Thursday, September 1, 2011

INTERVIEW: Gina Damico, author of Croak

With Meant to Be scheduled for release in October 2012, I was lucky enough to join a group called The Apocalypsies. They're a totally fabulous group of children's, middle grade, and young adult authors with debut novels coming out in 2012. I've had a great time meeting and chatting with them, and as we draw closer to the big year of our debuts, I'm even more excited to start reading their novels!

Thanks to NetGalley (no really, thanks NetGalley!), the first Apocalypsies book I got to read was Croak by Gina Damico, and if it was any indication ... well, I'm in for an entire year of spectacular books.

First, a little bit about Croak (from Goodreads)
Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex's parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can't stop her desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?
I feel like a broken record these days, but it remains true: I'm not a big paranormal fan. Really, I'm not. But I couldn't put Croak down. What I think really got me was the humor and the snark that still had a lot of heart. It read like a contemporary novel, just with some awesomely cool supernatural elements. I started reading Croak while on a derby trip, and I had to stop because I nearly woke my roommate with all the laughing. Luckily, with Gina not only being a fellow Apocalypsie, but also a fellow Bostonian, I knew I'd be able to grab her and share her hilarity with all of you.

Thanks for stopping by, Gina! So let's get down to it. Croak is your debut novel ... how did you get here?

Oh man, even I'm not sure. Maybe via sorcery of some kind?

Long answer: I've always been a ravenous reader, and while I wrote a bit in college, I stopped after I graduated because I never thought I'd be able to turn it into a career. But since I didn't know what else to do - and because I'd tried pretty much every other random job under the sun and none of them stuck - I turned back to writing and Croak just kind of fell out of my head one day. I took it to a conference and met Tina Wexler of ICM, who was a fan of the TV series Dead Like Me (also about grim reapers) and somehow, despite my frizzy hair and complete inexperience, was intrigued. By the time I got home that night, she had already emailed me to request the manuscript. Eventually she became my agent, and she sold it to Julie Tibbott at Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and now here I am.

Short answer: I walked into a bookstore one day, looked at all the YA novels on the shelves, and said to myself: "I can do that." So I did.

Tell us about your inspiration for Croak.

I'm not exactly sure where the inspiration for the plot came from, but I can tell you what I was doing when it arrived: I was working at a bread store, and it was empty. No one in Boston wanted any carbs of any kind that day. So I was doing a crossword puzzle to pass the excruciating time, when Lex suddenly popped into my head, followed by Uncle Mort. And they were Grim Reapers. Maybe there was a crossword clue about the afterlife or something? I still have no idea, but I raced home afterwards, started writing the first chapter, and everything else fell into place after that. Much bread was consumed in the process.

So you do improv comedy. That's pretty awesome! Croak is pretty stinkin' funny ... how does your improv experience come into play with your writing?

The writing that I did in college was actually for a murder mystery comedy troupe. (Foreshadowing much?) Our shows were very unique - they were half scripted, half improv. The experience I gained in both areas was invaluable in learning how to shape characters and give them funny traits - because theater is all about exaggeration, so that the audience can see and understand what the actors are doing; there are no close-ups in theater. So I applied that to the characters in my book by trying to make each one quirky in their own way, with snappy dialogue that's aimed to keep the audience's attention. Because the one thing theater people want more than anything is attention.
Gina's cat and a scythe ... because hey, why not?

How are you going to celebrate the release of your debut novel?

Probably with a bucket of cheeseballs, a chocolate milkshake, and a celebratory chasing of my cat around the house. Maybe I'll work in some sort of launch party too, if I can squeeze it in to all of my valuable cheeseball-gorging time.

Are you working on more adventures for Lex, Driggs, Uncle Mort, and the rest of the Croak universe? What can ya tell us?

I am! The second book in the series is titled Scorch, and will be coming out in Fall 2012. Let's just say that while there is still fun to be had, things continue to go from bad to worse for the Croaker gang, and that I can promise thrilling battles, daring escapes, a painfully awkward shower scene, and a surly camel.

I hear you headed off to the woods for a couple days. What books did you take with you?

My yearly camping trip got cut short because of the hurricane, so I never got to Zombies vs. Unicorns, which has been sitting on my shelf for weeks, mocking me with its best title ever. But I did get to finish A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, which is great because up until now I haven't read any of her books, which I think should be a federal crime.

Thanks so much for having me, Lauren! Since I don't have a final cover yet, please enjoy this photo of my cat Lenny with a scythe that I found at an antique fair instead. Apocalypsies forever!

Well thanks for coming by! Your book made me laugh so hard I thought I might pee a little ... of COURSE I needed that girl on my blog!


If you miss Dead Like Me or loved Hex Hall, you definitely need to pick up Croak. Croak releases on March 12, 2012 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Visit Gina at her blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, or at Goodreads and be sure to add Croak on Goodreads.

1 comment:

Melissa Sarno said...

Gina sounds really great, especially because she's going to celebrate her book with cheeseballs. That sounds like a perfect way to do it. Looking forward to Croak- I'm always looking for funny books for young people. I don't read enough funny books.