author interview with beth kephart (+ giveaway)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 |

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.

To enter:

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.

Good luck!


Laura's Reviews said...

Great interview!

I read your review earlier on Goodreads and had already penciled in Dangerous Neighbors on my to read sticky note on the side of my desk. I just need to add it to my electronic list! You passionately love the book so much, it really makes me interested in reading it!

When I think of sisters in fiction, I immediately think of the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorite novels as well as one of my favorite movies of all time. I love the relationship between the repressed Elinor and overly emotional Marianne. Just writing this makes me want to watch/read it again:-)

I would love to be entered in the giveaway. laarlt78(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Vampires and Tofu said...

I think of Little Women =)

Thank you for the giveaway

sRy_ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mystica said...

I never got the earlier book so was waiting for a giveaway and there you are. And international. Thank you very much. Just hope its my lucky day!


Inspired Kathy said...

Makes me think of Jane Austens novels.
bkhabel at gmail dot com

Crystal said...

Since I just finished a Stephanie Plum novel (Hard Eight) it makes me think of Stephanie and Valerie and how different they are and their sibling rivalry in the books.


debbie said...

I just reread little woman. It reminds me of them. They loved each other, and were accepting of their differences.

Juju at Tales of said...

I love the complications and fierce love and loyalty of sister relationships. Awesome post and questions.

(not an entry)

resugo said...

I read last week The Extraordinary Secrets of April May and June by Robin Benway. So that is the book that came first to mind. But second is definitely Little Women!

Mrs. DeRaps said...

When I think of Sisters in Fiction, I think of the amazing sisterhood of authors/ bloggers that we have in our little community. There are so many women blogging and writing and sharing and talking. It's powerful!

Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.

mrsderaps @ hotmail . com

EVA SB said...

When people discuss 'sister in fiction' my first reaction is will I 'get it' because I am an only child.[@]gmail[.]com

Kulsuma said...

I think of my sisters and friends who also share my love for reading.



Beth Kephart said...

I loved this interview and feel so honored to be here again, on your beautiful site. I just cross posted, with the hope of sending some readers your way.

Holly said...

I love that picture!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I am really interested in reading this. Please enter me!

Kelly H-Y said...

What a fantastic and fun review! I adore and admire Beth, and can't wait to read DN!!

Kelly H-Y said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bee said...

Thank you so much for this great interview.

Beth is so thoughtful (her blog posts reflect that), I always enjoy what she has to say.
When I think about 'sisters in fiction' the first thing that comes to my mind is Anne Cassidy's book, Missing Judy. One of the sisters in the book has been missing for eight years and it's about the other sister's search to find answers about her sister's disappearance.
I read it when I was 14 and that book left such an impact on me, its always the first thing that crosses my mind where fictitious sisters are concerned.

Also, I commented on your review :)

pippirose said...

I immediately think of "sisters in spirit" Anne Shirley and Dianna Barry, of "Anne of Green Gables" series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
They weren't real sisters (by blood) but their relationship was as close as if they had been.
pippirose59 at gmail dot com

Becca said...

I already own this book, so no need to enter me in the giveaway...however, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your interview with Beth! I've read quite a few of the interviews other bloggers have done, and your questions were so fresh and interesting...I learned many new things about one of my favorite authors/bloggers.

April said...

I think about the Bennett sisters in Pride and Prejudice haha. I'm not sure why lol.

Jasmine1485 said...

My very first thought was of Little Women, which I read as a teenager but haven't reread for years. Even at that age I thought it was touching, I have a couple of sequels too, I'm not sure how many there were.

Oddly enough, my second thought was of Buffy and her sister. I didn't even watch that when it was on TV, and I don't know her sister's name, so it's an odd choice for my brain.

Amy said...

Thank you for such a wonderful interview! I was thrilled to see that you interviewed Beth Kephart because I just posted my review of "The Heart Is Not A Size"! It's my first book by Beth Kephart & I loved it!
Your questions about literary characters and the books on Beth's nightstand were great! And I love the picture she gave you to post. What a cute little girl she was!

I am really looking forward to reading "Dangerous Minds" & other books by Beth.

When I hear "sisters in fiction" I immediately think of the Bronte sisters: Emily, Charlotte & Anne, all 3 wonderful authors of classic literary works.

Thank you for a wonderful giveaway!

~ Amy
Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

Amy said...

I left a comment with your wonderful review.

And I apologize because in my prior post regarding your interview of Beth Kephart, I mistakenly called "Dangerous Neighbors" "Dangerous Minds".
Oops, sorry!

~ Amy
Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

Beachreader said...

Thanks for a terrific interview.

When I think of "sisters in fiction" I don't think about certain sisters, but about conflict. It seems sisters always have to overcome something in fiction to become closer.

please enter me in the giveaway.

Png said...


when u say 'sisters in fiction'

I think mainly of 'prophecy of the sisters' a book by Michelle Zink.

The book centers on the twins who
are Lia and Alice.

They are somehow tied to this ancient tome that tells of a prophecy of these two sisters.

Basically I'm reminded of a literary novel focusing on sisters.

I've commented on your review for 'dangerous neighbours'


FairyWhispers said...

Sisters ? I'm reminded of middle grade books which usually the main character has an annoying sister which would somehow help the main character at the end of the novel and become annoying again .

I commented on ur review.

pls enter me in this giveaway.
thx for making it international.


Llehn said...

For me, it means it's a story about the dynamics between sisters whether for good or bad e.g. Prophecy of the Sisters.


Amy said...

Meg, Jo and Amy in Little Women...or Lucy and Susan in the Chronicles of Narnia. Sister relationships are rich to explore.

Would love to win a copy of Dangerous Neighbors! amy[dot]malskeit[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks for posting the great interview, and hosting the contest! Fun!

Ashley said...

The first thing that comes to mind is that those sisters must have always liked each other, because I know I 'hated' my sister growing up, and the feeling was pretty mutual... (Surprisingly (to everyone who knew us then...) we are best friends now.)

After that, I think of the relationships in My Sister's Keeper.

basicallyamazingbooks [at]

~The Book Pixie said...

When I think of Sisters in Fiction there are two books that really come to mind. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I know, not exactly an original answer but it is an honest one. I mean those two books have the most famous sets of sisters ever except for maybe Little Women but I haven't read that. Oh I know, for shame.

Great contest! I have really been wanting to read this book!


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