AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR
Kate Pepper's new suspense novel SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON was just released in May 2005. She has been kind enough to answer a few questions about her latest book.
Barbara: Hi Kate. Welcome to Reviewers Choice Reviews.
Kate Pepper: Hi Barbara, itís a pleasure.
Barbara: Your new release SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON involves the disappearance of a pregnant woman. This was also a theme featured in your previous novel, FIVE DAYS IN SUMMER. You vividly portrayed the characters'. How did you research and prepare for writing about the impact of someone who disappears?
Kate Pepper: In FIVE DAYS IN SUMMER, a mother vanishes, and a few days later her son disappears. In SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON a pregnant mother disappears, is found murdered, and a search ensues for her missing full-term baby. And in the novel Iím just finishing up now, an adopted teenager sets out in search of her birth parents, and vanishes. So yes, there is definitely a theme there. I didnít realize I was doing this at first, and then when I did realize it, I began to consciously explore the idea of what it means to me for children to be separated from their parents. Iím a mother, and the loss of a child is any motherís greatest fear. I also had the experience of my parents divorcing when I was a child and suffered all the typical inner fractures that come with broken families. In many ways, I mine my own fears and anxieties about loss when writing my novels and exploring charactersí feelings and reactions. I feel that writing needs to be very specific, very personal, to be strong; and letís face it, in some ways itís always going to be a form of therapy for the writer. So I write what I think about, and go where my feelings are strongest. But now that Iíve delved into this theme of fracture and separation between parents and children in three novels, I plan to veer into new territory for the next one.
Barbara: SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON features a large cast of characters. I really enjoyed the chemistry between this group of friends. It reminds me of the cast in THE BIG CHILL. It must have been a bit crowded in your head with all those characters. Was it difficult writing about such a large group?
Kate Pepper: Iím always a bit surprised when I realize how many characters Iíve created! To answer your question, no, it doesnít get crowded in my head at all; on the contrary, I see it as a kind of choreographed dance, with each character taking up his or her own space, for specific reasons, and heading in a particular direction. I try not give too much time to characters who wonít have a real trajectory in the story, and to bolster those that will. Every character has to have a reason for being there, a role, even if itís just to spark a thought in the protagonist. But nothing, and no one, is arbitrary.
Barbara: You did an outstanding job writing from Alice Halpern's hormonal perspective. She is a strong character in a stressful situation. Were you at all hesitant taking her on this extremely emotional journey?
Kate Pepper: I wasnít hesitant, but it did indeed become challenging to express such a complex story from a single point of view, and having been pregnant twice myself, I understand the emotional and physical sensitivities of a pregnant woman. Every movement in the story had to be shown through Alice's subjective mind. In a suspense novel, with a police investigation going on, this became particularly difficult because Alice was not directly a part of the investigation. So I had to find ways to develop the story around this narrative deficit, and the result, I think, was a very personal feel to the story. Above all, it had to be Alice's story.
Barbara: Your website mentions that you teach a college level fiction writing class. How did you end up writing suspense? Do you ever think about writing something in a completely different genre?
Kate Pepper: I wrote FIVE DAYS IN SUMMER as an experiment to understand how suspense works in fiction, and I guess the experiment worked because I was quickly given contracts to write more of the same. I teach general fiction writing, however, and in the past I had always written literary fiction. My first two novels were literary, published under my real name (Katia Spiegelman). I enjoy writing suspense, but my goal in that genre is to merge it with the literary voice that I love, because that is what makes writing interesting and challenging to meóexploration.
Barbara: The housing market in Brooklyn plays a key role in the development of the suspense of this story. You did a good job of explaining a different style of living in Brooklyn--multiple family housing and landlords. That's not very common in my corner of the US. How did you come up with the property management angle of the story? By the way, I loved Pam Short. I'm so glad she recovered!
Kate Pepper: Anyone living in New York City, Brooklyn or otherwise, develops an obsessive interest in real estate. We tend to become quite passionate here about our own spaces, especially if we own them. So just by virtue of having lived in the area for so long, I developed some knowledge about real estate. I've been a renter and am now an owner, and along the way had the unfortunate experience of a landlord trying to evict me and my family. In fact, the inspiration for Alice's eviction in SEVEN MINUTES TO NOON came from personal experience...though in the novel, I made the stakes much higher than they were in real life. In Alice's case, her best friend is murdered. In my case, we just had to move.
Barbara: You are a busy mom, wife, teacher and author. When you do have time to read, who are your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Kate Pepper: I always fantasize about having a whole day to myself, just to read. But of course, between family and work, that never happens. Most of my reading happens in small spurts, at night, and my favorite authors are various. I just finished reading THE STONE DIARIES by Carol Shields; itís a wonderful literary novel, short on the kind of plots youíll find in genre fiction, but big on heart and soul and the kind of lush, evocative language that I love. Iím also in the middle of reading RIPLEYíS GAME by Patricia Highsmith, who is my favorite classic suspense author, and I just started DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER by Jeff Lindsay, who I predict will be a real leader in the genre of suspense fiction. I also love the work of Jane Smiley, Russell Banks, T. Corragessen Boyle (canít spell it), and the list goes on and on.
Barbara: Do you have any future novels or series in the works?
Kate Pepper: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, Iím just now finishing up a new novel. Iím also making notes for a fourth, which is under contract.
Barbara: Kate, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your new book. I enjoyed reading it and I hope it is very successful.
All cover art used at Reviewer's Choice Reviews is copyrighted by the
respective publisher. All reviews and articles found at Reviewer's Choice
Reviews are the sole property of the contributor and are copyrighted by