Thursday, November 24, 2022

Interview with Author Kimberly G. Giarratano about Death of a Dancing Queen
Today I'm welcoming back Across the Board blogger alumni, Kimberly G. Giarratano to talk about her latest book, DEATH OF A DANCING QUEEN. The book releases February 14, 2023, but you can preorder it right now. Check out Kimberly's website or the bottom of this post for purchase links:

Before I pummel Kimberly with questions, here's a little information about her upcoming book:

A female Jewish P.I finds herself involved in a deadly gang war while looking for a murder suspect in this new own voices crime novel.

After her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Billie Levine revamped her grandfather’s private investigation firm and set up shop in the corner booth of her favorite North Jersey deli hoping the free pickles and flexible hours would allow her to take care of her mom and pay the bills. So when Tommy Russo, a rich kid with a nasty drug habit, offers her a stack of cash to find his missing girlfriend, how can she refuse? At first, Billie thinks this will be easy earnings, but then her missing person's case turns into a murder investigation and Russo is the detective bureau’s number one suspect. 

Suddenly Billie is embroiled in a deadly gang war that’s connected to the decades-old disappearance of a famous cabaret dancer with ties to both an infamous Jewish mob and a skinhead group. Toss in the reappearance of Billie’s hunky ex-boyfriend with his own rap sheet, and she is regretting every decision that got her to this point.Becoming a P.I. was supposed to solve her problems. But if Billie doesn’t crack this case, the next body the police dredge out of the Hudson River will be hers.

Karissa: You and I are both Gen X, and I know Gen X culture plays a lot into your books. For example, the title of one of your earlier books was Grunge Gods and Graveyards, which is set in the height of the Grunge Music era of the late 90s.  I've seen some early blurbs about Death of a Dancing Queen in which someone calls Billie, your MC, a "Jewish Veronica Mars." The reference to Veronica Mars alone suggests this book might also have something to do with your Gen X roots. Is that the case, and if so, can you tell us more about how Veronica Mars, and/or your Gen X upbringing, influenced or inspired this book?

KimberlyTo be fair, I'm the one who labeled it a "Jewish Veronica Mars" because it is. I love Veronica Mars and after the show went off the air (and I'm including the Hulu season in this timeline), I was desperate for readalikes. I read Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Sara Paretsky, Kristen Lepionka, and Rachel Howzell Hall. I even read the two VM novels by Rob Thomas. Eventually, I decided to have fun and write my own savvy, wry private eye. I always entertain myself first. Hence, Billie Levine was born. So while I'm Gen X, and you're Gen X, Billie is squarely Gen Z. She's in her twenties and figuring life out. Like we all did at that age.

Karissa I highlighted you previously in a post about Jewish YA authors.  The blurb for Dancing Queen starts out referencing the fact that Billie is Jewish.  How important is Jewish representation for you in your novels, and how much do your own cultural and religious experiences play into your writing (in general and/or for this novel specifically)?

KimberlyWithin 20 seconds of meeting me, you will know that I am a Jewish girl from New Jersey. I don't know if I mean to lead with that, I just do. So naturally, any female protagonist I write is going to be a Jewish girl. My family is also from New York. We're the quintessential Ashkenazi Jews. Immigrated to the US from the Pale of Settlement around the Russian Revolution, settled on the Lower East Side. We use smatterings of Yiddish, and I can't watch any TV or movie without jumping on Wikipedia to see which actor is Jewish. I grew up with a ton of Jewish kids. My Judaism is going to come out no matter what, so I might as well intentionally put it in my novels. It's fun to be seen.
Karissa:  What's one thing we haven't talked about, specific to this book, that you might want readers to know?

KimberlyNew Jersey is a wonderfully diverse state, not just in terms of people, but geography. We have the beach, mountains, industry, and a crapton of farmland. We also have ridiculously high property taxes which is why I moved to Pennsylvania many years ago. I don't miss the traffic. I don't miss the congestion. I do miss access to shopping and noshing. That said, if you want to feel like you're in New Jersey, read this book. It'll be like you're there.

Karissa: Let's get a little behind the scenes. Tell me about the process of writing it and finding a publisher for it. 

KimberlyHa! Yes, let's. I wrote this in 2019 and 2020. Long story short, I had queried my now agent with a different project that was going to acquisitions at a big publisher but was sadly passed on. My agent asked me to query her again with my new project (DEATH), which I did. I actually wrote 30K words in one month, trying to get it finished for querying. And she offered on it! Yay! (I love my agent.) Anyway, we went back to that publisher and said, "You invited her to submit new work, how about this?" And while the editor was kind and complimentary, she was honest: they had a hard time selling private eye fiction to their readers, so they ultimately passed. Truth is, I got to acquisitions at another big publisher and got rejected guessed it, female-led PI fiction is a hard sell. I was told my book was too gritty for their readers, too light for others. Anyway, fast forward a year, and my agent hears that Angry Robot Books is starting a new crime fiction imprint. She submitted DEATH, and my editor loved it. And I love her. I am so grateful for her faith in me and my work. Now, go buy the book so I can prove all those other pubs wrong.

Karissa: Tell me about the gorgeous cover. I always love hearing about authorial input, if there is any.

KimberlyThat cover is so cool, right? In person, it's even more beautiful because it's hot pink and has foil letters. It took a lot of iterations to get to that point. Interesting tidbit, UK covers for mystery and crime thrillers are really different from American ones for a reason. I showed my publisher covers that I liked from crime fiction books in the US and she said, "Those don't scream crime fiction." But she was so open to my thoughts. The first covers had a more noir look to them. Think muted colors, but I am not a muted person. There was one cover that I loved, but it didn't lend itself to branding, and we're all hoping this will become a series. With that in mind, we wanted a cover style that could be replicated for future books. And who doesn't love hot pink?

Karissa: I'll just come out and say I admire you a lot, your tenacity and ambition. I'm at the point right now where I'm struggling to stay with it--"it" being not just the writing but the hustle that goes with it. What drives you and keeps you full of passion after this many years of being an author?

KimWow, thank you. Honestly, I don't think of myself as tenacious at all. And definitely not ambitious. It takes me forever to do anything. I just know that I can't not write. I need the outlet. I guess the thing that keeps me going is wanting to share my art. Like, hey, I made this thing, and I want you to read it. But also, don't criticize me because I'm sensitive. Isn't being an artist grand? Also, I don't know if I am full of passion. I just don't know how to do other things. Believe me, if someone was giving out talent, I'd ask to be a singer or polyglot or something. Ugh, who wants to be a writer? It's demoralizing by its very nature. I don't think this answer helped anyone.

KarissaI disagree. Getting inside the minds of other writers is always helpful/useful to me as I deal with my own authorial brain weasels. It's nice to know other authors have similar thoughts and feelings to my own. Okay, getting back to the book specifically--I have become an absolute audiobook junkie over the last two or three years.  Do you know if there are any plans for Death of a Dancing Queen becoming an audiobook any time soon?

KimberlyYES! YES! YES! It's my first audiobook, and I got to select the narrator! I'm so excited. 

Karissa: My last question has nothing to do with books or writing, but, since today is Thanksgiving, would you mind sharing how you celebrate (assuming you do) and tell us the one food that you can't go without at a Thanksgiving meal? Mine is my Granny B's dressing. She has passed on, but it's not Thanksgiving without her dressing, and thankfully my mom and aunt make pretty dependable replicas of it in my Grandmother's absence.

KimberlyWe're going to my in-laws in Howell, New Jersey. I bring homemade cranberry sauce, and my husband makes his grandma's sausage stuffing. My favorite dish is green bean casserole, but since I am the only one who eats it, we skip it. Sad face. Italian T-day is a trip because there's more turkey than people.

Karissa: Look, I'm not going to lie...I don't mind a good green bean casserole. I don't know why they get so much hate. As long as they're hot and not too soggy or soupy, I will happily put it on my plate.

Thanks for joining me today, Kimberly, and letting me pick your brain about your new book.

DEATH OF A DANCING QUEEN is available now at these fine retailers:

1 comment:

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Thank you for having me! It was a fun Q&A.

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