Today I’m welcoming author Beth Kephart to the blog. She has written several award-winning books, and her most recent, Dangerous Neighbors, came out last month from EgmontUSA. Did I mention that I LOVED it? [begin side note] I still cannot believe authors actually answer my questions! I mean, how awesome is that? I am a lucky, lucky duck. [end side note] Check out the interview below. Oh, and bold letters = me.
First of all, thank you for writing such a wonderful, moving book. I couldn't believe how much I loved it while I was reading it. You've made a fan for life! And thank you (a second time) for answering my questions!
Thank you for being an ideal reader. Because, truly, it takes two. A writer dreams. A reader chooses whether or not to embrace that dream. Readers make writers lucky people. My books are all quite different from one another. I’m so appreciative that Dangerous Neighbors did speak to you.
Do you have a sister? If so, did you model the relationship between Katherine and Anna on your own knowledge? And if not, how did you craft their relationship?
I do have a sister, but this relationship between the twins Anna and Katherine was not in any way modeled on my relationship with my sister. Katherine is a lot like me—responsible, heavied down by responsibility, prone to sweeps of guilt or remorse. I wrote of the sisters in the way that I did for I’d gone through quite a stretch of self doubt and, to be honest, a fear of marginalization. I understood Katherine deeply. She was within me as I wrote.
Do you have a favorite sister relationship in fiction? Who and why?
I have often encountered young sibling relationships that I love, for example, in the early fiction of Louise Erdrich. But I’ve never quite seen a relationship between women described as perfectly as Gail Caldwell describes her best friendship with Caroline Knapp in her new memoir Let’s Take the Long Way Home. I think that book is perhaps one of the truest books I’ve ever read—one of the most instructive and wise about the way that women lean on and grow up with one another—whether sisters or friends. I know you asked for fiction in your question, but for some reason, I am still very much inside that particular relationship—two grown women, as close as sisters ever are—in my head.
Your descriptions of late 19th century Philadelphia were superb. Do you ever sketch out physical spaces that you are going to describe? Or look at old floor plans or some other visual guide?
Thank you, and yes, you have pierced my process. When I was writing Dangerous Neighbors, my desk and my floor were overrun by maps of the city and photographs and sketches of imaginary places. I do that with every book I write, whether it is based in the truth or arising from fiction.
What books are on your nightstand (or wherever it is that you keep your 'read next!' pile) right now?
Well, at this very moment, I am reading the final pages of Proust was a Neuroscientist, which I love. Nearby is my newest grammar book. On top of that is the book that led me to my studies in the history and sociology of science,The Edge of Objectivity. Coming to me (they will be here tomorrow) are three books by or about John Gardner, the memoirs Breaking Night and Half a Light, and Room, by Emma Donoghue. I’ll probably read Room first, for the book I’ve just finished writing (three years in the making) touches on some of Donoghue’s themes. Needless to say, I was stunned when I learned that another writer had been writing toward those topics. Fortunately, it seems our two books are very different, but I must read to find out.
If you could invite literary characters to a dinner party, who would be at the table, and what would you serve?
I wish I could bring Terrence Des Pres back to life. He was a real person, an author, who died too soon. I would have liked to have known him. But if I were given the chance to bring a fictional character into my life, my room, it would be Hanna from Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. I’ve been doing a lot of cooking of late. I’d serve my very best recipes. There’d be color, taste, light, nothing heavy (perhaps salmon with a layer of dijon mustard, and a crust of herbs, and my famous potatoes). And then, of course, dessert (a small bit of chocolate chip cheesecake).
And lastly, can you share a photo? And perhaps a caption?
A photo.... I will share a funny one, from long ago. I am the girl in the homemade white dress. Kelly was my best friend. This picture reminds me of how my friends are often people who are not very much like me, and who I love precisely because of that.
And now, the part you may or may not have been waiting for, depending on whether or not you read the blog post title carefully…a giveaway! And yes, I do write maddening sentences like the one just prior on purpose. *grin* AHEM. Back to business: I have one gently read ARC of Dangerous Neighbors to give away.
Leave a comment on this post answering this question, “I asked Beth about ‘sisters in fiction.’ When you hear that phrase, what comes to your mind immediately?” You can earn an extra entry by commenting on my review.
Please include a method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on October 3 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winners via email.