Beth Kendrick

Rian: How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a writer? Was there anything in particular that happened to make you decide?

Beth: I always loved to read and write, and my mom always encouraged this, even when it meant I was reading V.C Andrews and Sweet Valley High in middle school and writing terrible, angst-ridden poetry in high school.

For a long time, I didn’t have the guts to attempt a novel because I was convinced that all writers who got published were: a) geniuses, b) painfully arty and c) supremely secure in their talent. And since I am none of those things, clearly I had no business writing a book.

What changed my mind? During my first year of grad school, I attended a wedding as the date of an old boyfriend. The bride-who I am NOT going to shamelessly name-drop here (see? I have some pride!) – was a very successful romance author, and she and her friends encouraged me to try writing a book. They made it sound so fun and fulfilling (they were all hammered on champagne at the time, you understand) that I decided to try it. And then I couldn’t give it up. I found a wonderful, supportive critique group and a few key mentors who really went out of their way to help me develop as a writer. But if it weren’t for that wedding and a few too many glasses of Dom Perignon, I’d probably be a psychology professor today.

Rian: In your book “My Favorite Mistake”, do you feel you can relate to the main characters at all? Why or why not?

Beth: There are many similarities between myself and Faith Geary (the protagonist of MY FAVORITE MISTAKE): I’m sarcastic-she’s sarcastic. I have an attitude problem-she has an attitude problem. My life is chaos-her life is chaos. What an amazing coincidence! The storyline is NOT autobiographical, but I try to write the kinds of characters I would want to hang out with.

Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty shy, but my characters are sassy, boisterous, and outspoken. They do things I could NEVER do, such as dancing on bars and flirting hussily with professional hockey players while wearing leather pants.

I feel a bit maternal toward ALL of my characters-even the villains. You can see this in the character of Sally Hutchins in MY FAVORITE MISTAKE-”Well, sure she’s kind of a bitch from hell, but she had a tough childhood!”

Rian: What is your favorite chick lit book and author, and why? (If you don’t have a favorite chick lit book, what is your favorite book and author in general?)

Beth: What a tough question. My favorite book of all time is “Pride and Prejudice” (yeah, I know, REAL original-)

Chick Lit favorites:
“Otherwise Engaged” by Suzanne Finnamore
“The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing” by Melissa Banks
“Bridget Jones’ Diary” by Helen Fielding

Rian: When writing, do you have any particular routine you follow, or something that has to be “just so” in order for your thoughts to flow freely?

Beth: I must have my Brita pitcher within reach at all times; I drink (water) non-stop while writing. I don’t know why, but if I ain’t hydrated, it ain’t happening.

Also, unfortunately, with this new book I’m working on, I cannot write a word until I start mainlining those little bite-sized Milky Ways. I’m gaining, like, a pound per chapter. Mars Corporation, I damn thee!

Rian: I’ve heard that you are/were a big fan of Sweet Valley High. In fact, many chick lit enthusiasts once read that series, including myself. What are your favorite books in the series, and why? Do you feel you could relate with the twins and/or their friends at all?

Beth: Here’s what I remember about the Wakefield twins: the blonde hair, blue-green eyes, perfect size six figures and those tasteful gold lavalieres around their necks. (Must be great to be born looking like Cameron Diaz, but no, I can’t really relate to that!) And their Fiat! Sharp-eyed readers of MY FAVORITE MISTAKE will notice a gratuitous Fiat reference toward the end of the book-my personal homage to Francine Pascal!

My favorite book of that series was probably DEAR SISTER, the one in which Liz’s whole personality changes after her tragic motorcycle accident. I assume there was some moral to the story, like “don’t take hairpin turns on your Harley while it’s raining” but mostly I remember the scene where she makes out with Bruce Patman. Scandalous!

Rian: How do you feel now that you are “officially” joining the chick lit genre? Did you purposely set out to write a chick lit book, or are you just kind of falling into it?

Beth: I was very lucky – I happened to be working on a manuscript with a first-person narrative and a young female protagonist when the Bridget Jones phenomenon exploded into the United States. I was writing the kind of story I wanted to read, and it just so happened that millions of other twenty-something women wanted to read those kinds of stories, too. A very happy coincidence.

I am ashamed to admit that I wasn’t visionary enough to have an actual GOAL when I started writing MY FAVORITE MISTAKE. I was pretty much just screwing around, having fun-and next thing you know, I’m working on my third book and sweating editorial deadlines. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how this happened.

Rian: I personally loved “My Favorite Mistake”. Do you have plans to write any other books?

Beth: I am writing like a mofo right now – turns out, there are a lot of deadlines in the novelist business.

My second book, tentatively titled EXES & OHS, will be out in March 2005. It’s a romantic comedy about a child psychologist who discovers that the preschooler she’s treating for depression is the biological son of her new boyfriend, who may or may not be a rebound romance-and who has no idea he has a child. Oops.

I also have a short story in a Downtown Press anthology (IN ONE YEAR AND OUT THE OTHER), due out in December 2004.

Check my website for up-to-the-minute news.

Rian: Where or how do you get most of your ideas for your books and/or characters?

Beth: I like to run, and I do a lot of plotting while jogging. But sometimes, an image on TV or a line in a song will catch my attention and I’ll starting wondering “what if-?” and flesh out an idea for a story.

In fact, a large subplot of the book I’m writing right now was sparked by something Usher, of all people, said in an interview.

This is how I justify sitting around all day watching “I love the Nineties”: “It’s part of my JOB! I HAVE to watch VH1 to pay the mortgage!”

Rian: Your book was set mainly in small-town Minnesota, but also spoke of Los Angeles, CA. Do you/have you lived in either of these places, and if so, which did you like best?

Beth: I went to college in a tiny little town in Southern Minnesota, and that inspired the setting for MY FAVORITE MISTAKE. The bar in the book is also reminiscent of a bar my friends and I used to frequent after class. We had quite the study group going (“Bring your Norton’s Anthology-you’ll need a coaster!”) I had a blast in college, and I wanted to capture those feelings in this book: the excitement and uncertainty that comes with growing up, the heady rush of independence, the fearlessness of first loves.

After four Minnesota winters, I was ready for the beach, so I went to grad school at UCLA. West L.A. was such a great place to be a single girl in my early twenties. I just ran around behaving immaturely with all my other single girlfriends. Okay, actually, I still do that. We are very bad influences on each other!

Rian: In closing, is there any advice you would give to people that are interested in writing a chick lit book?

Beth: “Start drinking now.” No, I’m just kidding. Sort of.

Write what you know and read, read, read. Don’t try to imitate anyone else; just let your voice come through and tell stories that mean something to you.

I always recommend hanging around with other writers, published or unpublished. It’s so nice to discuss the writing process with someone who really understands what you’re going through and can encourage you when you’re feeling like a hack and ready to quit.

View Beth’s Website