2020 Debut Author Interview: Kevin van Whye!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up being contacted by Penguin and finding Kevin van Whye and his novel DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Kevin on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Kevin van Whye

Kevin van Whye is a writer born and raised in South Africa, where his love for storytelling started at a young age. At four years old, he quit preschool because his teacher couldnt tell a story. Kevins love affair with stories led him to film school to study script writing. Kevin currently lives in Johannesburg.

Keep up with Kevin: Website / Instagram / Pinterest / Goodreads

The Book Bratz:  First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Kevin: Thank you so much! Being a debut author is definitely a mix of emotions. On one hand there’s the excitement because I’ve achieved a dream that I’ve had for so long, but on the other there is the anxiety because being a debut means that people out there are going to actually be reading my words and having opinions…and boy-oh-boy that can be overwhelming at times.  But I’m so very grateful to be in the position I am in. And I hope that this is just the start for me.
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Kevin: TMy favorite part of the writing process is editing. I love the fine tuning and shaping of a story because for me that’s when the magic happens. It’s where all the abstract ideas and threads that I wrote at midnight start to take form. This is when I see the potential of a story, and that to me is the best part of the writing process. The hardest part for me is the actual drafting. I’m generally a fast writer but still some days writing feels like pulling teeth. To me drafting is the tunnel, and editing is the light at the end of it. I have to remind myself that the only way out is through.
The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER?
Kevin: DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER had many inspirations. Aside from my own lived experience, the ’90s rom-com SHE’S ALL THAT played a major role in inspiring this story. Just like the movie, I wanted to center a romance around a dare. Another great source of inspiration was the manga SEVEN DAYS: MONDAY-SUNDAY by author Venio Tachibana and illustrator Rihito Takarai. Overall, I wished to tell a story with gay characters that were fully immersed in the LGBTQ+ narrative. DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER is a story for the LGBTQ+ reader that reflects the world we live in. Other inspirations were the Norwegian web series SKAM (particularly season 3), TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli (as well as the film adaptation, LOVE, SIMON). All of these things are woven into the tapestry of my novel DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?
Kevin: My favorite character to write was definitely Kai. His voice just jumped right out of me and I felt that I understood who he was right from the start. Maybe it’s because Kai was written for the teen me who so desperately wanted to see himself on the page.  
The most difficult character was Bryson Keller. The Bryson that appears in the finished draft is worlds apart from the one who first showed up in the original story. I’m so grateful for my editorial team as they pushed me to make Bryson feel as developed as Kai. Yes, he is borderline ‘too perfect’ but that was intentional on my part. I wanted Bryson to come across as the perfect guy because queer readers also deserve stories with too perfect love interests.

The Book Bratz: What were some rom-coms that fueled you to write this book? What are some of your favorites?
Kevin: As I mentioned before, the biggest rom-com that fueled this book was definitely the 90’s rom-com SHE’S ALL THAT. Other influences were TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, aside from the fake-dating trope I wanted to write a love interest that could rival Peter K. LOVE, SIMON was another rom-com that had an impact on this story. My favorite rom-coms…oh, boy, I have a lot. As a 90’s kid I really feel like we were blessed with the golden age of rom-coms and I am so glad that they are making a comeback—and that they are more diverse than ever! In no particular order: THE PRINCE AND ME, THE WEDDING DATE, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, MAID IN MANHATTAN, THE PROPOSAL, JUST MY LUCK, A CINDERELLA STORY, HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, SWEET HOME ALABAMA, 13 GOING ON 30. Honestly, I could probably go on and on and on. Rom-Coms were very much a part of my childhood.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER?
Kevin:Hope. Above all else, DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER is a story of hope. That despite the trials and tribulations that you may go through there is always hope for a happy ending. We deserve to be happy, and I want readers to know that. 

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Kevin: Never say never, but as of right now no. DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER was always intended to be a standalone. My next book is tentatively titled NATE PLUS ONE, and it’s another gay YA Rom-Com. I pitch it as DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY meets CRAZY RICH ASIANS by way of South Africa. It follows Nathan Hargreaves, 17 and recently out, who is invited to a family destination wedding. It’s one week in paradise, the only problem is that it means spending time with people who believe he’s just “going through a phase” or just “hasn’t met the right girl yet”. When his mother can’t go, Nate looks for another date. Enter Jai Patel. The cute, lead guitarist of an indie band, and the boy that Nate just happens to be crushing on. 


Author: Kevin van Whye
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 19th, 2020 (TODAY!)

Summary: Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new--the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he's never really dated before. Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes. Kai Sheridan didn't expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there's more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he's awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this "relationship" will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

Thank you so much to Kevin for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about DATE ME, BRYSON KELLER and it's out in the world TODAY for all of you to enjoy!

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