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September 8, 2010

Kody Keplinger on Loving Fictional Boys

Posted by jordana
Kody Keplinger's debut novel, THE DUFF, is on shelves today, and in honor of the book's release, Kody tells Teenreads all about her favorite fictional heartthrobs. Wesley, THE DUFF's main man, is a certainly swoon-worthy in his own right, but he just might owe some of his appeal to a few very unexpected characters (cough cough #4. Shh...We love him too!). 
Despite the fact that I’m not exactly a “romantic”, I always tend to fall in love with fictional boys. From TV to movies to books, I always seem to fall head-over-heels for truly unattainable boys. By that, I mean boys that don’t exist.

But in my experience there is nothing quite as amazing as the feeling of truly falling in love with a character. That longing to be the heroine and to win the heart of such an interesting, complex, or charming boy is just fascinating to me. So, when I started writing The DUFF, I had one goal in mind. Well, okay, I had a few goals, but one of the biggest was this: 

Create a love interest that will steal a reader’s heart.

Before I wrote about Wesley, the charming womanizer in The DUFF, I had to consider who some of my favorite love interest of film and fiction are. So, without further ado, here is my list of male characters that stole my heart – and, in turn, helped me to create Wesley Rush.

1.       MR. DARCY from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen -  I think Darcy was the first love interest I really fell in love with. I was thirteen and blown away by Austen’s ability to make this seemingly jerk-like character so attractive. So much is revealed about Darcy as the book unravels. He’s shy, he’s a devoted brother, and a loyal friend. His decisions are not always sound, but he tries to do what is right, and, in the process, comes off looking arrogant. I’m still in love with him today!

2.       CHUCK BASS from the Gossip Girl TV series – Chuck is one of my more recent favorites. He has a dark, complicated character that drew me in with his secrets and wounded side. He’s more than just a womanizer. He’s got father issues that have really screwed up his social relationships. Who doesn’t love a wounded bad boy you need to heal?

3.       OWEN ARMSTRONG from Just Listen by Sarah Dessen – I loved Owen even at the start, when he was just some angry tall guy with an iPod. But as the book unraveled, Owen’s past, his love of music, and his protectiveness of those he cares about really made me fall for him more.
4.       XANDER HARRIS from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Who didn’t love Xander’s adorableness and his great one liners? He was true proof that a sense of humor is super sexy. But Xander was more than comic relief. He was loyal to the core and devoted to the ones he loved. And he made some horrible, flawed decisions that made him all the more human.

5.       RON WEASLEY from Harry Potter – Ron was my very first “book crush” when I was ten years old. He was more than just the sidekick, too! Ron had a lot going on: envy of his best friend and yet this combating loyalty at the same time – always an interesting power struggle – and a family he felt the need to take care of. Not to mention a crush on Hermione that he clearly didn’t know how to express. Ron was funny, flawed, and believable. To this day, I still adore him.


Now, Wesley isn’t much like any of these characters, but I still credit all of them with helping me figure out just what kind of love interest I wanted to write. I wanted a complicated character that was both a little dark and yet funny. But the one thing all of these boys have in common – and the one thing I love most when it comes to writing and reading about leading men – are the layers.

What makes a good love interest? There are lots of answers to this. But for me, it’s multiple dimensions. It’s complex emotions and histories. It’s something we as the reader can hold on to and discover. Because what is more romantic than the act of discovery? Of uncovering a layer that perhaps no one has ever seen before?

When I wrote about Wesley, I didn’t know everything about him. I got to discover exactly who he was at the same time as Bianca, and, in the process, I fell in love with him, too. I love reading about hot boys, so writing about them is probably my favorite part of drafting a novel.
It’s thrilling and scary and fun all at the same time!

My dream is that, perhaps one day, Wesley Rush will be on someone’s list of favorite fictional boys. If that happens, then I know I did my job right!
--- Kody Keplinger