Anna is the author of many books for children and young adults, including:
THE UNFAIRY TALE LIFE SERIES
THE DIRT DIARY SERIES
..and two upcoming picture books from Henry Holt: POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT (2015) and DOGOSAURUS REX (2016).
Needless to say, Anna is one busy writer! However, I’m happy to say she had the time to answer a few of my questions about herself, her writing, and THE PRANK LIST.
To start, here’s a little history (some dirt?) from Anna’s website on book one in The Dirt Diary Series, THE DIRT DIARY (Sourcebooks, 2014):
Eighth grade never smelled so bad.
Rachel Lee didn’t think anything could be worse than her parents splitting up. She was wrong. Working for her mom’s new house-cleaning business puts Rachel in the dirty bathrooms of the most popular kids in the eighth grade. Which does not help her already loser-ish reputation. But her new job has surprising perks: enough dirt on the in-crowd to fill up her (until recently) boring diary. She never intended to reveal her secrets, but when the hottest guy in school pays her to spy on his girlfriend Rachel decides to get her hands dirty.
And now, the wait is nearly over to find out what trouble Rachel gets into next, in THE PRANK LIST. Again, from Anna’s website:
Rachel never thought she’d fight for the right to clean toilets, but she has to save her mom’s business. Nothing can distract her from her mission – except maybe Whit, the cute new guy in cooking class. Then she discovers something about Whit that could change everything. After destroying her Dirt Diary, Rachel thought she was done with secrets, but to save her family’s business, Rachel’s going to have to get her hands dirty. Again.
Nancy: Congratulations on your latest series, The Dirt Diaries! How do you approach writing a series? That is, how much is done on the sequels before book one is even sent out?
Anna: The timing of a series can make your head spin! With the Dirt Diary series, the second book was done before the first one was published and the third book is in copyedits right now, a couple of weeks before the second book comes out. It can be a little confusing to jump between writing one book, promoting another, and planning out yet another, but it’s also really exciting.
Nancy: Your main character, Rachel, seems like the kind of girl that would be easy to relate to. I think we’ve all had times when our good intentions were misconstrued, or flat-out backfired. How much of Rachel comes from your own experiences?
Anna: The antics that Rachel gets up to are purely fictional. (I’ve always been far too much of a rule follower to pull pranks on people!) But Rachel’s emotions and quirks are based on real life. I was very shy when I was young, and I always felt like I was doing and saying the wrong thing. I took those feelings from middle school and exaggerated them for Rachel’s story.
Nancy: Again, like many people, Rachel seems to have trouble resisting requests from cute boys. A couch potato at heart, I once went on a weeklong hike (and lost many toenails) because of a crush. Do you have your own “what was I thinking?” story that stems from wanting to please someone?
Anna: Haha, I cringe even thinking about this, but I once pretended to be into a whole type of music because I thought it would impress a boy. I bought CDs of bands I didn’t like and forced myself to listen to them. Luckily, my ears couldn’t take it after a few days and I gave up. 🙂
Nancy: Rachel works as a house cleaner to help out her mom’s new business. I’ve done that job, and it was hard, and kind of awful. What was your first job? What has been your hardest/worst job?
Anna: One of my first jobs was at a bagel place where I worked the registers, toasted bagels, and helped make sandwiches. During lunchtime, there was literally a line out the door every single day. I liked the people I worked with, but I would come home exhausted, reeking of coffee, and totally sick of bagels. I also worked for a temp agency during college, and at many of my temp jobs (doing data entry, answering phones, etc) people would talk about me right in front of me as if I wasn’t there. It was mortifying and belittling. I have a feeling both of those jobs have worked their way into my books. 🙂
Nancy: When you were in eighth grade, what were your favorite kinds of books?
Anna: In eighth grade I went through a huge Stephen King phase. I tore my way through The Dark Half, The Shining, etc. The darker the better! I still enjoy a good dark read these days, but I think my taste in books has lightened up a bit since then.
Nancy: If you could time travel, and you had two minutes with your eighth grade self, what would you tell her? (I know for me, I would take at least a few seconds of that time to say for heaven’s sake, enough with the perms!)
Anna: Haha, yes, I think I would have some words for bad hair and fashion, too! But I think ultimately I’d tell my eighth-grade self that it’s okay to be weird. When I was young, people would tell me I was a weirdo (because of my sense of humor, my non-permed hair, etc) and I would let it cut me down. Now I realize that weirdness is an asset. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to write the books I do!
To find out more about Anna Staniszewski (including how to say her last name!), her books, and her writing process, visit her gorgeous and fun website, www.annastan.com.
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, releases on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.