaming in my kitchen with my phone on mute so they didn’t hear me.”
The first book in the series, The Mistress Chronicles, was released on Aug. 1 and the second book is currently in the editing process. Gina is concurrently working on fine-tuning the third book in the series, while writing the fourth book.
Gina wrote the books under her family name, Gina Marie Martini, and she remembers the feeling of first seeing her name on the cover of her own book, which is available on Amazon, Apple ebooks, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble. Though she didn’t tell anyone while she was writing, now that the secret is out, Gina has been thrilled with the support she has seen.
“It was an amazing feeling and I feel so blessed and fortunate to have gone this far with it—I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be a published author,” says Gina. “When I was writing, I told nobody, not even my kids, but I got excited when I heard back form a publisher who was interested and started yapping away. People were surprised, but they’ve been cheering me on, buying the book, and posting lovely reviews.”
When writing her stories, Gina says her biggest goal was for people to like her stories and she hopes to become a “respected author in the industry.” She also hopes that by sharing her story, she can encourage others with an idea for a book “not to give up.”
“For me, it’s about entertaining people and wanting people to not be able to wait to read the next story,” says Gina. “I want others to know they shouldn’t give up, handle rejection with grace and dignity, move on, and keep trying. I’m new to this and my name is not well-known, but I believe if I was able to do it, if somebody has a good story, they should go for it.”
For information, visit www.ginamariemartini.com or follow Gina Marie Martini on Facebook and Twitter.
The 2020 guide to the Madison Chamber of Commerce has arrived!