This August, Anna Breslaw, the author of Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, sat down with us to answer questions about her novel, inspirations, and her future projects. We were thrilled for the opportunity!
HALEY STANKS: First off, what do you enjoy most about writing both novels and articles?
ANNA BRESLAW: When I write novels, the thing I like the most is the time you get to develop your characters. Characters are my favorite part of writing, by a long shot, and when you have 250 pages, you can really let them breathe and come alive, and even change right in front of you over the course of the book.
Articles are almost like a super-super condensed version of that. You only have a short time—500 to 1,000 words, usually, if it’s a print magazine—to complete an arc: “I started here and ended there,” with reporting in between. And some jokes. It’s much more compact and manageable, and therefore doesn’t make me quite as crazy, which is nice.
HALEY: What was your favorite part about writing Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here?
ANNA: I really liked Dawn, and their dynamic, so that was something I enjoyed working on. And the fanfiction parts were fun to write (also hopefully fun to read). And the showdown with Ashley in the bathroom, too.
HALEY: What was your biggest challenge while writing it?
ANNA: Getting into the mindset of a teenager is more difficult, the older I get—so that was something I definitely struggled with. Also, I’m terrible at plot (which is why there’s so little in my book!)
HALEY: Scarlett’s character is so unique compared to other characters in young adult literature. Why do you think it’s important to have unique female characters, and what inspired you to write Scarlett?
ANNA: I’m so glad you think so! Unique female characters are pretty much an essential ingredient of a good book for me, no matter if it’s YA or adult. Scarlett is a bit like I was in high school, at least in my head: Smart and creative and funny, basically a good person, but also kind of elitist and judgmental without fully realizing it. Especially when it comes to pretty, popular girls like Ashley. Scarlett ends up being kind of mean and condescending to Ashley as a result of her own insecurity.
Basically I wanted it to be an inversion of the trope where bitchy popular girls pick on nerdy girls—the nerdy girl realizes she’s actually the bully, and the popular girl ends up having more depth and self-awareness and vulnerability than we thought. I think this happens in real life more than we see it in books or movies, and it seemed like an interesting thing to explore.
HALEY: How did you decide that Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here would be the first novel you wanted to publish?
ANNA: Haha, I didn’t really decide! I had written two books before this, and neither of them sold. So this was my third try, and luckily it went well. The general consensus is, if you love writing books enough, you pretty much just keep trying until one of them works out.
HALEY: How were you able to balance the comedy in your novel with the more serious parts?
ANNA: That came kind of naturally to me. If anything, I kind of wish I’d cut down on the amount of jokes/funny parts in the book. I tend to fall back on that.
HALEY: Are there any other authors, or people in general, who inspire you?
ANNA: A lot! Stephen King, George Saunders, DC Pierson, Brenna Yovanoff (her new book is awesome), Elena Ferrante, Rainbow Rowell, Gillian Flynn... a really diverse list. The only thing they all have in common, really, is a good work ethic and (obviously) really good books.
HALEY: Do you have any writing projects that you’re working on currently?
ANNA: About to start on another YA. More of a love story this time around. But I don’t want to jinx it.
HALEY: Finally, do you have any advice to our readers about pursuing their dream careers?
ANNA: Just keep at it! Write every day and you’ll get better every day.
HALEY: Thank you so much for the interview, Anna! Everyone, be sure to check out her debut novel, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, and read our review of it here!