Monday, October 6, 2008

Authors in the Corner: Mini-View With Beth Kephart

Let's extend a warm welcome to author Beth Kephart!

How did you decide to become an author?

I don’t know that I decided to become an author; I think I simply could not help myself. I’ve loved the sound of words from a very young age—the swoosh and swirl of consonants and vowels. As I grew older I discovered that writing calms me. It forces me to think more deeply. It forces me to try to understand.

As a child, what did you want to grow up to be?

From the age of nine on, I wanted to be a writer. Only. Today I am an author, but I also run a business with my husband that does consume some 70 hours a week, on average.

Who or what’s your greatest influence?

My son. He is wise beyond measure, generous, interested in the world and in the ways that people get along, or don’t. Often I read him passages I’m working on. Usually he can hear what is wrong. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do now that he’s in college. He’s been my inspiration for such a long time.

Are you working on something right now?

I have a book coming out next June called Nothing but Ghosts, which is a bit of a mystery and a romance and also an exploration of how a teen named Katie deals with the sudden death of her mother. I have a story about a teen suicide due out in a HarperTeen anthology next year. In February 2010 I have a book due out called The Heart is Not a Size, which takes a group of privileged teens to a squatter’s village in Juarez, Mexico, where they all come to terms with different parts of themselves. I’ve also just finished an historical novel that takes place on a single day in 1876.

So at this very, very moment I’m recovering. I’m doing work for my business (which involves a lot of writing, but of another kind) and reading books that I haven’t been able to read for a long time (I’ve got to get caught up with GoodReads!). I’m also blogging most every day, which I approach in journaling fashion. I take a lot of time with each entry.

Have you ever refrained from writing about a certain topic for fear of how others would react to it?

All the time. My first five books were memoirs, and every inch of every page was guided by the question, Could this line or reference at any future time hurt any one that I love? Will I wish I hadn’t published this two years or ten years from now? People, real people, have got to come first. I wrote thematic memoirs, therefore, in which I was using my own life to reflect on large, universal issues, such as, What is Friendship? Or, Do we ever real know the ones we love?

In my fiction I’m careful about other things. I don’t want to write a book that would inadvertently embarrass a reader. That means that I don’t write the sort of books that will ever gain true mass appeal—that I don’t have long passages dedicated to sex or drug use or the like. I’m interested in how characters deal with other issues—with loneliness, with family ruptures, with poor self-image, with loss. I’m interested in writing books that feel timeless, somehow, not immediately marked by cultural trends or brands.

What’s your favorite author? Your favorite book?

Michael Ondaatje, who wrote The English Patient, Coming through Slaughter, Running in the Family, Anil’s Ghost, and other books, is, I think, an utterly seductive writer. He makes me believe in the power of language.

Is there something that I didn’t ask that you wish I had?

Excellent questions. I feel no need to say one word more. :)

Quote of the Day:

There's no combination of words I could put on the back of a postcard
And no song that I could sing but I can try for your heart.
-- Jack Johnson "Better Together"


Beth Kephart said...

What a very nice posting to find! A shout out to you on my blog today.


Em said...

Great interview! I really enjoyed reading your questions and Beth's answers. And I love your blog layout too. :)

Sadako said...

Cool interview--I love reading Beth Kephart's blog!