“The Duff” author Kody Keplinger interviews her author BFF Amy Lukavics about horror, writing horror, and candy

Have you ever met a friend on the Internet that you just instantly clicked with? That’s what happened for Kody Keplinger (author of the very funny The Duff, which was turned into a movie you you should have seen by now, also called The Duff) and Amy Lukavics. The two ladies connected online and learned that they were both in the middle of writing novels. Then, they got to share the crazy experience of having your book published.

While it happened back in 2011 for Keplinger, it just happened last September for Lukavics. Her debut novel, Daughters Unto Devils is out now, and Keplinger and Lukavics sat down for a chat about writing horror, what it’s like writing horror as a female, and of course, candy.

KODY KEPLINGER:  So, first and foremost, tell me why you love to scare the crap out of teenagers, Amy?

AMY LUKAVICS: To be honest, I think it’s because of how much I have always enjoyed reading scary books and seeing scary movies. Horror stories have always been my favorite, ever since I was a little girl. They’re the most exciting, the hardest to put down, the ones that stay with me the longest. I’ve never been able to get enough.

KK: Do you remember a horror novel or movie you read/saw as a teenager that really screwed you up?

AL: Yes! I was in high school when my friend and I went and saw the American remake of The Ring. I vividly remember not being able to go to the bathroom by myself afterwards. I ended up falling into this weird obsession with making myself watch it until I wasn’t afraid anymore, which took quite a few viewings once the DVD was out. To this day it’s still one of my favorites. As far as books go, even though I was already a huge Stephen King fan by high school, I still didn’t read It until I was seventeen or eighteen. It was glorious.

KK: I am still way too scared to read It. Clowns are the one scary thing I just cannot handle. Is there any scary topic that is too much for you – either to read, watch, or write about? One thing that’s off limits?

AL: As far as writing topics that are too scary go, I have a hard time thinking of one that I would permanently avoid on principle alone. I’ve yet to wander into territory I had to purposefully veer away from, although I suppose I’d welcome the challenge! When it comes to watching: I am not the biggest fan of drawn-out torture scenes in movies. I feel like the impact hits hard right away, and dragging it on for too long can sometimes kill the tension or bring me out of the story.

KK: How did you come up with the idea for the wonderfully nightmare-inducing Daughters unto Devils?

AL: I knew I wanted to write a horror that wasn’t set in modern day. After thinking about it for a bit, there was a specific scene that came to life in my head, and it set the tone for the rest of the story to be written around it. It’s a spoiler-y scene so I can’t say much, but I will say that it had to do with ants. It was awful and sad and so messed up, but man, was it fun to write!

KK: I am afraid of your brain sometimes, lady. (It’s why I adore you.) Actually, if I remember correctly, it was your twisted mind (and our mutual love of swearing too much) that made me want to be your internet friend in the first place.

AL: YES! I feel like a mash-up of our work would be the best–imagine The DUFF but with Bianca possessed by the ghost of Wesley’s dead ex-girlfriend or something. I do remember that at one point years ago, we were going to try to write a thriller together, which would have been hilarious. Also, I think it’s only fair everybody knows that you are the one who helped me come up with the title for Daughters unto Devils.

KK:  I can’t even imagine what a collaboration between the two of us would look like now. I’m sure we’ll find out one day. And yes. You had so much trouble with that title. As happy as I am to have helped, I still think your working title was even better. Would you like to share what it was?

AL: *clears throat* PRAIRIE OF DOOOOOM! All of those O’s are mandatory, by the way. I can’t imagine why it didn’t make the final cut…

KK: Let’s get back to the spooky stuff – specifically, writing the spooky stuff. Is there anything you do to get in the mood to write the creepy things? Music you listen to? Do you turn off the lights? Tell me how you get dark, Amy Lukavics.

AL: I am obsessed with soundtracks! If I’m editing, I’ll put on a calmer one, like the score for The Hours (or anything by Philip Glass,) but when I’m drafting scary scenes, I really like to turn it up a notch and use the soundtrack for something like Alien or The Ring or a handful of others. I also tried writing by candlelight while I was drafting Daughters Unto Devils…that was fun, and by fun, I mean extremely creepy.

KK: I know you’ve been working on your second book now (also something utterly terrifying). Horror is often perceived as being a male-dominated genre (whether that’s accurate or not). How has your experience of being a badass lady in this genre been so far? Are there any other female horror writers you’ve looked to as inspiration?

AL: I am indeed working on the second book now; it’s another horror titled The Women in the Walls [a stand-alone story, set in modern times0]. I have no plans to step away from scary stories any time soon!

As far as the genre being male-dominated, it’s tricky. It’s not like there aren’t any incredible female horror artists out there—there are plenty of them—but I do wish that their works were given more of an equal opportunity to see the mainstream spotlight in order to add true balance to the mix, both in film and fiction. And it’s not just having horror by women that’s important, but also having horror about and for women, unapologetically.

Still, at the end of the day, all I can do (and all I want to do, really,) is write what I love to write. I won’t take on a gender-neutral pen name in order to hopefully sell more books, and I won’t shy away from creating horror stories about women just because they might not gather as much attention as stories about men. And so far, working under that attitude hasn’t really hurt me—even though I wrote a book with the word “Daughters” in the title and the story follows a sixteen-year-old girl, there have still been plenty of male readers who reached out to me to say that they loved it. That gives me hope for sure.

KK: Okay, I have one last question for you. Ready?

AL: Always!

KK: I know you’re a candy fiend. I have, in fact, seen your secret stash. So, what is your favorite candy to snack on when you’re writing the scary stuff?

AL: Yes, candy is everything! I love anything sour, like Sour Punch or Zours or Sour Skittles, and I also enjoy mixing them with things like Red Vines or Starburst. As you can see, I am very passionate about this subject. I think you should be my permanent interviewer from here on out, actually. You are the best!

KK: Good call. Forget my career as a novelist. I’m going to switch paths and become an official Amy Interviewer. Ha. Well, my demented little friend (who is, in fact, half a foot taller than me…), thank you for answering my questions!

(Image via Harper Collins)