Kody Keplinger wrote her YA book, The DUFF while still at high school in Kentucky. Standing for Designated Ugly Fat Friend, it’s about 17-year-0ld Bianca Piper, who ends up falling for a man she hates. It’s been optioned as a potential movie, with the involvement of McG, the director of Charlie’s Angels amongst many others. Her second book, Shut Out, will be out later this year.
While I always write somewhat cinematically – seeing how the scenes would play out in live action as I put the words on paper – I definitely didn’t think of THE DUFF as ever being a film. At least not one outside of my head. I was honestly completely shocked when I learned that anyone was interested in adapting it to film.
Do you think “teen” films, which by their nature are generally PG and appealing to the widest possible audience, can adequately deal with the complexities of a YA novel?
I think a lot of it really just depends on multiple factors – the book in question, the person adapting, the studio’s vision for the project, etc. There are some wonderful adaptations of YA novels into teen movies out there, ones that capture the books perfectly. I definitely think it’s possible if all the right factors are in place.
How are you finding the process of book to film?
In my case, it’s been a lot about patience. I knew going in that an “option” didn’t necessarily mean a film would happen, but that a producer was interested. That interest, for me, was flattering enough. While my fingers are crossed for the best, I’m honored enough that by the option, so the waiting game is well worth it.
To what extent are you involved in the production, or are you of the Tom Wolfe-style belief you should take the cheque and then let the film be its own thing?
I’m not very involved at this point, which is, for now, how I prefer it. I don’t know enough about film to be involved, and the people handling the production are the experts. I”m content to sit back and see what they decide to do!
Do you have actors you think would be good for the movie in your head? If so, who?
As I said before, I write with a film reel going in my head, so I tend to cast almost everything I write, just to get a good image. When it comes to THE DUFF, I always envisioned either Ellen Page (Juno) or Mae Whitman (Parenthood) in the role of Bianca. That said, I love to see who others would cast because one of the best parts of writing a book is seeing how it is interpreted by others. I’ve had a few fans write to me and say they imagined Emma Stone in the lead role!
Is it potentially damaging that YA books are so popular for the movies right now that people might be writing them specifically because they think they’d be good films, rather than as a novel in their own right?
I guess it’s just hard for me to imagine someone doing that – writing a book just so it becomes a film. Seems a bit of a waste when they could just write the screenplay! The way I see it, if it’s a good book, it’s a good book, no matter the intent of the author. That said, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to write YA with film hopes, I’d encourage them to write it because they honestly love the genre.
Why do you think that YA books are so popular in Hollywood right now, when previously teen flicks have tended to be original stories (John Hughes etc.)?
YA is booming right now. From Twilight to the Hunger Games, the entire genre is just exploding. I think it’s because there are so many wonderful books being published in the genre right now, books that interest teens and adults alike. Clearly, Hollywood producers have noticed the boom, too, and have seen what wonderful material is out there. How could any producer read The Hunger Games and NOT want to make it into a movie? I think the abundance of great storytelling in YA is catching attention from everyone, and I’m eager to see the awesome films that come out of it.