Today, I'm excited to be taking part in the blog tour for Beth Kephart's latest novel, This Is the Story of You. To tell us a bit more about the book, and her writing in general, I asked Beth Kephart to tell us more about the unique settings of her stories and how she chooses those settings. Here is what she had to say.
Emilie, thank you for asking this story about the importance of setting in the novels (and nonfiction!) that I write.Because oh, my. Those who know me have heard me say this more than once: Landscape is character. It is essential character. Whether my stories are about divided love or mental disease or teen pregnancy or anxiety attacks or a boy taking care of a heartsick mom or any other thing, they are also, always and very urgently about, in order, Berlin, Florence, Seville, Juarez, and Philadelphia, to choose but a few examples.Where do the shadows fall? What happens at this intersection? What is the meaning of that wall graffiti? Who can see this from above or that from below? Are there crowds, is there a river, has a storm set in?In the case of This Is the Story of You, I returned to the landscapes of my childhood summers. I loved the Jersey Shore. I still do. I like it most after the crowds go home. I don’t sunbathe. I only sometimes swim. But I’m always walking by the tide, watching the waves.I know the shore. I know it in every season. I can write about it.One must draw a “real” world as carefully as one draws a fictional one. I use landscape and weather to build moods. I work toward consistency so that readers always know where they are. Even on a barrier island where so much has been lost, I create fixed things. The big rock around which some of the survivors gather. The tattered remans of Mira’s house. The collapsed bird sanctuary. The lighthouse.Each place is very significantly drawn, and repeatedly returned to.In this way I set down a path for readers.
About the Book
On Haven, a six-mile long, half-mile-wide stretch of barrier island, Mira Banul and her Year-Rounder friends have proudly risen to every challenge. But then a superstorm defies all predictions and devastates the island, upending all logic and stranding Mira’s mother and brother on the mainland. Nothing will ever be the same. A stranger appear in the wreck of Mira’s home. A friend obsessed with vanishing disappears. As the mysteries deepen, Mira must find the strength to carry on—to somehow hold her memories in place while learning to trust a radically reinvented future. Gripping and poetic, This Is the Story of You is about the beauty of nature and the power of family, about finding hope in the wake of tragedy and recovery in the face of overwhelming loss.
About the Author
Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of nineteen books, including Going Over, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, and Small Damages. A National Book Award Finalist, Kephart is also a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. Kephart teachers workshops at many institutions, to all ages and creative nonfiction workshops at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a popular keynote speaker and frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and many national journals. She blogs daily at beth-kephart.blogspot.com