Cowboy Turned Author: Jillian Green DiGiacomo

Cowboy Turned Author: Jillian Green DiGiacomo

Alexandra Truszkowska, Editor in Chief

This past Saturday, at the Hillsdale public library, this reporter had the honor to meet and speak with Jillian Green DiGiacomo, who recently published her second book, Codename Cupcake. Codename Cupcake is a fictional novel about a mother, Molly Peterson, who finds out she is a superhero and is enlisted to be part of the secret service to infiltrate her son’s evil parent-teacher association. Her first book, Off The Wall, is a classic children’s book about learning to love yourself.

DiGiacomo is a Woodcliff Lake native, and is an alumnus of Pascack Hills High School. After college, she moved to Japan with a degree in Asian studies and lived there for a few years. She taught high school classes in New York and now is a stay-at-home mom. As a previous “Hills Cowboy,” and now a mother and author, DiGiacomo had a lot of wisdom to share.


Alexandra Truszkowska: How was your high school experience at Pascack Hills?

Jillian Green DiGiacomo: Pascack Hills-well, put it this way, I married someone that I met at Pascack Hills, but that was obviously something that I didn’t know was going to happen. It was a wonderful place for me. I was involved in sports, I was involved in student council, I was involved in stage-crew; in fact, I remember being shocked when I graduated that the school ran without me. They were perfectly fine without me there and I was shocked.


AT: This is your second book. Would you say that any teacher at Pascack Hills inspired you to write?

JGD: Not so much writing. I wasn’t so much into writing; my friends were very creative and fun with words. There was a history teacher, Mr. Casella, who just really had a light about him. We use to hang out in his office and he just really made us feel like whatever we wanted to do, we could do. But I was a good student, but I wasn’t inspired.


AT: How did you make the transition from being a housewife to a published writer?

JDG: Well, that transition was great and I’ve been very lucky because really, my full-time job now is taking the kids to where they need to go and, well, not having quite the great meals on the table that they think they should have but its been a really nice thing for me. I mean, the transition to being home from teaching and being your own person to having a child and being in charge of this person is there everyday is one thing but now I feel like I’m still transitioning because everyday they become more independent and I get to spend more time focused on things that I care about.



AT: As a fictional writer, what would you say is more important: characters or plot?

JDG: Oh, I really think that the bottom line is that the plot doesn’t matter. Whatever you decide, it needs to make sense, but whom it happens to and how they make the journey. It’s the character that ultimately creates what happens. But I think, case in point, this book is about motherhood and finding your voice…it doesn’t matter the “what” of it. It really matters how you make that journey. If you think about it, it’s a hero’s journey. At first you don’t know who you are, you learn you’re somebody, and then you transition into that role. Whether that’s Harry Potter, who’s a magician, whether it’s “Mockingjay,” whatever those characters are, the “what” is only interesting because of who is having the experience.


AT: Has writing changed you as a person?

JDG: Oh…I don’t think that writing has changed me as a person, but it has helped me define myself as a person. It makes you-put in exact words- what you want to say and what you mean. Sometimes the world doesn’t let you have time to stop and contemplate or think about, “Oh, do I really want to say this about motherhood?”… What really matters is that you own where you are, and that you respect where you are, and that everyone is working really hard; and that’s hard. So that ability, for me to think about it, is pretty hard.


AT: For writing a full length novel, how long did the process take, including writing editing, etc.?

JDG: For Off The Wall, [DiGiacomo’s first book] it took me 10 years. Draft after draft, I re-wrote Off The Wall 20 times. But with that, once I finished it, and I knew it was done, I sent it to one publisher and they picked it up in just about a year. This one, [Codename Cupcake] for the whole process was about four years total. A lot of it was shelved and then the last six months of writing, I shopped it around and I got a lot of wonderful rejections from some really great publishing houses! But with the responses, I knew what I needed to change. None of the rejections were, “This doesn’t make sense, or where is your plot, or I didn’t believe it.” The rejections were very, “This just isn’t what we’re looking for.” So then I just took the chance and published it myself, which has been an unbelievable learning curve. I keep saying that I’m learning publishing one mistake at a time!


AT: Incidents in your life, such family and other experiences usually influence fictional writing pieces. Would you say that this book is about you, but a bit more fictional?

JGD: Oh yeah! Well, I like to tell people that it’s an autobiography you know, but I can’t really disclose all of the details because it’s a lot of super secret information! But I finally understand that that’s the thing: Write about what you know. There was a big struggle for me because, okay, I know about being home, and I know about being exhausted and not being able to find all of the socks, but what do I know about being a superhero? So the idea that I brought myself and pretended to be in a situation, saying, “Ok, how would I respond?” was amazing. The story did really start out as me, and I was saying that I didn’t like it at first but then Molly [main character] started becoming less of me. She’s more braver than me, she’s way less cynical than me! I’m that kid who sat in the back of the room making obnoxious jokes, whereas she is much more earnest, I think. She always has the right thing to say, which is something I aspire to have. So yeah, she started as me, but the character became more of herself.

One last thing DiGiacomo wanted to say at the end of the interview? “Go Cowboys!” she cheers. Jillian Green DiGiacomo’s brand new novel, Codename Cupcake, is now available to buy on Support a past student and get this novel. Can’t think of a great holiday present for mom? This will sure do the trick!