Wednesday, September 08, 2010

THE DUFF: Interview with Kody Keplinger and giveaway!

THANKS, guys!! Contest is closed. I'm swamped right now, but I'll get to this and announce the winner as soon as I can! 

(Also, I looked up international shipping rates from Amazon, and yep I can swing that. So all entries will be considered.)

Y'all. Without any ado, may I introduce to the stage the fabulous, talented...Kody KEPLINGER, author of THE DUFF!

(also, you can enter to win a copy of THE DUFF here! Details at the bottom!)

Obligatory question: Tell me about THE DUFF and Bianca. 

THE DUFF is, in my opinion, an edgy, sexy romance for teens. It’s about Bianca, a girl in her senior year of high school, who is informed that she’s the “designated ugly fat friend” of her group of friends. The word haunts her, but its not her biggest issue. She’s also dealing with a family that’s falling apart, and the only “escape” she finds is in a purely physical relationship with the school’s biggest womanizer. The same guy who called her the DUFF, in fact. But even cynical Bianca has to eventually admit that her feelings for the guy have gone farther than just the physical, but how could he ever feel the same about her when she’s the “DUFF”? 

I understand you first heard the term "The Duff" in high school. What was your reaction to it? How did your reaction compare with Bianca's?
Luckily, I wasn’t in Bianca’s shoes. No one told me that *I* was the DUFF. I thought I was, and when I heard the word I remember telling my friends “Wow, I’m so the DUFF of this group.” But had someone actually called me that to my face the way Wesley does Bianca? Well, let’s just say Bianca takes it better than I ever could have. 

Lucky for B, she’s smart, cynical, and pretty level headed. I think her cynicism is really what saves her from being completely crushed by this. If she was the romantic type, I think being called a “DUFF” would hurt much worse.

In the book Bianca comes to the conclusion that everyone feels like a Duff in some way. Do you think that's really true? (I know I feel like a Duff in publishing sometimes…) :)

Oh, I definitely think it’s true. There are so many incarnations of “DUFF.” You can be the DUFF at work, the DUFF of your friends, the DUFF in a classroom. DUFF doesn’t always have to mean the actually meaning, it can also just mean feeling like the least adequate. We’ve all felt that way, both physically and intellectually, I think. Insecurity is like the great unifier for women and maybe men, too. We all feel insecure sometimes. We’ve all been DUFFs. 

I was impressed with the realism of your dialogue. Bianca and her friends sound like actual, smart teens. Did you read it aloud to make sure it sounded realistic? Did you give it to friends to vet?
I read almost everything out loud, or have someone read it to me, just to make sure it sounds all right. With the dialogue, it was my favorite part to write. I always find the things my friends say funny and clever, and I wanted to capture that with Bianca and Casey and Jessica. Some lines of their dialogue are right out of convos I’ve had with real life friends. Others just kind of felt natural for the character. With dialogue, I just try to remember – these are the girls *i* know. Not adults. Not geniuses. Just normal teen girls. I know them, so what would they say? Its’ actually really fun! 

I think especially at high school age, we tend to set up ideals for ourselves—what "the perfect guy" should look like (as well as what we should look like as "the perfect girl"). I liked that Bianca didn't want to play into that romance ideal and yet she clearly had firm ideas of who she should and shouldn't be with (Toby and Wesley) and had to open her mind to different possibilities. Can you talk about fantasy vs. reality when it comes to guys?
I knew going in to this book that Wesley, though he was hot and clever and sexy as hell, would not be Bianca’s “type.” So I asked myself “Who would this girl crush on?” That’s how I got Toby. For those who haven’t read the book, Toby is Bianca’s long time crush. He’s basically this insanely smart, cute little political buff. To be fair, I think I’d have a crush on him, too.
I don’t have a lot of dating experience myself, but one thing I have found is that when it comes to guys, expectations and ideals are usually never as they seem. I once had a crush on a boy for MONTHS only to discover that, while we were great friends, he could really drive me up the wall and it was probably better that we never dated. Bianca doesn’t have that kind of realization with Toby or Wesley, but she does have to come to realize that boys can take you by surprise. The right guy can be the wrong guy for you.  It’s not always fun to learn, but Bianca’s journey to figuring out who is “right” for her, or if anyone is really, was fun to write for sure. 

And speaking of that (ahem), tell us about Wesley.
Oooooh, Wesley. *sigh* I had the most fun in the world writing about Wesley Benjamin Rush.  He was one of those characters that took me by surprise. He was intended to be a very different character and, instead, ended up in a very different and much better place.
Wesley is a hottie, and he knows it. He’s a charmer and a seducer. A “man-whore” as Bianca calls him. But he’s also unexpectedly smart – the boy has a taste for classic literature – and he has issues of his own. He’s not what Bianca expects, and writing him was fun because, as Bianca discovered who he really was, so did I. 

I was intrigued in looking at some reviews of THE DUFF that the only major criticism some people had was that Bianca was "too bitchy". I've been accused of that myself with my main characters, but have always felt it's important to not make a character too mellow in an attempt to please everybody. Can you talk about the fine line of "bitchy" vs. "too bitchy"?
I want to say upfront that, in my opinion, Bianca isn’t so much “bitchy” as . . . “negative.”  And while some people have had issues with that, others have approached me and said, “I WAS this girl in high school.” The fact is that one character can’t appeal to all readers. And that’s the beauty of fiction – it’s a different experience for everyone.
That said, there is a fine line to walk. The trick, I think, is to let the reader see the deeper core of the character. If the reader can see the reasons WHY the character is so negative, then they are more likely to sympathize. Bianca has a lot to be bitter about – she’s dealing with family issues, she’s still a little scarred from a first love gone wrong, and now someone is telling her she’s a “DUFF.” Who wouldn’t be a little bitter?
But, to be fair, I love cynical, sarcastic girls in YA. Even completely unlikeable ones. Because lets be honest, not all of us are always likeable as teens. 

After all that, a little bit of fluff. What's your favorite food? What would you hoard if you could only have one thing for a month?
Oh my God . . . favorite food is spaghetti, but if I had to, I could live – and live happily – on pepperoni pizza Lean Pockets. YUM!


So I was right--you want this, don't ya?

To win a brand-spanking new copy of THE DUFF, we're going to have a little flash fiction contest. Write me a story in 100 words or less, including the following elements, and post it in the comments to this blog post:

cherry coke
the DUFF
red Converse shoes

Contest will be open until Friday, September 10, at 8 am mountain time. Then I'll do a judgy-thing (enlisting additional help if necessary) and choose my favorite entry. Also, bonus points for tweeting/blogging/facebooking about Kody, The Duff, or this contest.

Got it? DO IT!

And thanks so much, Kody. I loved THE DUFF.

(and if you happen to not win? Go buy a copy. Really.)


LadyGenette said...

“Good gracious, Hil, what have you been eating?”

Bethany greets me with a scathing tone I recognize too well. I try not to look at her spaghetti-thin arms, but looking down reveals my thunder thighs—not much better. I concentrate on the red Converse I stole from my younger sister.

“Hilary, seriously, what is this crap? Cherry Coke? You know soda is your kryptonite.”

Without warning, Bethany tosses the half-full can into the trash. I try to ignore the anger that flames. If I have any chance at never again being the DUFF, Beth is the girl to follow.

Linda G. said...

Great interview! I've heard such good buzz about this book--can't wait to read it. :)

Here's my humble contest offering:

I don't care what anybody says, "skinny" does not feel as good as spaghetti tastes. Washed down with a cherry Coke--bliss. If the red Converse shoes are the only things in my closet that don't pinch, so be it. DUFF, here I come. Screw you, skinny friends. Enjoy your celery.

Mairead S. said...

I slick on some cherry coke lip balm and fluff up my hair, felling pretty good about myself and walk out of the bathroom, head held down after the habit of a life time. A pair of red converse are in my way, as is the VERY cute wearer. I glance up and he grins.
Maybe my luck’s about to change.
He touches his cheek, softly, smiling. I quirk an eyebrow, but kiss him softly where he pats. His laughter haunts me, as do the following seven words:
“You’ve got spaghetti sauce on your face.”
Oh, yeah, I’m a DUFF.

Mairead S. said...

I slick on some cherry coke lip balm and fluff up my hair, feeling pretty good about myself and walk out of the bathroom, head held down after the habit of a life time. A pair of red converse are in my way, as is the VERY cute wearer. I glance up and he grins.
Maybe my luck’s about to change.
He touches his cheek, softly, smiling. I quirk an eyebrow, but kiss him softly where he pats. His laughter haunts me, as do the following seven words:
“You’ve got spaghetti sauce on your face.”
Oh, yeah, I’m a DUFF.

Mairead. said...

Sorry, both of Mairead S. entries are mine. I'm just a techotard today. Another Duff moment.
Great interview, by the way. Very insightful, and very funny to boot.

Mandy said...

Just one minor question... is it open internationally? :D
If not, please disregard my entry.
Loved the interview, by the way :)

“Did you see the new girl?” Marcy whispered as she opened her locker.
“The one with the red Converse?” Lucy smirked.
“Yeah, and the bottle of… what was it, Alice?” Marcy asked.
“Sherry coke. She said it was good with spaghetti.” The other girl replied darkly.
“Ew, sherry coke and spaghetti?” Lucy said, appalled.
“I know! And her clothes are just horrid,” Alice whispered back.
“She’s so going to be the DUFF of the month,” Marcy observed as they watched the girl cross the lawn.
“More like the Ugly Duckling, really,” remarked Lucy, snickering as they went to their classes.

Mairead. said...

If it's not open internationally, you can disregard mine as well.
I desperately want to read this book though. It's sound great, by epic proportions.

Samantha Vérant said...

Forgive the parody. Don't know why this came to mind, but it did...


"You have to eat something. There's more to life than cherry coke."

"Oh yeah? Like what? Spaghetti?"

Edward's gaze fell to his red Converse shoes. He licked his lips. "Yeah. Exactly. A good, hearty meal…"

It took about two seconds to register. I dropped my soda on the ground. I wanted to run, but I froze.

“You know, Bella,” said Edward, taking a step closer, his caramel colored eyes turning black. “You’ve never been the DUFF. You’re perfect.”

His fangs pierced the flesh of my neck. My knees went weak. Instead of cherry coke, I’d soon be craving blood.

Deborah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah said...

Here you go; 99 words. :).....

The doctor's gaze was solemn. "I'm sorry, Mrs.—"
"No!" The diet cherry Coke keeping my hands busy exploded on the linoleum. I got as far as the emergency room door before my knees buckled. I stared at one of her red Converse shoes under the bed. It was splattered with the spaghetti I'd thrown at her when she refused to eat. Again. She hated being called the Duff; wanted to be skinny. I wanted her to be healthy. How did she find my pills? Didn't she know too much ephedrine could kill? Sobbing, I crawled toward her.

Great interview, and contest!


Latoya Alloway said...

I sipped my cherry coke walking through the gymnasium doors. I placed it on the bottom row of the bleachers and joined the circle already in progress. Our coach gave instructions. I pressed the pleats of my skirt and took my spot in front of the bleachers. Not two minutes into the game, I heard two boys from the visiting school whisper and point in my direction.
“She’s the DUFF. Look! She didn’t even shave her legs.”
I pretended to look at my red Converse shoes. Damn it. The hair and mom’s spaghetti added five pounds to my thunder thighs.

Btw, thanks for the interview. VERY informative.

Lori W. said...

Way to make us work for it! :) Been hearing DUFF buzz forever, but this great interview sold me. Thank you both. Buying a copy no matter what.

Exactly 100 words from the P.O.V. of tonight's new fictional friend, Luis:

Giovanni’s was slow. I sat at the counter gargling Cherry Coke while my brother, Manny, wiped down Parmesan shakers and complained about what a lazy slob I was.

I swallowed. “I’m not legally old enough to work here, Man.”

The door opened. Alicia Aguilar walked in. I dove off my barstool and bent over to re-tie my red Converse, hoping she wouldn’t recognize my big butt.
“Hi Luis.”
I stood. “Hey.”
“Your family still own this place?”
“Yep,” Manny said. “Luis made tonight’s special. Spaghetti.”
“I want it then.”
Luis, the DUFF, receiving some Damn Unexpected Fine Female attention. Hmm.

squinto said...

*sigh* Interviews like these always make me want to rush out to buy a copy of the author's book. I need some realistic snarkiness in my life.

If no other interview has sold me, this one sure did! If that makes sense.

Anyway, I love the idea of writing some flash fiction. Here's my entry. 87 words.

She strode down the hall sipping her cherry Coke, red Converse shoes tip-tapping on the linoleum.

“Hey, Anna.”

She looked up, planting a hand on her hip.

“What now, Duncan?” She raised an eyebrow. What the hell was he smiling for? He looked like he was about to puke, he was so nervous.

“Er, wanna go out for spaghetti sometime?” His voice shook, just like the rest of him did.

God, this was so stupid.

She laughed. “No way in hell would I go out with a DUFF like you.”