Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Interview with Author Anna Jarzab!
Okay. So she’s technically not an official author-author at B&N yet, but Anna Jarzab is one to watch.
Her debut novel ALL UNQUIET THINGS is slated to be released from Delacorte on January 12, 2010, which I can describe as Veronica-Mars-meets-Clueless.
Interested? Read on. TWFT has scored a very-exclusive interview with her.
TWFT: Summarize ALL UNQUIET THINGS IN 10 words or less.
Anna: Two teenagers set out to find their friend’s real murderer.
(TWFT Note: Here’s the synop.
All Unquiet Things centers around the murder of teen heiress Carly Ribelli, who was found shot to death a mile from her house in a wealthy Northern California suburb. Carly’s uncle, a dissolute alcoholic, was convicted of the crime, but a year later his daughter still doesn’t believe her father is guilty. Determined to prove his innocence, Audrey Ribelli contacts Carly’s ex-boyfriend, Neily Monroe, the boy who found Carly’s body. She is convinced that he knows more than he thinks about the events that led up to Carly’s death. Despite Neily’s initial reluctance, he and Audrey begin their investigation at the posh private school they attend, identifying prime suspects from among their spoiled classmates and digging up secrets about Carly’s past to get to the truth behind her murder.)
TWFT: Did you ever want to be anything besides an author?
Anna: Oh, loads of things. I wanted to be a journalist for a long time, until I took a journalism class in high school and did really poorly in it. That crushed that dream pretty quick. When I started college, I thought I might want to be a lawyer, but that fizzled pretty quickly. From sophomore year of college on, all I wanted to do was work in publishing. And now I do! Seven years later. Oh well, better late than never.
To tell the truth, being an author has always sort of been my secret pipe dream, and I couldn’t believe it came true before my “real” career goals. Boggles my mind every day.
TWFT: When did you start writing?
Anna: I always say I started writing when I was eleven because that’s the year that sticks out in my mind, but I think that’s because eleven is how old Mallory from The Baby-Sitters Club was when she was “writing her novel” and I might have conflated that fact with my own childhood. But! I started writing not long after that. I guess I thought if Mallory could do it, I could do it. I think I finished my first novel in my senior year of high school, though. And boy, was it awful! But I’ve been writing pretty consistently since before I was a teenager, so I’ve had lots of years of practice.
TWFT: What’s your writing process? Do you outline?
Anna: Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I didn’t outline AUT, although I took copious notes, and the book ended up needing so much revision just because things didn’t logically fit together at first. I’m a really intuitive writer, so all my facts don’t exactly line up in the first draft. (Whoops.) Thank God I have a great agent, editor, and numerous copy editors and proofreaders, to make sure that AUT is perfectly continuous. I outlined my next book, MB, and it made it so much easier to write, but now I’m back to not working off an outline in the two books I’m working on now and–surprise!–they’re taking longer and being much harder to write. So I should outline more, but sometimes I get lazy or excited and I just want to jump in to actually writing the thing already without having to do all the prep work. This rarely makes my life easier.
TWFT: Do you have any advice for teen writers?
Anna: Well, there are the normal things, like read as much as you can and write all the time, both of which are pieces of advice given by every author on the planet and also they’re completely true and necessary. I would say, as an additional piece of advice, that it’s important to be wary of creative writing classes. Not to bag on creative writing classes, because I know a lot of people find them helpful, but it all totally depends on the group of people and the dynamic and the teacher and there are so many variables. A lot of times I think that first-time writers, or even long-time writers who are really trying to learn something, can get dragged down and discouraged by how unnecessarily critical and ultimately unhelpful fiction workshops can be. So while I’m not saying, “Never take a creative writing class! They’re horrible!” I rarely got anything useful out of mine, and the atmosphere was not always one of learning but one of posturing and insecurity masked as snobbishness. I think that’s what put me off any interest in critique partners or writing groups once I started getting serious about writing. I guess my point is that you should never let somebody’s need to show off to a famous professor or meanly critique you to death get in the way of your vision and stomp on your creative spark. Take creative writing classes if you want, but don’t take them too much to heart, unless you feel like what’s being said is helpful to you.
Wow, does it sound like I’m a creative writing class trauma victim or what?
TWFT: In your bio, you mention that you actually wrote All Unquiet Things as your thesis project at UChicago. That sounds like an incredible feat of minimizing your workload! How did you manage to get that set up?
Anna: It was part of the program, actually. It was so nice, because I didn’t want to get an MFA but I also didn’t want to write an academic thesis for a Master’s program because I knew I wasn’t interested in going on to get my Ph.D. The Master’s program I did at the U of C has a creative thesis option, which was one of the reasons I went there, and it was the perfect set-up. I had a great preceptor (they’re like the U of C version of camp counselors, but ones who assign you back-breaking philosophy reading)–who just signed with an agent, btw! I’m very excited for him–and a brilliant thesis adviser, and they both were very supportive of AUT in its many stages and encouraged me ceaselessly, which I will always be grateful for. But I also got to take regular Ph.D. level courses in philosophy and literature, which was important to me. Being me, though, I filled all the time I saved by getting credit for AUT by doing an eighteen hour a week internship at a small publishing house. I need to learn how to relax.
TWFT: What inspired you to go with the murder mystery plotline? (Do I smell a fellow CSI fan?)
Anna: I’ve always really loved mysteries, although I’ve never been very good at solving them. But I’m a HUGE Agatha Christie fan, and I blew through all of Mary Higgins Clark’s books in junior high, so it’s always been a genre I enjoyed on a purely reading level. When I wrote AUT version 1, it had a “mysterious element” but wasn’t a full blown mystery. That version was awful, so I decided to abandon it. Less than a year later, I realized how much I missed the characters, and I realized that I could refashion it as an actual mystery. It was a slog, because I’d never written something so plot-intensive before, but I think it’s turned out pretty well. :)
As for CSI, I do enjoy it, though I don’t watch it very often anymore. I’m a big X-Files fan, though, like embarrassingly big, and I spent much of my free time in college watching Law & Order, so those shows must have rubbed off on me. My new mystery show obsession is Bones, but I’m running out of old episodes to watch so the new season better come quickly!
TWFT: What’s next after ALL UNQUIET THINGS? Do you plan to write other genres in the future?
Anna: My book deal was for two books, so the next one is tentatively called MURDER BURGER and should be out sometime in 2011, probably January/February, although we don’t have a firm date. It’s also a mystery, about a teenage boy who disappears mysteriously and the friends who try to track him down. I haven’t started revising with my editor yet, and it looks like it might need a lot of work, so God only knows.
And right now I’m working on what I like to call a “quasi-post-apocolyptic pseudo-mystery” and a smaller family drama. I don’t know if I have the stamina to be a mystery writer long-term, but I think I’ll probably write darker stuff mostly, because that’s where my imagination goes.
TWFT: If the apocalypse were coming tomorrow and you could only choose three books (in the entire world) to keep safe, which ones would you choose?
Anna: This is a hard question, but I think it’d be The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford (they count as one because they’re packaged together), Pride and Prejudice, and the complete works of Shakespeare. But these are just books that I would want to read over and over again during the nuclear winter; I guess if I had to think of posterity I’d maybe have to go with some others. I’d still bring Shakespeare, though.
TWFT: Where’s your favorite place to write?
Anna: I wish I had a favorite place. The only place I write is in my tiny little bedroom, but this is New York, there are probably better places. I need to go hunt them down.
TWFT: What’s your favorite flavor jellybean?
Anna: Jelly Belly buttered popcorn.
Thanks, Anna, for taking the time! Here’s Anna Jarzab’s website and blog.
(Check back in January for an ALL UNQUIET THINGS signed book giveaway!)
Labels: Author Interviews