Interview with Nicolas DiDomizio, Author of ‘Burn It All Down’

Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old aspiring comic Joey Rossi just found out his boyfriend has been cheating on him for the past ten months. But what did he expect? Joey was born with an addiction to toxic jerks—something he inherited from his lovably messy, wisecracking, Italian-American spitfire of a mom (and best friend): 34-year-old Gia Rossi.
 
When Gia’s latest non-relationship goes up in flames only a day later, the pair’s Bayonne, New Jersey apartment can barely contain their rage. In a misguided attempt at revenge, Joey and Gia inadvertently commit a series of crimes and flee the state, running to the only good man either of them has ever known—Gia’s ex, Marco. As they hide out from the law at Marco’s secluded lake house, Joey and Gia must confront all the bad habits and mistakes they’ve made that have led them to this moment—and find a way to take responsibility for what they’ve done.

Read my review here.

Nicolas DiDomizio holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Connecticut State University and a master’s degree from NYU. Prior to his career in fiction, he wrote for the internet for several years while also working in corporate roles at Condé Nast, MTV, and more. He lives in upstate New York with his partner Graig and their adorably grumpy bulldog, Tank. Burn It All Down is his debut novel.
 
Follow him on Twitter at @ctnicolas and Instagram at @nicdidomiziobooks.

Have you ever exacted revenge upon someone who broke your heart, like your characters did? If you haven’t, how do you cope with a broken heart?

My college and grad school years did involve an embarrassing amount of throwing drinks in faces, flipping tables, and so on (basically I was a Real Housewife, lol) — but thankfully I never let myself get as out of control as the characters in my novel do. As I got further into my twenties, I learned how to process heartbreak/anger in a much healthier way. And eventually I stopped going for the types of guys who lie/cheat/manipulate in the first place. It was a journey (which I tried to capture via the story of Joey and Gia)!

Do you and a family member share the same type of relationship as Joey and Gia Rossi, who look more like friends than mother and son?

Joey and Gia were loosely based on my experience growing up with a single mom, as we have always been very close and do have shared histories with toxic men. That said, as I got further into writing the book, the relationship between Joey and Gia became its own entirely unique thing — with more codependency and less boundaries than any real-life family relationship I’ve ever had!

What would you say is the best thing about Joey and his mother Gia’s relationship?

The unconditional love, for sure. It’s a “ride or die” type of situation, and their closeness in age really allows them to understand each other — and grow up together — in a way that most parent/child duos don’t experience.

What would Gia and Joey’s ‘‘trip’’ have been like if Joey’s grandmother had come along?

Nonna would have shut their craziness down real fast! Which was why I knew Joey and Gia had to leave Nonna at home so they could learn their lessons on their own.

Which secondary character do you think deserved more attention in the novel?

I LOVED writing Nonna — the sassy Italian grandmother who won’t hesitate to slap a bitch if needed — and would have had so much fun writing several more scenes with her. I also really enjoyed writing the character of Marco, who was an example of the type of “nice guy” Joey and Gia had rejected in the past in favor of stereotypical bad boys, and would have loved to show more of his perspective. But ultimately both of these characters were indeed secondary to the primary heart of the story, which revolved around Joey and Gia specifically.

Finally, are we going to see these characters again?

I don’t have any immediate plans to revisit them, but you never know! I’d definitely have so much fun writing a sequel if there was ever strong interest in one.

Did you enjoy the interview?

Are you interested in the novel?

All the Colors Came Out – Kate Fagan

This book has the most beautiful cover I’ve seen this year. It’s more astounding in real life, so if you ever get the chance to get your hands on the hardcover copy, go for it. Having read Kate Fagan’s former book – What Made Maddy Run – I was very interested in this book, particularly because she discusses herself and her family, whereas her first book focuses on another family entirely and one particular tragic event.

Both are good, honestly, but very different. In All the Colors Came Out, Kate Fagan talks mainly about her father who was diagnosed with ALS a couple of years ago, and chronicles everything that happened after the diagnosis until the day he dies from the illness. She also reflects on many childhood memories and tells us what it was like to grow up with a father like hers and what lead to their distancing later in life.

Seeing Kate Fagan try to reconnect with her dying father was very beautiful. Spending time with her family and writing about it also made her understand her own mother and wife better. Her sister is not mentioned as much, but with reason since she is busy raising kids and does not live with her father anymore. Kate, on the other hand, decided to spend half the time with her father and half with her wife, so she can take care of him and make up for all the times she prioritized her career over her family.

Although this is a short nonfiction book, with less than two hundred pages, it is not the type of book you can easily read in an afternoon or one sitting. It may be short, but it is filled with experience, wisdom, regret, hope, love, understanding, lessons and sadness. Normally, a book this size would take me an entire day to read at most, but I’ve spent the last three days reading it little by little. There is no clear ‘‘storyline’’ per se, even if it’s divided in multiple parts. At times it feels random, like Kate wrote all that was on her mind out of order. At times the chapters also feel like blog posts, barely edited, just Kate and what’s cursing through her. Reflection after reflection. But one thing it always is is authentic. I wasn’t always very happy with Kate, because some of the things she says and does are selfish or childish and I expected better from a grown woman, but what softened me was seeing how well Kate tried to understand her own shortcomings and how she maybe didn’t deserve me being so hard on her.

I feel honoured to have had the chance to get to know Kate’s father and Kate herself better. Though I cannot compare this to anything I’ve read before, I think you’ll like Kate’s writing style and personality if you enjoyed Shrill by Lindy West.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Series Review: Fence, Vols. 1-4 – C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad

Of course I was going to read this one. First of all, it was written by C.S. Pacat, the author of one of my all-time favourite series ever: Captive Prince. Second of all, I’ve read an original story based on the series, in novel format, by Sarah Rees Brennan titled Fence: Striking Distance and really enjoyed getting to know the characters. Finally, it’s just been a long time since I’ve read a comic, so it was simply pleasurable to get back to the genre.

I’m reviewing the entire series at once because I basically read the four volumes in one sitting. I couldn’t help myself, I was addicted and my (sub)conscious was waiting for something specific and romance-related to happen. (It never did, unfortunately, but the wish pushed me to keep reading and that’s not a bad thing.) So this is the story of Nicholas, a newbie in the world of fencing, but he’s got potential that the Kings Row coach notices after he fences against one of the country’s best fencers, Seiji.

I thoroughly enjoyed Nicholas and Seiji’s rivalry, especially since both have such different personalities and ways of seeing the world around them. Their rivalry doesn’t end on the fencing court because they must share a room together. I have to say that watching them slowly get to know one another was one of the main reasons why I read this series with such fervour. The other main reason was Aiden, because his character story is very important in Sarah Rees Brennan’s Fence: Striking Distance so I was very interested in seeing him again in the comics. I do recommend getting to the comics first and then the two novels, because you will understand the novels so much better that way.

As interesting as these comics were, the fourth volume was a letdown for me and I actually have no idea what the future comics (should there be more) will look like. The reason why I was so let down is that there seemed to be too many similarities with previous issues. I understand that this is a sports-themed comic and that fencing matches will be a big deal throughout, but I wanted more of the characters’ pasts, emotions and interactions with one another. I will, however, keep an eye out for the rest as I did get attached to Nicholas and Seiji quite strongly. I do recommend this series if you like to see underdogs succeed.

Fence: Striking Distance – Sarah Rees Brennan

You’ve probably heard of the comic series Fence by C.S. Pacat, the author of one of my all-time favourite series, Captive Prince. This story in novel format is in the same world as Fence, with chapters featuring Seiji, Nicholas, Harvard and Aiden. I myself have not had the chance to read the comics, a situation I have to remedy quite soon, so I cannot tell you how it compares with the comics, but it is publicized as an ‘‘original novel’’ so I’m assuming the content is fairly new as well.

There are three different story arcs that are brought together at some point or another but mainly different characters are dealing with their own various issues. Harvard started dating, which makes Aiden jealous and lonely and ready to suggest something to Harvard that might change their long term friendship together. Seiji and Nicholas are also roommates but not friends, and yet they might need to become cordial with one another if they want to progress, Nicholas in the fencing department and Seiji socially. There is more involved, but basically this is a story about teammates realizing they are stronger when they are working together and slowly breaking down the walls between them.

If this didn’t already have its comic adaptation, I would have probably suggested that, just because the way the author describes scenes at times reminds me of comic book panels. The characters have just enough of a cartoonish vibe to them to belong in a comic. All four main characters actually have exaggerated traits: Aiden is a big flirt, Harvard responsible to a fault, Nicholas innocent and Seiji super serious. Yet, it works. And while these exaggerated traits do seem to keep the story from reaching deeper waters at times, overall I have enjoyed spending time with these four boys and I’m looking forward to reuniting with them in the next book.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Satisfaction Guaranteed – Karelia Stetz-Waters

Selena and Cade. I have a lot of love in my heart for these two young women. These two imperfect human beings who are oh-so-different, and yet oh-so-meant-to-meet. And what an interesting first meeting they have—at Cade’s aunt’s funeral, where Selena pours her heart out in front of everyone. I knew right then and there that impulsive and emotional Selena and reserved and controlled Cade would have quite a few intriguing moments together.

This is a slow-burn. It’s a book that is meant to be enjoyed slowly, with a few cups of tea (and biscuits, can’t forget those). This is a good thing, because it makes Selena and Cade’s relationship seem to progress naturally and without rush. Even if they only have a month together, and a month is definitely not enough to know everything about someone, it is enough to get a feel of who they are and whether they bring out the best in us. What is beautiful is that Selena and Cade’s differences and shortcomings complement each other.

While I found their relationship to feel natural and progress in a realistic and effective way, I did not necessarily find the storyline itself and some of the characters and scenes to be all that realistic. Sometimes, it felt like the author wrote some characters or scenes or dialogs for humour purposes, than because it made perfect sense to the story or was the right element to include. For example, everyone fawning over Selena was a bit over-the-top, as was Cade’s entire family and the whole Alex business. I’m not saying that these elements could not exist in real life, just that all of them combined in one story was a lot.

The best thing about this story is Selena and Cade’s relationship, which is good because this is a contemporary romance so that’s pretty much the most important element of all, so if you are looking for a cute lesbian romance, you are knocking at the right door and do not hesitate to jump right in (don’t forget the tea and biscuits, though!)

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

Camp – Lev A.C. Rosen

CampCamp by Lev A.C. Rosen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: May 26th, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+. Summer Camps, Inclusivity, Romance, Theatre, Masculinity


REVIEW:

I am jealous. I want to go to this queer camp so badly. I did go to day camp when I was 9, which feels like a lifetime ago, but it was nothing – nothing – like Camp Outland. You know, I do really hope that camps like this one exist, because they seem to provide a much needed safe haven for teens and adolescence is not an easy period. Just knowing that there’s a beautiful environment with incredibly open people waiting for you during summer can be what gets you through your school year. Continue reading

When You Get the Chance – Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson

53005757. sx318 sy475 When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Family, Mystery, Romance, Identity, Road Trip


REVIEW:

I am always a little surprised when I enjoy books like this one, the kinds of books that don’t have memorable characters or original plotlines or even incredibly skilful writing styles; the kinds of books that you read and forget, and yet the in-between parts are quite enjoyable. Continue reading

The Extraordinaries – T.J. Klune

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: July 14th, 2020
Publisher: Tor Teen
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Romance, Superheroes, Family, Death


REVIEW:

I started this book in May and only went back to it a few days ago to finally finish it. Usually, when I put a book aside for months, it takes me some time to remember the characters’ names and how they all connect to the story. But in this case, it felt like I had just left them. That’s how memorable they are. What I like about the cast most is that it isn’t large, and yet it’s enough. Everyone has their place and really claims that place. Continue reading

All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson

39834234. sy475 All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: April 28th, 2020
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Memoir, LGBTQIA+, Family, Identity, Sexuality, Assault, Grief


REVIEW:

I feel honoured to have had the chance to read about George M. Johnson’s positive and negative experiences growing up. I also feel humbled by the fact that the author trusted us with his secrets and wanted to make this book a safe space for other people out there who may struggle with the same issues he did or want to become more educated on them. Continue reading

The Winter Duke – Claire Eliza Bartlett

51201758. sx318 sy475 The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Politics, LGBTQIA+


REVIEW:

Better step back, because there’s nothing to see here.

Unless you like bland heroines that few people respect in positions of power, whose character developments are almost nonexistent or forced. Unless you like to see romantic pairs have little conversation and almost no romantic moments. Unless you like to hear conversations repeated over and over again. Continue reading