Interview: Beth Killian
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Current Song: Just Some Guy by Anthony Rapp
This is the third of six interviews with authors of MTV Books for teens. Please check back every day this week for another interview with another author!
Author Beth Kendrick has a new series for a new audience under a new pen name. The 310, written under the name of Beth Killian, is a dramatic teen series filled with gossip, secrets, and lies. Set in Southern California, the series will resonate to anyone who grew up in the area, and it will attract plenty of readers who wish they had. The first book has a great tongue-in-cheek title: Life as a Poser.
How long did it take you to write the actual book?
The first draft took me almost three months, and then I did about two months of revision. I’m a very revision-intensive writer; the first draft is only the beginning for me! I get to know the characters as I go along. When they start to rebel and surprise me, I know I’m on the right track.
Was your book written before or after you landed the book deal? Did you or your agent approach MTV Books or vice versa?
Actually, my editor suggested I try writing for teens because I got so much email from high schoolers about My Favorite Mistake, which is a novel I wrote under my other pen name, Beth Kendrick. My Favorite Mistake is about a 27-year-old who gets back together with her high school boyfriend after a self-imposed ten-year separation, and chaos ensues. Who hasn't thought about people she's dated and dumped (or been dumped by) and wondered what if . . . ?
Why write for teens? Did you write your book specifically for the teen fiction shelves?
While physically, I'm an adult, I still feel about 19 inside. Many issues of adolescence are timeless and universal (e.g., struggling for independence, struggling for acceptance, trying to figure out who you are and where you're going). However, I think that teenagers are under an unprecedented amount of pressure right now - to look a certain way, to constantly achieve perfection, to get into certain colleges. The stakes are so high!
I remember reading a lot in high school and hating it when authors would "talk down" to their readers or assume that teens wouldn't understand sophisticated vocabulary or cultural references. So I try to write the kinds of books I wish I'd had to read when I was that age.
What age range or grade levels do you feel your book is suitable for - or not?
I think they're fine for middle school and up. My characters grapple with issues of drinking, sex, and parental conflicts, but kids in the real world deal with that stuff every day.
What inspired the title of your book?
Hmm. I actually can't remember how we arrived at "Life As A Poser", but part of the reason we chose it was the double meaning of "poser" - Eva, the main character, is a poser in both senses of the word: she's an aspiring model/actress who literally poses for a living and she's a naïve, small-town girl who doesn't fit in with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, so she's faking it (a poseur).
The series is called "The 310" because 310 is the cool area code to have on your cell phone in Los Angeles. Yes, they have cool and uncool area codes. Don't ask!
Do you watch MTV?
I love "My Super Sweet Sixteen"! Have my TiVo set and everything. But I'm always left wondering why I didn't get a BMW when I turned 16. Where is the justice?!? (I still don't have one now! Maybe when I turn 30 . . . )
Who are your favorite authors?
Jane Austen, Nick Hornby, Dorothy Parker, Louise Bagshawe, John Douglas, Cynthia Heimel, Merrill Markoe, David Sedaris, E. M. Forster, L. M. Montgomery, and J. K. Rowling. Just to name a few!
What would an MTV Book be without references to music and television? List some favorite musicians, songs, actors, or TV shows.
Oh boy, we could be here all day. Off the top of my head . . .
Songs - I'm scrolling through my iPod right now, and it's everything from old Madonna and Beastie Boys to Gwen Stefani and Gorillaz. I just downloaded Christina Aguilera's new single ("Ain't No Other Man") - it has a fun, 1940's kind of feel that's a little different than most of what's out there right now.
Actors - Russell Crowe, Jake Gyllenhaal (and I'm not just saying that because he's hot . . . okay, maybe I am a little!), Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan, Natalie Portman, Sandra Oh, Drew Barrymore . . .
TV shows - "Grey's Anatomy", "Kathy Griffin: My Life On the D-List", "My Super Sweet Sixteen", "America's Next Top Model" (guilty pleasure!), and pretty much anything on E! or Animal Planet.
How many more books are due in the series?
At least two more - "Everything She Wants" came out in August 2006 and "Boy Trouble" will be out in March 2007.
What are your top ten books of all time?
Based on the number of times I've re-read them:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (I'm tearing up just thinking about it)
Muncus Agruncus, a Bad Little Mouse by Nancy Dingman Watson (yeah, it's for preschoolers, but you did say "of all time"!)
Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Finnamore
The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson White (loved this book when I was a teenager - do they still print it? If they do, you should totally read it.)
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
Happenstance by Carol Shields
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
The Best of Dorothy Parker by, uh, Dorothy Parker
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
In what ways are you and Eva similar?
We're both smart, stubborn, and independent. And not so savvy when it comes to dating. (Oh, the horror stories I could tell you about my junior prom. . . ) We can both be serious and silly. I wanted to write a main character who is interested in fashion and boys and makeup but is also interested in culture and academics and the community. I definitely have both of those sides to my personality, and I think most of my readers do, too. You don't have to be either/or.
Do you draw from your personal experiences and friendships for your stories and characters, or do you try to keep reality and fiction wholly separate?
I never base characters or stories on real life, but a lot of times, I'll be inspired by what could have happened. Like, in real life, an event might happen one way, but I'll hear about it and say to myself, "It would have been really cool if that had ended a different way. What if. . . ?" Most writers go around thinking "What if. . . ?" all day. That's why we always look so bemused.
What career do you hope Coelle will ultimately pursue?
I can't divulge that without giving away crucial upcoming plot points, but it is safe to assume that Miss Coelle is going to be making some big life changes in the very near future.
Do you have any acting or modeling aspirations?
Oh God, no. I have a lot of friends in "The Industry" and it is brutal. I could never hack it. Even if I had a model-quality face and/or body (which, sadly, I do not!), I don't have the right personality - I hate being the center of attention. I'm shy and sarcastic and like to sit in my office at home all day, making stuff up and talking to my dogs like they're people. But that's the great thing about reading and writing; you get to visit new worlds and do all kinds of crazy things through the characters.
You contributed an essay entitled "Does This Petticoat Make Me Look Fat?" to Flirting with Pride and Prejudice. How did you come to be involved with that anthology?
Well, as you can see from my Top 10 Book list, I'm unhealthily obsessed with Jane Austen. And apparently, word got around the literary campfire, so when the editor of that anthology was considering contributors, my name kept coming up. I was thrilled to get the invite. Getting paid to read and write is such a dream job!
Your next adult novel, Nearlyweds, is due out in November 2006. Can you tell us a little more about that story?
Nearlyweds will be published under my Beth Kendrick pen name, and it's my first Thanksgiving/Christmas-themed book. The three main characters are women who have recently gotten married to the men of their dreams . . . and they find out that sometimes happily-ever-after isn't all it is cracked up to be. This story was born over a round of cocktails with my girlfriends (as so many of my books are!), many of whom had found marriage very different than they had expected. Moving in with a guy is a major adjustment! I had a great time writing this book, and it's packed with holiday drama, relationship drama, and dog drama.
For more information on Beth's books for teens, please visit www.bethkillian.com - You can enter a contest to have a character named after you in an upcoming 310 book!
To find out more about Beth's books for adults, click on over to www.bethkendrick.com