Today I'm stoked to feature a YA author that I admire and had a blast signing beside at BEA 2010 right before her first book THE DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) came out. I'm talking of course about the fabulous Kody Keplinger, pictured here with her lovely new curls:
Kody has a new book called SHUT OUT that will be out next week (but is already shipping from B&N), so I thought I'd invite her over to be the rock star that she is and tell us about it on Women Who Rock Wednesday. Let's meet her, shall we?
Q: Please tell us about SHUT OUT and what inspired you to write it?
Kody: SHUT OUT is a modern re-imagining of Lysistrata by Aristophanes, a Greek play I read and loved in college. Which is to say, I read it and then turned to my roommate and said, "Hey, this would be AWESOME in a high school setting!" So that's how SHUT OUT came to be. It's about Lissa, a teenage girl whose boyfriend is constantly being distracted by a stupid sports rivalry, so she and the girlfriends of other jocks band together and go on a sex strike, telling they boys they're getting zero action until the pranks and hazing end. Chaos and hilarity ensues!
Q: If there was a soundtrack for SHUT OUT, what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate to the story or characters?
Kody: Oh, there IS a soundtrack! (Well, in my head). I'll be putting a full list up on my website soon, but five songs that, to me, were influential to the book are:
1. "One Girl Revolution" by Saving Jane (which totally sums up the entire novel, actually)
2. "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga (the entire inspiration behind Lissa's frustrated love life)
3. "Can't Hold Us Down" by Christina Aguilera and Lil' Kim (all about the double standards Lissa and her friends begin to see between boys and girls when it comes to sex)
4. "Doll Parts" by Hole (was constantly playing on iPod when I was writing about Lissa and it just seemed to filter through into her character.)
5. "Come On Closer" by Jem (a song all about sexual tension! What could be more appropriate?)
Q: You totally amaze me because you are a published YA author who is still in college (right? or did you recently graduate and I totally didn't know?). Writing was my dream since I was a kid, but it took me awhile to get it all together. I bet there are a bunch of teen writers who you are an inspiration for and would love to know how you reached your dream so quickly. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publishing? How old were you when your first book came out? What were some of your key inspirations to start writing and what were some key steps you took to ensure that you met your goals and got published?
Kody: Well, firstly, I'm not in college anymore. I didn't graduate, but I"m taking some time off to figure things out and to get some writing done! But I did start writing early. Like you, I have ALWAYS wanted to write, ever since I was a little girl. But when I was in high school I finally decided to research how it was that one go published - what steps needed to be taken. That's how I learned that I needed an agent. I didn't get one on my first book, but when I reached out to agents for my second I had a little more luck. I was only seventeen, but that didn't bother her at all, which was good! I was still 17 when my first book, THE DUFF, sold, and I was 19 when it was released last year. I've been so inspired by other writers, like JK Rowling, Judy Blume, Sarah Dessen, and others. My biggest piece of advice to teen writers is to just keep writing. There will be a lot of "no"s in the road to publication, but if you keep writing, you might reach that "yes" one day, and that's what makes it worth it.
Q: I also love that you write contemporary, realistic YA fiction, which isn't a genre that gets as much attention as paranormal or dystopian, but the stories are just as important. Can you talk about what inspires you to write the kind of edgy, realistic stories that you write?
Kody: To be perfectly honest, I write the stories I want to read. I LOVE fantasy and dystopian, but I loved contemporary, too, and I could never seem to find enough of them in high school, so I wrote one. Then another. I think there can be just as much excitement in a realistic setting as there can be in a fantasy! There's angst, romance, drama. So, yeah. I write what I wanted to read - stories about real people dealing with real, not-sugar-coated issues. With a little fun mixed in, of course!
Q: I know SHUT OUT is brand new, but you have rabid fans including me, so please tell us what's next?
Kody: Aww, thank you! Well, after SHUT OUT I have a third book out next Summer (just under a year from now) called A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE. Now, before you get all excited, its not related to Shakespeare. I'm done with retellings for a bit. But it's about a girl dealing with what she thinks is the worst summer ever, only to discover that through all the bad, she might find something very important she's been missing for a while. I'm REALLY excited about it and hope my readers love the characters as much as I do when it comes out.
Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!
Kody: Oh, Gawwwwd, this is embarrassing, but okay. My first album was "Oops, I Did It Again" by Britney Spears, and I still know all the lyrics to half those songs because it was on constant repeat. And my first concert, which i saw when I was 16, was Hank Williams Jr, which my dad took me to for my birthday, even though its HIS favorite musician, not mine. Still a fun show, though.
Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment.
Kody: Oh my gosh, okay - so last year I got to attend a YA Lit conference in Chicago. My publisher sent me, and I go to stay at this super nice hotel. Now, I've stayed in nice hotels before, but not like this one. I kid you not - there was a TV inside the bathroom mirror. Like, there was a remote and you could see the TV on the mirror and watch it while you got read int he morning. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen, and at that moment, I felt like a rockstar - because I was in a hotel with such fancy bathroom furniture! haha.
Dude, that is super cool. Yanno, I'm near Chicago, so next time invite me over, okay?
Thanks very much to Kody for swinging by for an interview. I bet everyone is pumped for SHUT OUT now, so what are you waiting for.... go order it from your favorite bookstore!