The Debut Club: An interview with Gina Ciocca, author of LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE

Sweet Sixteener Heather Smith Meloche recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Gina Ciocca about her contemporary YA debute, LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE (June 9, 2015 from Simon Pulse).

About the Author: 

FB Profile Gina Ciocca-02 (1)Gina Ciocca graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in English. She lives in Georgia with her family. Gina is a member of the writing and blogging group YA Misfits and you can find her online at Last Year’s Mistake is her first novel.

Find Gina on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.





LYMnorainIs there anything that electric chemistry can’t overcome? The past may be gone, but love has a way of holding on in this romantic debut novel told in alternating Before and After chapters.The summer before freshman year, Kelsey and David became inseparable best friends—until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke and everything around her crumbled, including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decide to move away, she can’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. But David’s not quite readyto be left.Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town. Old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never let him go. And maybe she never wants to…
LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is available for purchase on Amazon, Powell’s, BAM, B&N, and IndieBound.

Heather: You’ve posted your awesomely encouraging and very realistic story about your path to publication on your blog, which everyone should read. Based on your experience, what is one sentence of advice you think all aspiring writers should live by?

Gina: It’s more than one sentence, but there’s a quote by Maya Angelou that I always go back to:

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

I think sometimes writers get so wrapped up in the enigma of publication that they forget to write for the joy of creating. I’m definitely guilty of it. Maya sums it up better than I ever could.

Heather: I know your critique partners are invaluable to you through your whole writing to publication process. What would you say is the best thing your CPs give or do for you?

Gina: The best thing my CP’s do for me is providing HONEST feedback. Yes, it’s difficult to have the weaknesses in your work spelled out for you, but if they didn’t, I’d have let my agent and/or editor read some really embarrassingly underdeveloped manuscripts. I always say there comes a point when you’re too close to the story to see its flaws, and that’s where CP’s and betas can breathe new life into it.

Heather: How did you come up with the idea for your novel? How much of your real life did you find sneaking into the characters and/or settings?

Gina: The idea for LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE started with a dream I had one night, which ended up becoming the last half of the first chapter. As I developed the rest of the plot, quite a few pieces of me started sneaking into the fabric of the story. Kelsey’s hometown in Connecticut, for example, and her introvert tendencies, and subsequent social awkwardness. I wouldn’t say the book is at all autobiographical, but I saw a lot more of myself in the finished product than I expected to.

Heather: Is contemporary YA your first genre love? Will we see more from you?

Gina: Yes! I love contemporary, and my 2016 book from Simon Pulse will be another YA romance. But I also have a soft spot for paranormal stories of the ghost variety, and stories that blur the lines between paranormal, psychological thriller, and romance. I’d love to publish a variety of genres.

Lightning Round Questions

SURPRISE! LYM is going to be a movie on the big screen by tomorrow! Fast, I know. What song or songs are musts for you on the soundtrack?

“Back to December” by Taylor Swift, “Come Back to Me” by David Cook, “Paradise” by Coldplay, “Broken” by Lifehouse, “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard, “Stay” by Alison Krauss, and “Faster” by Matt Nathanson.

Oldest, youngest, or only child?

Oldest. I have one little sister. Though neither of us is very little anymore.

Trip to Mars, back in time, or to the center of the Earth?

Back in time. There are so many things I’d like to tell Past Gina.

Favorite foods/drinks to partake in while writing?

Anything that only requires one hand to eat and won’t make crumbs on the keyboard!

Longhand or type?

A combination of both. Sometimes empty notebook pages just beckon to me.

If you could go back and tell your sixteen-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

That things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but they do work out the way they’re supposed to.

LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is available for purchase on Amazon, Powell’s, BAM, B&N, and IndieBound.

About the Interviewer:

Heather Smith MelocheHeather Smith Meloche’s work has appeared in SPIDER, YOUNG ADULT REVIEW NETWORK (YARN), and ONCE UPON A TIME, and she has placed twice in the children’s/YA category of the WRITER’S DIGEST Annual Competition. Her short story, “Him,” won the HUNGER MOUNTAIN Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing in 2011, and Heather’s novel based on that short work is slated for publication through Penguin Putnam in Fall 2016. You can find her at


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