It's Sunday, and you know what that means? It's time for another amazing author here at #BeyondTheBio. Anna Breslaw has been in the business of writing for a long time, mostly as a Sex & Relationships for Cosmo. She published her first novel last year, and it is hilarious! If you haven't read Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here yet, get on it (especially if you like fan fiction, feminism, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Check out the interview below for some more deets about Scarlett and about Anna.
James: Hey Anna! Thanks so much for joining me here today! Your debut novel, Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here, features one of the snarkiest, funniest main characters from last year. Scarlett's straight up hilarious! Where did you come up with the idea for her character?
Anna: I’m sure this is totally unsurprising, but Scarlett is somewhat based on me in high school—I’m from a similar background, similar town, went to a similar central NJ high school. Also loved to write (secretly) and was vaguely anti-social. Although she’s more sure of herself and outspoken than I was. A lot of the things she says out loud I would just think in my head.
But mostly I wanted to flip the typical teen-girl archetype in books and movies from when I was growing up. Scarlett may seem like the typical nerdy-glasses underdog girl at the beginning, but over the course of the book, we (and she) begin to realize that she has a significant mean streak.
Same with Ashley, but reverse. Which is why the scene with the two of them in the bathroom was my favorite one to write.
James: One of the things that I love most about your book is the feminist aspect, especially in the scene where Scarlett goes off at the book party. Where any of these feminist moments based on experiences you've had in your own life?
Anna: Haha, yep. I mean, I’ve never made a scene like that at a bookstore (to my knowledge), but I have tipsily ranted about literary sexism all over New York at this point. With red wine stains on my teeth. It’s real cute.
If I have indeed made a scene at a bookstore in your area, feel free to leave a detailed recounting of the incident in the comments section.
I also think that the feminist arc that Scarlett has in the book is one that a lot of smart women my age had in high school. You start out hating and slut-shaming the “hot dumb girl” who you see as competition, but as you get more mature, you transfer your hate over to where it belongs: the patriarchy.
Teen girls now, though, are much more savvy about the patriarchy. So maybe they skip over that first part.
James: Considering fan-fiction's such an important part of the novel, I have to ask: Have you ever tried your hand at fan-fiction?
Anna: Yeah! Harry Potter, Buffy and some anime, early in high school. It was actually a really great experience because the positive feedback from people online encouraged me to write my own stuff, which was essential because my school didn’t have any creative writing classes.
James: Before writing Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here, you actually were a staff writer for Cosmo. How did that experience translate to the process of novel-writing?
Anna: The two bear little resemblance to each other, aside from deadlines and anxiety over said deadlines. The book was obviously much more free-form and I felt like I was working on it in a vacuum a lot of the time, with full control over plot developments and scene length, etc. Articles are more like 800 carefully-chosen words, which are immediately gone over by a handful of people.
I also had trouble with any parts that required gravitas, because I’m the kind of writer/person who’d much rather make a bunch of jokes than actually sit with a feeling.
James: What advice would you give to teens who hope to one day be an author themselves?
Anna: It’s never too early to try to write a novel. It’ll probably suck, but that’s normal, and you’ll get so much better each time. It’s not that different from exercising—it’s a muscle you have to build.
Read all the time. Even if it annoys people or makes them think you’re weird. One time when I was 13 I got yelled at by an unpleasant relative for reading under the table at Thanksgiving, and I can tell you things turned out a whole lot better than me than for him.
James: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here is currently your only novel, which means that those who laughed our way through it will have to look elsewhere for a follow-up. What other YA books would you recommend for a good laugh?
Anna: If you like dick jokes: anything by Jesse Andrews. If you like bittersweet genre-mashups that are hilarious in a somewhat stealthier way: anything by D.C. Pierson. If you like books kind of like mine and also English books: How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (might not be YA proper, but it’s a coming of age book about a teen girl). If you like satire, ‘80s movies and One Direction: Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky.
James: One last question: The whole time I was reading, I couldn't help but wish that Lycanthrope High was an actual, real-life television show. Scarlett's obsession must be contagious! Any chance you're going to write a Lycanthrope High novel sometime soon? (Please, please, please!) Or do you have something else planned for the future?
Anna: No Lycanthrope books planned, though I wouldn’t turn down a two-book straight-to-movie franchise deal. I’m glad you liked it. It’s pretty obvious (I think?) that it’s an homage to Buffy, which meant as much to me as a teen as Lycanthrope does to Scarlett. Although Joss Whedon is pretty inimitable.
I am currently working on another YA contemporary, but a love story this time—it’s similar in ways, like voice, but with somewhat darker subject matter. Hopefully it sees the light of day!
That's it for today's interview with Anna. If you have any questions for Anna or want to let her know how much you love Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here, be sure to check out her website, her Tumblr, or her Twitter. And, whatever you do, be sure to come back again next week, when we'll be talking to historical fiction mastermind Meg Wiviott, whose book Paper Hearts will leave you in tears!