Friday, July 11, 2014

"Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser" by Catherine DePino

Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser:
A Book About Bullying
by Catherine DePino

Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser is currently on tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

The kids at Ralph Bunche Middle School love to pick on Elliot Kravitz-Carnucci. He struggles with his weight, looks like a geek, makes top honors, and lives above the Carnucci Home for Funerals in South Philadelphia with his distant, workaholic father and Nonna, his quirky, overbearing grandmother.
Since his parents divorced, he splits spending his time with his funeral director father and his mother Rayna, who dreams of becoming the queen of commercials on the west coast.
At the hands of his peers, Elliot experiences a series of bullying episodes that escalate from entrapment in a school supply closet to a brutal "swirly" (head dunk in the toilet) that lands him in the hospital emergency room.
Elliot has a small circle of loyal friends and a mentor named Duke, an aging school custodian, who root for him to overcome his bullying issues so that he can enjoy his life as a teenager and as a budding singer/performer.
Can Elliot win his fight against the nasty bullies, or is he doomed forever? Read this funny, sad, and crazy book to find out.

What were they planning to do to me? Had they all gone over the edge? I tried to scream, but all that came out from under the gag was Mmmmmmmmm.
Most of the teachers and staff had already left to get an early start on spring break. Duke was probably somewhere in the building, though, giving the place a final once over before locking up. His doctor had told him to slow down after the tests proved he had lung cancer, but it only made him work longer hours.
Kyle slammed me on the back. “Tell you what, promise not to open your mouth and I’ll take the gag off.”
I nodded yes like my head was going to roll off.     
He untied the gag, and I heaved in a gulp of air.
“We don’t want you to suffocate when your head hits the water.”
Were they going to throw me in the river? Drown me? Could they be that crazy?
I tried to make a run for it, but Kyle caught me before I could make it to the door. His biceps bulged like baseballs from his lean arms. How I wished I'd added weight lifting to my fitness routine.
Canfield looked at his friends. “Part of the fun is the anticipation. Right, guys?”  
Why couldn’t they look at me?
I heard on the news that when you’re threatened if you call a person by name, maybe he'll act more human and be less likely to hurt you. Was it worth a try?
“Kyle, you don’t want to do this…”

Featured Review
When we first meet Elliot K. Carnucci, he's a classic victim, albeit one most middle schoolers can identify with. Gradually Elliot gains enough confidence to confront his tormenter and help prevent other kids from being bullied. But, as the book gently makes clear, Elliot doesn't do it all on his own. He has help - from empathetic friends, and also from caring, concerned adults. And it doesn't hurt that some of the adults are the most eccentric South Philly Italian-American characters to be found outside of a Lisa Scottoline novel. Ms. DePino knows schools, Philly Italians, and kids!

Interview With the Author
Hi Catherine DePino, thanks for joining me today to discuss your book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
I believe it’s best for 8-14 year-olds. However, parents and grandparents have told me they’ve enjoyed reading it because it gave them some good insights into bullying and how to solve the problem.
What sparked the idea for this book?
Although I’ve written four other books about bullying, this is my favorite one. Before writing this book, I thought about what it would be like to be ostracized by classmates and how I would deal with it. I’ve also worked in schools all my life, so I felt at home with the setting, the theme, and the characters. My main reason for writing the book was to give bullied kids hope that the pain they’re experiencing would someday end.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The character’s story came first. Elliot asked me to tell his story, and I couldn’t resist. I pictured him before he started talking to me. The artist’s cover perfectly captures his looks and personality.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I hated to see Elliot’s mentor, Mr. Boardly, the school custodian, get sick and die. He was like a friend to me. But I knew this had to happen to complete the plot and bring it to a satisfying conclusion. I based this character on a beloved school custodian who died trying to cross a busy highway when his car broke down.
It was also a challenge researching the funeral business, which I had to do because Elliot’s father is a funeral director. I found myself wondering how the people in this business deal with death on a daily basis and discovered some interesting answers. I have to admit that sometimes while researching the topic late at night, I felt a little uneasy, but that passed quickly as I realized that it was all part of the business. As Elliot tells his mom when she’s upset about his wanting to be part of the family business instead of becoming a doctor like his grandfather: "It’s a business like anything else. I enjoy helping people like Dad does. I think I may have a talent for it."
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it makes them laugh and cry along with Elliot, the protagonist. Mainly, I hope it gives them a clear view of what bullying entails and how to go about solving one of the biggest problems of this generation. I tried to make it something that people of all age groups (kids, parents, and grandparents) would enjoy reading.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took longer than most other books I’ve written, more than a year. After I let it sit for a while, I revised it completely. During this second re-write I tried to breathe more life into the characters, especially Elliot and his mentor, the school custodian.
What is your writing routine?
I write better at night. I’m not a morning person and think more clearly in the evening. I write whenever I can. Once I start a project, I don’t quit until I complete it. Unlike most writers, I like to edit as I go along, and then I do another couple of edits. Because I’m a grammar nerd, I don’t feel comfortable leaving a sentence until it sounds the way I want it to. I’ve written a number of grammar books for teachers to use with their classes. My latest grammar book, Excuse Me, Your Participle’s Dangling: How to Use Grammar to Make Your Writing Powers Soar, targets working adults and ESL students, and anyone else who wants to use grammar to help them write more fluently.
How did you get your book published?
This is my first self-published book, and I published through Book Baby. I also self-published Hi, God, It’s Me: e-prayers for Teenage Girls, a prayer book, after I received the rights back from a traditional publisher. I’ve traditionally published all of my other books.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Write as often as you can. Don’t get discouraged. When you get a rejection, just remember that the book wasn’t right for that publisher, but it may be for someone else. If you believe in your book, keep trying. Don’t be afraid to self-publish if you have trouble publishing with a traditional publisher. And most of all - never give up.
Great advice, Catherine! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
My husband and I love vacationing in Florida and Ocean City, New Jersey. I love to read, and we both love to dance. My new passion is Zumba, which I’ve tried in Pennsylvania, where I live; Naples, Florida; and Ocean City. I love spending time with my children and grandchildren, who range in age from 2-14.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’re glad I’ve found something I love to do and that I’m living my lifelong dream.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
Just as Elliot grew up living atop a funeral home, I spent my early years living in an apartment above "The Royal Gardens", the restaurant and bar my parents operated. Many of my early friends were psychiatrists from the local mental hospital who stopped in for a beer (or two) after work. In fact, most of my childhood friends were adults who gave me deep insights into the inner workings of the human mind. All of these interactions gave me an active imagination and sparked the desire to write.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I loved reading books of all kinds, and my mother read to me constantly. I also liked to make up stories for my classmates.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I didn’t have time to think about it for many years as I worked full time and raised a family. One year while on sabbatical from my teaching job, I wrote an article for a local newspaper about my experiences working at an ice cream shop when I was 13. Then I progressed to magazine articles, and finally reached my goal of publishing a book for an educational company. I’ve been writing ever since.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I love Shakespeare’s plays, J. D. Salinger’s off-beat characters, and e. e. cummings' poems for their beautiful meanings and sounds. James Joyce’s Dubliners is also one of my favorite books.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Sometimes they write to me on my website. I love when they say they can relate to a story I wrote. I also enjoy discussing my books with kids and adults when I give talks about my books. I’m hoping that some of your readers will contact me at my website and let me know what they think about the issues in this and other books I’ve written. I’d love hearing from them.
I hope they do, too! What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I have a few ideas in mind. One is a bully prevention book called Cool Things to Do While a Bully’s Bugging You. Another is a book for pre-teens and teenagers about how to deal with the adults in their lives when the going gets rough.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Catherine. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
Catherine DePino has sold thirteen books for parents, teachers, and children to mainstream publishers. She self-published her fourteenth book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying because she wanted to give it a wider forum. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a Master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as an English teacher, department head of English and world languages, disciplinarian, and curriculum writer in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor.
Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer.
For many years she served on the board of The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She holds membership in the Association of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Her new self-help book, Fire Up Your Life in Retirement: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves, and, appeared on the market in March 2014.

Catherine DePino will be awarding a $20 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So make sure you follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning (ends 18 July).