Around this time last year, I participated in a blog tour for Grunge Gods and Graveyards, Kimberly G. Giarratano’s debut novel about a girl being haunted by the ghost of her high school crush while trying to solve the mystery of his murder. The book features solid writing, a tragically romantic love story, and a swoon-worthy male lead, but it was a relatively minor character that really sucked me into the book. This character, known as the Lady in Blue, was the spirit of a girl who’d been killed in the 1950s on the way to her senior prom and had been haunting her hometown ever since. Although the Lady in Blue didn’t get a ton of page time, I found her fascinating and wished I could have learned more about her backstory.
And then, lo and behold, I got an email several months later from Kimberly. She gave me beautiful, wonderful, spectacular news: she had written a spin-off of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, and it was all about the life – and death – of my favorite ghostly prom queen.
Kimberly is here with us today to introduce this new book, talk about plans for her next series, and discuss all things ghostly. She’s also giving away an electronic copy of The Lady in Blue to one lucky reader, so make sure to sign up for a chance to win at the end of this post!
About The Lady in Blue
The Lady in Blue stole a car and fled Ash.
Out on Devlin Road she emerged from a crash.
She wandered the woods with her head dripping blood.
Then drowned in the river in water and mud.
All her life criminology student Liz Bloom has heard this rhyme, meant to scare young campers. When she’s about to take on her first cold case, Liz learns the eerie song is about her great aunt Lana. Liz isn’t big on studying, but she does have one advantage most criminologists don’t — she can speak to the dead.
In 1955, Lana Bloom was an eighteen-year-old beauty with Hollywood dreams who fell in love with a stranger. When Lana died in a bloody car crash, all signs pointed to the mysterious man who was never seen again.
As Lana unravels the details surrounding her last week of life, the tale she weaves for Liz is one of desire, betrayal, and murder. But if Lana can’t identify her killer, not only will a murderer escape punishment, but her ghostly form will cease to exist. And Liz will have failed the most important assignment of all – family.
Interview with Kimberly G. Giarratano
Welcome to Angela’s Library, Kimberly! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What would you like readers to know about you?
As to be expected, I love to travel and go on haunted city tours where I walk around the city and hear ghost stories. I’ve done these tours in Rome, Italy and Key West. I want to go to Gettysburg and do this, but I can’t take my kids – they’re too little to scare. I also love cemeteries and graveyards. When I was a kid, and someone died, my grandma would take me on a tour of the cemetery and tell me about my relatives who were buried there. I always found it so interesting. There’s so much history in cemeteries. I’m always fascinated about the people who are buried there. What were their lives like? How did they live? Where are their descendants? Do they visit? I’m always thinking of story narratives.
Summarize The Lady in Blue in one sentence.
A beautiful 18-year old ghost recounts her murder in an effort to uncover her killer.
The Lady in Blue is a spin-off of your debut novel Grunge Gods and Graveyards. What made you decide to return to the fictional town of Ash to tell the story of its long-time resident ghost?
I had always intended to write the Lady in Blue’s story because there was no way I was going to be able to fit her narrative into Grunge Gods’ story arc. Also, Lana’s history is interesting because of the time period in which she lived – the 1950s. In addition, readers were asking me to expand on her story. I felt like I couldn’t NOT write this book. To me, the series wasn’t complete until I told Lana’s story.
Everyone reading this post has probably heard at least one ghost story told around a campfire, whispered in the dark at a slumber party, or circulated as part of local legend. In your opinion, what is it that makes ghost stories so pervasive and appealing?
I think everyone likes to be haunted. There’s something to be said about the dead not being done with us.
If you were able to see and talk with ghosts, who would you want to be haunted by and why?
I actually think about this often. I want to be visited by my dad’s paternal grandmother. She died an old woman, but she was an interesting figure. She survived pogroms in the Ukraine. She emigrated through Ellis Island. She lived in tenements in the Lower East Side. Her husband disappeared off the face of the earth – he may have been a bootlegger. I want to interview her and find out about who she was. There’s so much history in my family and I know none of it.
The Lady in Blue is set in the 1950s, with each chapter named after a song from that decade. The same is true in Grunge Gods and Graveyards as well, but with songs from the ’90s instead. What role has music played in your life and why is it important to you?
I’m a teenager of the 1990s, so in that sense, alternative music represents my youth. For me, listening to a Tori Amos song makes me feel like I’m 17 again and reminds me of the person I used to be. I think I read somewhere that your music tastes are formed in your teenage years – which makes sense. I still listen to Radiohead, Tori Amos, and U2, but I’m more inclined to listen to the olders albums from my teenage years, rather than the new stuff.
One of my favorite things about The Lady in Blue is its authentic 50s vibe; the vocabulary, clothing, and social norms in the book paint such a clear and fascinating picture of what it would have been like to live in the 1950s. How much research did you have to do to bring this era to life on the page?
I don’t know if I can quantify the amount of research I did, but I did a lot of work. I read books set in the 50s and I purchased an actual text written in the 50s for teenagers. I bought a book that was all about 1950s clothing. I also crowd-sourced my Facebook friends. Often, I’d jump on Facebook and ask people to name cigarettes their parents smoked. My friend, Georgene, gave me a detailed description of a 1950s movie theater. My dad described how to drive a stick shift for a 1950s car. My author friend, Elizabeth, read my manuscript and clarified some 1950s expressions. For some reason, I have a fascination with the 50s and it’s nice to be able to talk to people who lived in that time period – they’re my primary resources.
Do you have a favorite 50s saying or slang word? If so, what is it?
I don’t have a favorite slang word, but I did learn the expression, “don’t have a cow,” originated in the 50s and not on The Simpsons, like I thought it did.
In addition to writing, you also review books for School Library Journal and BookPage. Have you read anything recently that you highly recommend?
I reviewed Under the Painted Sky by Stacey Lee several months ago for BookPage and I really enjoyed it. Set in 1849, a Chinese-American girl and a runaway slave, who are fleeing the law, meet a trio of friendly cowboys. It’s a feel-good read and the author does an amazing job of making the reader fall in love with the characters. I also read an ARC of Lauren DeStefano’s middle grade book, A Curious Tale of In-Between, which was spooky, ghostly, and all those things I love. If you want a fun, page-turning YA mystery, I suggest Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor. If you love historical YA mysteries, I loved Dianne K. Salerni’s The Caged Graves. And if you want beautifully written, compelling historical fiction, read The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett. *I used to be a librarian; so offering up book recommendations is in my DNA.
What can you tell us about your next writing project? Can we look forward to more mysteries / ghost stories in the works?
YES! My next YA mystery, Dead and Breakfast, will be out this fall. Two seventeen-year-olds must solve a sixty-year-old murder before a malevolent ghost destroys a family-owned bed and breakfast. It’s set in Key West, Florida, which is one of ten most haunted cities in America. If anyone wants to be notified when the book is released, feel free to sign up for my reader club: http://eepurl.com/bn21-X.
Dead and Breakfast is the first of a three-book series. I’m hoping the entire series will be out in summer 2016. Then I’m embarking on a new series, which is a mash-up of Veronica Mars and My So-Called Life. I hope to release the first book in late 2016.
Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Kimberly! We hope to see you back again soon!
About Kimberly G. Giarratano
Kimberly G. Giarratano, a forever Jersey girl, now lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and small children. A former teacher and YA librarian, Kimberly adores Etsy, Jon Stewart, The Afghan Whigs, ’90s nostalgia, and (of course) everything YA. She also speaks Spanish, but is woefully out of practice.
Kimberly always dreamed of being a published author. Her other dream is to live in Key West, Florida where she can write in a small studio, just like Hemingway.
You can visit her blog at kimberlyggiarratano.com or tweet her @KGGiarratano.
Kimberly has generously offered to give away an e-book copy of The Lady in Blue! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. This contest is open internationally.