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 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.
“Help–I can’t breathe–let me out. Somebody help...”
I pounded the inside of the musty supply closet until my knuckles turned blue. Did anybody even have the key?
What if they don’t come? What if I’m trapped here all night?
I could hear loud voices and laughing, so I knew Kyle Canfield and one of his friends from the basketball team were there, waiting to see if I would cave in and plead for mercy.
The bell blared. Classes changed. Kids stampeded through the halls. Then, silence.
Finally I heard someone shout, “I’ve got the key, Doc.”
“Thanks, Duke,” Doc Greely, the assistant principal, said to Mr. Boardly, the man who’d sprung me loose.
Mr. Boardly, the head custodian, better known as Duke, offered me his arm, and I stumbled out of the closet. He was as thin as his mop handle, but all muscle–no flab like me. A scruffy white beard covered half his face.
He slammed the closet door shut and bolted the lock. “One of the hall guards reported noise coming from this area. We came as soon as we heard.”
Duke patted my shoulder. “Let me know if I can help, Elliot.” I could hear his keys clanging as he walked down the hall humming “Duke of Earl,” that old sixties song he loved. That’s where he got his nickname.
“Up to their old tricks again, Elliot?” Doc asked on the way to his office.
I’ve been married for half a century, but I still feel as young as I did in high school, mainly I think because I keep active. Zumba is my favorite way to exercise. You can get lost in the haunting melodies and the exotic moves. I recently wrote a book for women about to retire and retired women called Fire Up Your Life: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves. It’s predicated on the idea that you never have to grow old and crochety.
I have three daughters and five grandchildren, who bring me endless happiness and keep me young. For 31 years I worked in the Philadelphia School System as a teacher, department head, and disciplinarian. After that, I worked for Temple University as a student teaching supervisor, mentoring and observing future teachers. After retiring, I became a full-time writer. Most of my books were traditionally published. This is my first self-published book, other than a girls’ prayer book I received the rights back for from a religious company.
How did you get started writing?
I’ve written all my life simply because I had to. Writing gives me great satisfaction, and it’s what I like to do best. In fact, I’d rather write than eat or sleep.
Before I retired from the school system, I didn’t have time to write, but I thought about it every day. When I was still working, I wrote magazine articles, but after I left my job, I started writing in earnest. My first published work was a study guide for an educational company for the works of the YA author, Cynthia Voigt. After that, I wrote a grammar book for the same company, and I’ve been writing ever since. I’ve written five books about bullying, and the subject of this interview, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying is my latest. This book is closest to my heart because I think it vividly describes one child’s fight against bullying. I’ve also written two prayer books for teens and many grammar/writing books.
What was the inspiration for your book?
Elliot, the main character in Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser, came to me one day and asked me to write his story. How could I refuse? He was a persistent character who tugged at my heartstrings.
I also felt close to Mr. Boardly, his friend and mentor in the story, In real life, he was a school custodian named Scotty we in Lincoln High School all knew and loved. Unfortunately, he died in a tragic accident. However, now he lives on in the character I patterned after him.
The main setting in Elliot is a city high school, which I’m very familiar with since I’ve worked in schools all my life. The other setting of the book, the funeral home where Elliot lives with his dad and Nonna, his grandmother, was somewhat unfamiliar to me. I did extensive research on the funeral business to gain an understanding of what people in that business actually deal with each day and how they help themselves cope with it. Learning about the business was quite an eye-opener and scary at times, but I enjoyed doing the research, and I think it gave the story an authenticity it wouldn’t have if I hadn’t learned about it.
What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I love writing non-fiction as well as fiction. That said, I’d like to write a book related to psychic phenomena. I’m an intuitive who does readings and find it fascinating. I read any book I can get my hands on about the supernatural. As Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
So, what are you working on right now? Got any releases planned, or still writing?
I’m trying to market another bully book called Cool Things to Do While a Bully’s Bugging You. In addition to Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser, I’ve just released that women’s retirement book I mentioned. I’d love it if your readers would write to me about any topic related to reading or writing. My website is www.catherinedepino.com. It lists my address.
Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?
My favorite colors are turquoise, fuchsia, and any shades of blue or pink. Once we had our shingles painted turquoise and the neighbors thought we were weird hippies. I could tell by the way they scowled at us. I do Reiki healing (hands on healing), and I use color a lot when practicing it. I try to think of which color will best help the person. Often it turns out to be their favorite color.
My favorite movie of all time is an oldie: “Splendor in the Grass” with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. It was very daring for its time, having dealt with pre-marital sex, although the two principles in the movie never actually did it.
I also loved “Life is Beautiful,” an Italian film. I think it was the most touching movie I’ve ever seen.
Book that inspired you to become an author?
I loved Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye because it was a great story and because he knew how to get inside the minds of his characters. I also love that it kept me laughing—and crying. I always try to keep his ability to move people emotionally in mind when I write a story. It was a prime motivator when I wrote Elliot.
Alright, you have one superpower. What is it?
I would like be able to channel without being self-conscious or nervous. I have done it once in a while and it’s an awesome experience, but it is kind of frightening in a way.
You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
I’d love to have dinner with Anne Frank. Despite the atrocities she and her family endured, she believed that people were basically good. That goes against what some major religions espouse. They believe we were born in sin and constantly have to fight our evil impulses. However, I much prefer Anne Frank’s ideas.
I’d also like to have lunch with the singer Andrea Bocelli. He has a golden voice that sounds like it came from another world. I’d love to ask him how he feels when he sings, what he thinks about when he’s performing, and how he got his start in singing.
Finally, I’d like to talk to Anderson Cooper because I think he’s the most compassionate interviewer around. I’d ask him what the most important lessons he’s learned from people were. I’d ask him about his most interesting interviews and his most difficult ones.
Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
I believe I’m most like Nonna, the grandmother in my story, Elliot K Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser. I speak my mind as she does, but I listen when others talk as she also does. Like Nonna, I’m outrageous sometimes. I wear bright colors and wild outfits and do things most women my age wouldn’t dream of doing. She also believes that love and romance should never fade as you get older. Viva Nonna! I totally agree.
Catherine will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.
June 16: Nickie's Views and Interviews
June 16 SECOND STOP Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock
June 17: My Devotional Thoughts
June 17 SECOND STOP Shelf Full of Books
June 19: Deal Sharing Aunt
June 20: Sexy Adventures Passionate Tales
June 20 SECOND STOP: The Write to Read
June 23: Book 'Em North Carolina
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June 26: Hope. Dreams. Life... Love
June 27: Brenda Maxfield's Blog
June 27 SECOND STOP: The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
July 7: Our Families Adventure
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July 8 SECOND STOP: Booker Like a Hooker CANCELLED
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July 10: Bookworm for Kids
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July 14: Welcome to My World of Dreams
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July 16: Straight from the Library
July 17: Long and Short Reviews
July 18: Sharing Links and WisdomJuly 18: Bunny's Reviews
Author Bio and Links:
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, 101 Easy Ways for Women to De-Stress, Reinvent, and Fire Up Your Life in Retirement,appeared on the market in March, 2014.