by Julie, making seasonal adjustments in Somerville
I am delighted to welcome Kimberly G. Giarratano to the blog. I’ve heard about her new book, which will be released in February, and asked her to come on the blog and give you all a sneak peak.
Greetings, wicked readers! My name is Kim, and I coming at you from a rainy Poconos day. Frankly, we’re in a drought, so I’m happy to see the precipitation. My grass is brown; my trees are stressed; and the deer look parched. I swear one of them was eyeing up my sweat the other day.
Rain aside, I am feeling sunny because I’m here to discuss my debut adult mystery, Death of a Dancing Queen (Datura Books, Feb 14), or as I lovingly refer to it — my East Coast, Jewish Veronica Mars fanfiction.
Like most fans, when Veronica Mars went off the air, I was at a loss because there was nothing out there to take its place (and this was before streaming services like Acorn or Britbox where I could watch enough British crime dramas to last three lifetimes). And so to mostly entertain myself, I decided to write my own private eye story starring a snarky, young heroine who solves bonkers crimes. But to really make it mine, the protagonist had to be formed in my own image — a Jewish girl from New Jersey, birthed in New York City, but raised in its suburbs. Hence, Billie Levine was born.
Although I grew up in Monmouth County — home to sprawling subdivisions and shopping centers — I wanted Billie’s environment to be a little more constricting. No half-acre lots built on old farmland, but rather postage-size backyards and neighbors within shouting distance. Towns, all with their own police department, libraries, mayors, and exorbitant property taxes stacked one on top of another, living within Manhattan’s shadow.
Billie would be from Bergen County. I spent a lot of time there in college, and I could think of no better spot for Billie’s blue collar family to figure out their lives than in Teaneck, New Jersey.
A long time ago, one of my cousins, visiting from Texas, remarked on how congested New Jersey was. “There are so many towns,” he said. “One right after the other.”
Yes, what else would there be? There are no unused areas in North Jersey; the outskirts of town is another town.
That congestion, that frustration of an hour commute to travel twenty miles, that feeling that everyone is constantly on top of you — that is what I wanted my poor Billie to feel.
Sure, I moved to the mountains to escape the headaches of Jersey congestion, but headaches are what make Jersey so infuriatingly special.
There’s a reason why Jersey Strong is the Garden State’s unofficial slogan, and it has to do with more than rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Because the high taxes, traffic, flooding, and close proximity make its residents resilient. Jersey folk are strong; you have to be to survive living here.
Although this author might’ve left her home state for the Poconos, I couldn’t imagine a better place for a person, fictional and real, to grow up in than New Jersey.
Readers: Where did you grow up? Do you still live there now? What is your hometown notorious for?
One commenter will win an advanced readers copy of Death of a Dancing Queen. Warning: this book is hardboiled, not soft-boiled, so there is salty language and a bit of violence. If that isn’t your thing, let me know in the comments, and I’ll take your name out of the proverbial hat.
About the book:
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.
Kimberly Giarratano is an author of mysteries for teens and adults. Her debut novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, won the 2015 Silver Falchion Award for Best YA at Killer Nashville. A former librarian, she is currently an instructor at a SUNY Orange County Community College and a reviewer for BookPage. She is also the chapter liaison for Sisters in Crime. Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Kim and her husband moved to the Poconos to raise their three kids amid black bears and wild turkeys. While she doesn’t miss the Jersey traffic, she does miss a good bagel and lox.
Visit her website at www.kimberlyggiarratano.com