Friday, June 22, 2012

Feature Friday: Gina Damico

Gina grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. She received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where she was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe that may or may not have sparked her interest in wildly improbable bloodshed. She has since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker, and breadmonger. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies.

Interview:
A.L.:
What advice would you give to a budding author?

Gina:
Let others read your stuff and listen to their feedback. I know that seems obvious, but back when I was starting out, I didn't let anyone read my work. Not my friends, not my family, not even my husband. He didn't even know what my book was about until the night before I went to a conference to pitch it. And once I did finally unclench my claws and release it to the eyeballs of others, I was resistant to their thoughts. "How DARE they judge my work?" I would scream in the high-pitched voice of a Victorian countess. But almost every time I changed something on the suggestion of others, it turned out for the better. So listen to people. You don't have to take their advice, but at least think about it, play around with something new, and you might be surprised with what pops out of you. (Ew.)

A.L.:
Have you always wanted to be a writer or is it something you just sort of fell into?

Gina:
Definitely just fell into it. I did almost no writing at all in high school and only started dabbling in college, but gave up on it after that because I didn't think it was a viable career choice. But several months into a terrible office temp job I got really bored and found myself seated at a computer for several hours a day with nothing to do, and so I dove back into it, and I haven't stopped since. (I was soon fired.)

A.L.:
Croak is about a budding Reaper, which reminds me of another young Reaper…Did you ever watch Dead Like Me? I feel that fans of one might enjoy the other, any thoughts?

Gina:
When I started writing the Croak books, I had only heard of Dead Like Me, but hadn't yet watched it. Since then I have seen a few episodes and very much enjoyed them, but I stopped because I didn't want to inadvertently copy anything! And I do agree - both are snarky dark humor, so I think there could be some definite fan overlappage.

A.L.:
Why did you make Lex a Punk-toughie? Were you worried she might be an unlikable character?

Gina:
It was important to me that Grims have an intrinsic dark side. All Grims who come to Croak were just like Lex at one point in their lives - bratty, delinquent, violent - but they settle down once they jump into the work and find their true purpose in life. It's a depressing, tough job, and I just felt it was necessary for the people in that line of work to have a malevolent streak somewhere inside of them. It does make Lex a bit unlikeable at first, but I think that's a necessary component of her growth throughout the story. Yes, she's a brat, but she's a brat for a reason, and once she discovers her rightful place she begins to understand why she is the way she is.

A.L.:
Who is your absolute favorite character in Croak? Why?

Gina:
This is a really tough question, because I love something about every one of the characters. Even the mean ones have something at least interesting about them. Which is good, I think, because you never want to sit down to write a scene and be like, "Ugh, this guy again." So I don't know if I can pick an absolute favorite, but Uncle Mort seems to make me laugh without fail, and I never get sick of Pandora's old-timey insults. Oh, and Poe is a trip.

A.L.:
So, we know you love writing about reapers, do you have anything else you’re working on or anything that you feel you might want to write about in the future?

Gina:
I just got word that the third and final book in the Croak series is a go, so that's going to be eating up all my writing time for a while. But after that, I do have a couple of ideas that I'm kicking around - nothing solid, though, so I can't really get specific. But I do think that whatever comes next will still have some element of magic or the paranormal, and that it'll still be funny. I actually don't think it's physically possible for me to write something too serious.

A.L.:
What’s your favorite book and why?

Gina:
I think it's too hard to pick just one, but I will say that one of the most original, weirdest books I've ever read is The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear, by Walter Moer. It's a crazy fantasy through all sorts of amazing settings and wildly imaginative characters, and has a ton of amusing illustrations. It's a feast for the mind. A feast, I say.

A.L.:
You grew up in Syracuse, NY. I assume you might have spent long days cooped up inside with a good book. What writers/books do you think influenced you most growing up?

Gina:
I read all sorts of stuff when I was a kid, but when I got older I'd have to say the author that had the most impact on me was Kurt Vonnegut. I discovered him somewhere around the end of high school, and ended up reading every single book he's written. (I still read them whenever they come out, seeing as how he's still getting published after he's dead. Some people have all the luck.) His voice was just so dry and dark, but with these little streaks of hope and appreciation for how weird and wonderful life is.

A.L.:
So, they say write what you know…Would you say that Lex is a good reflection of your own voice? Cause if that’s the case then I encourage readers to check your FAQATLWA page…It’s hilarious!

Gina:
I'd say Lex and I are pretty similar in voice, though she is a bit grumpier than I am. I'm generally a pretty happy person. *grins like an idiot* But then there's also a bit of Driggs's wry, calm humor in me, and Uncle Mort's insanity - so I guess they're all me, split up several ways. Like horcruxes.

A.L.:
Did you have any difficulties/hit any snags when writing Croak? We know that you did a re-write for your agent, Tina Wexler, how did that go? Were you originally overwhelmed by her requests or was it super easy to do your re-write?

Gina:
Rewrites are hard, but they are SO necessary. And as daunting as they seem at first, they can actually end up being pretty fun - something new will crop up that you'd never thought of before, or a new character will somehow worm their way in and end up being exactly what the story needed. Tina wanted some pretty big changes right off the bat, and while they made me feel a little vomity at first, I tried them out and I was beyond pleased with the result. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own head and see something from another perspective, and the nausea will pass. Hopefully.

The Giveaway:
Gina has sent me a copy of CROAK and some swag to giveaway to one lucky winner!
Croak: 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 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 encounters a murder victim, craving to
stop the attackers before they can strike again. Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with
her reaper skills?

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How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter.  Hit the green "Do It" buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the green enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to international entrants.

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