Last fall, I fell in love with Beth Kephart's writing when I read her first novel for teens, Undercover. Luckily, this is shaping up to be a life-long relationship because I also loved her second teen novel, House of Dance. Recently, Beth and I chatted over email about how her second novel came into being and I'm excited to share the interview with you below. The photographs were all taken by Beth.
Em: Rosie has a lot in common with Elisa from Undercover—a love of nature, a need to understand those around them, and the willpower to go after what they want—but they are also very different characters. If you had to sum up each girl in one word, what would it be?
Beth: Miss Em, can I just say right here, up front, that you ask fantastic questions? But oh, how hard they are to answer? My heroines, in one word.Em:Where were you when the idea of House of Dance came to you?
Em: How did you find the story for House of Dance? Did you start at the beginning? Did you imagine one scene and then create a story around it?
Beth: I had wanted to write about loving someone through his final days, so the story began with that impulse. The decision to build dance into the story came from a showcase experience I had, in which I danced with others on a stage. What I loved about that show was how we all came together—all of us who performed. I loved the way women took care of women—how we traded what we knew about beauty, how we cared, how we found just the right barrette for each other’s hair. I loved the way we cheered for the men. So that the final scene of HOUSE OF DANCE was very much related, emotionally, to the communal something I’d experienced. I wrote that scene first, in fact, and then wrote toward it. Then had to adjust the whole thing several times, until it felt complete and right to me.Em: Why did you decide to set House of Dance in the summer?
Beth: I wanted to give Rosie the stretch of time she needed with her grandfather, and with her own emotions. I didn’t want the clash of school work or schedules, didn’t want the distracting subplotting of school gossip. Rosie, in HOUSE OF DANCE, is forced to find her own way, in every way.Em: If you could take a picture of Rosie’s mother’s back yard/window sill, what would it look like?
Em: Rosie learns a lot besides dancing at The House of Dance; Marissa teaches her about the beauty of colors and Max teaches her confidence. What made you decide to center the novel around dance?
Beth: I have danced since I was a child, in one form or another. Sometimes on ice, sometimes alone in a family basement or in a studio apartment or with an instructor. When I dance I feel beautiful. I feel set free from my own face, my own body, and elevated by the power of music. I wanted to find a way to write about that. I was also dealing with very great losses in my own life, and dance was keeping me whole.Em: What did Rosie see when she walked into The House of Dance?
Em: How did your own dance experiences influence Rosie’s lessons?
Beth: The very first lessons that Rosie has with Max are very literal translations of the very first waltz and rumba lessons I had with two extraordinary teachers, one named John Vilardo and one named Scott Lazarov. I experienced those dances just as Rosie does. I was that uncertain, that dizzy, that in love with the whole ballroom thing from the first.Em: I like the thought of Riot, the protective cat, watching over Granddad. What does Riot look like?Em: One of my favorite things about books is that they can be different things for different people. For me, House of Dance is a story of growing up, feeling lonely and unsure, then realizing that, as Granddad says, life is about living, and finally, about what happens when you start living and noticing the color in life. What is House of Dance for you?
Beth: HOUSE is about the power of love for me. It’s about the power of discovering the most perfect gift to give.Thanks for the interview, Beth!
Beth is an avid photographer and to see more of her fabulous photos, visit her blog. And don't forget to comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of House of Dance!
Read my 2007 interview with Beth.