The Best Night of Beth Kephart’s (Pathetic) Life

By Tara / August, 15, 2012

Have you read Beth Kephart? And if not, why not? And have you seen all the amazing praise she’s been getting in recent weeks for new newest (13th!) book, Small Damages? If not, you need to wake up and smell the coffee, people!

Beth is one of those writers who makes me try harder to infuse my prose with poetry. Her writing is just, well, lovely. She also loves to write about faraway places, like I do (or did, in What Happens Here). I have never been to Seville, but I can’t wait to read Small Damages, because I know it will make me feel like I’ve been there. (Which is why I’m packing it for a trip to the slightly less glamorous Catskills.) I loved pretty much everything about Nothing But Ghosts, but the scenes set in Barcelona were definitely among my favorites.

Beth kindly agreed to be subjected to the Best Night Q&A. Let’s see how she fares in our virtual YA author hunt!

TA: Have you ever…trespassed?

BK: Certainly! I was always an urban-explorer-at-heart, trekking through abandoned, fenced-up places. I was a sneak, going into houses under construction, and imagining myself living there. I was, I am, a writer—trespassing by watching, trespassing by eavesdropping, trespassing by imagining myself into another’s world.

TA:  (See what I mean, people? She has what they call a way with words!) …skinny dipped? If so, where (lake, pool, ocean, swamp) and with whom?

BK: Nope. Sorry. But I have gone into the ocean at night. I have slept wrongly on the beach at night. I know that doesn’t count and will win me no points, but there it is.

TA: No need to apologize. We’re just getting started and I am not yet giving out points!…stolen (or “borrowed) something? What was it?

BK: Aren’t we stealing something from someone every day? Their time, their energy, their interest? But, I guess you aren’t asking metaphoric questions here. Get with the program, Kephart. Stole. Yes. I stole my mother’s face cream (Ponds). I stole her Vaseline. I came downstairs all shiny faced, thinking I had gotten away with this. She just rolled her eyes. I bet I just lost more points for this boring confession.

TA: Very obsessed with the points, aren’t we, Kephart? …kept a secret from your best friend? Explain yourself!

BK: Well, my best friend kept her secret from me. She was secretly dating the boy I was secretly (except for confessing it to her) in love with. Does this count? After high school, I decided it best not to have a single best friend. I cannot, then, further elucidate this question for you. (Unsmiley face.)

TA:  See now I may give you some Special Points for this, just because it’s so awful and sad! What an evil cow! Do you know what an isocahedron is without Googling? If not, give us your best guess.

BK: I do, I do! I actually have this funky mathematical term in my YA novel YOU ARE MY ONLY, and not just once. This would be thanks to the fact that my brother is a math genius and I wanted to honor him. Can I have triple points for this one, please? I need something here to put me on a fair playing field. I hate losing.

TA: Again with the points!

Alright, here’s where points come in! How many of the following items from the scav hunt list in The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life could you scare up in your own home?

A snow globe? Yes. (20 points!)

An American flag? A mini one. (25!)

A music box? If so, what song does it play? I have one, I do, but I can’t find it and I don’t remember the song. (TA: Well, you still get 40 but no points for flare.)

A ticket stub from a Twilight series movie? Never. (TA: 75 is the value of ticket stub but I am awarding you 10 special points for making me laugh)

A wedding invitation? One came yesterday. (Just in time! 80!)

A plant that falls into the category of “succulent”? Yes!!  (Awesome: 50)

An unopened box of Kleenex? Of course. (“Of course”? Like you think everybody has those? Fascinating! And only 20)

A red and black screwdriver? Yes, ma’am. (Another 50!)

A Bundt pan? Nope. (TA: That’s okay. You’re doing pretty well, I think.)

A stretched penny? You mean the kind that gets squashed by hot train wheels? (TA: This is the second time I’ve been asked this. I was actually thinking more of the kind that comes out a machine in touristy places, like you put a penny in, turn a crank, and it comes out with the name of the place and a picture on the stretched penny? But anyway, train pennies count and you said:) Yup. (TA: So that’s 50 points!)

A divided dinner plate? Come on, you kidding? I have class, can’t you tell? (TA: Wait. I am not sure if that means you have one or you don’t? Define “class!” And, um, zero points.)

An unopened cable bill? I never open the cable bills. (TA: And why should you! 50 points!)

A brick? Not inside. (TA: Let’s see how you do; this 5 points is up in the air.)

An orchid? Two of ‘em. (TA: And yet you only get points for one, and only 20)

TA: This brings your total to 415, which followers of these posts will realize knocks Lauren Myracle (405) out of the lead! Except, wait a second, Ms. Myracle was mistaken awarded a mere 40 point for the screwdriver where everyone else got 50 (my bad), so that means it’s a tie at 415. At which point I would assume you, Kephart, would run outside and grab a brick for another 5, since you’re so obsessed with points! So you, my dear, take over the lead. Well done.

Now, some parting questions for the new scav hunt queen. How many goldfish have you loved and lost in your life?

BK: Maybe two? I did love and lose a beta. They live longer. Mine was named Homer, after the Simpsons character. I co-owned this pet, I should say, so that I can go down in Pathetic History as at least Partially Honest.

TA: And lastly, tell us about one of the best nights of your (pathetic) life:

BK: One of the best nights in my pathetic life. Okay. I have it. It’s the Best and the Worst, and it is in fact rather personal. But. Just after high school ended, I went to Jamaica with my fellow track team athletes to run in an international event. While I was there, something traumatic happened to me, and it was one of the worst times in my life. But in the wake of that event, all of those who had traveled with me decided to stay with me—awake—through that night. We watched the sun go down and the sun come up. And I felt safe, and loved.

TA: Lovely, Beth. Thank you for opening your heart and home to Best Night fun!