Perhaps you've been waiting anxiously for this day because a gorgeous, brilliant, and much-anticipated book is hitting the shelves at this very moment. That day has arrived!
Today, Beth Kephart's latest exquisite novel, DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS, is born! So if you happen to be at the bookstore for any other reason, please pick it up and savor it like the rarest and finest of chocolates.
I'm thrilled and proud to welcome Beth to a special edition of Story Secrets to spill some of her DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS secrets - and she has generously offered to give away one book (see entry info below)!
DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS is the story of twin sisters set against the backdrop of 1876 Philadelphia, the Centennial year. When the novel opens, Katherine has lost her sister, Anna, to an untimely death and, feeling responsible, is unwilling to live on. She chooses a hot Saturday in early September to make her way to the Centennial grounds, where all the noise and commotion of the international exhibition does nothing to permeate her sadness. Chased by Anna’s former lover and contemplating suicide, Katherine is saved, at the exhibition, by an unlikely turn of events and by a boy, an animal whisperer of sorts, far outside her social class. The present day story is leavened by numerous flashbacks, where we meet Anna herself, and her lover.
Holly Cupala: Such a fascinating premise, Beth! Both sisters and a beloved city. Can you tell us about how the idea began?
Beth Kephart: I had been working on a book (an unusual “autobiography”) about a Philadelphia river—a book called FLOW: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PHILADELPHIA’S SCHUYLKILL RIVER— and I kept encountering images and stories of old Philadelphia that led me in this direction. I love my city, and I always return to it in my imagination.
For awhile I was writing DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS from the perspective of the real-life fire that threatened to raze the Main Exhibition Building on the very day that Katherine travels to the fairgrounds. I loved living in that voice and space, but ultimately I chose a very different vehicle through which to tell the story.
HC: What inspires you and your work?
BK: Gosh, that would be impossible to answer fully. My son has been my muse for years, despite the fact that he does not factor into my fiction. It’s the light in his eyes. But all of my life is dear to me—my husband, my friends, the dance that I do, the music that I yearn for, the photographs I take, gardens, the meals I like to cook. It’s all there for the taking.
HC: Do you talk with anyone about your ideas as you write, or do you keep them top secret?
BK: I used to talk a lot more about the ideas and stories. I’ve learned now to fight through most of it on my own. I have a few writing friends who will ask, every once in a while, Are you sure you don’t want me to read that? Sometimes, desperate, I consent.
HC: Have your life experiences weighed into the creation of your stories?
BK: I am a hugely flawed person. Writing enables me to explore those flaws, sometimes secretly, to discover how they might be cured, tempered, or, perhaps, leveraged.
HC: I know I find your books layered and beautiful and deep. What do you most hope your readers will take away?
Hope. A fuller knowledge of Philadelphia. A sense of just how strongly the past presses against the right now. To help facilitate that, I’ve created a teacher’s guide. It takes readers behind the scenes of that Centennial year and suggests a number of exercises for readers, writers, and history lovers.
HC: And for all of us passionate Beth Kephart fans, what can we hope for next?
I am working on two novels that are odd and surreal and desperately important to me. I am also extremely hopeful that DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS will touch enough souls that I’ll be able to write a sequel about my animal-whisperer, William, who features in this book.
Thank you, Beth!
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:
Please comment on a) why you'd love to read this book, b) if there is a city that has captured your heart and imagination, and why, or c) if you think romance between two very different souls can blossom into true and abiding love. Comment by midnight on Monday for a chance to win!
And now, readers, I invite you to view Beth's reading of DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS: