Interview with YA Author Kody Keplinger

When I first read about THE DUFF, I loved the idea because I felt like the DUFF in high school (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) even though many years later, I realized I wasn’t. But at the time all my friends shopped in the size 0-2 department and I felt like a whale in comparison. Of course, when I look at high school pics of myself now, I think, wow, I was really skinny then.

So when I picked up the book, I was surprised to learn that the author Kody Keplinger wrote the book her senior year of high school. You go girl! I really enjoyed the freshness and the depth to the main character, Bianca, who reminds me of myself back then (but she is definitely way more outgoing!). I asked Kody if she’d discuss the book, her writing process, and what’s next with me, and she was nice enough to take the time to share.

Q: The DUFF was based on a term you heard and you felt like you were in your group of friends, and thus became the inspiration for your book. After the book came out, have readers shared their experiences of being the DUFF? What have you heard from fans?
A: Oh, yeah, I get lots of emails from readers about their own DUFF experiences. Some have said they were familiar with the word, some weren’t. But most of those who’ve written to me have said they feel better knowing that everyone else has felt like a DUFF at some point. It’s those letters that mean the most to me, I think.

Q: What was the process for you from writing the DUFF to selling it to Poppy?
A: Well, I wrote the first draft rather quickly—in just under two months or so. Then I spent a few more months revising it and having others read it. Once I was confident in a draft, I started querying agents. About a month after I started querying, I was signed by my agent, Joanna Volpe. After a few more revisions to the manuscript, we went on submission to publishers. And that’s how I ended up with Poppy! I couldn’t be happier.

Q: When will the DUFF be made into a movie? (So cool!)
A: It’s a little less “when” and a little more “if.” The option doesn’t mean it will definitely be made, just that Vast Entertainment has the rights to do so. So I can’t really answer that question because, as of now, I have no idea. But I’m flattered that they want to!

Q: What’s currently on your YA shelf of books you recommend to readers?
A: LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard, ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton, anything by Elizabeth Scott or Simone Elkeles, and the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series by Richelle Mead.

Q: Tell us about your next book coming out this fall, SHUT OUT. It’s a modern re-telling of the Greek play, Lysistrata. Why did you choose a Greek play to adapt into a YA novel and was it hard to make the transition?
A: It’s more a re-imagining than a re-telling, I’d say. It’s very loosely based on the play. I chose Lysistrata because I read it last year, in class, and just laughed so hard. I couldn’t help thinking, “I’d love to see this as a high school comedy.” And, luckily, my agent loved the idea. So I started writing. I knew going in that it would be a loose interpretation, so the transitioning wasn’t too difficult. It was actually incredibly fun!

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring YA writers? What advice do you wish you could’ve given to yourself as a writer when you were 16 (not that it was that long ago!)?
A: My advice to aspiring writers is not to rush yourself. You might not get published before you graduate, or before you get married, or even before you are 50. That’s okay. Everyone is so different and everyone has a different path. Just keep trying and don’t rush it. I wish I could go back and tell my 16-year-old self to read more. I read plenty as it was, but still—I wish I had read even more then.

Learn more about Kody Keplinger on her blog. Pick up a copy of THE DUFF at your local bookstore and watch out for SHUT OUT in September 2011!

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