Anna Waggener is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob. She has written a fantastic Young Adult novel called Grim that takes place in limbo (the place between heaven and hell). Anna agreed to answer my questions nosy questions about her book and her life. Read on to learn about Grim and her favorite authors and much more.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Born in Thailand, raised in Oklahoma, and with a great love of both Tuolumne Meadows and NYC, I often find myself describing my life—and myself—through place. I moved to Minnesota for college and, upon graduation, began working at Coffee House Press. My writing is yet another way for me to explore the world and the way people move through it.
2. What is the inspiration behind your story “Grim”?
The opening line of the prologue came to me one day out of the blue, and I jotted it down. About a year later, I had a dream (cliché, I know!) about a young man whose brothers had a serious bone to pick. The dream turned into Jeremiah, the speaker of the original line turned into Erika, and I began sketching out how their stories might be intertwined.
- Usually an author puts some of her own life experiences in the book. Did you do that? Do you have anything in common with your characters?
I probably identify most with Megan, the youngest sister who understands more about the world than those around her realize. My grandfather passed away very suddenly when I was about Megan’s age, and her reaction to her mother’s death—trying to protect the adults around her while also clumsily navigating her own grief—is definitely affected by my own experience.
- Why did you decide to become a writer?
I’m not sure that writing is something that one decides to do. It’s certainly not an easy thing to do, but it’s also a wonderful thing to be blessed with. I write because I love it. I love creating characters and I especially love watching them run away with a story. It brings a certain kind of joy to my life that I haven’t been able to find from anywhere else.
- How did you write a successful book while being a college student?
I actually wrote the first draft of Grim while in high school, so college mostly consisted of the editing process. I guess I would say that learning how to prioritize my time was the most important part of the process.
- Is Grim part of a trilogy? Are you writing another book? Can you tell us about it?
Grim is a stand-alone novel, and I’m happy to leave it that way. I’m working on a new book right now that I’m really excited about—it follows a young magician in Iran whose teacher spirits him out of the city and into the mountains with very little explanation. The research has been fascinating, and the characters have been some of my favorites to write.
- Do you like to read? What books or authors influence you?
A love of reading is what initially got me interested in telling my own stories. Growing up, L. Frank Baum and J.R.R. Tolkien were hugely influential. As I grew older, I quickly fell in love with Jane Austen and then with literary fiction authors like J.M. Coetzee. In the world of current YA, I greatly admire MN writer Swati Avasthi and recently fell in love with John Green—but who hasn’t?
- You won the Scholastic Art and Writing Novel Contest. Can you tell us about this contest, what you did to win and how it has changed your life?
I owe so much to Scholastic and to the A&W Awards. When I was a senior in high school, I submitted the first fifty pages of Grim and a plot synopsis, and was lucky enough to win the A&W Awards novel division. I lived in NY while working with a Scholastic editor and, eventually, was offered a book deal for Grim. The experience taught me so much and helped put me in a position to keep writing more, and to keep improving.
- What are some of the issues in Grim that you hope your teenage readers will interpret as integral to the story?
At its heart, Grim is a story that looks at the ways communication fails and the ways that love can be twisted. It’s not always a pretty story, but I’d like to think that it’s a nod to the ways that children and teens can be impacted, both positively and negatively, by the adults around them. It’s an important tension that, I’m sure, will continue to be explored as the genre of YA expands and the role and perspective of teens today continues to gain attention.
- Tell us in one sentence why we should read Grim?
It’s a dark and complicated novel about relationships and the things that damage them, but in the end it all ties back to love—sometimes selfish, often clumsy, but always well-intentioned.
If you would like to win a copy of Anna's book Grim please click here: Grim Giveaway