Today we're excited to chat with Jenny Lee author of
Read on for more about Jenny and her book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway.
Meet Jenny Lee!
Jenny Lee is a television writer and producer who has worked on BET’s Boomerang, IFC’s Brockmire, Freeform’s Young & Hungry, and the Disney Channel’s number-one-rated kids' show, Shake It Up. Jenny is the author of four humor essay collections and two middle grade novels. Anna K: A Love Story is her debut YA novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 135-pound Newfoundland, Gemma (and yes, it’s a toss-up on who's walking who every day). Instagram: @jennyleewrites
Meet Anna K!
A deliciously inventive reimagining of Anna Karenina, set in the elite enclaves of Manhattan and Greenwich—perfect for fans of Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl—bought by HBO Max for a TV series!
Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a bit controlling). Meanwhile, Anna's brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is recalibrating after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.
As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of teenage life, Anna always seems to sail gracefully above it all. That is, until the night she meets Alexi “Count” Vronsky. A notorious playboy, Alexi is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexi and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to ask if she has ever known herself at all.
Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K is a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless love story, Anna Karenina—but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak.
Amazon * B & N * Indiebound
~ Excerpt ~
Every happy teenage girl is the same,
while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.
The whole thing was a fucking disaster. Lolly found out her boyfriend Steven was cheating on her while she was getting his Apple Watch outfitted with a new wristband at the Hermès store on Madison Avenue. Steven didn’t even know she had his Apple Watch. Twenty minutes ago, he decided to do back-to-back SoulCycle classes, while Lolly begged off staying for the second class with him. (Her new gluten-free diet lacked the necessary carbs for her to handle doing a double sesh without passing out.)
She was telling him the truth while also needing the time and access to his Apple Watch to take it to the store for a new wristband, his present for their eighteen-month “screw-a-versary” which happened to be the very next day. (Lolly didn’t love commemorating their first official date with this crude moniker, but Steven called it that. Lolly went along because she loved him.) So while Steven was climbing an imaginary hill to the steady beat of Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” at the East 83rd Street studio, Lolly was fifteen blocks south standing at the counter of Hermès.
She was deciding between the traditional double-wrap band in iconic orange leather and the more hetero choice in matte black. She was admiring the orange band on her own delicate wrist, when Steven’s Apple Watch vibrated and a tiny tit pic flashed on the screen, followed by the gray text bubble containing the letters DTF? *eggplant emoji*
Lolly tapped the touch-screen to see the photo again. Confirming the worst, she froze until her fight-or-flight impulse kicked in. Lolly chose flight, forgetting to take off the new band as she ran out, and was stopped by the burly security guard who blocked the door. Lolly, never good at holding back tears, started to sob pitifully, staring down at her beloved Gucci sneakers (the ones with the glittering snakes) that Steven had bought for her this past Christmas. Unsure of what to do, the security guard placed his arms around the crying girl. She pressed her face into his poly-blend jacket and whispered, “It’s a mistake. It must be a mistake. Please let it be a goddamn mistake.”
Eventually the beautiful Japanese saleswoman decked out in head-to-toe Hermès, who had been helping Lolly before, took charge of the situation and brought her into the back room. She sat her down on a small couch and gave her a Perrier, which gave Lolly hiccups and made her start crying even harder. The whole scene was quite embarrassing for all parties involved. Kimiko, who had worked at Hermès for ten years, was no stranger to the rampant cheating of the city’s wealthiest citizens, many of whom were her clients, but there was something about witnessing this seventeen-year-old girl’s loss of innocence IRL that unexpectedly moved her.
Once they had gotten rid of her hiccups, Lolly asked if she should scroll through the rest of her boyfriend’s messages or not. Kimiko said in a quiet voice, “Better to find out how bad it is now when you’re not alone.” Soon both women were mesmerized by the appallingly graphic nature of Lolly’s boyfriend’s relationship with the mysterious “Brad.” Steven had used a fake name in his contacts, but there was no chance “Brad” was a guy judging from the plethora of female body parts being photographed and sent to Steven over the last several weeks. There was even one blurry up-the-skirt video that made both women wince and groan in unison.
Lolly purchased an Hermès Iris belt buckle and reversible strap in bleu saphir and bleu Brighton to thank Kimiko for her kindness and left the store fifteen minutes later, Uber-ing straight to Steven’s parents’ massive four-bedroom penthouse apartment at 15 Central Park West (his parents were currently in Aspen skiing) to wait for his cheating ass. She tipped Gustavo the doorman a Benjamin not to tell Steven she was upstairs, citing a surprise gift and waving the orange Hermès shopping bag as proof. The doorman took her money, but clearly warned Steven anyway because ten minutes later her bf showed up carrying red deli roses in his still sweaty hands.
He had managed only the words, “Lolly baby, what’s wrong?” before his mother’s favorite Lalique Tourbillons amber vase whizzed past him and smashed into the marble foyer floor. He stared at his normally demure girlfriend in shock when she said, “Just tell me one thing Steven . . . !” her voice now building in ferocity. “When’s your screw-a-versary with Brad?!” She was now holding up his Apple Watch as digital proof. Steven stared at it and knew he was irrefutably busted.
Steven’s momentary confusion quickly turned to sheepish shame and he activated full grovel mode. He tried to approach her, but she backed away from him. “Don’t come near me, you . . . you . . . disgusting pig! That’s right, I saw all the vile thirst trap pics that slut Brad sent you!” she screamed. At the mention of the pictures, the latest naked pic that Steven had seen on his phone after class popped into his brain and the tiniest lascivious smile flickered across his face. He was an eighteen-year-old boy, after all.
Unfortunately, Lolly caught Steven’s smirk.
The noise she emitted was more animal than human and she ran past him, almost knocking him over in the process. Having nowhere to run except the end of the hall, Lolly opened the door to the master bedroom and slammed the heavy door behind her. She locked the door and ran straight into Steven’s mother’s walk-in closet. She threw herself facedown on the bloodred crushed-velvet chaise at its center and began to cry harder than she had ever cried before.
Steven tried talking to Lolly through the door, but he was met only with the occasional sound of things being thrown at the door. An hour later he was in the living room watching Sports Center highlights and eating his third pepperoni Hot Pockets when he received the following text from his buddy Kaedon: Dude, did U buy ur gf a fur coat?!!! Steven paused the TV and quickly discovered he was already unfriended and blocked across all Lolly’s social media accounts. (So much for their 453-day Snap Streak!) He texted Kaedon back: screenshot?
Seconds later he received a selfie of a possibly naked Lolly wearing one of his mother’s fur coats. Lolly, being much tinier than his mother, looked ridiculous in the chevron-quilted Russian sable, her eyes wild and ringed with mascara. She looked like a rabid raccoon . . . one who just found out that her boyfriend was cheating on her and was royally pissed. He shook his head and knew the situation was now far beyond his skills to rectify. Steven fired off a string of texts to his sister Anna in Greenwich, Connecticut, telling her he was in dire need of her immediate in-person assistance. His sister was eighteen months younger than he was, but much wiser, especially when it came to relationships and all the tricky emotions that came with them.
Ten minutes later he received a text from Anna announcing her arrival into Grand Central at 8:55 P.M. Before he could text back telling her to take a car, two more texts arrived explaining the latest snowfall was backing up traffic, with Google Maps showing how a train would be the fastest way into Manhattan for her. Anna’s last text stated she expected him to pick her up at Grand Central in person so she could hear his side of the 911 gf emergency!! Steven replied with only the single character: k, as there was no emoji face to pictorially represent the grand scale of how fucked he truly was.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I had read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as a teenager and it quickly became one of my favorite books. Then in New York City in 2012 I saw the Joe Wright film adaptation of Anna Karenina with Keira Knightly. The idea of bringing this classic tale to modern day popped in my head. Call it divine inspiration mixed with five years of trying to figure out the best way to tell it and voila… meet Anna K!
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I don’t know how to pick just one favorite character. I really worked hard to make sure each character had depth. They all offer up varying perspectives of romantic love and deal with other issues that face modern teens. If I had to pick one, I suppose I relate the most to Anna in terms of upbringing (without the vast wealth, which definitely isn’t my own background) because I was raised by strict Korean parents to be a “good Korean girl.” There comes a time in every girl’s life when they have to figure out how to become the person they want to be as opposed to who they should be.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
Definitely the title. I knew immediately the title should be Anna K, not sure how, but I knew.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There is a scene towards the end, and I have to be careful so as not to give anything away, when Lolly sings in a concert and she dedicates her song to Anna. Female friendship is so incredibly important to me so making sure there were great moments between my female characters was something I really worked on. I also love the Coachella chapters, too!
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
My journey as a writer has been a long one. As a child I always knew I wanted to write stories as I loved reading books. My number one piece of advice to writers out there is to read as many books as possible. Find out what moves you and strive to do the same in your own work.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The sunglasses with two hearts—right side up and upside down—that’s the perfect symbol of love to me—that it comes with great joy and the possibility of great sorrow. Also, the model on the cover’s name is Moon and during the photo shoot we found out her birthday is the same day as the pub date, March 3rd. It seemed like kismet, and I love details like that.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2020?
Gish Jen’s new dystopian novel The Resisters.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m working on developing Anna K into a TV show which has been very exciting. Tthe most fun part has been being talking about casting and especially who will play Vronsky! I’m also writing a new YA book… but for now, I’m keeping it under wraps. But more on this soon (or see question 12 for a hint!)
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
I hope that anyone who reads and enjoys Anna K will think about reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I know 800 plus pages is daunting, but it’s such a beautifully written book and just so sad (but in a good way!)
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I really wanted to explore the love lives of all the major characters, but I had to make some tough choices because there just wasn’t enough space to tell everyone’s story. Beatrice is a character that I loved and wished I could explore in greater detail. (Maybe next time…? Hint. Hint.)
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Definitely drafting! The most fun part of writing to me is the creating of the characters and the story. The hardest part to me is the revising and the editing.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
As a TV comedy writer I love making people laugh, so maybe that? I’m also really talented when it comes to eating cake. My dumb made up superpower I’ve always wanted was the ability to walk into any bakery and pick out the freshest baked good in the store. Useful to no one, except myself.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I am a big supporter of the ASPCA as I, like Anna K, am a huge animal lover.
My friend Ally Maki started the Asian American Girls Club on Instagram and they are doing some really great things for empowering Asian girls everywhere.
By: Jenny Lee
Release Date: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Two winners will each receive a copy of Anna K (Jenny Lee) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*