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. Croak is her first novel. Gina lives in Boston with her husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies.
1. Tea or coffee?
For most of my life it was neither, because I hate the taste of both. However, a couple of months ago I started drinking coffee solely for the caffeine kick, even though I still think it’s disgusting. But this way, I can run around like a spastic five-year-old and it’s (relatively) socially acceptable.
2. Best place to eat in NYC?
You’ll have to jump on over to Astoria for this one (that’s where I used to live), because there’s this southwestern restaurant called Mojave there that has the best chili in the known universe. Ever. Since the dawn of time. Its ingredients include meat, meat, more meat, and I’m pretty sure a heaping dose of crack. I’d hack off a finger or two for a lifetime supply.
3. Books on your “to-be-read” stack? What are you dying to read if you had a spare moment in the near future?
I’ve had A Monster Calls sitting on my stack for months now, and it’s a federal crime that I haven’t read it yet. I was fairly obsessed with Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, so I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me here. Maybe since it’s so short, I figure I can just read it whenever I want? Except clearly this theory is flawed and I’m just an awful, awful person.
4. Describe the happy dance you did in the middle of Times Square when you got the phone call Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was offering you a 2-book deal…in detail, please and thank you.
Well, it involved some awkward kicking and a few alarming head throws. Maybe a thumbs up or two. Picture someone having a seizure, and that’s a pretty good approximation. I’m surprised one of the Times Square cops didn’t try to administer CPR.
5. So, one day while working at the bread store, you got bored and came up with the idea for a Grim Reaper to start teaching his niece the ins and outs of the job. Typical bad day at work or gift from the book gods?
Definite gift from the book gods. I was actually working at a different location than my normal one, so I didn’t know the other employee and we had spent the majority of our shift just sort of awkwardly looking at each other and mumbling stilted pleasantries. Also, I remember I was mad because some friends were going to see the last performance of Shakespeare in the Common without me, because I had to work. So maybe I had murderous thoughts on the brain.
6. I seriously loved that you named the main character and her twin sister Lexington and Concord, and that you made their mother a history teacher. I laughed so hard! What made you even think of this quirk?
God, I don’t even know! I think I liked the name Lex, and then wanted to expand it out to something a little quirkier than your average Alexis. Plus, Lexington and Concord are pounded into all of our little American heads from day one of history class. They’re pretty memorable, and, like Lex and Cordy, also full of death.
7. The jellyfish and spiders are such cool characters. The other-worldliness of the jellyfish, especially multiple jellyfish together, somehow fit with the idea of what Croak and reaping was about. The spiders just freak me out. Especially when Driggs shows Lex the room full of them. I confess, I would have squealed like a girl. How did you think about using jellyfish and spiders?
Both came strictly from the visuals at first. The black widow spider has that cool red hourglass marking on its belly, which is so perfect you’d think someone ran around painting them on, just to be witty. And jellyfish can be so surreal and alien-looking that they add the perfect amount of creepiness to an already very creepy profession. Plus, what one of the characters says is true: they do live in every ocean, so they have that wide range that’s needed to detect human deaths in every corner of the planet. Fun fact: There’s also a certain species of jellyfish that’s technically immortal – after reaching maturity, it can revert back to a younger stage of development, and switch back and forth as needed. Cool, huh? SCIENCE 4 LIFE
8. What plans do you have for Croak‘s release? Big shindig or small gathering?
A little from column A, a little from column B. I think I’m going to have a little party for my family and friends on the actual release day (most likely involving pizza, bowling, and/or sombreros), then a few weeks later I’m doing a big signing event at a local bookstore. I expect there to be shameless tomfoolery at both.
9. What can we expect in book two, Scorch, which comes out in Fall 2012?
The hard times aren’t over for our gang, I’m afraid. You can expect high speed chases, way more death, a field trip to another Grim town, and a very compromising, flailing shower scene. Curtains will be ripped, pants will be lost.
10. Are you ready for your first book to be published?
I wear sneakers every day and own far too many stuffed animals, so I’m barely an adult by normal standards, let alone a published author. But what the hell! Let’s do it! *rips off shirt and runs out of bookstore, shouting war cries, hurling copies at strangers*
Thanks for having me, and happy