Nothing But Love for Bestselling Author CAROLINE KEPNES
Today's Valentine's Day, and because I LOVE YOU ALL SO FREAKING MUCH, I'm bringing you a treat that's better than conversation hearts, Reese's, or red velvet cupcakes all put together. She's an author, screenwriter, and pop culture journalist, and her novel, YOU, is currently on Netflix. Please welcome CAROLINE KEPNES!
WH: Hi, Caroline! Please give us a brief introduction of your fabulous self:
Hi Witches! I’m Caroline Kepnes and I’ve lived in Los Angeles for fifteen years now. My first book You is the source material for the Netflix series You and this has been a wild, wonderful ride. The second season is based on my second book Hidden Bodies. And my third book Providence is another story about the horror of love. I am spoiled by the wonderful things with you and hope you get to watch Providence come to life too. I was born and raised in Cape Cod, Massachusetts (Go Red Sox). When I was in high school, I entered the Sassy Magazine Short Story Contest and won an honorable mention and a Smith Corona Typewriter for a dark little story about a dead girl speaking from beyond. I went to Brown University, worked as an entertainment journalist and wrote for some TV shows and published so many short stories that eventually I just had to write a big book. Now that’s my main job and I couldn’t be happier.
WH: And your exuberance for what you do shines in your intro! Your novels are a little bit romance, a little horror, a little supernatural thriller, and YA. When you set out to write a story, do you think about genre and where it should be shelved, or do you just set out to write a good story?
I’m a mix-tape person by nature and I bend things without setting out to do that. I always focus on character and story. What would this person do in this situation? What would this person never do? I want to be sucked in so you’re sucked in. I have this Blockbuster Video store mentality in storytelling where you can have sections that are rom-com, sections that are Brad Pitt. I love horror, I love romantic comedies and my books reflect my own habits. It’s always about heartache driving people to do terrible things. After I finished You and someone said it’s about a serial killer I was like wait what?! He just meets a lot of bad people! Yes, Joe mind fucks me too. It’s part Stockholm Syndrome where I have to get so inside their heads that I leave my judgment behind.
WH: There should be a section at the bookstore called Heartache Driving People To Do Terrible Things and just have your books there, so I can find them. :) What other career would you have if not writing/publishing?
I took the Sternberg Triarchic Abilities Test in high school and got to go to this intensive summer course on psychology that doubled as an experiment on learning styles. I loved it so much, a few weeks in a college dorm, taking a college level class, writing case studies, learning abnormal psych. I think I would be a psychologist. But every time I tried to take Statistics my brain was like nooooo and I’d be sneaking out the backdoor to see if it was too late to get into that fiction writing workshop.
WH: I think my minor in Psychology has helped me write some great characters, too, so the workshops served you well. PROVIDENCE was one of The Tonight Show’s choices for Jimmy Fallon’s first summer book club read. That’s so cool! What was that like, and did you get to talk to Jimmy?
So cool, right?? There are so many books in this world, so many books out every week and I was thrilled beyond belief to see Providence in the mix exposed to so many people. I had already read The Good Son and I loved that book so that was extra fun, a book I wanted everyone to know about. The night the book club started, I was in conversation with Lena Dunham about Providence at a bookstore in Pasadena. Then I high-tailed it with friends to my local bar to watch Fallon. That was like…that was a really good night.
WH: Your novel, YOU, was made into a Netflix movie. Were you happy with the way the directors handled the adaptation? How involved were you, and what was the best part about production?
I mean a few weeks ago I get in bed and turn on Netflix and Joe Goldberg is talking to me. Fucking magic! Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble embarked on this journey with a wonderful, collaborative spirit. They love my books. They want the show to feel like the books while widening the world and introducing new characters. I feel Joyce Carole Oates level of lucky because the You show feels up there with Smooth Talk (based on my all-time favorite short story “Where Are you Going, Where Have You Been?”) in terms of atmospheric faith. I wrote an episode I the first season, which was an absolute blast. The best part is, hands down, the people you meet in this process. Also yes, the idea of millions of people knowing Joe Goldberg, I mean that’s just a dream.
WH: That must be amazing. Super happy for you! So, what’s your writing process like?
Obsess! Writing is rewriting and I tell myself that every day because I write fast and long in that first draft. I’m not afraid to do the wrong thing because you always learn something about the engine of the story, the characters. Generally, I wake up and jump in while I’m still in bed before coffee. Morning brain is good brain for me. Other times, I am watching The Office again like ‘Why can’t I figure this out?’ and then the wheels are turning and I’m on my computer and I mute the TV when I get an idea and before you know it the TV turned itself off. In my experience, sometimes you’re in flow and you’re the vessel and all that romantic stuff, but a lot of the time, you have to work your tail off when you don’t feel like it.
WH: Oh, hell, yes, and some people will never know what it took to bring their favorite books to them. As Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." Which of your novels are you most proud?
I love all my babies equally. Joe books thrill me to no end, the darkness, the cynicism and the relationship I have with Joe is just very fulfilling. The work pays off. With Providence I wanted to weave a tapestry about unrequited love in the age of connection. And it was exciting to play with supernatural twists the way I’d done in many short stories. The otherworldly zing of that book is in my soul forever. And the one I’m writing now, ahahah oh my Pearl, she is a real person to me.
WH: We love the twists in Providence, too. If you could interview any author, gone or alive, who would it be?
Stephen King because…Stephen King. The spellbinding crack factor in his writing fascinates me to no end.
WH: Can't argue with you there. Let's just bottle up Stephen King's proclivity to hook readers of any age, gender, or background, sit back, and all become billionaires. How have you changed as a person from your early life until now?
The most important part of writing to me is thinking. I’m better at being like ‘Okay, we just have to think about this. We don’t need to get 2390 words done today.’ Of course, writing novels is my full-time job, so that helps too, having that mental space. Other than that, I read my diaries from when I was a kid and I’m like oh man, I’m still me.
WH: Haha, I read my journals from when I was in HS a while ago and nearly boiled my head from how dumb I was compared to now (still dumb, but less so). How do you like your coffee? Do you have a favorite libation? What’s your favorite dessert?
Skim milk and Splenda. I know how bad Splenda is. There’s a great documentary called Sweet Misery. I will probably die from Splenda. But it alters your taste buds and granulated sugar tastes so weird to me. Same.
I read the drink menu but I always end up getting Tito’s soda with a couple limes. NOM.
Cake! Cheap, fancy, just gimme that cake. My soul sister.
WH: Let’s say the horror genre is high school. Where would you fit in?
I would be hiding out in the library upstairs peering out the window at the smoking rebels in the courtyard and then the lights would go out and I would hear the door lock and know that I was not alone.
WH: Then I would step out from the Psychological Thriller section in my long braids and ask if you want to share my Girl Scout Cookies with me, made from real Girl Scouts. What is the witchiest thing about you (we’re all a little witchy)?
I’m a little psychic. I was living in New York in 2001. On September 10th, I wound up in the ER having a panic attack. I had flossed so much that my gums were bleeding. I told them birds were falling out of the sky and I couldn’t get the feathers out of my teeth. The next day, September 11th happened. I’ve had a few experiences like this in my life where it’s not like I know what’s going to happen, but the emotional radar is on fire.
WH: Definitely psychic. What a freaky experience. How difficult do you feel the horror industry is for women to break into? Do you have any advice for aspiring female writers looking to enter the genre?
It’s difficult to break into all of it, you know? I say you’re best when you focus on your writing. Write about what scares you. Just write it all down, what makes you you. Even better: Write about the most terrible, horrifying things you’ve done, felt. Especially as women, we are conditioned to be sweet, to love flowers, to make other people happy, to carry the burden of male emotion. Read a lot. Watch a lot. I write what I want to read. Believe in the filter. It’s my favorite thing in the world, when you realize what you are writing about after you are into it. Like, after my dad died, I wrote a TV pilot about cancer and I was like no. This is not the tie for that. I was just plain sad and angry, so You came from me channeling the rage, imagining a new experience. That emotion is your paint. Use it. Also, it’s lonely, all that writing, so get on Twitter when you’re feeling good or when you’re feeling stuck. Horror Twitter is so warm and friendly because that’s horror people for you, just loving and sweet and honest and funny. Go directly to @MotherHorror. You’ll be inspired and embraced and Sadie is like a portal to this whole horror world.
WH: "Emotion is your paint." I love that. What do you feel makes a horror novel suspenseful or scary?
I’m a fan of the slow burn and the connection between vulnerability and predator, character and incident. I also love dread. Alma Katsu’s The Hunger dazzled me because of the dread factor. The escalation in that novel is astounding. I also ike it when you sense an author is wrangling with cultural anxieties in a personal way, like Paul Tremblay with The Cabin at the End of the World, where people get off the grid to be safe and then…
It’s all about the “and then…”
I like to scare myself. That feels natural to me, to imagine worst possible scenarios. With Providence, it started with me thinking of being a kid, cutting through the woods to go to school. I have a big brother, so it was always us together. But when he was sick and I’d be in those woods alone, I would be terrified. Because anyone watching, any creepy neighbor would know that I was alone. It’s the danger of any pattern. And I thought, that’s the bitch about life. To be alone is to be vulnerable. It’s a theme in all my books. The certainty of predators is a tragic thing to me, which is why one reason I connected so viscerally with Gabino Iglesias’s Coyote Songs. Same can be said for Amina Akhtar’s Fashion Victim. These are books that are like, yes my dear, monsters walk among us. Fucking love that.
WH: Very well said. Connecting on that visceral level is key. Well, Caroline, what is the most awesome thing happening in your life right now that you’d like to share with us? What’s next for you? We can’t wait to see what you have coming up!
Oh gosh! 40 million people finding You on Netflix and so many new readers, this is amazing. I’ve always had The World’s Best Readers, passionate, zealous people who have been obsessed with my books, bonding in this frenzy. There’s a Facebook page they made called Caroline’s Cage. And oh man, to see that cage expand, that is so awesome.
I’m exuberant about so many dark, sick things I’m working on too. I am finishing up my Pearl book—a woman always seeks love, always seems to find death—and into the third Joe book. Season 2 of You is shooting in LA. There is so much creative energy around me right now, and I love it. I wrote a pilot with John Stamos, a brilliant writing partner, so smart, so insightful and oh yes, funny. I have another pilot I wrote for WB—a working mom breaks her golden rule and OOPS DISASTER—so it’s like all these fires and what can I say? I feel very warm and cozy and excited to create more sick funny things to keep you wary of your friends and neighbors.
Incredible. I love your passion for story! Thanks so much for chilling with me today, Caroline. It was a great honor, and best of luck to you with ALLLL your projects!
To learn more about Caroline Kepnes, follow the sites below:
* Website: http://www.carolinekepnes.com/
* Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Kepnes/e/B001K8I774
* Latest release: http://www.carolinekepnes.com/author/books/providence/
* Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarolineKepnes
* Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carolinekepnes/?hl=en
Caroline Kepnes is the author of You, Hidden Bodies and Providence. She has worked as a pop culture journalist for Entertainment Weekly and a TV writer on 7th Heaven, The Secret Life of the American Teenager and the upcoming adaptation of You. Originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts she now writes full-time and lives in Los Angeles.
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🔮 GABY TRIANA ☠️