It is an absolute honour to have fellow Canadian Joanna Wiebe here today!
I JUST finished reading The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant on Monday and am in love with it! I couldn't put this one down-- the eerie setting and twists and turns had me addicted! My official review will be going up sometime before its release on January 14th :)
Oh and before we get started, I want to send a big thank-you out to Kismet Book Touring for allowing me to be part of this tour!
After her mother’s death, 16-year-old art prodigy Anne Merchant moves from sunny California to the cold woodlands of Wormwood Island, Maine for what is supposed to be a fresh start. She is the newest student of Cania Christy, an elite boarding school that is as filled with secrets as it is with the world’s most privileged—and competitive—teens. From the first day of school, Anne finds herself thrust into the Big V competition, an intense race to the top of the class. With enviable talents, she quickly becomes the enemy of every junior seeking the Big V—especially Harper, the presumed frontrunner. Like every student, she is assigned a guardian, and a unique mission. Anne’s assignment is to “look deeper.” Anne is determined to succeed, and won’t let anything —not even her distractingly beautiful neighbor Ben—get in the way. But the deeper she looks the more questions arise, and the more she is forced to reexamine all of her assumptions—about the school, her classmates and even herself. As layers of secrecy deepen, Anne leans on the friendship of Molly, a lifelong islander, and Pilot, the only junior not competing for the Big V, to make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world. But when people start disappearing, Anne uncovers a stunning truth that she must face head on—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.
5 Fun Facts about The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Joanna here – happy to meet you! My fellow Canadian Caitlin was oh-so-kind to let me pop on here today and tell all you bookworms a bit about my novel, which launches next week.
It’s called The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant – and the VOYA Library Journal for Young Adults said it’s a great read for fans of Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood… while Amy Plum called it “deliciously dark” and Wendy Higgins said it’s “the kind of stuff readers can lose themselves in.” So if you like books that are so dark you can taste it, check it out.
Today, I’ve got 5 fun facts about my book for you. Well, I think they’re fun. But let’s let you be the judge of that…
In the book, sixteen year-old Anne Merchant finds herself attending this uptight, only-for-richies prep school called Cania Christy, and, as if to reinforce what a poor fit for the school she is, Anne is forced to live off-campus with this kooky old lady named Gigi. Gigi has a dog. His name is Skippy. He barks madly at Anne – and he is based 100% on the little Pomeranian my nana had when I was growing up.
My nana is nothing like poor Gigi, but Skippy is her late dog, from the name to the breed to the way his whole body bounces when he barks to his uber-stinky breath. RIP Skippy.
Factoid 2: Truth be told, I was watching a lot of Six Feet Under…
Anne hails from California, where she grew up in a funeral home. Why does Anne hail from California when I’m from Vancouver Island? And why would she grow up in a funeral home when she could, in fact, have grown up anywhere – like, say, in normal suburbia?
Well, see, I was watching a lot of the HBO series Six Feet Under when I was writing the manuscript for this book. A lot. I mean, it’s one of my favorite shows of all time. As you may know, the setting for that series is a California funeral home. …Suddenly I don’t feel like a very creative person. I totally swiped the setting!
Actually, there is a reason she grew up in a funeral home. So it’s not entirely fanboy stealing.
Factoid Trois: Two albums could comprise the soundtrack for this book
Air: French Band and Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News. I must have listened to those two albums on YouTube – even though I own the CDs – about a hundred times each when writing this book. I don’t normally listen to music when I write because it can get a little distracting when you’re just trying to think, but Air blends really nicely into the background – while still staying present enough to take your emotions for a walk – and this particular Modest Mouse album has just the right mood for the book. If you haven’t heard either, I highly recommend you do.
Factoid D: I’m Scroogey about love
As a reader, I want to believe in love between characters… but as a writer, I question it more often than not. Perhaps that’s why I named Anne’s crush Ebenezer (which shortens to a more, um, palatable Ben). It’s hard to get snuggly-close or open up to a dude named Ebenezer, right?
So, why Ebenezer of all names? After all, if I wanted to give Ben a name that might keep him at arms-length, I could have gone for Winston… or Zebong… or Driptar. Well, I chose Ebenezer because I went to Ebenezer Baptist Church as a child – my nana still goes there – and I’ve been so intrigued by the name ever since. Of course, now I wish I’d named Ben “Driptar Zebong”…
Factoid Number 5: Ben started out a little like Frankenstein’s monster
The very first draft of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant was very, very different. The biggest difference? Ben was the creation of a brilliant man named Dr. Zin, who had lost his father to brain cancer and had, in turn, gone somewhat mad with a need to understand and perfect the human brain – so he experimented on bodies from the morgue and, in time, brought Ben and his super-mind to life. (I may rewrite that one day. I still like the idea!)
In that draft, Ben had a female counterpart named Marissa, who was also a super-mind monster; she wanted to kill Anne. I cut Marissa, and Ben is no longer the creation of Dr. Zin, nor are there any true Frankenstein elements to the finished story. It’s amazing the paths a book can take before it ever reaches your Kindle!
After graduating, she lived for a year on the remote northern island of Hokkaido, Japan, which is the inspiration for the verdant Wormwood Island of the V Trilogy. She holds a BA in Honors English and an MA in Communications from the University of Alberta and lives with her partner Lance in Victoria, British Columbia.
The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is her first novel and the first installment in the V Trilogy.
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