The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, February 7, 2014.

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 given a guardian and a unique mission. Anne’s assignment is to “look closer.” 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.

Exclusive interview with the author:

1) When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs along the way?

I actually remember the day I thought, “This would be cool to do forever”. I was 8 or 9 years old, and I wrote this short description of someone holding something; my nana and sister Sarah both read it, and they kept saying how good it was. I’d lived in a Shy Kid Shell up until that point, and suddenly I had this means of expression that I hadn’t had before — and people were encouraging it. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. Following which everyone told me to enjoy being hungry. Which was fine by me.

While I was plugging away at this book (and others that are as yet unfinished), I worked as a copywriter. I highly recommend copywriting to anyone who wants to write — and I’ll add that Salman Rushdie and Elmore Leonard were both copywriters before they became published novelists. (John Hughes was also a copywriter, and “Dr. Seuss” was an ad agency illustrator.) There are not a lot of jobs where you get to earn a living writing, brainstorming, and being creative every day; copywriters get to practice writing every day, which can only help when it comes time to sit down at night and on the weekend to write your book.

2) Considering a book from the first word you write to the moment you see it on a bookstore shelf, what’s your favorite part of the process? What’s your least favorite?

This isn’t sexy or mind-blowing, but my favorite part is simply writing it. I love being alone at my desk and weaving a story; when I wake up and know I’m about to sit with a cup of coffee and write for the next eight hours, I can’t wait to get out of bed. Of course, receiving the ARC of my book — holding it in my hands — felt like nothing else. Writers say that all the time. But it’s really true. Nothing shuts you up and brings tears to your eyes like holding that book.

My least favorite part? Ugh, reading Goodreads reviews — LOL! Lord love readers, but my-oh-my the anxiety! With the guidance of some writer friends, I have totally sworn off reading reviews. I respect them; I want people to leave them; but I will never again make the mistake of reading them. You need about 10 glowing reviews to stop fixating on 1 negative one.

3) When you got that first phone call announcing you had sold a novel, how did you react? How did you celebrate?

My partner Lance was sitting across from me when my agent Jason called. I remember Lance just staring at me, trying not to show any expression, and I was doing the same — we were pretending not to be emotionally invested. Even after I hung up the phone and explained everything, we tried to stay rational. But then the smiles just sprung up. I think I danced. I think he danced. We celebrated that night with a bottle of bubbly, but I don’t know that the celebration has really stopped.

4) Be honest, how many drafts did you have to write for this book?

About a million. My agent had some notes, others who read it had notes, and then my editor at BenBella had notes. The story is so different from where it began when I signed with my agent, I think I could probably change the MC name and publish it and no one would know it had anything to do with The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant.

5) The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is a great title! Who came up with it? Was it the original title or did it change along the way?

Thanks! I can’t take the credit for it. We had a few titles along the way, from Monster to Before I Wake. This title came together thanks to my partner Lance and my editor Glenn. I was knocking around a bunch of ideas with Lance, and he tossed out The Education of Anne Merchant. I thought that was cool. I told Glenn about it, and he said he liked it but it was missing something – what about a word like “unfortunate” or “unseemly”? I loved “unseemly” because it not only fits Anne’s education perfectly but it’s also a little-used word, which felt sticky to me. (That’s my inner copywriter coming out!) So, thanks to Lance and Glenn, the title was born.

About the author:

Joanna Wiebe graduated from the University of Alberta, where she studied creative writing and earned a degree in English literature. She lives on Vancouver Island, the natural inspiration for Wormwood Island. The Unseemly Edcuation of Anne Merchant is her first novel. Visit Joanna online at

Giveaway info:

Title: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Author: Joanna Wiebe
Publisher: BenBella Books
Author website:

5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, Feb 7, 2014.

Can’t wait? Order a copy now!

Click here to view this promotion.

PLEASE NOTE: If you already follow us (or the author) on Twitter, or Like us on Facebook, there is no need to unfollow/refollow or unlike/relike to get your entries. Just follow the directions in the widget to verify you already follow/like us and it will count your entry.


3 Responses to The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

  1. Cheryl Hart February 3, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    This sounds really good!

  2. Greta Bomberry February 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    This looks like a good read

  3. Nancy Reynolds February 7, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    I am intrigued by the story, so would love to read the book. Thanks for the chance to win.