The Book Pixie: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Deborah Kerbel: I was born in England 38 years ago (my father was a foreign correspondent stationed in the U.K. at the time I was born). Now I live in Canada just north of Toronto with my husband and our two kids (a 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter). I’m impulsive, a bit of a trivia nerd, I have a huge sweet tooth and a totally irrational fear of tomatoes and large dogs. And of course, I love books. Growing up, I was an avid reader but I never imagined I’d ever be an author...it was only as an adult that I started to write creatively. Now I can honestly say that I have the best job in the world! (lol. Tomatoes? Come on, really Deborah? I can see where you might be afraid of large dogs, but tomatoes? Well I guess we all have atleast one irrational fear. Mine is talking on the phone. XD)
TBP: Give us a brief description of both Mackenzie, Lost and Found and Girl on the Other Side.
DK: Mackenzie, Lost and Found is a coming-of-age story about a girl who moves to Israel for a year. When I first sat down to write this novel, my goal was to explore the notion of what would happen to a typical Canadian teenager who was taken out of her comfort zone and dropped into a completely foreign environment. But as I got further along in the writing process, other themes emerged that begged to be addressed. Themes like interfaith relationships, the Arab-Israeli conflict, coping with loss, and cultural division in society.
While Mackenzie, Lost and Found explores the themes of cultural and religious division, Girl on the Other Side focuses on the theme of social division. This novel tells the story of two seemingly opposite teenage girls who find out, through a series of strange events, that they aren’t as different as they once thought. It’s a story that takes a close look at bullying, empathy, loneliness, peer pressure, and ultimately, forgiveness.
TBP: What inspired you to write Mackenzie, Lost and Found? Girl on the Other Side?
DK: The inspiration for Mackenzie, Lost and Found came to me one day over lunch in a north Toronto restaurant. A good friend of mine lit the spark of the idea in my head talking about how her parents moved her from Canada to Israel when she was fifteen and how the experience changed her life. I was on the look-out for a new book idea at the time and this concept seemed like one with HUGE potential for drama, high emotion, and forbidden love. I went home and wrote the first chapter that same day.
Girl on the Other Side was inspired, believe it or not, by Britney Spears. On the day she shaved her hair and started on that awful, public downward spiral, the wheels in my head began to turn and the character of Tabby was born. I wanted to examine the idea of a teenage girl who, on the outside, looked like she had the perfect life while inside she was dealing with a lot of private pain and loneliness. (Wow, didn't see that coming. I never would have guessed Britney Spears inspired you to write Girl on the Other Side but I guess I can kinda see where you're coming from.)
TBP: What characteristics would you say that you, as a teenager, shared with your characters, Mackenzie, Tabby, and Lora? Do you feel you more closely resembled one than the others?
DK: There are always some subtle traces of me in every female main character I write about, but I probably resemble Mackenzie the most out of the three. Like her, I was pretty naive as a teenager. Also like her, I usually go out of my way to avoid confrontations. Also, neither of us can ever get a suntan.
Lora and I are similar in that we both love books, were good students in school, and neither of us had grandparents who lived long enough for us to remember them.
As far as Tabby goes, she’s a bit of a drama queen and I was known to be guilty of the same thing from time to time in my teenage years. But I think all writers need a flair for drama, don’t you? (So intriguing to get to see which characteristics you shared with your characters.)
TBP: Writing a book is no easy task but would you say that you found it easier to write one than the other? If so, why?
DK: Girl on the Other Side was easier, probably because I had a better idea of how to construct a story and I was a more seasoned writer at the time. Everything gets easier the more you practice.
TBP: What do you hope your readers will learn from Mackenzie, Lost and Found and Girl on the Other Side?
DK: Mackenzie, Lost and Found offers readers a glimpse into a part of world that not many North American teenagers are familiar with. And I think it’s a romantic, exciting book that I hope will leave readers thinking, asking questions, and remembering the importance of considering both sides to every story.
As for Girl on the Other Side, I hope my readers will learn about compassion and the importance of being able to put themselves into another person’s shoes.
TBP: Mackenzie, Lost and Found ends with quite a bit of a cliffhanger; can we expect to see a sequel or companion novel in the future?
DK: I’ve always thought I’d write a sequel and still hope to one day. But I need to be in the right creative space to do it. I’ve been rolling possible storylines around in my head for a while but for now, all I can say is that the sequel will take place three years after the first book when Mackenzie returns to Israel for her first year of college. (Ooooo, now that you've said that you HAVE to write the sequel. I'm growing impatient. lol. I do understand your need to be in the right creative space though.)
TBP: Is there anything else you are currently working on?
DK: I have a new YA novel coming out in September, 2010. It’s called Lure and it’s a semi-historical ghost story about a real-life haunted library that’s around the corner from where I live. I’m in the final editing stage of that book now and I promise it’s going to be creepy.
Also, I’m about half way through a new YA tentatively titled Under the Moon. At this point, I don’t want to say too much about it aside from the fact that it’s a coming-of-age story about a girl who’s lost her sleep and a boy who’s lost his dreams. (Oh gosh both of those sound amazing. I can't wait!)
TBP: Who are some of your favorite YA authors?
DK: Oh gosh, I LOVE reading YA, so to name every one of my favourite authors would take up a lot of space. But a few great ones off the top of my head are Laurie Halse Anderson, Suzanne Collins, C.K. Kelly Martin, Tim Wynne-Jones, Mahtab Narsimhan, and Marina Cohen.
TBP: What is one of your favorite memories from childhood?
DK: It’s actually hard for me to pick one specific one because my memory is like a sieve. But I can tell you that I had a great childhood. My parents loved nature and would take me and my siblings to the country on fishing trips a lot. I think all those quiet, peaceful hours on the lake taught me patience, an appreciation for silence and definitely shaped the writer I am now.
TBP: Anything else you'd like to add?
DK: If your readers want to learn more about me and my books, they can visit my website at www.deborahkerbel.com
And a big, giant thank you to Briana, for inviting me here today!
Happy, Happy Blog-o-versary!
And a big thanks to you, Deborah, for allowing me to interview and include you in my celebration. :D
I hope you all enjoyed reading my interview with Deborah Kerbel and will leave your thoughts in the comments. Also, stay tuned because tomorrow begins a series of giveaways, starting with one for Kerbel's awesome books.