Landscape, Soul, Story: An Interview, A Review

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A few weeks ago, Tamara Smith, the co-creator of Kissing the Earth (you will love this site, when you visit it) wrote to me about landscape. Landscape is central in Tamara's own books, she said, and having read Small Damages for BookBrowse, Tamara sensed that it mattered to me as well.  A conversation ensued—deep and ranging, thanks to Tamara's smart questions—and I am grateful to be able to share the whole here, on Kissing the Earth.

A fragment:
KTE: You told me that, for you, landscape is a character.  It is for me too. Can you explain that a bit here?  Why is this so?  How do you manifest this belief in your work?
BK: Landscape shapes us.  It defines our legs and lungs as we walk through it.  It shapes the way we see, how we define horizons, what seems impossibly far away and what seems gratifyingly or frighteningly near.  Landscape is proximity, and it is distance.  It is another way of measuring time.  And so, in much of my work—the memoirs (especially my book about marriage and El Salvador), the river book, a YA novel that takes place in Juarez, a YA book that takes place in a garden (and Barcelona and Portugal), another YA novel that takes place in Centennial Philadelphia, and of course Small Damages—I am placing my characters down among very specific places and learning how it shapes them.

Tamara, thank you.  The conversation was a privilege.  Kenzie's landscape was inspired by Arenales, the cortijo I visited in southern Spain, among other sites.  I am yearning, deeply, to return.

I was all set to post this link to my conversation with Tamara when that incredibly generous sneak, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit, sent me a late-night email with a link that would not, she said, go live until today. Well.  In my humble opinion, this blogger, wife, mom, and full-time employee (how she does it all, I do not know) has done so much for me and my books that I felt embarrassed to imagine that she had spent the time to read another Kephart book, and to reflect on it.  When I read Serena's review of Small Damages, I felt even more—I don't know the word—for Serena clearly put so much heart and time and thought into her words.  Perhaps she did this at 2 AM, or perhaps she did it on her lunch break.  I don't know when, or how, but Serena, I am grateful. 


bermudaonion said...

I saw Serena's review this morning. Her writing is almost as wonderful as yours.

Serena said...

I wrote it in spurts actually as thoughts occurred to me when I was nearing the end of the novel yesterday. Starting about 4:30pm - after work and before daughter interruptions -- and finishing the review at about 9pm last night after finishing the novel....

I love that they are sorrowful, serious, and always have a glimmer of hope that something better is coming even if it is not explicitly stated.

Well done with this one!

Smithwright said...

Thank you again, Beth, for your time and energy...and for the wholly satisfying conversation about landscape. I loved it.

And what a gorgeous review (and gorgeous writing) from Serena. Thank you for sending me to her site!

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