Saturday, April 11, 2015

0 Beth Kephart, author of ONE THING STOLEN, on writing from the POV of a character losing her language

What scene of ONE THING STOLEN was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I am writing, in ONE THING STOLEN, of a young woman, Nadia, in the early stages of a neurological condition that is slowly stripping her of expressive language—and also creating in her an insatiable desire to make a very specific kind of art. Nadia finds her loss of language, and her compulsions, shameful. She tries her best to hide what is happening to her. And so every single Nadia scene was a challenge of a special kind. How do I tell readers what is happening to her—clearly—while also being honest about the language still available to her? I made this especially hard for myself by having Nadia tell her own story, in first person. It was, to put it mildly, one of the greatest problems I’ve ever given myself to solve. Ultimately, it was hugely rewarding.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

What a terrific question. The Booklist reviewer likened One Thing Stolen to Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun—not in terms of plot or character, but in terms of style. The complexity and poetry of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton also comes to mind—again, not at all in terms of the story being told, but in terms of the attention to language. Readers who like books set in Florence, Italy, would likely like this one. And if you go way back in time, there is Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. Here it’s not the language so much as the idea of watching a mind rise then unravel on the page.

How long did you work on ONE THING STOLEN?

From the time I had the idea for the book to the time it was submitted in final draft form, perhaps two years.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

That I myself could endure through difficult drafts and loss of self confidence.

What do you hope readers will take away from ONE THING STOLEN?

That the mind is plastic, and that there is hope within the context of love.

What are you working on now?

I have two new books due out after One Thing Stolen. One, a collection of essays and photographs about my city, will be released in October 2015 by Temple University Press. The other, This is the Story of You, a young adult mystery set on a barrier island in the aftermath of a massive storm, is due out from Chronicle in April 2016. Otherwise, I’m at work on a novel for adults.


One Thing Stolen
by Beth Kephart
Chronicle Books
Released 4/7/2015

Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she's become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether? Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is a celebration of language, beauty, imagination, and the salvation of love.

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watching the skies for meteorites (or birds)Beth Kephart was nominated for a National Book Award for her memoir A Slant of Sun. Her first novel for teens, Undercover, received four starred reviews and was named a Best Book by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and In 2005 Beth was awarded the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She has also written Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter; Still Love in Strange Places: A Memoir; Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self; Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River; Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business; and House of Dance. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.

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