Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An interview with Gina Damico, author of CROAK

So, needless to say, I am super excited to feature this interview with my agent-mate Gina Damico, whose debut novel, CROAK, was published this week.

Want to know more about 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?

I was fortunate enough to read this book pre-publication and ask Gina some questions about her laugh-out-loud debut novel.

CROAK is one of the most original stories I've read in a while and your world-building of Croak, the town where Lex ends up, is definitely impressive. How did you come up with the idea of modern-day Grim Reapers? I especially loved all the details in the town, such as the diner called the Morgue (which featured such delicacies as Pox Chicken and HomiCider, naturally).
The idea just popped into my head one day at work (because bread stores are such inspirational havens, obviously), and then I just went home and started writing it. No big brainstorming sessions, no analysis of the market. But the more I started writing, the more I started to think that I was on to something here - bookstores were overflowing with vampires and werewolves and unicorns and whatnots, but I hadn't really seen any grim reapers. Plus, it just seemed like a fun new concept to explore, and one that could easily be done with a sick sense of humor.

As for the puns, I am just lame. That's the deal with that.

You are
hilarious. Your book is hilarious. But underneath your quick, witty writing, there's clearly a seriousness to the subject matter, as we're dealing with a town full of Grim Reapers. How did you manage to strike the balance between the rather depressing subject of death and scenes that often made me laugh out loud?
First of all, thank you! *honks clown nose*

I think it's because I, like my main character Lex, am terrible in sad situations. When I offer condolences I always come off as insincere, and then I try to make a joke, which makes things even worse, and things snowball from there until I am politely asked to leave the funeral home.

Prime example: A while back, a good friend of mine was dumped by her boyfriend of several years after he climbed a mountain in Italy and had some sort of life-reassessing epiphany. She was (understandably) a mess, and I was trying (unsuccessfully) to help. Eventually I busted out with: "If it makes you feel any better, this is exactly how DJ was dumped by Steve on Full House." Pause. "What?" she said. "Um, sorry," I stuttered. "I'm deficient." But then she laughed, which did make her feel better, so I guess that sort of sums up any abilities I may have in the department of balancing humor and grief.

CROAK has several entertaining scenes that spotlight the Afterlife and its famous inhabitants, from politicians to writers to inventors. Which famous person would you most want to run into in CROAK's Afterlife and why?
Probably a no-brainer that I would pick Edgar Allan Poe, since he's a character in Croak (though we'd most likely just sit there very awkwardly and eat scones or something), but then there's also Abraham Lincoln to consider, who is so awesome in so many ways. But in the end I'd probably just take the advice of my 16-year-old self and go with Heath Ledger.

What? Too soon?

I am a huge, huge fan of the television show Six Feet Under, though it often left me weeping in a pathetic mess on the floor each week. Oh, um. I mean. What's your favorite television show or episode of a television show that openly deals with death? Bonus points if you can name a favorite movie and book, as well.
Not to completely steal your answer, but if I may completely steal your answer, I too am a huge Six Feet Under fan. The whole last sequence in the finale was, I think, the finest five minutes of television ever made, let alone just a death-related one. I also remember a moment from the pilot, where Nate is talking about being in Sicily and seeing a coffin arrive on the shores, and the way the deceased's family just went apeshit, crying and screaming, and that that's how grief should really be. That always stuck with me.

Book - Where the Red Fern Grows, and if I say any more than that, I will start sobbing. Just typing makes my eyes water.

Movie - Randy Quaid's death in Independence Day. Truly, finer last words have never been spoken than "All right you alien assholes - in the words of my generation, UP YOURS!"

And since this is the Lucky 13s blog, I have to ask - what's your favorite superstition?

I like the one that says if your noses itches, you're going to kiss a fool. Then again, I'm constantly surrounded by fools, so that's kind of a given, isn't it?

Thanks for having me, and happy reaping - er, reading!

Thanks for joining us, Gina, and congrats on the debut of CROAK!

Gina Damico 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, which may or may not have sparked an 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.

You can connect with Gina via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

And you can purchase her book online through the following websites:
Barnes & Noble

This interview was conducted by Lucky 13s member Brandy Colbert as part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies – YA, MG, and children’s book authors debuting in 2012.


  1. LOVE the premise. LOVE the cover. Can't wait to dive in.

  2. Excellent interview, Brandy! I've been itching to get my hands on CROAKED ever since I saw the cover. A darkly comic novel about grim reapers is genius.

  3. CROAK sounds so. Good. I seriously cannot wait to read it. Thanks for such a fun interview, Brandy and Gina!

  4. I've got to get my hands on this book! You had me at Six Feet Under!