Interview: Beth Kephart, author of Going Over

Today I'm thrilled to be hosting YA author Beth Kephart as part of a blog tour for her new book, Going Over.  She's stopping by to answer a few questions about the book, plus I have the book trailer, a cool 80s-themed playlist, and a giveaway for both a hard copy and an audiobook!

Going Over 
by Beth Kephart
Published on April 1, 2014
by Chronicle Books

In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall--Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.

Beth is the the award-winning author of seventeen books who teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Pennsylvania during spring semesters.

Jen:  Hi, Beth and thanks for stopping by. Going Over takes place in 1983 and tells the story of a young couple separated by the Berlin Wall. I loved the fact that you put cautious, risk-averse Stefan in East Berlin, and fierce, fearless Ada in the West. It might have been quite a different story if that were reversed. Was that always the way you imagined the story? 

Beth: What a great observation/question. Yes! Imagine if I had reversed the geographies of my two main characters! But, of course, we as a people are shaped by our environments. There is Ada, growing up in the wild punk and radical heart of Kreuzberg—often on her own, choosing for herself. And there is Stefan, in Stasiland, with his cautious grandmother and the sad tale of his grandfather’s disappearance, and all these ears listening in. Stefan knows what risk means. Ada knows what raw loneliness is. I always imagined these characters to be the people we meet on the page.

Jen:  I'm glad, because they are really wonderful, memorable characters. Going Over is mainly Ada and Stefan’s story, but also features many different types of relationships, from young couples to old, happy to ill-fated. Did you feel that the presence of the Wall changed the course of any these relationships, either in positive or negative ways?

Photo by Jacques Langevin
Beth: Again, a lovely observation. I strongly feel that YA books should represent real life. Teens don’t live in a vacuum. There are grandparents, teachers, parents, employers, ministers, neighborhood personalities, children within reach. So in Going Over, as in all my YA novels, I felt the strong desire to create a real world. I thought a lot about Ada and Stefan’s grandmothers—how their best friendship was put at such disadvantage by that Wall. I thought about Savas, the little boy from Turkey, and his mother, and how they would have never been brought to Germany in the first place had the Wall not gone up. And I thought of the hopelessness of Ada’s mother, how she, in her own life, kept hitting walls. The Wall created these situations. They laid the groundwork for the story.

Jen:  The Wall is now gone and Berlin is one city. You visited Berlin in 2011. If you took Stefan and Ada on a tour of the city today, over thirty years after this story takes place, where would you take them?

Beth: Until September of last year, I would have taken them to Tacheles, the former department store that became an art haven for squatters. It was wild, unkempt, full of graffiti, interesting. But in September, the artists were all evicted. This is stunning to me.

Photo by Roi Boshoi
Now I would take them on many long walks beneath the cloudy skies, but in the end, I would have them sit inside the Berlin Cathedral, right in the center of things, and listen to the A capella singers that stole my heart on my last evening there. They stood all along the walls and let their voices echo. I will never forget it. It was so peaceful, and I want peace for Ada and Stefan.

Jen: Your books always have such a strong sense of place. I loved the reading list you include at the end of the book and I'm linking to your 1980s "Going Over" Playlist. Did you have other inspirations (photos, objects, etc.) as you wrote Going Over?

Beth: Thank you, and oh, yes. So many inspirations. I read dozens of books, of course, and talked to Berlin experts and to the daughter of someone who had escaped back in the day. But mostly I was studying the many photographs I had taken for signs, for symbols, for stories.

Jen: Thanks to you for writing such a lovely and moving book!  I'm going to share your trailer and your playlist, and thanks to the generosity of Chronicle, I have also have both a hard copy and an audiobook to give away!

Click on the image below to watch the book trailer on YouTube:

And click on this image to listen to the book's 1983-themed playlist, featuring songs by David Bowie, Depeche Mode, and Pink Floyd..


  1. Jen, what a beautiful posting, complete with those extra photos! Thank you so much—for this, and for your kindness through the years. I've cross posted here:

    1. You're welcome! I really loved this book. I should have had you send me a few of your photos!

  2. sounds like a good book, is it historical or just fiction

    1. It is! It takes place in the 1980s, so it's technically historical fiction. Rooted in real history but the characters are fictional.

  3. What a wonderful and intriguing interview, and the photos are amazing! I have Beth's new book on my shelf and can't wait to crack the spine.

  4. I always love your interviews! They are always what make me most interested in reading a book.

  5. I just saw this book somewhere else and I'm so intrigued by the plot. Love the interview and photos!

  6. Great post.

    I've been to Berlin in high school and it's such an interesting city full of history.

  7. Wonderful, probing questions, Jen. I agree with Jesse. The plot is indeed intriguing. Thank you both, Jen and Beth for this wonderful interview. Good luck with everything, Beth!

  8. I think it's just great that she chose to write about the wall. I haven't read a book set there during that time period in history, so it's definitely unique. I also think it's good not to forget. Great interview!


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