I’m so excited to have Kody Keplinger here today to discuss her upcoming debut novel The Duff.
Don’t know Kody or The Duff yet? You will soon. This is one of the best YA novels I’ve read this year! Fresh, funny, gritty and original, Keplinger tackles the issues experienced by teenage girls with humor and a raw intensity.
Q. Thank you for stopping by For What It’s Worth Kody! Tell us a little bit about your debut novel The Duff.
A. So excited to be here, Karen!
Well, THE DUFF is a contemporary YA novel about a 17 year old girl, Bianca, who is informed by the school's most notorious playboy, Wesley, that she's the "Duff" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her group of friends. Bianca is cynical and tough, but this comment gets under her skin and begins to make her question herself. At the same time, she's dealing with some family issues, but instead of confronting her problems head on, she distracts herself with an enemies-with-benefits relationship with none other than the womanizer himself - Wesley.
My Publishers Marketplace announcement called it Juno meets She's Come Undone, and I kind of thought that was a cool comparison.
(Karen - that is a perfect comparison IMO!)
Q. Do you think guys can be “the duff”? Do they even care about that sort of thing as much as girls do?
A. Oh, boys can definitely be "Duffs" and I think they do care. Most definitely. Some don't, but I have plenty of guys who are friends of mine who, when discussing what THE DUFF was about with me, admitted that they'd felt like Duffs before. I think insecurity and body image issues is pretty much a unisex problem. But being a girl, I understand the female side of it more, so that's what I chose to write about.
Q. You started writing The Duff when you were 17 and still in high school. One year later -you are now 18 and awaiting the release of The Duff on September 7th AND it has already been optioned by Vast Entertainment & Wonderland with McG on board to direct……so - care to explain how this all happened so fast?? A magic lantern containing a genie with three wishes? Did you sell your soul in a bargain with the devil?
A. I cannot share my evil secrets!!!
Haha. Just kidding. Seriously, I have no idea. I've been writing since I can remember, but this book just felt different to me. I showed it to some writing friends who encouraged me to query. I never thought I'd get an agent, but I wanted to try. Then it all just blew by! I signed with an agent, she sold my book, the movie option happened . . . and throw in starting college, too. It was a crazy year. But in the end it boils down to one thing - I am an insanely blessed person. I feel so, so lucky that all of this has happened to me. Not just at my age but EVER. I"m so grateful to everyone who has helped me.
And to my genie, of course. :-)
Q. Bianca has fairly typical teenage girl problems - body image issues and a dysfunctional home life. Why did you choose sex as the outlet in which she tries to escape her problems? As opposed to drinking, cutting, overeating etc.
A. You know, this sounds cheesy, but I didn't choose. Bianca did.
Even before I knew what THE DUFF was about, I had Bianca and Wesley in my head. I've always been a fan of the love/hate relationship (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE anyone?) but I didn't know what form that relationship would take until I started writing. I wrote without an outline or a plan of what would happen - heck, I didn't even know how I wanted the book to end! - but Bianca just kind of took over. She chose Wesley as her distraction, and I think it makes perfect sense for her character. I can't see Bianca really being the drug type. And in her head, using a boy like Wesley, who has used other people, seemed justified. Does she know it's stupid? For sure, but I think we've all done things before that we knew wouldn't end well.
So, to answer the question, I didn't choose. I chose there to be an antagonistic romance, but Bianca is the one who really steered it along and showed me HOW that romance started and WHY she turned to Wesley. Sometimes, characters just take on lives of their own.
Q. Even though Bianca takes a self-destructive path, having an enemies with benefits relationship with Wesley (the boy who is the cause of many of her self esteem issues), I felt that you handled it responsibly. Did you feel an obligation to point out the consequences to her actions?
A. You know, what's funny about that is that I've actually had the complaint from others - people I know in person even - that I didn't show the consequences enough or at all.
I didn't write the book to show the consequences of casual sex. That was actually the last thing on my mind when I wrote the book. But Bianca is a character that, in my opinion, would consider the "what ifs" of a situation. My goal was to stay true to her, not to shove a message at a reader. I didn't do it out of obligation.
As long as I stayed true to my character, I think I did my job.
Q. Speaking of Wesley *sigh*. He has an interesting character arc. Was it fun to write his character?
Wesley was the most fun character I have ever written. I have no idea WHERE he came from, but he just appeared in my head and took over. He was intended to be so much different, but he surprised me! I never knew what he'd say next, and I found that I fell so in love with him. That was my biggest sorrow when the book was done - I wasn't going to write about Wesley anymore. I hope the fun I had writing him shows and that readers will find him as delightful as I did!
Q. Are you working on anything new that you can tell us about?
A. I can't give any specifics just yet, but I have a few projects in the works. My next book will be out in Fall 2011, and I can say that it takes place in the same town - Hamilton - as THE DUFF. I just can't let go of Hamilton High yet!
Q. OK – Now on to the important stuff! I saw on your blog that you live in NY and are a bit of a cupcake connoisseur. You’re always on the hunt for the perfect cupcake. I have a bit of a cupcake obsession myself so when I go to NYC next year for BEA where should I go for the perfect cupcake?
A. Haha! I don't actually live in NYC. I go to college in Ithaca, NY and spent my summer in NYC. I actually come from Kentucky - where there are like NO CUPCAKE PLACES!!! Yes, you can cry for me. I cry just thinking about the tragedy.
But if you are in NYC, my first recommendation is Butter Lane in the East Village. It was actually recommended to me by my editor, and holy wow! it was good. After Butter Lane, check out Sugar Sweet Sunshine and, in Union Square, try the tiny to-go cupcakes from Baked By Melissa.
I love yummy questions!
What are you reading? I just finished the Vampire Academy series (or what is out so far at least) and am now reading the Evernight books by Claudia Gray. I'm reading an advanced copy of AFTERLIFE right now, and eeek! So good!
What are you listening too? Lots of country music lately. It's sort of "research" for a project I"m working on, and it makes me nostalgic, too, being from the south and all. Garth Brooks seems to play the most on my MP3 player.
Where do you wish you could be right now? At Johnny Rockets drinking a milkshake. Wow, I am always thinking about sweets, aren't I?
What’s your idea of the perfect day? Just hanging out with friends all day and writing all evening with no writer's block. Simple but sweet.
Thank you so much for stopping by today Kody!
Check out my review for The Duff HERE
Read my fellow Ultimate Reviewers Challenge co-hosts reviews for The Duff:
Lena from Addicted 2 Novels
Tiger from Tigers All Consuming Books