Ask the Author: Donna Gephart


What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was ten and spent a LOT of time reading books from our public library in Philadelphia. Now I write books for that lonely kid I was so that young readers of my books can feel less alone and more understood. My books provide an emotional roadmap for young readers navigating the challenges of their lives. And I have many adults tell me they enjoy reading my middle-grade novels, too. 

What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
The Paris Project showcases Cleveland Rosebud Potts, who is determined to save enough money from her French-themed dog-walking business to escape her tiny town of Sassafras, Florida and move to Paris. You find out the reason she wants to leave has to do with the shame she feels from having an incarcerated parent. Cleveland learns that the love of a resilient family and a good friend and wanna-be chef, Declan Maguire, can help her bloom right where she’s planted. 

What has been your inspiration for writing it?
Cleveland marched across the pages of my notebook and demanded to have her story told. I wanted to shine a light on an often invisible problem — the effects on the whole family of having an incarcerated parent. The book shows the emotional and financial strain on a family you really grow to care deeply about. I tell the story with tenderness, compassion, and love. It’s a book brimming with humor and heart.

What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
My favorite part of writing the book was creating the scenes where Cleveland got what she wanted because of her generous sister, Georgia. But Cleveland gets it in a way that’s very different from what she unexpected. I loved giving Cleveland, Georgia, and their mom, Glory, a chance to have some of their dreams fulfilled in a sweet and unusual way. The boutique hotel in those scenes and the cute town are based on a real place in California that I very much enjoyed visiting. I also wanted to honor the incredible bond that can form between sisters in this book.

What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I think I’m a writer because I was a reader. The public library in Philadelphia gave me a passport to the wider world. I loved Mr. Popper’s Penguins when I was a kid and The Hundred Dresses. Reading a biography of Walt Disney by Bob Thomas when I was young showed me that a creative life was even possible.  
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Read voraciously. Write for yourself and with great joy. Write the thing you’re afraid to write, the thing you must write but it scares you. Write from your heart, not your head. You have everything you need to write a book right now; all you have to do is give yourself permission to write a dreadful first draft and push yourself hard to revise, revise, revise and then revise more. It takes longer than you think and is more satisfying than you can imagine. 


My books are available at indie bookstores; signed copies are available from my wonderful local indie bookstore, Inkwood, NJ: Gephart  

My new novel, coming out October 2020 from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers — Abby, Tried and True: 


The Paris Project, also from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers is here: 

In Your ShoesLily and Dunkin and Death by Toilet Paper from Delacorte Press, a division of Penguin Random House, are here: 


Twitter: @Dgephartwrites 


I’m also on Goodreads. 

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