AUTHOR: Joana Wiebe
PUBLICATION: Published January 20th 2015 by BenBella Books
GENRE: YA > Fantasy | Paranormal
PAGES: 320pages (paperback)
BLURB FROM GOODREADS:
Life and death, light and dark, spirit and flesh-on Wormwood Island, the lines are always blurred. For Anne Merchant, who has been thrust back into this eerily secretive world, crossing the line seems inevitable, inescapable, destined.
Now, as Ben finds himself battling for the Big V and Teddy reveals the celestial plan in which Anne is entwined, Anne must choose: embrace her darkly powerful connection to a woman known as Lilith and, in doing so, save the boy she loves…or follow a safer path that is sure to lead to Ben’s destruction at the hands of dark leaders. Hoping the ends will justify the means, Anne starts down the slippery slope into the underworld, intent on exploring the dark to find the light. But as the lure of Lilith proves powerfully strong, will Anne save others-only to lose herself?
What I Grappled with on the Path to Finally Writing My First – and Then Second – Novel
So I’m on a plane to Tokyo.
I’m 22, wide-eyed, newly graduated from university, and staring down the barrel of my future. The plan now is to 1) avoid law school, aka “the next logical step” after completing an English degree, by 2) moving away for a year to 3) read like a lunatic so I can 4) write my first novel.
I’ve been told that English speakers with English degrees can go to this mystical, English-loving land called Japan – a place where there are no distractions, there are no bills and the streets are lined with books – to live out the dream of writing whilst traveling, a dream normally reserved for trust-fund babies and circa-1924 alcoholics.
I’m heading to a place where I can pay back my student loans by working just an hour or two a day, leaving the remaining 22 hours free to read and write. Amazing, right? I know. I’m all:
The plane lands. I lug my trunk o’ books off a Narita conveyor belt, turn around, face the overwhelming fact that I am in an overwhelming place – and find myself immediately swept up in Japanophilia. Like, my librarian glasses have fallen off my face, and I’ve become Harajuku Barbie:
A year passes. In this time I read exactly 14 books and experience exactly 23 waking hours in which I’m not entertaining or being entertained by the wonderful people of this little town, called Kamikawa-cho, where I’ve built a new life. How many words do I write? Um…
It’s around this time that my beloved dad – my hero – gets sick.
So I bawl my eyes out, pack up my case of books, and head back to Canada, where I do the unthinkable – i.e., consider law school – while my dad’s brain tumor shrinks and then grows and then shrinks again, seemingly ready to vanish for good, before exploding back onto the scene a la John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, refusing to fade away, insisting on an epic comeback no one will ever forget:
The brain tumor leaves, taking my dad with it.
The day after my dad dies is my first day of law school.
I take that as a sign, even though I don’t believe in signs, and drop out of law school.
I spend two months writing a novel about a woman whose husband dies, leaving her his winery and his kids. She keeps the winery and gets rid of the kids.
Realizing that, just as I was not a trust-fund baby, I am also not about to be willed a life of luxury, I take a job at a marketing agency. It’s a copywriting job. Which is essentially a writing job. Which kinduv makes me a writer, right?
To make myself feel better about selling out, about going corporate, about working instead of, say, going to grad school, I list out the writers who started as copywriters:
• F. Scott Fitzgerald
• Salman Rushdie
• John Hughes
• Elmore Leonard
• Dorothy Sayers
• Don DeLillo
• Joseph Heller
I list out my university friends who have become published novelists:
• No one (yet!)
I list out the writers who weren’t novelists until their 30s, 40s, 50s:
• William S. Burroughs: 40
• Charles Bukowski: 51
• Laura Ingalls Wilder: 64
• George Eliot: 40
These lists buy me a little more time. These lists are my excuse. And, hell, these lists are, technically, writing.
I move into a better-paying job at a huge tech company. I’m still copywriting, so I’m still writing… right? Right? RIGHT!?!
My better-paying job allows me to take the first real vacations of my life. I go to Hawaii. I lay on Kaanapali Beach, hopeful I look like this:
But certain I look like this:
Not that I care. Because I’m totally and 100% engrossed – to my extreme surprise – in a little beach reading called… Twilight.
It is while reading here on the beach, nearly a decade after I flew to Japan, that I feel the itch to write again. Suddenly my fears that you have to be freakin’ Bukowski if you start writing post-30 or DeLillo if you spent years in advertising… suddenly those fears are gone. Suddenly writing is something that can be fun and light. An escape.
Five years pass. And here I am now, waiting for my second book in my YA trilogy to hit bookstores Jan 20. It’s not even sort of how I expected it to go. But those are the best stories, aren’t they? The non-formulaic ones.
By day, Joanna is a copywriter and the co-founder of CopyHackers.com and Page99Test.com, a critique site for published and unpublished writers. As an undergraduate student, Joanna won several academic awards for excellence in creative writing: Canada’s James Patrick Folinsbee Prize, which she won twice, as well as the Godfrey Prize.
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.