Kody Keplinger: Thanks for having me! I’m Kody Keplinger, and I am the author of five books for kids and teens, including The DUFF, which was just turned into a major motion picture!
MS: Can you describe the moment you discovered your book THE DUFF was going to be turned into a film? What was running through your mind? What did you do?
KK: So, I don’t really know if there was a “moment.” The film option actually sold before the book was published, and while I was of course very excited, but I was also really trying not to get my hopes up, because an option isn’t a guarantee. For a couple years after that, there were little steps. CBS signed on, for instance, and I would start to hope a little more with each turn. Then, at the end of 2013, and all of a sudden it was real. I got the call that we were going into production, and I don’t even remember how I reacted. It was this thing that I knew COULD happen for years, and all of a sudden, it was! I think I was in shock, honestly. I really didn’t believe it was real until I visited the set last year.
MS: Why do you think high school is such a difficult time? Why is it so important to write from an honest perspective when tackling a story set in high school?
KK: I mean, I had a hard time in both high school and middle school. I think it’s just to be expected when you’re forcing a lot of people – going through the most awkward years of their lives – into a building together. And, as a kid, I always had this fear that it was just me. That I was the only awkward one. I found comfort in books by authors like Judy Blume, which were just so honest and real. I remember reading her novels and thinking she had read my mind. It was so honest and made me feel like I wasn’t alone. As an author, that’s been my goal from day one. To write honestly. To show the good the bad and the ugly in my work. Because if it makes even one other person feel like they aren’t alone, it’s worth it.
MS: How do you get into the minds of your characters? Do you do anything specific to immerse yourself in that world? Is there anything strange or unique about your process?
KK: For me, the best way to really bring myself back to my high school years is to put on the music I listened to at the time. I have a huge playlist on my computer that has all the songs I loved throughout high school. I listen to just a few, and all those awkward, angsty feelings come right back.
MS: Now that THE DUFF film is out, the word has become much more well known. Are you worried about any negative effects that might stem from this? What about high school students using this word to bully others?
I want to be clear on one thing first – which is that I didn’t actually create this word. It was a word that was being used in my high school. It’s been out there for a long time. It actually got popular when a guy on a reality dating show in the early 2000s used it. My intention in writing the book was to reclaim it. Because if it was being used in my high school, it was being used it others, and I wanted to turn it into something that was positive, not a weapon. I know some are concerned about the word becoming popular now. But I think if the movie or the book is how teens are being introduced to the word (if it hasn’t already been used in their school before now) then my hope is that the point of the movie and book will help counteract that. Because everyone is somebody’s DUFF. I mean, if Kylie Jenner can wear a shirt proclaiming she’s felt like a DUFF, then we all have. And if we are all DUFFs, how is it an insult?
MS: There were some major differences between THE DUFF book and film. If you could change one thing about the movie, what would it be? Why?
Yes, the book and the film are different, but I really love the film and I think it gets the spirit of the book right. The one thing I’d change? I’d add in more of Jess and Casey. I liked the film’s take on those characters (I loved writing those characters in the book, too) and I’d love to see more of them.
MS: Who is your hero/heroine?
Tina. Effing. Fey. I have loved Tina Fey since I was a little girl and she was on SNL. But as I got older, I really started to see her as the amazing role model she is. Not only is she funny, but she’s such a smart, talented writer. And she’s such a great representative of a woman in charge. And she’s unapologetic about being seen as “bossy.” I love her. I want to grow up and be as badass as she is one day.
MS: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Kody! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KK: Well, for those who have read The DUFF, I want to let you know that there is a companion novel coming out called LYING OUT LOUD. It releases April 28, and Bianca and Wesley play a role in the story! So I hope y’all will enjoy that!
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