I discovered The DUFF late last year and totally fell in love with it. Author Kody Keplinger manages to combine so many different elements into a moving, yet funny story. Soon after reading the book, I went out and bought the rest of her novels and devoured them as well.
I’m super psyched that I had a chance to send her a few questions. With a movie based on The DUFF now playing in theaters, I asked about what inspired her to write the book, her thoughts on the movie and cast, and more. You can read the full interview below. (And! As a bonus, we are giving away THREE copies of The DUFF. See the second page of this post for details on how to enter.)
How did you learn about the term “The DUFF,” and how did it inspire you to write this story?
“Duff” was a word being used in my high school. I learned about it senior year when a girl was telling this story about her weekend and how a guy had referred to one of her friends as a “Duff.” When she told me what it meant, I was sure I was the Duff of my group, but my friends all seemed to think it was them. When I realized we all felt like the Duff, I began to joke about writing a book titled The DUFF. Well, that joking idea turned into a real one, and I wrote it during the second semester of my senior year.
How do you go about writing teen romantic relationships that manage to be comic and dramatic without feeling shallow and cliche?
Well, first of all, thank you! As to the question – I try to make sure both characters are layered and flawed. It’s something I think I’ve gotten better at over time, honestly. No one in any relationship is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes lead to humor and other times they lead to heartbreak. I strive to make it feel real, either way. And, for me, that comes from the characters both being complex and flawed.
I find it refreshing that you don’t skirt around teen sexuality in your books. Has there been a lot of push-back because of it? What do you hope teens take away from it?
You know, there hasn’t been nearly as much push back as I’d expected, which is great. I’ve had a few parents write to me, angry that I had sexual content in a YA novel. But I’ve had far more parents and teachers write to me saying they can’t wait to share the book with their children or students. I always try to be responsible in how I’m portraying teen sexuality – in that I want to be sex-positive and honest while also being responsible. The fact of the matter is, some teenagers are having sex, and those who aren’t are still thinking about sex. And sometimes they feel ashamed about this or alone. I just hope the teenagers who read my books can put them down feeling a little more okay about sexuality.
Which of your characters (from all of your books) do you most relate to and why?
Probably Nola from my middle grade novel The Swift Boys & Me. All of my other characters – particularly my lead characters – are so different from me. Nola, however, is very similar to who I was when I was eleven or twelve. We have similar anxieties and similar struggles with friendship. Nothing that happens to Nola happened to me exactly, but I think the way she deals with the obstacles life throws at her is very similar to how I would at that age.
It’s very surreal, honestly. Particularly because I’ve wanted Mae Whitman to be Bianca for so long. To actually see that dream become a reality is just mind blowing.
Did you visit the set? Can you share any interesting behind-the-scenes stories?
I did! And it was so much fun. Let’s see, I can tell you that Mae Whitman (Bianca) and Robbie Amell (Wesley) seemed to do quite a bit of improvising. At one point, I was watching the monitor and they were doing a scene with Robbie, and every take, he’d add a new line, just off the top of his head. At one point, he said something so funny that both my agent and I busted out laughing and were told to quiet down. He’s so funny, and also so insanely nice.
After reading the book and seeing the trailer, the plot seems to have been changed quite a bit. If you can share, what was your favorite “new” scene in the movie?
There’s a scene in the movie that takes place on a rock. I can’t say more than that without spoiling, but while it’s a new scene and not something I wrote, it reminds me so much of Bianca and Wesley in the book. The way they interact and some of the things said there are just so true to the characters I wrote. I love that scene so much.
I have a book coming out in April called Lying Out Loud, which is a companion novel to The DUFF as well as my other Hamilton High books, Shut Out and A Midsummer’s Nightmare. I’m SO excited for Lying Out Loud. It’s got female friendship, accidental catfishing, a cute hipster boy, and a girl who is an excellent liar. And, as you can imagine, it was a blast to write.
Quick Favorites/Recommendations! Movie? Book? Album? TV Show? Video Game?
Oh!!! Let’s see:
MOVIE: Well, if you’ve already seen The DUFF, might I suggest following it up with Easy A, which is always amazing.
BOOK: I really loved All the Rage by Courtney Summers. Definitely check it out once it hits book stores!
ALBUM: It’s old, but Everything In Transit by Jack’s Mannequin will ever be one of my all-time favorite albums.
TV SHOW: I just finished season 1 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix and it’s amazing!
A big thanks to Kody for answering our questions! The DUFF is now playing in theaters.
For a chance to win a copy of The DUFF, click NEXT!