TIH 498: Caroline Kepnes on For You and Only You, Scabies for Breakfast, and Finding The Right Way To Tell Your Story

TIH 498: Caroline Kepnes on For You and Only You, Scabies for Breakfast, and Finding The Right Way To Tell Your Story

In this podcast, Caroline Kepnes talks about her brand new Joe Goldberg novel, For You and Only You, Scabies for Breakfast, finding the right way to tell your story, and much more.

About Caroline Kepnes

Caroline Kepnes is the New York Times bestselling author of You, Hidden Bodies, Providence, and You Love Me. Her work has been translated into a multitude of languages and inspired a television series adaptation of You, currently on Netflix. Kepnes graduated from Brown University and then worked as a pop culture journalist for Entertainment Weekly and a TV writer for 7th Heaven and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She grew up in Cape Cod, and now lives in Los Angeles. Her latest book is For You and Only You.

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. And every episode I chat with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today is the second part of my conversation with Caroline Kepnes. And she has just released a brand new Joe Goldberg book for you. And only you know, when we released part one, it was only available in the UK but now it is available worldwide. So do go out and pick that one up today. Once again is entitled for you and only you or you know, don't go out just order it online. But what you absolutely must do is read it. Now in today's conversation we get deeper into for you and only you amongst a multitude of other topics. But before we jump into the episode, it is time for a quick advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 2:59

Well, with that said here it is, it is part two of Caroline Kepnes on This Is Horror. So I want to talk a little bit about the new book For You and Only You. And to begin with, can we start with your kind of one minute elevator pitch to give people a sense as to what this book is about?

Caroline Kepnes 3:31

This firm like I'm not good at this either. But this for me is Joe and his most vulnerable state ever because he wrote a book. And he loves someone who wrote a book. So it's all possible and the stakes are very high, especially for someone like him and his head. And they are the two outsiders in this Harvard fellowship. And if people get in their way of them, he is going to stop them because they're the only way this ends is with Joe. And wonder being great American novelist.

Michael David Wilson 4:03

Yeah, yeah. And then as is typical of don't get in the way of, of his mission and his ideas, it ain't gonna end well.

Caroline Kepnes 4:15

Because my favorite, I feel like the like the bat and not that, like the elevator pitch is hard, because I just think of like moments or aspects of it. But I love that part when he's waiting for two different women to read his book. And yeah, just that for me, it was like joy to write and to think of him in that thing. Like, it's hard for anyone we all know the feeling of hitting send, but if you're Joe Goldberg, and you've exposed yourself, which is all so on him to do, that's where like the right there's such a difference between writing and being published. It was just really fun to like, put him to give him kind of a job, you know, like a career that he is so suited for. Like like yes wants to be. He wants to be JD Salinger. But he doesn't want to let anyone even maybe have the opportunity to tell him that maybe he is not. Right. I like that. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 5:10

Yeah. Well, I mean, everything about Joe Goldberg historically, is about control and being in control of the situation, which as we know, as writers, as soon as we send it out, we are not anymore. So, I mean, yeah.

Caroline Kepnes 5:30

And I thought, yeah, like, that's what I was playing with it. It was like, Oh, my God, like, the poor tragedy if he wrote, If he did this, if he wrote a novel, and believed in it, and he would, with his imagination and his like, you know, ego, he would feel like this is it. And if he gets that validation, if he manipulates another guy to give them validation that he's right. Oh, no, like, they're all gonna die. Like, because now anyone who doesn't agree, or even the idea of someone having the opportunity to contradict that, to not love it, like I just loved, like putting him in the position where he can't where, of course, he has to rationalize his way out of it and fight that from happening, but also the tragedy of like, then it's Clanton been another dream down the tubes, but that's what he likes. He likes things, being, you know, everything not working out. And that's what was fun of like, thinking like, getting to think of those stories. Yeah, of like Goodwill Hunting of, like, when certain people who don't move, get that invitation into that world, thrive in it, and they come out and it's like, Joe is someone who would be very well aware of those stories and that pressure and not be able to like he doesn't like to be vulnerable.

Michael David Wilson 6:45

Yeah, and Goodwill Hunting is reference so much, both directly and indirectly. I think it has to be the most referenced movie or text within this book.

Caroline Kepnes 6:59

Yes, I feel like yeah, it's either that or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but oh,

Michael David Wilson 7:04

yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factory, particularly if we combine it with just general references to Roald Dahl is a close second.

Caroline Kepnes 7:18

Yes. And yeah, the goodwill Hunter felt right, because I did love that. Like, he's also to me, like the part of us that has seen those movies and has ingest all that romance and does feel like, where's my happy ending, where's like, when you know, and also the, like, the way the romance of the friendship in there, when Ben Affleck makes that speech, like the, you know, what the best part of my day is, when I'm walking up here, and I think you might not be here, like, I inside, just think about that. And I feel like someone like Joe, like watching things, and always assuming that he's kind of the hero. Like, kind of, is in that's what makes him a little bit of my naive child to that, like, he thinks that those things are how life works. To a degree and then he goes to such cynicism. And, and without giving things away. I liked it was fun with with those to see him kind of look at them differently at the end of the book. And yeah, kind of. They're attractive to us as, like, fantasies as stories and, and how not so realistic, not so easy to kind of make that dream come true in real life.

Michael David Wilson 8:29

Yeah, yeah. I mean, with this science with a lot of books, which is always the challenge of doing this podcast. And so it's difficult to be like, Well, how many specifics do we actually talk about? Because I mean, even about, I guess, maybe about 30% into the book, there is a very significant reveal, that I'd love to talk about. But then, you know, I want the people listening to experience this for themselves.

Caroline Kepnes 9:02

These are where like, book events are so fascinating to me, because you go it's when the book like sure some people have gotten advanced copies and read it. But yeah, people who read it yet, you don't want to spoil things for them. Because everything we were talking about wanting to go in somewhat blind to things I just find funny. I'm like, oh, that a month after the book was out. It would just make more sense because you're not like risking like, the nerves that go for me like I get tongue tied just because I'm trying to monitor and be aware of that. And yeah, like I did, I remember I did an event with Andy Bartz that I was so nervous about because her book had so many twists. And every time like, oh, like we're both trying to like have this conversation that was so stilted because not wanting to give it away.

Michael David Wilson 9:52

Yeah. Yeah. Well, one thing I love with your books is it is the way that you name characters and locations. It's always so on point. And I mean, obviously the main love interest here is wonder, we previously had love as the main interest. And I mean, Glenn shoddy, his name is perfect, but it will only become known as to as to why that is such an apropos name a little later into the book, which I can't reveal. And then, of course, of course, Joe Goldberg's book had to be entitled me. There was almost an inevitability about that, because you know that this is you, but everything is really about him. It is me, me, me.

Caroline Kepnes 10:53

Absolutely, yes. And I loved him not having the self awareness about that title. You know what I mean of like, that he could call the fucking book me and still not get it like that. I do love him. i That blind spot about himself, like so much. I think that that's also can be relatable, like, we all have our blind spots. But the way his name of his book is just that made me happy. Yeah, as if like, yeah, and his very, what about me, like, like, he's that short end of the stick syndrome? And yeah, with names, I look at those scary moments when I have the name in my head. And usually it comes out of nowhere, or there's been a one that I didn't like it, like, you know, and I think it but then I there's that moment where I google like surname with a name like Kennedy, and was shot. I felt like, that was a real surname when I looked into it, but I, but it might not, I'm pretty sure. But there have been times when I've tried and like, it's like, no, this is not a surname, and I'm like, well, it's fiction. Well, yeah, it's that debate, but in these books, where it's so like, I feel like I made that commitment in the first one, to having it take place in the real world by tying into like, Lou Reed, that when this when I was writing this one that was like, when that pandemic space, I was in this like, oh, fuck, like, I, I don't have the option of writing a book where we don't acknowledge the pandemic, but at the same time like this, none of it's been through none of our filters. And I didn't really feel necessarily ready to write about it. So it was like, Okay, if I push time forward a little, and I get to think about what Joe did with his pandemic. And it did feel like yeah, he would kidnap someone and write a book. Like That sounds about right. Like, yeah, yeah. And convince, save the whole city from a, like, toxic person. Like,

Michael David Wilson 12:40

right, like, okay, yeah. Yeah, I mean, was there reluctance, incorporating these COVID references, knowing that just the way that timelines work in publishing, that this would be out like a year, or possibly more later, at which point things would have progressed or altered? And, you know, you didn't know how that would have changed?

Caroline Kepnes 13:06

Yes, very scary. And in that way, my first draft was all zoom. And it was also me like, I feel like now when I look back, I was very much like coping with all of the changes and all the solitude in my life for like, the first draft of the book, the whole workshop that they have met on Zoom. And it was all there was a lot of social distancing. There were a lot of like, Joe and wonder, like, you know, edit, dislike everything that had a lot of distance in it. And then a few months later, after I sent it in, I was in that high space where I was like, actually, this first draft is it. And then as that fever went down, I'm past and when I opened it, it was like, Yeah, my editors, right, like this is it is dated, if something feels already dated then, and kind of to timestamp. I feel like that's such a delicate dance, you know, and it's fun to me right now to read a book and see what everyone did with it. And so I wanted to have a balanced feeling of like, it takes place in this world, but also like, I wanted to be a little be in a place where it was a little mellower, you know, where some people are still still a part of the conversation, but it's not kind of where we are now, where it's like you, you're everyone. Some people for many reasons are wearing masks when they're indoors. Some people aren't the way it's like, it's at such an individual level now, you know, but there's toilet paper. So that yeah, I feel like a big part of that first book was all that early stuff from the grocery market and, and I'm like, maybe back to that first draft and and repurpose it as something else. Because it does feel like a time stamp. Like I like a lot of it. But it just I didn't feel ready to like, fully be able to write about that, you know, like,

Michael David Wilson 14:50

yeah, yeah, it's been interesting to see different writers and creatives approach to whatever to You're not to incorporate the pandemic into their fiction. And, I mean, I can definitely see why there's a lot of reluctance to kind of write full on pandemic stories that are particularly dealing with COVID. Particularly, because I mean, even now, do we have the full picture here? I don't know, maybe that, you know, it's like, very, yeah, to

Caroline Kepnes 15:27

imagine a dynamic world when we've also learned so much that like, it comes back. It's the zombie. You know what I mean? Yeah, I know. Now, there's a new strain somewhere, I can't think of the name of it. But it feels like once you've been through that, you understand that it can happen. And so our, our outlook is altered. So that's where I'm like, in order to find a comfort zone for this book, where I knew it had to be acknowledged as part of it. But I'm like, I want to find a way to do it. Where I still feel like this is possible, you know, it feels a little. But what was funny was that I did go to to Boston, like after I feel like when I was like, halfway through the second draft, I was like, yeah, like I'm, you know, gonna roam around Harvard a little bit and then get there. I can be like, in that state of denial and being so excited to like, go somewhere. I get there. There's no students. Like, nothing's on campus. It was still Yeah, it was that point, you know, and I'm like, Oh, my God, like that was a that was a comical trip. Yeah. But it was still good to like, be around the area. And yeah, like, go to some of the spots. And,

Michael David Wilson 16:32

yeah, well, I mean, it was probably good fuel for if you ever have an apocalyptic story, say, we've been Harvard because you got to see it. We know. Kind of action know people.

Caroline Kepnes 16:46

Yes. Yeah. Just yeah. For it to be a ghost town. Like, I just was there a couple of weeks ago with my friend had a reading. And we're walking around. I'm like, Oh, this is like this is you know, yeah. Like all the lights and all the students in the activity. And it was like, Alright. Yeah, I hope that it feels that, you know, in the book, yeah, it was. But yes, these pandemic books are interesting. Yeah, it's like a Johnson experiment. Yeah, yeah.

Michael David Wilson 17:14

It was interesting to see how the film, The Glass Onion dealt with the pandemic, in the sense that, I mean, it's that have you seen the film

Caroline Kepnes 17:25

of it, but I might go on I'm the one that I saw was a horror movie that I can't think of the name of, but I think it was Kevin Williamson. And it was really good. I was impressed that like, I felt like this was a well done story. And it's like, yeah,

Michael David Wilson 17:42

yeah, I was just gonna say we've big last Sunday. And they acknowledge the in the sense that everyone kind of turned up to this, like meeting to this party that they'd been invited to, in a mask. But then there happened to be a thing that they were I can't remember what they sprayed, or where they injected with it. And it's like, okay, now you're good. So then they could take that mask off. And I know, that was quite an interesting thing to do. You've acknowledged. What was that?

Caroline Kepnes 18:12

Wait, there was in their world, there was like a magic shot that, you know, made you immune to it?

Michael David Wilson 18:18

Yeah. So it's like, we've acknowledged that it exists for the first 10 minutes. Now we're doing this thing so that you don't have to worry about it for the rest of the film.

Caroline Kepnes 18:28

And that's a wonderful thing.

Michael David Wilson 18:30

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, no, oh, yeah. At the moment, in my fiction, I just, I haven't acknowledged it yet. I mean, cuz like, I don't know, I don't want it to be gimmicky, or I don't want it to be kind of gratuitous. And, like, I think a lot of a lot of the stories that I'm writing about at the moment. I mean, they could either be taking place in kind of pre pandemic 2019 is conceivable, or it could be kind of 2023, where a lot of it is now invisible.

Caroline Kepnes 19:11

Yes, yeah. And then I feel like it comes down to the inner workings of the story and the characters, right. Like, it's not surprising to me that the thing I've been writing, it didn't even occur to me, like it takes place in normal modern times. Like you said, it's almost like, Okay, this is 2019. But also, it's not like I like, whatever the nuts and bolts of the story are like, they just don't involve it for some, you know, and the founder is not contending with that. Yeah, whereas I feel like some things. If you're going to do that, it's part of the reason you're going to be motivated to do that story is because you have something you want to explore with it. So

Michael David Wilson 19:45

yeah, yeah. And I mean with you and only you this is the book in terms of subject matter that I guess, is closest connected to what You actually do, you know, as a writer, so was their reluctance? Or what concerns did you have with that in mind knowing that, you know, to a point you are satirizing and giving sharp social commentary on a world that you are a part of, and submitting it to people who are also part of that world,

Caroline Kepnes 20:27

right? It was very surreal. And part of it too, especially that moment, like, for me, right when the pandemic started, you know how it is like you when you write and kind of you locked down and then you go do things like I had a trip planned, I was to an event in Baltimore, I was so excited to go to New Orleans into the like a parish outside of the city and the bayou. And it all got canceled. And, you know, we're all in that state. And I had this like anger and real strong awareness of how much just how much I love those events. And I love those times of like, seeing other writers of doing something where like the work of the day is, is talking, interacting, not necessarily writing, you know, and I like those breaks from the extreme of like the writing. And I feel like I drew on that of like, obsessing over like being around people. And then in the Joe way, it felt like there was no way to not bring him in touch with writers because it was part like someone who loves books like, this was time for him to like, like for someone who has books on a pedestal, riding on a pedestal, puts women on a pedestal, it's like, well, no writers are humans too. And I felt like with each character, I was like, I enjoyed playing with his impatience, disgust and judgment. Because for all these people, they all put themselves out there. And that's the difference. So it's like, they all have their moods, their reactions, the way anyone who lives in honest like, exposing themselves kind of life. Like with Lou, it killed me the way when he's in that postpartum release moment. And there's a moment in the cloud when she has the finger painting. And he makes a cover of his book and put on Instagram, and Joe was so disgusted. And it's like, Fuck you, Joe, you don't know what it's like to put a book out, you don't know what it's like to like, any of that. And I loved that's for I love to Joe, like, being forced to like, like, it's so easy to love a dead writer, right? Like, that was my number one thing. And it can feel like, oh, that person I would just very would have could have should have, you know, and he's like, an asshole, but respected me, I would have gotten along with them. But what always happens with Joe is that he gets near these living humans. And it's like, Well, none of them are good enough. So I liked how hard he was on them. And the way in that way, like, without giving things away, it was like, In what world? Could Joe ever do what any of them have done, which is to share his work, and allow himself to be like, liked and disliked and assessed? And yeah, I think of writing that book of caring all those writers and all those books, their books in my head and going through these like, like, you know, when you wake up in the morning, and I'd be like, Oh my god, like, what, like Sarah that swallows isn't real, like, none of those books exist, like, and I started thinking about them, or what they would be like, I felt like I was writing everyone in that fellowships, books in my head. And then getting like, heartbroken that they were all made up pretend didn't exist. So it was this writing experience was very, very bizarre. Yeah, like, even for the you books like Yes. Yeah. Like I always do. You go, where you think the characters are real, you're spending a lot of time with them. And the heartbreak of when you're done, and they're not like this book, I wouldn't stop writing it. Like my editor is like, it's over. Like, you know, yeah, I'm like, he's like, also come on, we edit like, edited this, the word flow is there, like you're? And I'm like, Well, I just don't want to stop. Like, I don't know what I'm gonna do without them.

Michael David Wilson 24:01

Yeah, yeah. I mean, how long does it typically take you to go from, you know, writing, I guess that initial plan to then essentially being forced by your editor to be like, we're done. Or you're done. Give it to me. Stop write down.

Caroline Kepnes 24:24

I'm like, okay, so it's 2023. I feel like that conversation was this summer. I'm not like, I don't know if it was, I think maybe August or September because I can remember sitting outside and doing all this rewriting and in the back of my head, knowing Bad Girl Like, not allowed, but like, stopped and so that was 2023 summer and I feel like this book. I feel like I started in that first draft in 2020 I think or before that, maybe before, but a long time like Because the Yeah, the 2020 draft. At first I was gonna write about him in Florida. And then right away, I was like, No, like I need, you know, like I could do if it was a novella. I could put them in that bar and keep them there. But for a book, I want them to, like the new environment, a new like real challenge and being in a new role that would be bring new problems, you know, and people that he can be jealous of. I think that's my favorite thing with him that like, the way he can't acknowledge or deal with his jealousy and he just brings it into I'm better than you. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, two and a half. Yeah, right. Now,

Michael David Wilson 25:38

so Well, I mean, sounds like two and a half years, if you started in 2020, or potentially a little before and then finished in summer? 2022.

Caroline Kepnes 25:50

Yes. And with those breaks in there, where you're finishing that draft, walking away from it for a little while, that kind of, you know, wait, but do you like those? And those questions always feel like, weird, because with everything, do you find this with everything you write that it feels like, oh, I started this a long time ago, like that everything was kind of like somewhere in there, it's coming. And then when you get into the emotions, and the care, like all of it always feels like I'm just filtering ideas I've had through a lot of life. And I think that's for this book. That's what was fun to have feeling like, I wish I wrote all of all of their books. And I think it's partly breakaway. You could never, you could never read all the books in the world. And you certainly can never write all the stories you want to tell. And this was a way especially in that pandemic, being nice to myself way of like, well, if I make up all these writers, and all their different types of books, I can kind of feel like I wrote them. Like, yeah, but yeah, too. Yeah, yeah. Do you know when you have that starting moment with a book? Do you have a vivid memory of that with most things that you write that like, oh, the day that it like clicked, that you would consider it the start day?

Michael David Wilson 27:04

Sometimes I think the start date, and the day that it clicked might be different days, depending on, you know, the project as it were. But I mean, I certainly agree that a lot of a lot of books seem to take a long time, even if it's like only we've retrospect, you realize that the writing started way before you committed a single word to that piece of paper. And I mean, that there's a few books and ideas as well that I've had kind of marinating for absolutely years, and I've made some false starts on them. Or it's like I have a concept. I've begun them numerous times. But I haven't quite found what is the real entry point? What is the real mode to tell this story? And you know, what, one day I will like that there's one I'm specifically thinking about, as I'm saying this, and it must be about a decade now. And there's been like, two or three iterations of it. And yeah, sometimes you end up cannibalizing different ideas, and it's like, okay, well, we'll take this element from this false start or take this element from another, but it's just, yeah, it's finding the right mode. And I think, I think on that basis, or certainly along those lines, like any story that I've ever written, if I were to have written it at a different time, or if I were to start it now, it will be a different book. I mean, it's kinda like, that quote about you can never step into the same river twice. It's like any time you go to write the story, it would be different.

Caroline Kepnes 28:53

Absolutely. And so many of these are like, now I think like my creepy crawly Night Thoughts, like at night, I feel like it happened during a pandemic, pretty much I was always a night person for writing over the pandemic, I became a morning person, because at night, I would just get into that neurotic, like, I'm gonna die. I'm never going to write this I'm never gonna write that I'm never gonna write that like, and then you wake up in the morning and you're like, write you never step into the same river twice. Like what is meant to be me and all that, like, I feel like I feel like I have two different brains. And that morning one is so well adjusted productive in that night one is demented, like Yeah, negative.

Michael David Wilson 29:33

Yeah, but you know, having those two different modes as well, it feels like whilst there's probably going to be a mode that is better for writing in general, you know, probably the morning one. It's not a bad idea to be like, we're gonna let this kind of demented, nightmarish brain at least take a pass on on one of the drafts. Let's just see what happens.

Caroline Kepnes 29:57

Yes, I feel like you have to do that too. And I like that feeling when? At night when it's like, alright, well, like, you know, for me, it's like, if I'm watching a TV show, and I realized I just miss 10 minutes. I'm like, oh, yeah, when brain work. Like it's that, like when I realized, Oh, it's my, I'm not able to absorb an intake because it's got to get out of my system. Like, yeah, I like that feel that's for like in the morning, it just feel I just feel like, I just feel more well adjusted in the morning or more like optimistic, you know, more like a Disney character like, oh, everything is right. Or didn't the possibility and? And I think that definitely, because I was you. So thinking of night always is like, fun, whether you're out or alone. It's when it's your choice, it was all about choice. Like I love to go out at night, I love to stay home at night. And when that element of choice was gone, man, that was a thing as a controlling party. I was like this blows like, because it's so fun to choose to stay home and write at night. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 31:02

Yeah. Yeah. And I wonder when you're writing in the morning, do you check social media beforehand? Do you check your phone? Do you check the news? Is that a thing you do before the writing?

Caroline Kepnes 31:17

It's like, sometimes I do the one thing like I won't open text necessarily. I don't have notifications on for anything. But I'll look at Twitter and the lurking way. i i phases where I like, delete one of them and don't look for a while or that I'm you know what I mean? But I look at that, like I don't I feel like that's I've have a busy body brain like I go with that. What but something about texting, and getting into that conversation? That'll take me away from writing and being Yeah, like, it's yet a communication thing. You know, like, the minute I start communicating, it's like, Oh, what about you?

Michael David Wilson 31:57

Um, I mean, so, me the theory. And the reality as so many things is a little bit different. So, I mean, I think the ideally, it would be best for somebody to just go into writing, to not check any of these notifications, because these are the times where, you know, you could be distracted. And so it could kind of ruin your morning. But I do feel like after sleep, it is kind of a reset, and a lot of the anxieties or the worries that you had the night before, temporarily disappear. So I certainly would advocate for people not to check into that, that kind of thing. In terms of my reality, so I've implemented some practices to make it better. So I do not have any notifications on my phone. Also anything like social media and messaging apps, whilst they're on my phone, I have to go through several pages to get to it. So I'm trying to make it harder for myself.

Caroline Kepnes 33:12

And then I know you could just pull it on the screen and start to write it, but I try to unknow that. Yeah, yeah, a little bit. Late. And yeah, I think notifications are the sickest thing in the world. Because I just yeah, like, remember when was it Friendster? Or was it on Facebook when it was poking? I feel like

Michael David Wilson 33:31

oh, that was obnoxious.

Caroline Kepnes 33:34

Yeah. So we That was so weird to me like pervy weird, like, just weird all around, like, you know, like something I guess even the physical wouldn't walk up to someone in public and like, poke them?

Michael David Wilson 33:47

Well, I don't like being told what to do. So if somebody pokes me, then I'm actually more likely to never respond to your message is gonna have the opposite effect, because it's like, What the hell are you doing? could go on a semi rant, you know, this. This is like kind of opened up an area but one thing I particularly hate, I hate read receipts, you know, telling someone that message has been read because if I have had the time to read it, it does not mean I have had the time to respond.

Caroline Kepnes 34:27

Exactly. That is encouraging narcissist. Yeah, it's meddling it's narcissism. It's giving part of the story, not the whole story. Because you're so right for all you know, you opened it You didn't number one something in your life happened, but I feel like it's that boundary thing that like it is just none of your business. It's just yeah, like in a normal, everyone has the right to respond when they feel like it without giving an excuse either. And that's where like, I feel like it's all so messed up and those are Sick, whoever invented that I always is like a sicko. Like,

Michael David Wilson 35:04

yeah. Yeah. And, you know, it's interesting too, you're getting emails and people apologize about how long it's taken them to reply. And it's like, it's okay. Your your job is not professional e-mailer And you know, fruit throughout life, I tried to remember to keep myself grounded, that nobody really owes me a damn thing. So it's like, also, if, if I send you an email, that doesn't mean that I have a right for a reply. I think a lot of people feel that they do. But it's like, you know,

Caroline Kepnes 35:43

they do. And I always remind myself, I'm like, Well, when I write to someone, and I hear back, I don't think that they're not responding right away. It's about me, I don't get mad, I think naturally, that like, oh, they have their whole, they have their life like everyone has their life. And you're not the center of that email isn't like, the thing of their day. And I feel like it's sad that technologies kind of teach us the opposite. because of things like those receipts, and the way everything is dated. So it just in time stamped like you can know, like you can be too aware of when you did things and you give me one way to count. It's just then your count. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 36:27

Yeah, yeah. But to go back to answering your question from now about 10 minutes ago, because I will remember what I remember what people asked me even if I completely deviate, but in terms of whether I do check things before writing, so not only have I moved the apps over to like the kind of final screen, but I've got two main email addresses. One of them is way more likely for me to get emails that irritate me. So I typically have it so that it first of all, if I click into emails, the default will be the one that does not irritate me. So yeah, I might, I might check that one. But then not check the other.

Caroline Kepnes 37:16

Do the people who have the irritating email address know that they're irritating? Do you think?

Michael David Wilson 37:21

I mean, like when first crossing? Oh, no, no, no, is the answer. They don't know that. And, like, you know, it's not, it's not that I'm exclusive. It's not this is only exclusively for people who irritate me. But like, it just I know that like, if it's something that's going to, like, potentially cause stress, so anxiety is like, typically dealt with on that email. But I mean, I also I got rid of Facebook a few years ago, because I just, it wasn't really adding a lot to my life. And I also felt from, you know, because if I guess it was social media, you've got two things, you've got one to actually connect with people and like a kind of friendship and a social element. And then second, you do have the kind of marketing and the professional. And I just felt like it wasn't bringing me a lot of joy. And I wasn't really convinced that Facebook was like a great marketing tool, or like it wasn't delivering the best bang for my buck as it were. I I mean, Twitter, Twitter as the main one that I'm using in terms of that. You know, we have an Instagram account, we have a tick tock account now which tick tock is an interesting one,

Caroline Kepnes 38:50

and you feel crazy tick tock. bind together, like if someone sends me one thing to watch, Oh, watch it and like the, you know, those can be great. But the way it just feeds it just keeps going and going is like my nightmare. You don't have time to report it just here, here here. I don't look at stories on Instagram. Really, it just I, I guess I like so much like to pause and think about things and I'm a slow processor. And the one time I went on Tik Tok, it was like for whatever reason, the way it thinks it knows you They all think they know you. It's given me all of the I don't really it's giving me all these recipes. And then these life hacks and I'm just sitting there like I do this wrong. I do that wrong. I didn't know that. I didn't know that. I'm like, people like this. Like they like it. Like

Michael David Wilson 39:41

yeah, so do you

Caroline Kepnes 39:43

make stuff and put it on or do you like you know, let it roll.

Michael David Wilson 39:47

So here's the thing with with tick tock I mean, as a consumer, I'm not interested is like I have no interest in it as like a consumer and as a user Where, if I want video content, then I'm going to go to something like YouTube, like, normally, you know that there's something that I want that is more considered, there's not a one or two minute soundbite that is going to make me or really happy that I consumed that. It just, it doesn't add anything to my life. So like, you know, for some similar entertainment, it's like YouTube, or it is podcasts, you know, I want the context. And because I mean, I mean, that is a problem. And not another separate rant. You know, we've, we've some things today that we've got things taken out of context and context does matter context is important. And so

Caroline Kepnes 40:48

some Yeah. And in the appreciation of that, like I, what I feel like is getting kind of getting lost that like, it's also just more interesting, and better, like brain food when there's context. And when, like, you watch info and like, get to put all the pieces together. And, you know, yeah, i and i also, I'm like, my brain just wants I like when something is like, a long time, and I'm gonna just sit back and take it all in. And then I'll get like, some part that will be like, Oh, wow. But I like the build up to that. It's, it's almost like music when it has a long introduction, you know, an instrumental and then, you know, the singing, humming like, I just Yeah, I like slow and

Michael David Wilson 41:32

long. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, um, yeah. Yeah. So, so as a consumer not interested as, as a content creator. You know, I'm aware that this is the fastest growing social media platform. I'm aware that particularly from a younger demographic, it is completely, you know, that it is the most popular one. So if I want my writing or my podcast or whatever I'm creating to, to be available to younger people and to grow that audience and Tik Tok is a good kind of medium to tap into. But I, I'm very much concerned with authenticity. And, you know, I'm, I'm not like a kind of typical, tick tock, or whatever you call them. And like, you know, I'm not a stereotypical YouTuber, either. Like, I just think it's too artificial. It's too phony. I'm not gonna put on some weird voice and be like, Yo, what's up? We got Caroline cabinets here. We got the new you book. It is poppin No, fuck that. That's not me. And it has, you know, just a slightly cynical, British guy.

Caroline Kepnes 43:04

Well, I feel like we're all really wired for that more than ever now to know what's authentic. Because yeah, the Yeah, because when there's so much that isn't, it's like, wow, it's like we I feel like we have a sense of that. You know? Like, if I heard you saying that I was laughing

Michael David Wilson 43:21

Yeah, exactly. Because it's, it's bullshit. But I mean, the way that I view alized tick tock is like i i will put like a little clip from from the podcast up on tick tock, and then after there's like a kind of call for action if you if you enjoy this, then this is the episode and that's the way that I'm utilizing it. You know, I've I've even I've tried to like, Okay, can I do a little video of of me like, you know, I got Eric maracas book the other day. It was really good. Can I just like hold it up and be? Isn't me Carolina.

Caroline Kepnes 44:06

Yeah, I'm like mine. If my phone got ever got hacked, that would be my biggest fear. And I hope that they're all deleted. But I'm like, why I can't do this. Like, and I can genuinely love something. But the minute I'm on camera, talking about it, it's just looks, and I don't think it's just to me, You know what I mean? Like when Yeah, when you look at yourself, like of course, you're looking at yourself. There's that aspect, but some people are just good at that. Some people have it in their DNA. And there's a comfort zone. People like you and me like No,

Michael David Wilson 44:37

yeah, yeah. Also like you know, because I can sometimes deliver things like quite monotone it's like if I'm like, I really love the sport by Erica rocker is like is he being sarcastic? No, it's like, I really liked it.

Caroline Kepnes 44:56

thing I feel like when I'm telling the truth, I sound like I'm lying. Like it's it's like the opposite of in real life, like what happens and I try and forget the cameras there. It's like, I don't like being on camera. I don't like having my picture taken just any of it. And I like a camera you just just a weird thing. Like, it's a to me it's an intrusion. It's like, activates my brain. That's where it's being recorded, like all of it, you know?

Michael David Wilson 45:22

Yeah. And it's like, you know, I'm, I'm okay with this, because it's like, you know, this is just two people talking. We're not trying to put on a show or entertain. But yeah, it's the moment where the camera becomes a thing. So it's like, honestly, if I was trying to promote a book, The bad thing to do would be to get like a guest and to just talk to them about why it's good. And then we might put a clip of that on.

Caroline Kepnes 45:51

Yes, a cliff and like, I love the way things come full circle and then are just totally obviously old. It's like, that's what we know is also a commercial. Yeah, like, I still, I still love watching old school television, because I love commercials. I love them. Over the years, I love the approaches changing. I love everything about commercials, they fascinate me. I like to see the tech stuff. I like the psychology of it, of how they're trying to get to you what game they're playing. And it's funny to me to see like, everyone would be like, I hate commercials, and then go on tick tock, which is like, it's a lot of commercials. Like, it's not it's like, there's there's no real way to be alive and avoid commercials because people sell things. And yeah, want you to know about. So yeah, because the way people act sometimes when I say that about TV, I'm like, I also like in that way those breaks of like the way if you go to watch a play, there's an intermission, you kind of go away and dwell in the light. And like, the way when you're watching a show on TV, there's that commercial break. And whether it's a drama or a comedy, there's something about having that little break for your brain to process and anticipate. And I liked that. And I'll never not like that. So yeah, I don't even Yeah, we are. Yeah. All right,

Michael David Wilson 47:09

right. But I mean, going back to you, You created all these writers that have their own books that of course, fictional books, because they don't exist within this reality. Would you ever consider writing any of these? Would you consider actually writing scabies for breakfast? Which is a fucking amazing title?

Caroline Kepnes 47:37

Absolutely, yes. Because that's like, I was living vicariously through each of them in that way in what they were writing, and what like, it's part of that like, morbidity of like feeling like I was in such a aware of depth state of mind and aware of all the books that would never write. And this was a way to get them out. I feel like at some point, I asked my publisher to make covers for all of us. Like, that's my I'm like, at least I want to pretend and I want to see their names. Like, I love them. I'm happy for them. I want to see their books and the covers and the way they you know, Cerebus would look different from Glenn from scabies and I want to see flower girls, like especially like I'm doing a try them books where Joe goes with wonder and where they get flower girls. And I'm doing an event there. And I'm like, I want to walk in there. And I want flower girls to be on the shelf. But yes, I would. Absolutely. I'm thinking about writing all of them and at different points when you were talking before about things you've started I've like, Yeah, a few of a lot of them to get into their voice in their head a little bit and never finished them. But I feel like one day I'm going to roll that dice and like see which one grabs me and yeah,

Michael David Wilson 48:45

yeah, yeah, I mean, I think scape is would be amazing too. Because again, really, really difficult to talk about this without spoilers. I'm gonna see cat Can I can I phrase this in such a way that I can even keep it in this episode? But I mean, Joe's Joe's reaction to the composition of this book is like his mind is blown. But if you know this book was actually written by Caroline Kepnes now we've just thrown another level at what was already you know, a pretty meta thing to begin with.

Caroline Kepnes 49:31

Yes, and I love that title too. And that was part of the like, I can I feel like I can think of titles for random books and for other people's books, but my books is just like a since that first one was so like you it was so simple. And so like every month I always feel like you so it's kind of a like struggle. But yeah, and scabies for breakfast was that like, to me like a little Vonnegut kind of thing that was the Yeah, on the universe. And I feel like since it's so not but I write I love the idea but I'd love to read that. And I would love Yeah. Oh, that we could have different lives. And you know the same way like wonders writing a book that's like a Pat Conroy, like sweeping yours like, you know, epic of a family. And it's again, the opposite of what I write. But don't you have that urge to like, do what you don't do? Or what like the way Yes, worked out that, you know what I mean? Like, and lose Arby's Noir. I'm like, I went, you know, like, I would like to go do all of these things. Yeah. Especially, I remember I because I got word like, when did that phrase just came to me and then I got that nighttime pretentious feeling of like, you don't even know what scabies is and like, and I started to read about a lot and cheeses like yeah, it's yeah, not good.

Michael David Wilson 50:48

Not good. understatement. Now, I wonder, obviously with that being a reasonable amount of deaths in any given Joe Goldberg book, and like, a lot of traps and luring people into different situations, and wondering how much it is, comes from your imagination, how much is kind of based on research, you're just quirky things that you read about.

Caroline Kepnes 51:22

It's my paranoia. Like, it's just like, I feel again, it goes back to that little kid part of me that like just always imagining the worst thing. Always thinking the worst always expect, like the other shoe to drop. And also, always this element of like, why the way people we don't know when we're in that dangerous situation, because it feels good. Like with a character kidnapped, like, when you're relaxing, and being yourself and being open with someone, and that backfires. I'm like, What could be worse? Because it's the opposite of the monster. Like, I love all the different kinds of monsters, right? But like, there's that monster that like you see the shadow, you know exactly what it is that it's coming. And I definitely have a lot of nightmares like that. But to me, whenever I like, I'm in an Uber, and I'm getting on with the driver. And you know, then there's that moment, like it'll maybe just like a 22nd silence when I'm like, this could be it. This Yeah, it happens all the time. And like, maybe there's something floating through this air. That's gonna knock me out right now. So yeah, that's just the way my brain works. Yeah, and when you write like this, people will tell you more and more stories, right? Like when you write about dark things, then yeah, people tell us stories, the stories about their friends like in it all. It just definitely, like, feeds itself. Right?

Michael David Wilson 52:49

Yeah. I mean, the amount of a messed up things that we hear about happening, I sometimes get these moments where Yeah, any given time it's a miracle. I'm still alive. It's like the amount of time something could have gone wrong.

Caroline Kepnes 53:06

Oh, yeah. And that is for Uber, like fascinates me. Like, I got in a car with a driver. I knew something was wrong. And she a few minutes into it told me that like, you know, she just had the last of her math and she was like, freaking out. Now two things. I am obsessed with math for years. Like I wrote this short story about my I wrote so much about math years ago. Northland is one of my favorite books of all time, so beautifully written. And so obviously, when Breaking Bad came out, it was like, Oh, it was nice of them to make this for me. Like I just everything about it fascinating. And I'm sitting there like, oh my god, I'm in the car. Like she's, you know, she's on meth. And she doesn't have any more and she's calling your dealer like, of course, this is how I die. Like, of course, of course. And I was not disciplined, like nothing. We didn't crash. You know what I mean? Like nothing. I got to my destination. Fine. And I was almost like, man, like, you know, weird. Like, it was there for like, big terrible thing for her to keep driving and be like, That's it. We got to go to my dealer right now, you know? But

Michael David Wilson 54:12

yeah. How were you when you got out of the car? Wait, did you just get out very quickly and go or were you like, you know, really, really hope you get that?

Caroline Kepnes 54:25

Like, delayed. She was very apologetic and nice. I'm like, no, no, you were nice. I just felt like to tell you. I have that problem, too, that I feel like a lot of writers have were just something about you people just start telling me things. And like, so much. Yes, like and I love it. But I feel like when it happens, I'm always like, Oh, that's right. Like there's just something about us when you're a writer that like people their story. And yeah, so then that way I get like I felt for her like she had a lot of things going on. Then I got out of that car and had that delayed rate action of like, Oh my god. That was Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 55:06

Do you find any time you get an Uber? Do you text like at least somebody just to make them aware of getting an Uber now, I mean, you don't have to do it in such an obvious way. But just like you send someone a text to be aware of where you are, in case something happens.

Caroline Kepnes 55:24

You still do that. Like in the beginning. I did. And definitely after there was so long without obering. I've noticed that like, since it's come back into life, I am more casual about it very, like, I don't, don't they don't have that impulse to do that. I feel very like this. Is it? This is it if I die, I'm gonna die. Like there's just like, Jimmy. That's a weird like, post pandemic thing that I'm like, maybe I'll go back to like being doing exactly what you just said. But yeah, there was one I got in the girl was listening to the hidden bodies audiobook. And I was like, this is that was the best Uber ever. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 56:02

Well, when she was listening to it did. Did you say anything? Cool. Like, I mean.

Caroline Kepnes 56:12

Like I wrote, you know, it was just so like, and she freaked out. And yeah, it was. Very, very neat moment.

Michael David Wilson 56:20

Yeah. Then the narrator for the audiobooks is so perfect. So on point.

Caroline Kepnes 56:29

Yeah, I that's where like they I when I read it, like, I just read it on a podcast with claim. McLeod Chapman, and Ken and I, and I have a hard time. Like, I can read other things I've always loved to read. But when I'm reading those books, I know how he does it. And I'm like, I'm not doing it. Right. Like he can. He's, like, so talented. Like, he can do the other voices without sounding like he's doing a voice, you know, kind of like when you did your voice was like, Oh, my God, you know, like, and it's like, and I hear myself and I get worse and worse at it. So I just go faster and faster. Because I'm like, yeah, he you know, he does a very excellent job.

Michael David Wilson 57:10

Yeah, yeah, I'm so glad that you've retained him for the entire series. I mean, I just, I can't imagine the audio books without, without him. And actually, so. So I love I love his versions of your books so much that I so I got an advanced copy of the latest one, and I read it. But then yesterday, in the it was the UK release date. I have an audible UK account. And I thought, I wonder. I wonder if I can download this. So now I've, I've now listened to about half of it again. So it was a heavy listening day yesterday. And like, as always,

Caroline Kepnes 57:56

also, like, it's one of my favorite scenes in a movie is um, when in Casino when James Woods is talking Sharon Stone on her wedding day. And with that, like I see you're dealt like that. It was like I've always felt like, oh, that's one of those early things that started Joe before I knew it. You know what I mean? When I heard Santina was like, he's doing that thing like he's got that ability to like, yeah, nursery rhyme it up. Like dark. Very, like he's speaking to you. That's where I feel like it's Yeah, distinctive. talent. And yeah.

Michael David Wilson 58:34

Yeah, yeah. I mean, like, you know, to have even written a book that has like, quite a bit of it in the second person. I mean, it's almost like with with the you series, you have broken so many rules that they're like, Oh, don't do this. It's like, you know, that the second person is not, there's not an easy way to go about it. And also, you know, we have show don't tell, but the nature of a lot of Joe is that he's gonna tell you, but as as I said, like, you know, you pull it off completely, but were there a lot of fears going into that? What was there pushback even from editors and agents and publishers, you know, when you first presented it to them.

Caroline Kepnes 59:26

I mean, that was part of my like, Okay, I'm gonna do what comes naturally because when I've tried to follow those rules, I'm not myself. It's kind of like to with the pop culture references. Like, when I was a younger writer, I was very, like, there was a certain way to be a writer, you know what I mean? And like, yeah, like, I'm dating it a lot. And it was like, at that point, my life I'm like, fuck it, like I'm gonna do what I want to do. And I love I guess I like things to where I thought when I'm doing a short story, I'd written a lot in the second person. And I like when you can't decide if you love something I hate it, when there's that middle space where you're trying to like, it's annoying, but you're still going with it. I love that feeling. And I thought that if I could in there and have people almost annoyed at thinking that they should hate that, that would only contribute to the like, Why do I keep reading this fucking thing? Like, yeah, sure they got it, like, absolutely got it and did not like have any, you know, understood that what I was doing? You know, there are other the rejections were like we don't know what this is how to market it. And yeah, and I feel like that thing of we don't know what this is. I was also like, of course, you know, you know, no one likes being rejected. But I like always like learning the reasons that you're rejected and how you can always learn from them or kind of understand what you did a little bit more. And to this day, I'm like, Yeah, I don't know what it is like where it belongs. Because it's there's so reflective of my mood or what I'm like, there are days when I feel like I'm aware of the thrills, there are days when I'm jacked up on horror, there are days when I watch Terms of Endearment, and I'm a sap you know what I mean? Like? And I'm like, Yeah, I don't know what I know. He kills people. Like, I know that. So yeah, that's the bottom line makes it a certain thing. But yeah, I absolutely liked the risk, like the risk is where I feel like it kept me in it. I like it made it exciting to me to keep going like, this might be the most annoying thing ever, you know? Yeah, we're done. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:27

Well, Caroline, thank you so much for talking to me this evening. For you. This has been fascinating. And we will get you back on the show soon to talk about Providence, and to talk about your short stories and to talk a little bit about the TV adaptations of you. But before then, where can our listeners connect with you?

Caroline Kepnes 1:01:55

Oh, let's see, I am on Twitter. I'm on Instagram. And I still have the Facebook page. I have like the author page. And then there's a thing called Caroline's cage where people gather and discuss all kinds of things. And I feel like those Yeah, I have a tick tock account, but I'm not on there. So yeah, but yeah, yes. But

Michael David Wilson 1:02:21

it's probably for the best. And you know, to finish my tic tock thoughts, I have found that like, the length of time it takes for me to like, create a tic tock video, you know, even to take a clip from the podcast. I'm not convinced that like it's worth it, but I'm experimenting. I'm putting clips out. Yes, the verdict is not out yet on whether I think tick tock is something that

Caroline Kepnes 1:02:51

voiceover are writing on the screen to like, say what it is, do you just it seems like work, I guess if you're if it comes, if you do it, it's probably

Michael David Wilson 1:03:02

Yeah, I mean, originally, I was putting all audio up, but it just doesn't translate very well, you know, on a video platform. And then I was like, well, I'll just put like a video clip. But even that, it's like, you know, I, I then have some This Is Horror music after and there's like a screen with a call to action. So it's a little bit fiddly. And you know, that is before we even consider the fact that it's like, Well, I gotta find one or two minutes, that is conversation that I feel just out of context is giving people some value or, or something and you notice some episodes, there isn't because it's like, there's no way that I can just give you one or two minutes and possibly do this. Justice. And I'm, as we said before, I'm not about taking people out of context. I just like to get this in context. We need 20 minutes, and I don't think that the Tick Tock audience is gonna stick around.

Caroline Kepnes 1:04:09

It's such a specific way for you to listen to it to be searching for that little bite. You know, like, I feel like that's an exhausting way to listen to something to be like, searching for the snip.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:21

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, they the idea is that hopefully it's like a trailer. They hear that minute and they're like, Oh, God, listen to the 59 up from well, do you have any final thoughts to leave our listeners with?

Caroline Kepnes 1:04:39

I think I just love this conversation with you. Like it's been it's overdue. I like the scope of it. Like the way we've talked about so many different areas of life, you know, like from Yeah, childhood social media, like just going around and I don't know I yeah, I like when, when it feels like there ours in a small amount of time, there's so much like.

Michael David Wilson 1:05:05

Yes, yeah. Yeah. I'm looking forward to doing it again. Me too. Thank you for listening to This Is Horror Podcast with Caroline Kepnes. Join us again next time when we will be announcing the winners of the fiction and nonfiction podcast of the year. But if you would like that episode ahead of the crowd, if you would like every episode ahead of the crowd, then become our patron@patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you get to submit questions to the interviewee. We've recorded conversations with the likes of Grady Hendrix, Suzanne young, and Joe R. Lansdale. And we have a lot of exciting things coming up, including this weekend, a very special episode 500 presentation of This Is Horror. So if you want to hear all of those, if you want to submit questions to the interviewees, then check out patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror, and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break.

RJ Bayley 1:06:28

It was as if the video had unzipped to my skin, slunk inside my tapered flesh and become one with me.

Bob Pastorella 1:06:36

From the creator of This Is Horror comes a new nightmare for the digital age. The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson. After a teacher receives a weirdly arousing video, his life descends into paranoia and obsession. More videos follow each containing information no stranger could possibly know. But who's sending them and what do they want? The answers may destroy everything and everyone he loves. The Girl in the Video is the ring meets fatal attraction for iPhone generation, available now in paperback ebook and audio. From the host of This Is Horror Podcast comes a dark thriller of obsession, paranoia and voyeurism. After relocating to a small coastal town, Brian discovers a hole that gazes into his neighbor's bedroom. Every night she dances and he peeps, same song same time sing wild and mesmerizing dance. But soon Brian suspects he's not the only one watching. She's not the only one being watched. They're Watching is The Wicker Man meets Body Double with a splash of Suspiria. They're Watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella is available from this is horror.co.uk Amazon and wherever good books are sold.

Michael David Wilson 1:07:46

As always, I would like to finish with a quote. And this is from Robert Greene. Your fears are a kind of prison that confines you within a limited range of action. The less you fear, the more power you will have, and the more fully you will live. I'll see you in the next episode for the This Is Horror awards, in which we announced the winners of the fiction and nonfiction podcast of the year. But until then, take care yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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