Friday, October 16, 2015

#MMBBR Showcase Codename Cupcake by Jillian Green DiGiacomo

CODENAME CUPCAKE is an old fashioned stay-at-home-mom turned superhero spy novel.  It is the story of Molly Peterson, a frazzled mother of two, who is recruited by a super spy agency to infiltrate the PTA at her own son's elementary school. A staunch PTA avoider, Molly is disappointed to learn that her assignment will require her to not only join the PTA but “become” the PTA.  Midwood Elementary School is cooling at an alarming rate and Molly must spend as much time as possible in the building to determine the cause and help prevent a potential calamity.  With a back drop of ordinary school functions including back to school night and a fall concert, CODENAME CUPCAKE offers a new twist on the superhero genre.  It is a send up of motherhood, the PTA, comic books and spy novels.  It is fast paced and funny with the underlying message that life really is better when you have super powers. 


Pulling out of the driveway, I had a feeling that I had not felt in years. Yes, I was nervous, nauseous for that matter, and yes, I was excited to be doing something completely out of the ordinary. But this feeling was not that. I’d been nervous and excited before—before getting married, before giving birth, even before my first day at NYU waiting to meet my new roommate (who happened to be a total drunken, slovenly slut—but that’s an entirely other story). This time, the feeling that coursed through my stomach, my heart and my throat was pride. This mystery organization wanted me! They searched and searched until they found me! My actions, my speeches, my fortitude in the face of a dangerous criminal convinced this strange old man and his super secret organization that I had something more to offer the world. I was freakin’ proud of myself! 
Of course I was also scared out of my mind that I would be dead in the next hour or trafficked off to some strange island in the South Pacific to be a sex slave, or worse, a cleaning lady. But being selected by an elite organization to serve the greater good seemed much more plausible than my portly self being singled out to be auctioned off to the highest-bidding pervert on Guam.
So, I followed Morty’s big white truck through familiar back roads and suburban streets until we reached the main highway leading east toward New York City. I figured we would drive straight to the Lincoln Tunnel and up 42ndStreet to wherever in Midtown we were headed. That time of day, traffic into the city wouldn’t be too bad, but getting across town could be iffy at any time, day or night. I crossed my fingers, turned on the radio and continued to follow my leader.
We’d cruised for just a few minutes when Morty pulled into the right lane, slowed down and exited onto a poorly marked exit about two miles before the Turnpike. Maybe he knew a shortcut to the tunnel. From the exit ramp, he turned left onto a small road, and moments later made another left onto an even smaller road. When that road ended, we crossed some railroad tracks onto what I would never refer to as a road if I were giving directions to the place. It was more of a dirt path. Morty stopped his car in front of a big mound of dirt overgrown with grass. Oh my god! Why was he stopping his car? And why was he was getting out? I locked my door and prepared to make a quick getaway.
I watched nervously as Morty walked over to a large boulder on the side of the dirt mound and pressed his hand to the grey, craggily stone and return to his car. Okay, now what? I was about to throw the car in reverse and floor it.  I wanted to put as much distance as possible between me, that forgotten speck of dusty real estate and the strange old man who brought me there. But then the odd-looking mound of dirt began to move. It swung open like a garage door to reveal what appeared to be a long dark tunnel within. Morty looked in his side-view mirror, smiled and waved for me to follow. Of course I followed. I would have killed either of my children had they told me that they followed a strange man in a big white un-marked van down a hidden tunnel in the middle of nowhere. How could they be that stupid? I was that stupid.

An image posted by the author.Jillian Green DiGiacomo grew up in a New Jersey suburb and currently lives in a New Jersey suburb (though not the same suburb). Once upon a time, she graduated with a degree in Asian studies from Vassar College and received a master's degree in teaching from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Before having children, she spent most of her time either teaching English in Japan or teaching Japanese to high school students in New York. After having children, she completely forgot how to speak Japanese and has a hard time with English most days.

Q.  What inspires your writing?
A.  I’m not a particularly disciplined writer.  I don’t write every day or sometimes every month.  But when I have an idea and it grows larger than something that I can hold together in my mind all at once, that’s when I start writing. My children’s book, Off the Wall, started with the thought “Do we see ourselves how the world sees us or does the world see us as we see ourselves?” That transformed into a poem about a little girl who changes every time she looks in her bedroom mirror. Codename Cupcake started with the image that is still included as the opening scene of the book:  I had a vision of a woman sitting between two pregnant women at the back of a bus.  That image “gave birth” to a stay-at-home-mom-superhero-spy novel.
Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A. There is nothing like being in that zone where I know what I want to portray and have to pull all the right words together.  To me it’s a sport.  My fingers tingle and my heart races as I work to get the words down on the page.  And when I do succeed, after what may be a minute or a week, when I actually get to sit back and say “Yep.  That’s what I was trying to do,” it’s pretty awesome.
Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?
 A. So, you know that joy I mentioned above?  That wonderful feeling of finally getting it right?  That’s nothing compared to the torture I feel when what I think is a perfectly crafted mini masterpiece has to be axed from a story.  My best lines, rhymes, and even best scenes sometimes have to be cut if they don’t move the story or really fit the character, no matter how ‘good’ I think they are. That really hurts.
Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A. I was a high school Japanese teacher before having children, and always thought I would return to teaching.  But now I think I’d want to learn to play guitar and start a band instead.
Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. After pondering this question for hours, I think it would be “Where are the Car Keys?” I spend the greater part of my days looking for keys, my wallet, my son’s football pants or my daughter’s clarinet. At this point, I’ve checked quite a few things off of my bucket list but I keep losing my bucket list so spend most of my days making it up as I go along.
Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?
A. I read The Clan of the Cave Bear when I was 14.  It was like nothing I’d ever read before, and was the first book that I “could not put down.” I still think about that book (well, the first 3 books of that series) all of the time. 
Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A.I’m probably a 50/50 combination of Ramona Quimby and her big sister Beezus.  Sort of half troublemaker, half goody two shoes.
Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?
A. Codename Cupcake is the story of a stay-at-home mom, Molly Peterson, who becomes a superhero spy.  I like to tell people it’s an autobiography.  
Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A. Wouldn’t it be great to spend a weekend in the Swiss Family Robinson’s treehouse?
Q.  What is your favorite season?
A. I’m a summer girl.  I love being at the beach, body surfing in waves, and staying barefoot as much as possible.
Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A.The cover of Codename Cupcake was created by my 11-year-old daughter.  I originally wanted the cover to feature a somewhat plump woman dressed in a superman costume standing strong with her hands on her hips.  Instead of an S on her chest, I wanted it to be a cupcake.  Sadly, that image does not exist in any stock photo library.  Sadder still were my attempts at drawing the image myself.  As I sat at my computer trying to simplify the idea using just a comic background and speech bubbles, my daughter offered to help. Within 10 minutes she created the final cover on a tablet.  I think it is so much better than my original idea.
Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.
A. I did a reading of my children’s book Off the Wall at a Barnes and Noble out in Las Vegas a few years ago.  They do a weekly story time and I was the featured author.  There were a dozen children and their parents sitting in a semi-circle.  I sat in my folding chair, holding my copy of the book and smiling as I listened to the nice lady introduce me.  All went along as expected until that nice lady said “Before we listen to our story today, Jillian is going to sing a song.”  That could be the most frightening sentence I’ve ever heard in my life.  Before I knew it, she hit “play” on a little tape recorder which squeaked out a song about animals I’d never heard before.  All of the children stood up. So I stood up. And we all quacked and wagged our tails for an excruciatingly long three minutes. Then I got to share my book.
Q.  Are you working on something new?
A. I’m collaborating with my sister on another picture book.  It’s called April Owns an Alligator and it’s a silly alphabet book.  I wrote the poem and now it’s up to my sister to do the illustrations.  I definitely have the easier job in this partnership.
Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A.  I’d just like to say thank you for reading this far down into the interview.


1 comment:

  1. This book cracked me up! I loved reading it and couldn't put it down! Makes fun of the mommy bragging culture while also revealing how crazy and complex being a mom in this day and age is - totally great!!!

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