Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Q&A with Kimberly Young




Kimberly Young is the author of the new novel In the Event of Death. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and marketing consultant, and she lives in California and Idaho.


Q: What inspired you to write In the Event of Death, and how did you create your character Liz?


A: In 2012, when I was scrambling to plan and host my beautiful mother's memorial in my backyard, I was overseeing food, flowers, music, speeches, rentals, and valet service. It struck me that planning a memorial was similar to producing a wedding ­—"except the bride is dead." 


I was overwhelmed by the details surrounding my mother's death and experiencing a tidal wave of grief. Where to inter her ashes...what to include in the to divvy up her treasures acquired over a lifetime.


Most people don't decide these things in advance, and they really should—it’s so helpful to grieving families. I considered going into the death planning business but figured it would be more fun to write a novel about it.  


My character, Liz, is an amalgamation of all the moms I know, including myself. When we become mothers, we become chronic worriers. Liz is a world-class worrier, and Gabbi is there to show her the brighter side of everything, including death planning.


Q: The writer Malena Watrous said of the novel, "In the Event of Death is that rare novel that is both hilarious and heartbreaking." What do you think of that description, and what did you see as the right balance between humor and sadness as you were writing the book?


A: I love Malena’s description. For me, it was essential to balance the fear-of-death themes with humor— the kind that emerges from stressful situations. Comic relief, as they say. Liz’s partner, Gabbi, and Liz’s older brother, Ned, provide most of the lighter moments in my story.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Years ago, when I was a graduate student at Stanford, John Irving told my class that he always wrote the last page first—so that he wouldn’t get lost. I, too, always knew where my book would end.  It was everything that came before that kept changing.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: My protagonist is an event planner who is forced to pivot into death events when the recession crushes her party business. The name just fell into my lap.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m thinking about my next novel. It’s going to require some research, so I really need to buckle down! Getting In the Event of Death into the world is Job #1 right now.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My book features a family that lives in Silicon Valley but who is not in tech and not in the funding side of tech. While there is so much money in this famous region, many families struggle to keep a foothold here. That story is not often told.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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