Today we are SO excited to be a tour stop for the official blog tour of Joanna Wiebe’s The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant. I read the ARC the other night and I’m still blown away! Stop by later this week to see what I thought. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is a young adult contemporary romance book that will be released January 28, 2014 by Harlequin Teen. For more about the tour, visit Kismet Book Touring.
About the Book
The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Pub Date: 1.14.14
Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Synopsis: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.
The Trauma of Leaving Chapters of Your Book on the Cutting Room Floor
Editing your book is supposed to be the easy part. Well, if an “easy part” existed for writers dealing with outlining, drafting a manuscript, writing synopses, querying agents and facing publisher rejection, it would be the editing phase…
When you edit a paper in university, you essentially read through it and clean things up, thrilled all the while that you’re just about done. Fix some clunky phrasing. Correct formatting errors. Add in an extra data point or reference. Easy stuff.
Not so in the publishing world. As I discovered when writing my first novel, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, editing can be traumatizing. You edit your manuscript before you query agents; you edit it with your agent; and, when you get that blessed book contract, you then edit it with your publisher. Along the way, you cut tens of thousands of words – or at least I did – in an effort to tighten the story, fine-tune the characters and keep the pace ticking along.
You cut the scenes that don’t entirely add to the plot or to character development. You slash the parts where you indulged your writerly self. You send beloved but minor characters to the guillotine and transport entire scenes, brick by brick, from one setting to another.
In the end, you create a stronger book. But, given that you abandon so many of the scenes and people that were alive in your mind as you wrote the novel, you can feel rather weakened by it. Like you’ve cut out pieces of yourself. Pieces of your heart. While it’s still beating. Trust me: that only sounds dramatic if you haven’t been through it. (If you’re an aspiring novelist, prepare yourself. J )
For my novel, we cut the preface and a handful of chapters before we stamped the manuscript Final – and one of the chapters we cut was a particular favorite of mine and my agent’s. It was a necessary edit, but that doesn’t mean losing the scene wasn’t emotionally taxing.
And so, as that very novel debuts Jan 14, I thought it might be appropriate to share with you one of the scenes – and one of the characters, named Dr. Daisy – we cut. But first, why did we cut it? I mean, was it just crap?—am I about to ask you to read cutting-room crap? Um, I don’t think so! (But you be the judge, as always.) We cut this scene because, although it helped showcase Anne’s tenacity and sharp mind, it introduced new questions that I wasn’t planning on resolving in this book. It took place midway into the rising action, where pacing is everything and the twists are starting to happen, so we had to cut it in the interest of keeping things tight.
As a bit of set up, the main character Anne Merchant is living on Wormwood Island, where really weird shizzle has started happening. She had a crooked tooth when she arrived on the island, but she just noticed that it’s now straight. Weird, right? So she asks her friend Pilot to take her to a doctor, which he reluctantly does.
Without further ado, a cut scene from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, for your reading pleasure…
A red Vespa is parked outside the home of Dr. Daisy Wharton, the only general practitioner this island has known since the 1960s. (Which means the old kook is probably in her seventies already. Great.) Racing to the screen door at the back of her house, Pilot and I notice, in the distance, the Coast Guard patrolling the area. The voices of uniformed men roll like unseen waves over the black waters.
“They keep looking,” Pilot mutters, shrugging at the boats.
“What are they looking for?” I ask. I hope nothing bad has happened to the villagers who fled the other night.
“Some guy went missing last week. Bigshot businessman from Scotland who was visiting here.”
He can’t mean Manish Thacker, Lord Featherly’s friend. But he must. Visitors are few and far between on Wormwood Island.
“Don’t get mad at me if she’s not practicing anymore.” He looks at me as he tries Dr. Daisy’s door. “There aren’t exactly a ton of patients for her here.”
The door falls in, and we hear the sound of a bell jingling overhead. I trudge behind Pilot, who reassures me that Dr. Daisy is a good doctor. I can trust her.
“Have you ever been to see her?” I ask. He shrugs. Great. I need big-time brains to help me. No bumpkin doc with a Cracker Jack MD is going to do right now. I’m coping with some serious shit. Magically moving teeth. Chills every morning. Passing out in class. And hallucinations – serious hallucinations. I need someone who’s seen stuff, who’s lived through craziness and come out a genius on the other side.
Dr. Daisy doesn’t even have a receptionist.
Making our way into a bright white office, Pilot and I glance around uncertainly, barely masking our concern that all around is an abandoned city, a ghost town. With a sigh, I sit on the paper-covered examination table.
“Well, the lights are on,” I say. “And it’s not dusty in here, so someone must be in.”
The office is standard: clear jars of cotton balls and tongue depressors; an eye chart; laminated posters showing the human body, a clean lung vs. a smoker’s lung, the top six physical indicators that a teen is anorexic; and two plastic molds – cutaway views of a man’s pelvis and a woman’s pelvis – that attract Pilot immediately.
He turns a mold over. “Do you know what the prostate is for?”
An old woman walks in. “They really ought to be teaching sex ed up at your school.”
“Dr. Daisy?” Pilot fumbles to return the plastic pelvis to the countertop.
“You two are from Cania. You shouldn’t be here.”
I stare at my hands, mentally preparing for the conversation, for the freaky stuff I’m about to reveal. The paper crinkles under me as I shift around.
“It’s not me,” Pilot explains, jumping in when I say nothing. “My friend has an issue.”
“Let’s let your friend explain,” Dr. Daisy says. She reminds me of my former pediatrician, a gentle little fellow; nothing like the horrible doctors my mom had to endure. “You’re Anne Merchant, is that right?”
I nod. “How did you know?”
Flicking her eyes at Pilot, she ignores my question, which actually answers my question: she knows I was friends with Molly but won’t admit it in front of another Cania student. She probably resents me for what happened to Molly. But, tugging on a pair of gloves that smell like powder, she lets her eyes glaze over the way they train doctors to do and reaches for my face. Even though she hates me, she’ll help me.
“Okay, Anne,” she says, pulling my eyelids open and shining in a light, staring through an otoscope into my ears, pressing a tongue depressor against my tongue, “say ahhh.”
“Good.” She feels the undersides of my jaw. “Everything I’d expect of a living, breathing teenage girl. So tell me, what seems to be the problem?”
Where to begin? I decide to start small.
“I’ve been getting really cold for no reason. And lightheaded, like I’m gonna pass out. Every morning. At the same time. And I had an episode last week,” I say. “I fainted in class.”
“Fell off her chair,” Pilot adds.
Dr. Daisy and I glare at Pilot.
“Would you like this young man to leave?”
That’s all the invitation Pilot needs. He’s out the door in a flash, tipping an invisible hat to us both. Once he’s gone, Dr. Daisy picks up where she left off.
“When you fainted, what happened?”
It’s hard to remember. “I was sketching one minute, and then everything started to go wonky, like my eyes were sliding around in my head or something. I got cold. Super cold. And I woke up on the floor.”
“Ut-tut-tut. That’s what happened before and after,” Dr. Daisy says. “What happened during?”
“During it?” I remember hearing my head hit the ground… and then. “There were noises, like ice cubes swirling in a bucket.”
Dr. Daisy turns and walks to her desk. “Did you see anybody?”
“When you were passed out.”
“Did I see anybody? How could I see anybody?”
“You heard things. You felt things. Concentrate.”
A flash of my dad petting my forehead passes through my mind. But I don’t know how that could be important.
“No. I didn’t see anybody.”
Dr. Daisy nods gravely and pulls her gloves off. “That’s too bad. I was hoping for a breakthrough. Okay, well, you fainted. It happens to teenage girls sometimes. Just make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet.” She throws a yellowed smile at me. “Is that everything?”
“No,” I say, wondering how Dr. Daisy is going to take this next minor health issue. Surely they don’t cover this in pre-med. “Something really weird happened today, just before I came here.”
I decide just to dive in and wait to see her stunned look after.
“I used to have this crooked tooth.” I point to my mouth. “My whole life. Or, I guess, since I got my adult teeth, but whatever. Anyway, now.” I’m not sure how to put it or what to expect when I say it. My foot is shaking nervously. The whole idea seems so insane. I rub my tongue over my teeth to make sure everything is still straight, that Pilot and I weren’t somehow engaged in a simultaneous, identical hallucination. “Now it’s not crooked.”
Dr. Daisy presses her hands against her lips. For a minute, she says nothing, but she eyes me like I’m the enemy. Like I’m wasting her time.
“I’m not making this up,” I say before she even has a chance to accuse me. “Look.” I force a fake, large smile, revealing my perfectly straight teeth, pointing to the incisor that’s now aligned. “Doctor?”
Dr. Daisy nods to herself as she takes in my story. “Are you entirely sure your tooth was crooked? It looks as if it’s always been that way. No indication that you’ve had any sort of orthodontic surgery.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Did you have braces?”
“Like, today? Did I have braces this morning and get them off this afternoon?”
“I’m trying to help. Your story is quite extraordinary.”
“Do you think I’d make this up?”
“It’s not that. But you said you suffered a head trauma when you fainted in class, didn’t you?”
“This isn’t – it has nothing to do with hitting my head.”
“So you say.” She taps her fingers together. “And then there is the matter of your… medical history.”
“Your mother’s medical history. I believe your mother suffered from a mental condition. A hereditary mental condition,” Dr. Daisy says. “Bipolar disorder.”
My jaw clenches. How does Dr. Daisy even know about that? I guess everyone on the island could have found out the way people just do, the way kids at my previous schools learned I lived in a funeral home. Everyone on the island probably knows everything about everything – including my past.
“I’m not mentally ill. And I’m not making this up.”
“Very well. There’s a condition that affects teenage girls primarily,” Dr. Daisy says. “It makes them believe they look different than they do.”
“I don’t have body dysmorphia.”
“How do you know about body dysmorphia?”
Every girl who’s ever read an issue of Glamour knows. “I just do. It’s where you think you’re fatter than you are and stuff.”
“Have you been diagnosed with this condition before?”
“No!” I know she doesn’t believe me, but I push on. “Tell me you’re not saying I imagined my tooth being crooked. And then I imagined it getting fixed?” Dr. Daisy blinks. “But it’s not just me. Pilot noticed it, too.”
“Oh, my,” Dr. Daisy whispers, her hand fluttering back to her mouth. “This is much worse than I’d anticipated. An even more alarming condition.”
“You are projecting your delusions onto the people around you. Creating scenes that didn’t actually take place.”
“No – “
Dr. Daisy rushes on. “Very serious. But the first step is awareness. That is good.”
“Correct. You have a condition, Miss Merchant, that is not life-threatening. You will simply need to learn to live with it. That includes not over-thinking your appearance or, for that matter, anything else going on around you. No more questions. No more snooping around and causing trouble.” She pauses. “We do not wish to exacerbate this mental illness, do we?”
Confused, I find myself shaking my head, no – even though I’ve suspected I’m in a mental institution, I didn’t really believe it. I don’t want to believe it. For the first time in my life, I can empathize with what my mom must have gone through, with how traumatic it must have been for her to get her diagnosis; every moment thereafter was colored by it, everything she said lacked credibility. Once people think you’re crazy, it’s hard to prove you’re not.
“So what’s my condition called?” I ask timidly. I know I’m more likely to have a mental illness than others, due to my mom’s illness. Thinking that I might actually have slipped down that slope? It makes my throat swell.
Dr. Daisy’s lip twitches. “It’s called…” She flicks her eyes around the room and lands on the driveway outside the window, staring ahead, recalling the name. “Vakashinlant.”
“Vaka – ?”
“Vakashinlant Disorder. That is my diagnosis.”
Stunned, I walk out of her office and meet Pilot outside; he’s fidgeting like he isn’t sure what to say or do, and I wonder how much he overheard. We stand there next to Dr. Daisy’s Vespa, me staring ahead as I repeat the diagnosis, and Pilot trying to keep me from falling apart.
“I mean, what is Vakashinlant Disorder?” I ask. “I’ve never even heard of it. And if it’s some sort of mental thing.” My voice trails.
“Maybe you need a drink,” Pilot says to console me. “A lot of these houses are empty now. I’m sure someone left a bottle of rye behind. We can look. Find something to take the edge off?”
Shaking my head, I start backing down the drive, away from Pilot and everything that’s so puzzling. As I do, I glance at the Vespa. Specifically, I glance at its license plate: Maine written on top. Vacationland on the bottom.
“Little orphan Annie?”
“What’s that say on Dr. Daisy’s license plate?”
“Three zero eight – “
“No, the word on the bottom.”
I stop moving and stare at Pilot. Dr. Daisy had been looking out the window at the driveway during her diagnosis.
“Sounds oddly like ‘Vakashinlant’, don’t you think? My so-called mental disorder?”
Joanna Wiebe is the author of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, now available in bookstores and online. Amy Plum called the novel “deliciously dark”, and VOYA said it’s great for fans of Anna Dressed in Blood.
About the Author
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.
Connect with Joanna
Now comes the fun part! We have a big giveaway for the tour, with 15 finished copies of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant up for grabs. Please enter via the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway is open to US/Canada. A big thanks to BenBella Books, Joanna Wiebe, and Kismet Tours for this chance. Be sure to follow the directions on each entry, as they will be verified and best of luck!
Click below to enter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
No purchase necessary and void where prohibited. Please read the Rafflecopter Terms & Conditions for more information!
Mon., Jan. 6th – Refracted Light Reviews
Tues., Jan. 7th – Dee’s Reads
Wed., Jan. 8th – YA Bookworm Blogger
Thurs., Jan. 9th – Book Swoon
Fri., Jan. 10th – Parajunkee
Mon., Jan. 13th – Curling Up with a Good Book
Tues., Jan. 14th – Bewitched Bookworms
Wed., Jan. 15th – Such A Novel Idea
Thurs., Jan. 16th – The Story Siren
Fri., Jan. 17th – Book Whales
Mon., Jan. 20th – Jump Into Books
Tues., Jan. 21st – Supernatural Snark
Wed., Jan. 22nd – Doonie Darko Girl
Thurs., Jan. 23rd – Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy
Fri., Jan. 24th – Literary Me
This book tour was organized by Kismet Book Touring