News Column

McLean native's book becomes movie

July 20, 2014

By Stephanie Salmons, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.



July 20--McLean County native Kody Keplinger has been writing for as long as she can remember.

When Keplinger was young, her mom had a typewriter in her office. There wouldn't be paper, but Keplinger said she'd clack away anyway, telling the story she thought she was writing.

As she got older, she continued to write.

"It was almost compulsive," she said. "I was always coming up with new story ideas that I had to write (down)."

Writing, she said, was a form of entertainment as well as a creative outlet.

It's also been a successful one.

At 22 -- she'll be 23 soon -- Keplinger already has four published books under her belt. Her first book, "The DUFF," was written during her senior year of high school and is being made into a movie by CBS Films.

"The DUFF" started as a joke her senior year when Keplinger, who graduated from McLean County High School in 2009, first heard the phrase DUFF, or Designated Ugly Fat Friend.

Shortly after Christmas, she walked into the cafeteria one morning. A girl at her table was talking about guys calling her friend "the DUFF."

Keplinger didn't know what that meant, so when they told her, "I had these three thoughts," she said.

"First, 'that's really funny.' Second, 'that's really mean.' Third, 'that's me. I'm the DUFF."

"I realized every person thinks they're the DUFF in their group," she said.

Jokingly, she told her friends she would write a book called "The DUFF."

"I never really thought I would write it," she said. But shortly thereafter "the opening line of the story hit me," and Keplinger continued from there.

Fellow members of an online critique group encouraged her to get the story published.

Keplinger got an agent before she graduated high school, and the book was sold shortly thereafter, although it wasn't published until September 2010.

The journey to turn the book into a movie has been a long one.

Before the book was even released, Keplinger said two production companies signed on for the option, though that doesn't mean the movie will be made. So she put it out of her mind.

"A lot of books get optioned, but never go anywhere," she said.

When CBS Films bought the rights to the movie, she put that out of her mind, too.

It was "still a step, but it doesn't mean it's going to be made," Keplinger said.

But she got the call last year that the movie was going into production. It was filmed this summer.

"It happened slowly, but once it got started, it went really fast," she said.

When Keplinger received the call, she said it was overwhelming and exciting.

"There were just so many emotions all sort of at once," Keplinger said. "I didn't know what it would mean for me yet."

It wasn't until she started finding out about casting "that it really felt real."

According to IMDB.com, the movie tells the story of Bianca, "a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as 'The DUFF' (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends." She enlists Wesley, "a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself."

Bianca is played by "Parenthood" actress Mae Whitman. Keplinger said in 2010, she had written a blog post about "if I could cast the characters," and she had picked Whitman as the ideal Bianca.

Keplinger has no input regarding the movie but knows there are always changes when adapting a film. She doesn't care so much if the characters fit the physical description in her book.

"That doesn't bother me as long as I think they can bring the right attitude."

Keplinger was able to spend a day on the set in June.

The filmmakers, she said, "seemed to care a lot about the heart of the story, the message of the story. Seeing them put this together was just so fascinating and interesting."

Meeting the cast, however, was the most surreal part of the experience.

Seeing the cast's interaction together and "imagining how that would translate to the screen" was fascinating, she said.

"Mae Whitman is perfect. I can believe these girls are best friends ... It was pretty amazing to see some of these actors come together to play roles I have written."

The movie will be released next year, Keplinger said. The film also stars Allison Janney, Ken Jeong, Robbie Amell and Bella Thorne, according to IMDB.

Keplinger, who has lived in New York City since 2011, has also authored young adult novels "Shut Out" and "A Midsummer's Nightmare," and most recently published her first middle grades novel "The Swift Boys and Me."

Stephanie Salmons, 270-691-7302, ssalmons@messenger-inquirer.com

Twitter: @StephReports

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(c)2014 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)

Visit the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.) at www.messenger-inquirer.com

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Source: Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY)


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