Author Spotlight: Ann Fraistat
March 11, 2022
We are excited to feature author Ann Fraistat and her debut young adult novel, WHAT WE HARVEST (Delacorte Press/ Penguin Random House) out on March 15, 2022.
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|Cover artist: Marcela Bolívar. Designers: Alison Impey and Neil Swaab
I’m an author, playwright, and narrative designer, who loves all things monsters and magic. Outside of writing, I’ve worked on stages in the Washington, D.C.-area as an actor and director. Other loves include reading, gaming, baking, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
What We Harvest is actually the first young adult novel I’ve written, and what I’ve discovered is: I love writing for teens. It’s such a critical time in life—a time to dream big and fight hard and find love and lose love. Above all, it’s a time to discover not only who you are now, but also who you want to become. And I have tremendous respect for today’s teens, who have already weathered such intense challenges. If anything I write can help to lighten the load, in one small way or another, that’s an honor.
Congrats on your YA debut, What We Harvest! Tell us about the book and what inspired you.
Thank you so much! What We Harvest is feminist YA folk horror about a mysterious blight devouring an idyllic American farming town—infecting not only crops, but also animals and people. And it’s about Wren, the sixteen-year-old girl fighting back to save her home. Nature has turned against her community, disease rampages through her neighbors and comes for her own family, and the American dream she once believed in has shattered. Even still, Wren strives to unearth her town’s deep-buried rot, and to rebuild a healthier future.
The deeper themes sprang organically from the world we’ve been living in. (Although, strangely enough, this book was drafted in 2019, before Covid-19.) But sometimes people mention that What We Harvest has a certain dream-like quality, and they’re dead-on—the seed of this book did come from a dream. A field of rainbow-hued wheat, which would become the inspiration for Rainbow Fields, one of the four founding farms of Hollow’s End. In a place touched by magic—that needed to be protected—blight was the natural enemy.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Something in between. I’ve dreamed of being an author since I was ten. When I was sixteen, I submitted the first book I ever wrote to one editor. Those were the days before email submission, so I had to print that whole brick of a manuscript and mail it off. Months later, I got a rejection letter—which was actually very kind! But still broke my heart. I kept writing, and the books piled up quietly on my hard-drive.
I didn’t start to seriously query a manuscript until 2017, and, of course, the rejections piled up. My big break came through Pitch Wars. I was a mentee in 2018, and then again in 2019—that time with the book that would become What We Harvest. Technically, my debut is the fourth book I’ve written!
What are some of your biggest influences (books, media, music) in your work?
Growing up, I read a lot of horror. I’d always included elements of that in my writing, but I hadn’t considered going all-in on the genre until I read Claire Legrand’s Sawkill Girls. I was so inspired by the hope in that book. Another big inspiration for What We Harvest was Midsommar, which set horror alongside vivid flowers and sunshine. That’s when I knew what I wanted to write—beautiful, hopeful horror.
More generally speaking, I worship Grady Hendrix. And I think When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore is one of the most gorgeous books ever written.
What projects are you working on now?
My upcoming book is another standalone YA horror/supernatural thriller. It’s a mental health recovery story told against the backdrop of a haunted house, full of seances and bugs and strange masks. Can’t wait to share more about that soon….
What advice would you give to writers who are writing thrillers?
With thrillers, it’s all about pacing and momentum! Make sure those scenes are building on each other. One craft tip I found really helpful was to structure the manuscript with scenes (Goal-Conflict-Disaster) and sequels (Reaction-Dilemma-Decision). This method was recommended to me by one of my lovely 2018 Pitch Wars mentors, Laura Lashley, and this article by Randy Ingermanson has a great breakdown: https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/.
What is something most people don't know about you?
For three and a half years, I co-ran a dog-walking business—which provided the inspiration behind What We Harvest’s beloved zombie-pup, Teddy!
Where can people find you online?
Ann Fraistat is an author, playwright, and narrative designer. Her co-author credits include plays such as Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending, and alternate reality games sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Born and raised in Maryland, Ann lives with her husband and ever-adorable cats, Ollie and Sophie. What We Harvest is her debut novel.
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