A fan of lighthearted romance novels with “feel-good endings,” Gina Sturino figures she reads about three books a week.
The pace of her writing is a bit slower than that, but it’s picking up steam.
The DeForest native published her first book, entitled “Fruit of the Land,” on Oct. 8. She’s planning to release her second in January and is already at work on a third. They’re all part of a series called “Of The Gods.”
The creativity involved in writing books is magical for Sturino.
“I think partly it’s like when you read a book, you like to be able to get through it and say, ‘What a fun character’ or, ‘What a fun place to be,’” said Sturino. “It lets your imagination take you anywhere you want to go.”
“Fruit of the Land” is a bit different from the ones she enjoys reading in that it involves gods and goddesses. Sturino said it revolves around a woman who has experienced a tragic event and her grief takes her to a dimension inhabited by gods and goddesses.
The tragedy results in a new beginning, as the heroine’s daughter is revealed to be a goddess. Throughout “Fruit of the Land,” Sturino explores themes of fate and destiny, and there is plenty of romance.
Sturino grew up in DeForest, arriving in town around the age of four or five. She went through DeForest Area High School, graduating in 1997. She attended the University of Wisconsin and received a degree in finance in 2001, before launching a career as a stock broker.
Her husband, Darrin Leonhart, is also a 1997 DeForest graduate. He spent 20 years of active duty in the Marine Corps, and is now a junior at Edgewood College. They have an 8-year-old daughter named Olivia, who attends school in the DeForest Area School District.
When her daughter was born, Sturino became a stay-at-home mom. Being a military family, they’ve moved around a lot. When Olivia was 2, they settled in North Carolina, but Darrin retired from the Marines when she was 5. They wanted to return to Wisconsin – DeForest specifically.
Sturino actually finished the first draft of “Fruit of the Land” in 2018. She went through the process of trying to find an agent, sent the work to various friends to have them read it and worked with several editors.
“That was one of the challenges – finding an editor who knows the genre and who can work with you without taking away your voice,” said Sturino.
After working with a writing coach and an editor she really liked, Sturino reached out to agents, but it’s tough for new fiction writers to gain access to the world of book publishing. Sturino said that unless you get picked up by one of the five big publishing houses, it’s best to do your own marketing.
So, instead of finding a publisher and an agent, Sturino went the route of independent publishing. She says it’s more profitable and can allow you to make a career out of writing books. Right now, Sturino works exclusively through Amazon to distribute her books, although they can also be found locally. The Poppy Seed coffee and home décor boutique is one place that carries the book.
It took Sturino six weeks to write the first draft for “Fruit of the Land.” The second book took longer to write, but she said it was much easier to edit.
Music provides a lot of the inspiration for Sturino’s writing. She starts with a concrete beginning and ending, and then fills in the middle. She takes voice notes and comes up with a loose outline for each scene, adding in little nuggets or bread crumbs along the way.
Sturino is finishing up the manuscript for her third book now. She will then send it to what are called beta readers, who will offer in-depth feedback.
“It’s a lot of back and forth,” said Sturino.
Sturino said she is 100 percent committed to making writing books a rewarding career for herself. While working in the fantasy genre has been enjoyable, her heart is in romance. Nevertheless, it’s the work of writing that is most satisfying to her.
“It’s about accomplishing something I’ve always wanted to do and getting feedback, being able to write stories I want to read, create worlds and being able to create your own adventure,” said Sturino.
Details regarding Sturino’s book are available on her website: www.ginasturino.com