January 20, 2014

Blog Tour + Giveaway:The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

Welcome to my tour stop for The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanne Wiebe! Hosted by Kismet Blog Tours! Joanna Wiebe stopped by today to discuss Prologues, so make sure you check that out and we also have a wonderfully awesome giveaway! I will tell you, this book was totally awesome and I can't wait to share my review with you, but I am, haha. I will be posting the review to this amazingly awesome book on the 21st (tomorrow) so check back for that!

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.

Joanna Wiebe On Prologues Use Em or No
Some of my favorite books begin with a prologue. Siege and Storm and Antigoddess each begin with one. Eleanor and Park uses a short one, while What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal uses a chapter-length one.

When I was working on The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, I wrote a prologue. Why? Largely because the story is about what the students at Cania Christy Preparatory Academy go through, but their parents and the school’s recruiter Dr. Zin go through some pretty trying experiences, as well. My prologue focused on one parent in particular and his exchange with Dr. Zin.

In the end, we decided not to go with a prologue. But I’d like to share it with you now, if that’s cool with you. Cool? Happy reading!

This was it. A new beginning, and a noble end.

The steam from the Jozankei Onsen outdoor baths, a July heatwave, and the stress of waiting for the American to arrive were taking their toll on Watanabe Michio. The waiting was taking its toll. He braced the rocky ledge and lowered himself into the hotspring.

A single ripple spread around him. The hillside, alive and thriving in the moist heat, wrapped around the bath and dared to reach into it, to drape its branches not far from where Michio’s arms rested. A spotted woodpecker flitted away as Michio settled in. And the driver who had dropped him off, who was now returning to Sapporo, air conditioning on full-blast, was surely shaking his head as he drove: only a crazy man sits in a one-hundred degree spa on a day like today.

But Michio had not chosen the meeting place. The American had. And because the American, the head of admissions at the Cania Christy Preparatory Academy, had promised something so incredible it was impossible to refuse, Michio would meet wherever he wanted. Do whatever he wanted. Give whatever he wanted.

The door at the far end of the onsen opened. Michio stiffened.

His eyes darted to the ledge, where three items lay: the folded forms his lawyer, shocked at the request, had rushed to draft up the day before; a padded envelope; and a slim knife. A long shadow fell over the steaming pool. Michio reached for his towel and slowly – biding his remaining minutes – patted drips of sweat from his brow before turning to him.

The man looked American. He was tall, had a strong jaw, was dressed in a slim suit, wore black sunglasses. Tactfully, he’d removed his shoes.

“Watanabe Michio?” the American asked. He slid the screen to the bath closed.

Michio stood in the water and bowed so low, his nose skimmed the surface.


He scurried out of the bath, smacking his wet feet against the rock as he moved, and wrapped a towel around his waist, still bowing. This was a first for him, this deep and constant bow; he’d become accustomed to others bowing as low as they could when he entered the room.

“Forgive me,” Michio said in his best English. “I hoped you might join me in traditional Japanese onsen.”

The American ran his tongue along his lips, saying nothing. His eyes behind his sunglasses were a mystery.

Michio panicked. What if the American could not understand him? “You are enjoying Japan?”

The American spoke then in fluent Japanese. “I flew in this morning and drove straight here. I haven’t seen much.” His expression was blank. His pronunciation and demeanor would impress any Japanese executive. “You have the items, as per the terms of admission we discussed on the phone?”

Surprised, Michio rushed to collect the forms and the padded envelope. His hands shook when he held the items out, thinking of what he was handing over, of the billion-dollar pachinko parlor empire he had built from the ground up. Thinking of his wife, Shirai, whom he would never see again.

But when his thoughts went to Ishikawa, his only child, his hands stopped shaking.

“Ishikawa-san will be in good hands at Cania Christy,” the American said. He placed the forms and envelope in his briefcase.

“He is my only son.”

“And he is officially accepted. He will begin school as soon as I return to Wormwood Island.” The American turned away. He slid the screen open.

“You swear to me this is true?” Michio rushed to add. “What you said about becoming valedictorian?”

With one foot out, the American nodded.

Relieved, Michio bowed for the last time. He was breathing heavily. The moment the screen slid closed, tears swelled in his eyes. He watched the shadow of the American recede.

Sinking again into the bath, he inhaled slowly. Ishikawa was admitted, but everything else in the Watanabe family was done. It was up to Shirai now to visit Ishikawa on Parents’ Day; it was up to Shirai to explain to the Japanese business world that the pachinko mogul was no more.

Imagining his wife and son standing together at Ishikawa’s graduation ceremony – imagining Ishikawa as valedictorian – Michio picked up the knife he’d left on the bath ledge. He knew to do this quickly, before one hand became too weak to finish the other. He inhaled and sliced once across the left wrist, once across the right. The knife dropped into the water. Michio lowered himself into the heat, closing his eyes, and chanted softly as the saltwater welcomed burst after burst of crimson from his wrists.

About Joanna Wiebe
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.
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Christina R. said...

I really like it!! It's evocative of the place - lots of good description.

I get why they tell you to begin without one.

Awesome book :)

Thank you:)

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