Caroline Kepnes -- Author Interview

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Caroline Kepnes was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and now lives in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of You and Hidden Bodies, both of which bring you, the reader, inside the mind of a bright, nasty, sweet, mixed bag of a man named Joe Goldberg. He is both a law-breaking sociopath and a devout lover of literature, Internet stalker and old school dreamer.

Before she wrote novels, Caroline worked as a pop culture reporter. While at Entertainment Weekly, she described the Sopranos bus tour in great detail, analyzed Carrie Bradshaw's decisions in Sex & the City and watched the first season of 24 in 24 hours. Yes, that was intense.

Caroline started writing when she was a child because she needed to track the action in her doll house. There was this secret room upstairs, sometimes a ghost, sometimes a murderer on the run, sometimes a Glamour Gal Hollywood actress with no morals, sometimes a gun-toting GI Joe.

After she graduated, Caroline moved to New York where she had the great fortune of working in the Mammalogy Department of the American Museum of Natural History. Her other job experiences in New York include: Regular background acting on a Fox series called The $treet, Associate Editor at Tiger Beat and Teen Machine, Traveling SAT tutor, One terrible, long half day behind a desk at an investment bank, and Script Doctor (First paid creative gig ever!)

Eventually, a desire to write for the TV and spend long, breezy afternoons at the Beach Club in 90210 inspired her to go west. She moved to Los Angeles where she covered Hollywood gossip for E! Online, wrote episodes of 7th Heaven and analyzed Sally Draper for Yahoo TV. Jobs in LA include: Freelance Researcher for a Stand-Up Comedian, Staff Writer on Season 1 of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Background Goddess on Oxygen's "Mr. Romance" reality series, and Author of Stephen Crane biography for kids.

In 2013, Caroline took a deep breath, some time off and a long hard look at the world. She was sitting at a Starbucks in West Hollywood watching people with their heads in their phones. And then, she thought, what if someone else was watching them? And then Joe Goldberg was born.

Stephen King tweeted about You. He used words like "hypnotic" "scary" and "plenty of snark". STEPHEN KING, YOU GUYS, STEPHEN KING.

Lena Dunham describes Hidden Bodies as "delicious and insane". She was "RIVETED, AGHAST, AROUSED" by You.
- Biography information adapted from Amazon 

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Whew, that was a lot of information. As you can tell from her bio, Kepnes is a talented lady! Enough of what you can find on the internet... let's hear from the author herself! My book club recently read You, so I asked them to come up with some questions that they desperately needed answered. 

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Tell me three random facts about yourself. 

I was an extra in the movie One Crazy Summer. My favorite new band is Hippo Campus. I do not eat sushi.

What is the most memorable moment of your career? 

It’s every moment, every day that I wake up and get to write. Nothing ever tops the high of working your imagination, the idea that that is my job is mind-blowingly good. It’s also that night that I was in the Beverly Center and realized that Stephen King was tweeting about my book. A dream come true. And then the moments with readers, a festival where a woman told me that my book helped her get through a drug rehab program. That was powerful.

How did you create the personality of the main character Joe?



When I think about writing that first draft, it’s like I was making The Joe Show: this inside trip into his head where you are him, but oh God you would never condone what he’s doing and there’s this constant back and forth. That’s what kept me going and giddy. I have always been, to my detriment, someone who obsessively thinks from different perspectives. Because at the end of the day, everyone has a perspective everyone thinks she’s doing the right thing. That is what terrifies and inspires me most about the world, about the human brain. I talked recently about how when I was a kid I was so obsessed with the Most Wanted books at the post office, old school pages and pages of black and white mug shots. And I wanted to take those books home and study the faces and wonder if they were bad, if they really did what it said they did, why they did it, if they felt bad or felt nothing. And I wanted to have some of that dissonance in Joe. Here he is, a murderer. But then when you think about it, he is also, paradoxically, a “positive” person.  He does believe that he is helping people, sparing them. I built him on contradictions and hypocrisy. And of course brains. And yes he’s attractive, you notice him.

How did you get into the mind of a psychopath and did you have trouble letting go?

Is it weird that it was home? Like a dream vacation. Seriously. I woke up every day rushing to get ready, as if I had a flight to catch. That’s always why I love writing, that urgency of having something to say, something you want to try out, whether it’s writing about a sad mom or a murderous young man, you are building something and the only way to see how it turns out is to do it. I am very seized when I’m writing. With You, after several hours of sitting, I’d get in the car and be shaking and wired and driving (bad move in that condition lol) and blasting “Sea of Love” by The Honeydrippers. Then I’d try to cool down, have a meal with a friend, wind up talking about Joe as if he’s a real person. This is where it’s so gratifying to hear from readers who know Joe the way I do. I also love to break my own heart. This new book I’m working on, oh man, I have cried. You get into these minds and then you feel their feelings, it’s an intense bond, that classic e.e. Cummings carry-your-heart-in-me feeling, that is so heart to stop, which is why I just have to keep writing!

Did you ever get paranoid or scared while writing the books?

Oh yes. I would be in a coffee shop and make hasty, incidental eye contact with someone and then I would veer into panic. Am I staring? Is he staring? Is he a sicko? Am I safe here? Why am I so happy writing about this guy killing this guy? Hidden Bodies made me very scared of open houses, all things real estate. I’ve had some creepy experiences going to look at places and it still sort of fascinates me, the ease with which people give out keys. It’s a strange thing, to build a character and then have another character kill this person who has become so real to you. And I’m one of those people, my God, when I was a kid I hardly ever slept. I hear things and get scared and then forget it, my mind starts going. When I’m writing I get very wired and I’ll go hard for a couple times and I’ve learned to go with it, like I’m scared and hyped up and oversensitive and then it’s time for a serious intense break of fluffy things and big deep sleeps.

Do you plan to write a third book in the series?

Eventually, I do, yes. I think there is another story for Joe and I would like to challenge him with new environments and new enemies. Ah, his enemies.

What advice do you have for future writers? 

I picked up a tennis racquet recently for the first time in a couple years. My backhand has always been stronger than my forehand, so that was still there. And I’m a righty, but I like those two hands. I naturally do it all right with a backhand, starting low, following through, aiming. I don’t think about it. I just do it. My forehand has always been more difficult. Nothing about it feels right. I am more conscious of my hands and my arm and very thinky. So of course I was losing my temper, asking my brother to just hit me backhands. But that’s not how it works. You have to do the hard stuff too, the stuff that makes you self-conscious and over-analytical and frustrated, the balls sailing over the fence or dying in the net. That is my writing advice. Let your nature lead. Savor those easy-come backhands, that feeling of flow. Also, equally important, learn to savor what doesn’t come easy. Know your aggravation. You don’t write a book without growling in frustration. You have to be able to breathe and try and keep going. You have to love failing, over and over. And above all: Be your own writer. Write it as you, just you, nobody else in the world. Then print it out. I’m a believer in paper and pens. Scribble on it. Love it when it works. Realize this part doesn’t work and go and write it all over again. Be your own editor. Don’t be afraid to throw things into the woods, same way some tennis balls disappear in the woods. That’s the natural of the creative process.

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You guys, I may be obsessed with Caroline Kepnes after this interview. She is amazing! You can tell just by her interview answers that she is truly passionate about what she does. If you haven't read You and Hidden Bodies, I strongly suggest you go pick them up RIGHT NOW.

Caroline, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to answer my book club's questions. We thoroughly enjoyed reading You and cannot wait to read more about Joe.

- The Blonde Bookworm and The Novels at Night Book Club






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