Interview with my deadly client: Kelsey Ketch

This is not only an awesome interview with my amazing and HARD WORKING client, Kelsey Ketch—but it also has a sneak peek synopsis of her awesome manuscript and a lot of inspiring advice on the query process and finding an agent. Check it out!

Please welcome to This Literary Life:

…Kody Keplinger, author of the soon-to-be-released The DUFF (Poppy, September 2010).

This is Kody’s debut novel, and from what we’ve all heard, it’s a doozy. The YA world has been crazy buzzing about this release, so I was honored when Kody agreed to be interviewed for my blog. She’s fantastic!

Q: Alright girl, first let’s address the underage elephant in the room. Eighteen years old?! What the WHAT? You have managed to accomplish something that about 97% of the adult population wishes they could accomplish. What do you have to say for yourself?

A: I have to say that I’m insanely, incredibly lucky. This didn’t happen overnight – I’ve been writing since I can remember – but I know people twice my age who have been writing just as long and working just as hard.  Knowing this makes me realize how blessed and happy I am to have my dreams come true at a young age.  I’m incredibly grateful to be a teen writer – and in good company, too! There are others, and they are fabulous.

Q: I’m a little older so I had never heard the word ‘Duff’ until this book, but I definitely had Duffs back in high school. I’m 99% sure I was one. You mention on your Web site feeling like a Duff yourself, was it taxing to write about something so emotionally close to you? Especially because you were writing about it while you were in the mix of it.

A: Honestly, no.  I wrote THE DUFF shortly after I first heard the word, and I was convinced it was me – I was the DUFF of my group. But as I kept writing and talking to my friends about the word, I quickly became aware that they felt like DUFFs too – which blew me away!  I think I really discovered the truth – that we’ve all felt like the DUFF at some point – while I was writing. It took writing this book for me to see how universal it was. So really, the book was a learning experience for me in some of the same ways it was a learning experience or Bianca, the main character.

Q: I know that you talk about this book having started out as a joke, but in the end, how much of it turned out to be autobiographical? Are many of the characters based on real people you know?

A: You know, I get asked this a lot, and it kind of makes me laugh.  The book is very, very far from being autobiographical. I once told my editor that the only things Bianca and I have in common are the fact that we both have beautiful friends and our love of converse tennis shoes.  That’s it.

That said, I do think aspects of the book, while not autobiographical, were filtered in from real life. The character of Casey, a best friend, says things like OMG and BTW and WTF a lot – that is so how I talk.  That character and I have nothing in common aside from that.  I think little bits of my personality were sprinkled into all of the characters, but all in all, it has no basis in my own life.

Though, I say that with a tiny bit of regret. I’d kill to have a Wesley around sometimes. *grin*

Q: How would you qualify The DUFF? Do you think this is a book that teens and young adults can learn from? Or is it just meant to be a fun, snarky, albeit fantastic read?

A: I went in with no intention of “teaching” anything. I wanted this book to be fun, first and foremost, and for readers to relate and enjoy the story.  But if anyone comes away having learned something or feeling inspired, I’m thrilled and honored. I hope the story does touch people, but if it just serves as a fun read, that’s all I can ask for. I just hope people enjoy it!

Q: Your editor at Poppy is Kate Sullivan. I had a chance to meet with her a month ago in New York…what an absolute doll she is. We bonded over our mutual love of horror and the fact that we are both zombie purists to the core. You must have absolutely loved working with her. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the relationship you have with your editor? How does that process work?

A: Isn’t she fantastic?  The first time I met Kate in person, I was with my mom, and she and Mom had a zombie convo. That’s one of the many things I love about her – she has a wide range of tastes! (There are no zombies in THE DUFF, sadly.)

I actually really enjoy revising/working with an editor. For me, that part is more fun than a first draft. I get to take what I already have and reassemble it, like a puzzle. And I’m so, so lucky to have someone as intelligent and thoughtful as Kate guiding me through this process.  I could not have asked for a better person on my team!

Q: From what I have read, it seems like this career path sort of fell into your lap. Is that a correct assumption? Is it your intention to continue to be an author for as long as we’ll have you? Or do you dream of doing something else?

A: I definitely wouldn’t say this career fell into my lap. I’ve wanted to be a writer since elementary school, but my mom told me to always have a backup plan because writing is such a longshot.  My first backup plan?  To be an actress. Yeah, I was a smart child.

I didn’t actually plan on pursuing writing as a full time career when I decided to major in writing. I wanted to try to get published, but I’d decided to find another job I’d enjoy, too.  I can’t imagine just writing. I want to do so many things in my life that only one career forever is scary to me!

I plan on writing as long as I live. It’s my passion and it has been since I was 4 and first put my fingers on a typewriter in my mom’s office – granted, I didn’t know anything about using a typewriter, but I hit the keys and I pretended I was writing back then. I can’t imagine a life not writing, and I don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon, though I do want to have a day job, too. It’s actually my dream to work on both sides of publishing.

I make my followers answer these questions, so how about you give it a go:

Q: I noticed on your Web site that your writing is very inspired by music. I love that you have a DUFF soundtrack on your site. If you could pick the ultimate theme song for The DUFF, what would it be and why?

A: “I Can’t Stay Away” by The Veronicas.  That song is the entire reason I wrote the book. Without that song, the plot might have never hit me. Definitely the best theme song for the book.

Q: Now this next question will require a more cryptic answer, which will be good for the fans, keep them on their toes: What would be the theme song for your upcoming novel?

A: OH!!! Good question. I’m actually making the soundtrack for that one RIGHT NOW.

Hmm. . . I’d say “What It Feels Like For A Girl” by Madonna, but that might change depending on my mood.

Q: Who would you choose to play Bianca in the movie version of The DUFF? What about Wesley?

A: Bianca, from the beginning, I’ve imagined as Ellen Page. Wesley, for me, is a combo of Steven Strait and Ed Westwick, if you can imagine that.

Q: What is your perfect writing situation? Obviously you like to listen to music while you write…do you ever find yourself needing to be around people to be inspired, or do you need to be alone? Desk or comfy chair?

A: Normally, sitting on my bed in a room while other people are having a quiet convo–but not talking to me–as music plays and I drink Mt. Dew.  I need the noise to write. Silence freaks me out a little.

Aww, a girl after my own heart. I have to have people around me to get work done. Silence is no bueno.

Q: So I haven’t read the DUFF, because like a good girl, I kept my only ARC giveaway in pristine condition. I can’t wait until it’s official release. However, I did look at the last page, and read the last paragraph (I know, so naughty)…and what a GREAT last few paragraphs. So real. It speaks to me and I am 26 years old! ANYWAY…when you read books, do you ever skip to the last line? Or is that a huge no-no for you?

A: I DO IT ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!

I also skip ahead to see if the main characters ever get a hot make-out scene. I can’t stand waiting to find out if they get together!

Q: What book is your guilty pleasure and on the other hand, what book is your ultimate reading Tour de Force (like Tolstoy or Wittgenstein)?

A: I really don’t feel guilty about any book I love. If I love it, that’s enough!  But I used to get teased in high school for only reading the upper YA that I knew had super steamy romances in them. If there wasn’t a hot romance, I had a habit of putting it away. I grew out of it, but what can I say? I loved my romance.

Also, I read a lot of fan fiction (and wrote it, but we won’t talk about that *cough*)

As for Tour de Force – I once tried to read Dickenson’s Great Expectations.  Never again.  However, I did find that I had a very intense passion for Jane Austen during my “I only read the classics!” part of high school. Haha.

Q: What books are you drooling over right now? What releases are you so excited for?

A: I’m obsessed with ANYTHING by Elizabeth Scott.  Her books are all very drool-worthy. I’m also kind of in love with the way Simone Elkeles writes steamy romance – hawt!

I can’t wait to read JANE by April Lindner (I just got an ARC! Eek!).  I’m also looking forward to THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney, PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers, and next year, LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard. There are a ton more – I’m really stoked for the books by Leah Clifford, Courtney Moulton, Michelle Hodkin, Scott Tracey, Lisa and Laura Roecker, and Victoria Schwab, too. Gah, I’m a to-be-released nerd. 2011 is going to be a great year for books.

***JANE by April Lindner is my next ARC Giveaway (stay tuned…readers.)***

Q: Can you give our readers some hot advice; anything for them to soak up and use in their quest to be published?

A: Don’t be afraid to try.  If you let rejection scare you, you’ll never get anywhere. Be okay with taking risks!

A HUGE thank you to Kody. She is a doll, a very talented doll, and I know we are all chomping at the bit to read The DUFF. Look for it in early September. You can visit her website at here.

GeekDad gets horror-fied by my awesome client, D.M.

Check out this deliciously horror filled interview on GeekDad (Wired.com) with my devilishly geek of a client D.M. Cunningham. Let’s hear it for the boy!