Author, I Never: An Interview with Beth Kander

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Beth Kander

author of Original Syn, out September 25, 2018

Author, I Never is a segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.

Author, I Never is a new segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I try to mix it up a little and ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules you've broken. 

Question the first: Beth, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer for as long as I’ve known that “a writer” was something you could “be.” There’s a lovely picture my mother took of me sitting with a pile of lined paper and chewing on a pen when I was barely a year old—so even before I knew what writing was, I was drawn to it! I also have hard physical evidence of the chapter books I wrote (and illustrated, bless ‘em; the protagonists were mostly horses with magnificent crayon-scribbled manes and tales) from about age five on. I started early, and never stopped writing stories. The sad thing is, it wasn’t until I turned thirty—after multiple publications, and decades of this deeply embedded identity that compelled me to constantly crank out words!—that I started telling people I was “a writer” without feeling like a fake. Imposter syndrome is real, y’all. 

So real! Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?

That’s a tough one. I have plenty of proud playwright moments, since I’ve been in that world so much longer than I’ve been an author. Book-wise, I think so far one of the most exciting things has been hearing from early readers of my ARC that they really, truly enjoyed the book—as one librarian-friend put it, they were “relieved” that they were so into it… because them NOT liking the book would’ve been super awkward!

Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?

I think it’s sort of like that famous old Supreme Court statement… I’ll know it when I see it. (Haven’t seen it/felt it yet.) Then again, while the emotional part of me cries “It should always JUST be about the art! It should never come down to finances!”, the logical part of me is pretty sure that I’ll feel like “I’ve made it!” as a writer when I am earning enough from my writing to bid a fond farewell to the day job.

It can still just be about the art, right? Art collecting is extremely lucrative. Question the fourth: Who is your writing hero?

Let’s be real: I don’t just have one writing hero. I basically have a whole team. Like, The X-Men of writing heroes. The Avengers of Writing Heroes! (Or The Justice League, if you’re a DC person.) If they all teamed up, that would be mind-blowing. Could we call them The Revisionists? The Uncanny Plotters? The Incredible Pantsers?

Sorry, I digress. My writing heroes include a long list of people who create incredible worlds on the page, inspire and engage their readers, and then also find ways to leverage their writing careers into platforms for making the whole world a better place—people like J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Maya Angelou. I also love smart and snarky writers for the stage, like Paula Vogel, Oscar Wilde, and Sarah Ruhl (a playwright who has an incredible number of published/produced works AND won a MacArthur Grant WHILE starting a family). I could go on and on – in my eyes, most writers = heroes.

Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up? 

So. Many. Times. To be clear, I’ve never felt like giving up on writing. It’s just part of who I am; it would be like giving up my feet, or my tendency to over-think (i.e. that part of me worrying right now that ‘feet’ is a bizarre example of what I shan’t give up). But I’ve felt like giving up on the professional writing endeavor over, and over, and over. “Original Syn” was held by one of the big five publishing houses for three years, not allowed to be on sub elsewhere, before I got a call from the acquisitions editor that they were actually going to let it go. I really felt like giving up, right then and there. Instead I gave myself a day to wallow. And then back on sub the book went. And it eventually found a home at a smaller press, where it’s getting good attention. The path to publication rarely looks like you think it will, and at least for me, there’s constant re-routing along this journey. But a detour or delay doesn’t mean you won’t ultimately get to the destination.

Three years?! Sweet cheesecake. Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?

I CONSTANTLY get great ideas RIGHT as I’m falling asleep, and I’m terrible about making myself get up and write those ideas down.

Question the seventh: Can you give us hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?

Yeah! So I first wrote “Original Syn” six years ago.  When I got in to the editing process last year, there was so much going on politically that dovetailed with some of the big ideas in the book (in sometimes super-upsetting ways) so there might be some turns-of-phrase from dictatorial characters in the book that sound, uh, fairly familiar…

Uh oh! I'll be on the look out. And now, time for the...


I Never Round


The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.

I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting. 

100% did this: Since I invented a world with new tech and new classifications of citizens, that meant some new words or new-applications-of-words (Syns! Vosts! Originals! Levitators! Freeboxes!). But they all made sense in context so it wasn’t much of a fight during the editing process.  

Huzzah! I love the role invented words play in worldbuilding. I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.

GUILTY. (As I confessed earlier.) This is one of my most consistent writing torments!

I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.

Um, probably half the stories I wrote in high school started or ended with a character waking up. Or had them look at themselves very intensely in a mirror for awhile. I think the bathtub is an “I Never” for me, though! 

I never worked on two manuscripts at once.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Right now, between writing and editing, I am *literally* working on 6 different manuscripts at once. Between writing stuff and day job stuff, you don’t even want to GUESS how many Word docs are open on my desktop right now…

[Whispered] I have lost count. I never went several days or even weeks without writing. 

I never could. Even a day without writing feels weird. Now, if you asked if I ever went several days or weeks without writing anything *worth sharing,* well… that’s a different answer! 

I'm sure that's not true! I never wrote "for a long moment."

I’m not sure. Let me think about it, for a long moment.

...I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.

Never! Well, maybe kinda sorta. I did it the straight-up, rule-following way the first time. The second and third times, I MIGHT have used it as a jumpstart to writing the second and third books in a series, which is probably bending the rules a bit.


I jest.

Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?

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Yay! Thank you, this was really fun. You can preorder “Original Syn” from your own favorite local bookstore by ordering it through IndieBound. It’s also available almost anywhere online, and the Kindle version pre-order is up now on Amazon. If you’re interested in my plays, they’re available from Stage Rightsand on The New Play Exchange.

Hopefully, there’ll be more book news to share soon, so definitely follow me on social. I’m on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ByBethKander), Instagram (@bethkander), and sometimes I remember that I’m also on Twitter (@ByBethKander). 

Bonus question: If your book had a theme song, what would it be? 

Is it too weird, retro, and/or emo if I say it’s probably REM’s “Everybody Hurts?”


I don't think so, but DJ Spotify seems to have developed a sense of irony and judgment.