Interview with Kelly deVos


About the Author: “Kelly deVos is from Gilbert, Arizona, where she lives with her high school sweetheart husband, amazing teen daughter and superhero dog, Cocoa. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. When not reading or writing, Kelly can typically be found with a mocha in hand, bingeing the latest TV shows and adding to her ever-growing sticker collection.  Kelly’s work has been featured in the New York Times as well as on Vulture, Salon, Bustle and SheKnows. Her debut novel, Fat Girl on a Plane, was named one of the “50 Best Summer Reads of All Time” by Reader’s Digest magazine. Her next book, Eat Your Heart Out, releases on 6/29/21 from PenguinTeen.” (Bio and headshot sent by Author)

Find Kelly deVos on the following platforms:

A huge thank you to Kelly deVos for returning to do a second interview with Pine Reads Review! Check out her newest YA novel Eat Your Heart Out, and be sure to read our review of Eat Your Heart Out here!

Erika Brittain: To start off the interview, I would like to thank you for taking time to chat with me about Eat Your Heart Out. And thank you for returning to do a second interview with Pine Reads! Eat Your Heart Out was released on June 29th, and I honestly felt like I was watching a movie as I read the book. It was so much fun. To start the interview, I wanted to ask some rapid fire, ice breaker questions! 
Favorite summer or winter camp activity?

Kelly deVos: My favorite camp activities are taking nature walks and find a scenic place to read. But when I went to summer camp as a child I was totally obsessed with my Cabbage Patch Kid. My Mom sent me to camp with a disposable camera and, when we had the film developed, every single picture was of the doll posed all over the camp.

EB: Favorite horror movie trope?

KD: Oh speaking of dolls…one of my favorite tropes is the haunted or evil doll. I think there’s something delightfully creepy about dolls which can look quite human but aren’t. I’m hoping to do a haunted doll project at some point.

EB: Favorite Action Girl/Final Girl?

KD: I think mine is Laurie Strode played by Jamie Lee Curtis in the original Halloween film. Partially, I think that’s due to nostalgia because Halloween is a movie I watched as a kid. But I also felt a lot of sympathy for her because she was a bookish, nerdy kind of character who barely survives a night of babysitting.

EB: Which is worse: Slow, intelligent zombies or fast, mindless zombies?

KD: I think fast, mindless zombies are scarier but slow, intelligent zombies are a greater long-term threat. They can wait you out and get you eventually. At least, I think that was part of the message I got from reading Zone One by Colson Whitehead.

EB: You’re in a scary movie: Which archetype are you, and do you survive the movie?

KD: I like to think I’m The Outcast. The person who is a little bit of a weirdo but will ultimately survive. I’ve got some hidden skills. Like, my knitting skills, sticker collection and coffee drinking will come in handy, right? 

EB: Onto the book! I was immediately intrigued by the book’s title, especially after I looked up “Eat Your Heart Out” at my local library and saw exclusively diet and weight loss books. What’s the story behind Eat Your Heart Out’s title?

KD: So “Eat Your Heart Out” is a phrase that means to long for something kind of unattainable but is typically used to provoke jealousy. The phrase has been co-opted a bit by the food and diet industries who want to apply it to the enjoyment of food. I wanted to try and subvert things and make the expression more literal. Like the zombies are literally eating the characters’ hearts.

EB: I was also drawn to the book for its setting. As an Arizona girl myself, I was so excited to read a book with AZ rep and see characters mention awesome places like the University of Arizona (Bear Down!). What compelled you to set Featherlite in Flagstaff during a blizzard? (I’m secretly hoping part of your inspiration was the character of “Flagstaff” in Zombieland: Double Tap!)

KD: OMG I LOVE Zombieland, but the setting was not inspired by Double Tap – my book was already finished by the time that movie came out. The setting was actually inspired by a real experience I had. My husband and I went to the Inn at 410 for our wedding Anniversary. But that weekend there was a blizzard. Our car got stranded and we ended up having to walk to the B&B. When we got there, the power went out. The next morning my husband had to dig our car out of the snow with a shovel. I just thought it was a setting that most people don’t associate with Arizona and that it would make a great place for my story.

EB: The first line of your book reads, “What role are you auditioning for today?”, followed by 7 horror movie archetypes: The Action Girl, The Basket Case, The Courageous Captain, The Jock, The Jerk, The Nerd, and The Outcast. With so many variations of horror movie character archetypes, how did you choose which roles to include in your story?

KD: I tried to imagine the filmmaker, Allison, as being the writer of that section. She is trying to relate to her experiences at Featherlite as being part of a movie. She includes those archetypes because they relate to the other campers that she’s with.

EB: With that, because there is such an eclectic ensemble of characters, I can imagine finding a voice for each person could get complicated. Did you have a character whose point of view you particularly enjoyed or struggled writing?

KD: I probably had the most fun writing Vivian because she’s just such a butt kicker. Paul was the most difficult because he starts out mean and very fatphobic. He’s the mouthpiece for a lot of society’s negativity towards larger people which wasn’t easy to have to type and deal with.

EB: When reading Eat Your Heart Out, I kept going back and forth between laughing at the campy (no pun intended) scary movie elements and being genuinely creeped out by the reality and deeper meanings of the zombies. What was the most challenging part of marrying comedy and horror, while also commenting on diet culture and fatphobia?

KD: I honestly felt like it came somewhat naturally. I felt I needed the more comedic elements to give my characters a way to deal with all the bad crap they are going through. And I think, in real life, people often use humor as a coping mechanism. I guess I just personally feel that there are some elements of fatphobia and diet culture are so horrifying that it didn’t seem hard to combine those two things in the book.

EB: Now the book’s ending… Maybe I’m in denial BUT, classic horror movie rules: no one’s dead unless you see them die on screen (or page). We also end with questionably eradicated zombies and the ominous Silverstone company. Basically, there’s a lot of potential for a sequel. Is this story one you’d like to continue, or are you satisfied with the open ending?

KD: I would personally like to continue it. I think there are some really good stories that could come out of having my remaining cast of characters track down zombies and the weight loss bars. But that isn’t why the book ends the way that it does. I left the ending a little bit open because six people can’t end fatphobia and corporate diet culture on their own. We need to culturally make different choices about how we treat people and how we view body size. So, I couldn’t give the book a pat resolution. Because things aren’t over.

EB: And a last fun Eat Your Heart Out question— A good horror movie needs to have an iconic soundtrack. What songs would we hear on a soundtrack as campers discover half eaten bodies, or as Vivian bashes a zombie’s head in with an oar?

KD: While I was writing I listened to a ton of Jane Holiday and The Neighbourhood. I think Scary Love is the best oar bashing song!

EB: To finish up the interview, I wanted to ask a few more general writing and career questions. 
Your writing credits are pretty diverse: Fat Girl on a Plane (2018), a fashion-centric feminist contemporary; Day Zero (2019) and Day One (2020), an apocalyptic political thriller duology; Every Body Shines: Sixteen Stories About Living Fabulously Fat (2021), an anthology featuring body diversity and themes of learning to love your body; and Eat Your Heart Out. How has your writing style, or approach to writing, changed as you’ve written across genres over the last few years?

KD: I always try to keep learning and evolving my style – trying to write in different formats and genres and experimenting with tenses and points-of-view. But certain things continue to interest me, particularly strong female characters trying to perform in traditionally male-dominated spaces.

EB: With the pandemic and lock-down happening this past year, I feel like many people have realized the importance of rest and the reality of burnout. What have you found is the best way to balance your work life with your personal life and mental health?

KD: It is so hard! Like many people, I’ve had points in the past year or so where I’ve just felt totally fatigued. The only advice that I really have is to try and be kind to yourself. Try to recognize that we’re in tough, extraordinary times and all you can really do is your best.

EB: And looking to the future, you recently announced that your newest project, GO HUNT ME, is set to release next summer. Major congratulations, I cannot wait to read it! What can we expect from GO HUNT ME, what are you dying to say about the story, and what should we do while we wait for its release?

KD: I am so excited to be working on GO HUNT ME! It’s a modern-day Dracula retelling from the perspective of Lucy Westenra. Dracula is a book I grew up loving, but I always felt that poor Lucy deserves some love and redemption. While you wait, I hope everyone will check out Eat Your Heart Out and stay healthy and safe. <3

PRR Writer, Erika Brittain