Interview with Kevin van Whye, Author of Date Me, Bryson Keller + Cover Reveal

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 couldn’t tell a story. Kevin’s love affair with stories led him to film school to study script writing. Date Me, Bryson Keller is his first novel. Kevin currently lives in Johannesburg, and when he’s not reading, he’s writing stories that give his characters the happy rom-com endings they deserve. Find him at kevinvanwhye.com and on Instagram.

Kevin van Whye

Can you tell us a little bit about Date me, Bryson Keller?

What If It’s Us meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this upbeat and heartfelt boy-meets-boy romance that feels like a modern twist on a ’90s rom-com!

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?

Date me, Bryson Keller
Book designer: Regina Flath
Photographer: Howard Huang

What inspired you to write it?

Fiction is never written in a vacuum and often times it is written in response to things which is very much the case here. I wanted to tell a coming out story that had a rom-com sensibility and I also wanted to tell a story for the LGBTQ reader that was firmly grounded within the LGBTQ narrative. As such, there were several major “sparks” for this story.

I had just recently re-watched She’s All That, the late 90’s Rom-com starring Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddie Prince Jnr. In it, Freddie’s character claims that his ex-girlfriend (who has dumped him for someone else) is replaceableby any girl in the school and so he is dared by the character of the late Paul Walker to turn a random girl into the prom queen in six weeks. (Spoiler alert: over the course of the movie he falls in love with the unpopular girl that was chosen). I very much liked the idea of a dare/game turning into a romance and was interested in exploring that. I also loved the set timeline—in the movie it’s six weeks, and in my book the dare lasts for three months. Also, in the movie the dare starts because of the main character’s words, which is also the case in Date Me, Bryson Keller. Bryson says that he can “probably date someone new each week if he wanted…” and so he is dared to prove it.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my own critique and feelings toward the manga Seven Days (and the Boy Love genre in general) definitely served as a jumping off point as far as inspiration. Lastly, my own lived experience was a very large factor in this story. All of these things blended together, and the end result was Date Me, Bryson Keller.

Summarize your book in three words.

Coming out Rom-com

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always loved stories, but it wasn’t really until I became a teenager when I started dreaming of being a writer. I was in High School when Twilight came out and I witnessed first-hand the phenomenon that The Twilight Saga became. Those books were actually the reason I took an interest in YA.

My writing aspirations sent me to film school and for a while I focused mainly on script writing. Life happened, as it does, and I started writing books again. It was my way of coping and escaping. And I have been writing ever since.

How long have you been working on this book?

I’m a very fast drafter and the first draft of Date Me, Bryson Keller was done in two weeks—which is funny because the book’s timeline spans two weeks.

Editing is my favorite part of writing, so that took a bit more time, and now working with my editor—we’ve made so many great changes that have made this story so much stronger. I’m forever grateful because this is a story that I am proud of. So, all-in-all it’s been a year of work to get it to where it is now. 

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?

Yes. It was actually just before this book. I had just parted ways with my previous agent and I felt very very lost and insecure as a writer. I wondered if I could do this again. But even at my lowest point I kept writing because this has been my dream for over a decade, and dreams don’t come true without effort. So, I wrote three chapters of Date Me, Bryson Keller and sent them over to a friend. They were terrible and I am so glad he told me just that. I needed the honesty to snap me out of the funk I was in. All this happened around the time of DVpit 2018. So, I pitched this book and the response was great. That urged me on, and I was able to draft this book. The rest as they say is history.

How to stay the course…well for me it’s: FIND YOUR PEOPLE. Find a writing family that knows just how tough this business can be. What you see online is the highlight reel, so you need people that you can share the real stuff with. You also really need to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. In publishing you’re going to get so many nos and you’re going to get knocked down, but you need to believe that you can do it.  You need to pick yourself up and write. If this is your dream. Write.

Oh, and another thing that helps me to this day, is the reminder to take breaks. IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A BREAK. Me taking a break just to live and enjoy life helped me not give up on writing. I took the time to recharge. And sometimes the time away is just what is needed for you to remember just why you love writing.

Is Date me, Bryson Keller your first book?

Date Me, Bryson Keller is my first book to be published, yes. It is also the first contemporary novel that I have ever written. Previously I wrote fantasy and have several shelved YA fantasies that died slow and painful deaths on submissions to editors. It’s been a very long road for me to get published, with a few close calls but Date Me, Bryson Keller was the first of my books to make it across the finish line. And I’m so very excited to share it with you all.

What are your most anticipated YA reads in 2020?

There are so many great books coming out in 2020 that I don’t even know where to begin, a few that I am DYING to get my hands on are:

ONE OF US IS NEXT by Karen M. McManus

THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins

JADE FIRE GOLD by June C.L. Tan

THE FASCINATORS by Andrew Eliopulos

HOW IT ALL BLEW UP by Arvin Ahmadi

THE KINGDOM OF BACK by Marie Lu

THE GILDED ONES by Namina Forna

THE STARS WE STEAL by Alexa Donne

GOLD WINGS RISING by Alex London

HOUSE OF DRAGONS by Jessica Cluess

WHERE DREAMS DESCEND by Janella Angeles

SHINE by Jessica Jung

What are you currently reading?

When I’m busy editing or drafting I find it hard to keep up with reading, so I am currently playing catch up. My TBR pile is ridiculous!!!

I just picked up WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power and NEVERMOOR: THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW by Jessica Townsend

I also just finished a reread of THE SHADOW AND BONE Trilogy by Leigh Bardugobecause I must prepare myself for the show.

Pre-order links for book: GetUnderlined

INTERVIEW : YA SH3LF

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