How To Tell Your Great Aunt Tilly You Wrote A Book About Teenagers And Death

Welp, Croak comes out tomorrow. And having done all the interviews and contests and trailers and whatnots I can think of to promote it, I shall end the marketing blitz with its natural conclusion: a story about old people.

See, once you write a book, one of the first things you’re told to do is SELL IT, BABY. With CONFIDENCE. If someone asks you about it, don’t be shy – launch into a synopsis right then in there, and preferably with several musical numbers thrown in.

But this plan becomes a little muddier when you’re dealing with relatives who don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Now, I have a gigantic meatball lasagna of an Italian family, and they all want to know about this here book that I wrote. Which is great! I really am incredibly thankful for their interest and support. And they are delightful, awesome people. But when it comes to describing the book to them, things get a little…hairy. Especially with the slightly older ones. Because when your book is NOT about puppies and/or rainbows and/or social security, but rather a group of rowdy teenagers who are the very personifications of death, people get a little…what’s the term…put off? Alarmed? Jaw-droppingly horrified?

“Wait a minute. This isn’t butterscotch candy.”

And so what follows is a semi-fictionalized account of some of the painfully uncomfortable encounters I have had over the past couple of years. Great Aunt Tilly isn’t a real person, but rather a composite of the polite, well-meaning people I’ve tried to describe my book to, and…well, ‘failed’ would be the word I use, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Scene: Immediately following a funeral. Yep, really.

Great Aunt Tilly: “Gina, lovely to see you!”
Me: “You too, Aunt Tilly!”
GAT: “Look at all those curls! Didn’t you used to have straight hair?”
Me: “Yeah, in the eleventh grade.”
GAT: “Well, it still looks nice. Big.”
Me: “Thanks.”
GAT: “I hear you’ve got a book coming out!”
Me: “Oh. Yes, I do!”
GAT: “Well, tell me more! What’s it about?”
Me: “Uh…it’s a young adult novel.”
GAT: (nodding encouragingly) “…About?”
Me: “Oh, about 300 pages.” (chuckles weakly)
GAT: “Huh?”
Me: “Um, it’s about teenagers. Fantasy-paranormal-mystery type thing.”
GAT: “Like Harry Potter?”
Me: “Sure, let’s go with that.”
GAT: “But what is the story?”
Me: “It’s…” (anxiously eyeing coffin)
GAT: “Yes?”
Me: “Um-”
GAT: “Go ahead!”
Me: (inaudibly mumbling) “Grim Reapers.”
GAT: “What?”
Me: (more clearly, and now unable to look away from the coffin, positive I’m going to hell for this) “Grim Reapers.”


GAT: “What’s a Grim Reaper?”
Me: (nearly falls out of chair) “You…don’t know what a Grim Reaper is?” (left unsaid: “At your age?”)
GAT: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that.”
Me: “Um. Well. It’s, uh, the personification of death? Like, the angel of death? The guy in the black bathrobe with the big knife?”
GAT: “Oh.”

(Pause. She looks at the coffin.)

GAT: (smile is now plastered and fake, eyes are wide with horror) “Ohhhh! Well, isn’t that…interesting!”
Me: (wanting very much to trade places with the dead body) “Yeah.”
GAT: “Things are so dark for children these days.”
Me: “Well, YA books have come a long way. Kids can handle the heavy stuff, and adults like them too-”
GAT: “I read Nancy Drew when I was a girl.”
Me: “That’s great.”
GAT: “So when is it coming out?”
Me: “March twentieth.”
GAT: “I’m going to buy one for my daughter.”
Me: “Oh, good!”
GAT: “Her son is turning six and he just loves bedtime stories.”
Me: “Oh. Uh, not that I want to put out any age restrictions, but six might be a little young. I mean, it is about Grim Reapers.”
GAT: “And what are those again?”
Me: (clutches purse tighter) “Death. There’s a lot of death. Swearing, too.”
GAT: (purses lips)
Me: (coughs) “…So the service was lovely, wasn’t it?”
GAT: “How did you come to write about-” (swallows disgust) “-that?”
Me: “Oh, it just sort of popped into my head. I-”
GAT: “You were such a sweet, quiet little girl. Where did all these awful death ideas come from?”
Me: (making exaggerated facial expressions at my sister from across the room, hoping she’ll come over and save me. She smiles and stays put. Jerk.) “I guess I just have an overactive imagination.”
GAT: “I’ll say. Will it be coming out in Large Print?”
Me: “I don’t know. The majority of teenagers don’t have cataracts, so probably not?”
GAT: “Well, I’m going to buy it anyway.”
Me: “Thanks, Aunt Tilly.”
GAT: “What’s the name of it again?”
Me: “Croak.”
GAT: “Crow?”
Me: “No, Croak.”
GAT: (stares blankly)
Me: (louder, into her good ear) “CROAK. Like, you know-“ (draws finger across throat and makes a dead face)
GAT: (eyes widen even further, in yet more horror)
Me: (desperately hoping that no one else AT THE FUNERAL WE’RE ALL AT just saw me do that) “Jesus. Uh, Croak, like the sound that a frog makes?”
GAT: “What?”
Me: (hoping a free gift will end this madness) “Here, have a bookmark.”
GAT: (squints at it, holds it far away, brings it a millimeter away from her glasses, squints again) “Oh, Croak.”
Me: “Right.”
GAT: (looking at cover of book) “Who’s that girl?”
Me: “I don’t know her name.”
GAT: “She looks like you. Is it you?”
Me: “No.”
GAT: “Are you sure?”
Me: “I’m pretty sure.”
GAT: (squints again) “What’s this? Howw-”
Me: “Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. That’s my publisher.”
GAT: “Howton?”
Me: “Houghton.”
GAT: “Hooton?”
Me: “Houghton.”
GAT: “Hofton? I’ve never heard of them.”
Me: “They’ve published a lot of classic children’s books. You know, like Curious George?”
GAT: “I don’t care for monkeys. And what’s this thing?”
Me: “It’s my website.”
GAT: “W…w…w…”
Me: “Don’t worry about it. Please.”
GAT: “Period?”
Me: “Dot. Really, don’t – it’s computers.”
GAT: (purses lips again) “Oh, yes. My doctor’s receptionist has one of those.” (looks at watch) “Oh dear, it’s time to take my pills! I’m having surgery tomorrow.”
Me: “Oh, wow. Uh, good luck?”
GAT: “You too, dear! (hobbling away) Can’t wait to buy the book! Croaked!”
Me: “That’s right!”
(runs off in search of hard alcohol)

So if this masterful pitch hasn’t sold you, then nothing will. Be sure to pick up Croak, on shelves tomorrow*!

*not available in Large Print

Want more Reaper Madness? Check out these previous posts:

Day 1 – Free Badges
Day 2 – Event Schedule
Day 3 – Blurbs
Day 4 – Adirondacks Facks
Day 5 – Croak trailer
Day 6 – Sample chapter
Day 7 – Goodreads Giveaway
Day 8 – Pinterest Day
Day 9 – Dear Teen Me
Day 10 – Jellyfish
Day 11 – Black Widow Spiders
Day 12 – Final Last Words – Apocalypsies Edition
Day 13 – Interview with the Editor: Julie Tibbott of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Day 14 – Interview with the Agent: Tina Wexler of ICM



  1. Absolutely freakin’ hilarious!

    Old people are the best as they struggle to understand our world, eh? :P

    I have to say, I love the concept of your book. I was working on a Young Adult novel with a similar concept except with one teenager as death instead of a gang, but yours sounds infinitely more intriguing.

    You have a wicked writing style. I’ll definitely have to keep my eyes peeled for your book (horrible expression, that. Peeled eyes?).

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. You are so funny…love that story! Good luck with Croak, I am featuring it as my “Read Me!” selection this week on my blog.

  3. You are funny. I think I’d like your book. I have been stalking you & entered for a free copy at goodreads and on a blog. Since starting my own review blog I have received a few advance copies & free copies of other books to review & am trying to stop buying books to promote them. Lol. Keep me in mind if you come up with just one tiny copy to spare!

  4. Love this! Loved the book too- it’s one of my favorite 2012 debuts! My 10 year old is loving it now too (these kids today- they love the dark stuff- she couldn’t start it until after she went to see The Hunger Games). Can’t wait for Scorched!

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