Welcome Anna Staniszewski to the Mixed-Up Files! Her middle-grade novel, MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE, just released into the wild on November 1st. Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch.
Here’s a sneak peek of MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE (from IndieBound)
“You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They’re lies. All lies.” Twelve-year-old Jenny has spent the last two years as an adventurer helping magical kingdoms around the universe. But it’s a thankless job, leaving her no time for school or friends. She’d almost rather take a math test than rescue yet another magical creature! When Jenny is sent on yet another mission, she has a tough choice to make: quit and have her normal life back, or fulfill her promise and go into a battle she doesn’t think she can win.
Anna, stop me if you’ve heard this one. A carrot-topped gnome, a mouthless Queen sheep, and a 12-year-old girl run into an evil sorcerer clown…wait, what?! Where did you come up with this idea? It’s like Fairy Tales Gone Wild (the G version).
Fairy Tales Gone Wild–I love that! And I guess that’s actually a very fitting alternate title for my book. When I first started working on this project, all I had was a feisty main character named Jenny, but I wasn’t quite sure what her story was. Then I started thinking about all the magical quests I read when I was young about heroes who were whisked away to other worlds to save the day. I wondered what life would be like if those heroes spent years saving the day on a regular basis–wouldn’t they get sick of it? Once I had that idea, I put Jenny into the mix and threw all sorts of wacky ideas at her to see how she would react. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun to write.
I loved Aunt Evie! She takes care of animals so much she’s forgotten what humans are all about. Will she ever go on an adventure with Jenny?
Aunt Evie is definitely one of my favorite characters; not only is she in love with animals but she’s also obsessed with tea, something I can definitely relate to. I like the idea of Aunt Evie going on an adventure with Jenny one day, though I’m not sure how she would handle it. I’m afraid if she ever went to a world with magical creatures, she’d start trying to pet all the most dangerous ones.
With your background in theater (Anna studied theater at Sarah Lawrence college), do you ever act out scenes in your novel? If so, which character do you like to play best?
I often read scenes out loud while I’m working on them (which usually makes my dog glare at me and leave the room) but when I was revising the manuscript under deadline for my editor, I went into full theater mode and read the entire book aloud to myself using different voices for all the characters. My favorite to act out was Dr. Bradley since I love doing terrible British accents.
Cheerio! According to your bio, you spend your time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. So, I’ve got to know. What do you enjoy reading?
While I’ll read pretty much any book that sounds interesting, I adore what I call “light fantasy” where the story is set mostly in our world but there are magical elements to it, books like YOU WISH by Mandy Hubbard and GIMME A CALL by Sarah Mlynowski. I also love more traditional fantasy where I’m swept away into another world, like in PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale. And finally, I’ve been a sucker for dystopian since I was a kid; one of my favorites growing up was Z for ZACHARIAH (which gave me nightmares when I re-read it recently!) and THE GIVER by Lois Lowry continues to be one of my all-time favorite books.
I was imagining they were hopping on one leg, since that’s the most unnatural position I can think of for a unicorn! I don’t think there are any solid rules for unicorn hopscotch, though I’ve heard rumors that the National Unicorn Sports Association is trying to implement some.
Jenny uses cheesy sayings quite effectively in the magic kingdoms she visits. What’s your favorite? And does it work in real life?
I can’t think of specific cheesy sayings that I use, though I know I’m always saying things that make people laugh and groan at the same time. I wonder if that means pretty much everything I say is cheesy?
Just keep on, keeping on, Anna. It’s all good. No worries. <cough> Tell us about your writing process. Outliner? Pantser? Outpantser?
I’m a panster at heart. I like to forge ahead with an idea without much of a plan, though I do try to keep an endpoint and the character’s emotional arc in mind as I draft. Once I have the draft to a point where I’m happy with it, I go through and make an outline to help me see the shape of the story, if there are any holes in the plot, etc. Then I use the outline to help me rearrange and revise the manuscript.
What’s next for you? Will Jenny go on more adventures? Perhaps a series of adventures?
Hm, I feel like your question might be fishing for a specific kind of answer…Let’s just say that I’d be thrilled to be able to send Jenny on more adventures, and I hope to have the chance to do that in the future.
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