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Mom Duo Creates 'Beautiful Creatures'

Move over, vampires. There's a new kind of enchantment in town.

Beautiful Creatures, the supernatural Southern saga about forbidden teen love (and a little bit of witchcraft), hits movie theaters on Feb. 14, and this time, it's the girl who gets the powers. That was a crucial point for writers Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, two Los Angeles moms who co-authored the 600-plus-page young adult novel on which the Warner Bros. film is based.

Before the book appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, Garcia was a teacher and Stohl was a video game industry honcho. While both are thrilled that their work has caught on, they haven't lost sight of how they got their start—namely with the help of their children. Garcia is mom to a 5- and 8-year-old son and daughter, respectively, and Stohl is mom to 11-, 17- and 19-year-old girls. (In fact, it was Stohl's teenage daughters who offered up the most vocal feedback on the book, telling mom what should stay and what should go.)

We had the chance to chat with these literary mamas on a conference call, who gave us the lowdown on girl power, parenthood and teens.

What inspired you to write this teenage supernatural story?

Margaret Stohl: Kami and I are among the 60 percent of young adult readers who are adults. We read Twilight, just like everyone else. I have teenage daughters who were students of Kami’s. They wanted to read about someone who wasn’t a vampire and were looking for the narrator to be a boy. The girl would have powers, herself, and not just someone else. And not just generic powers.

Twelve weeks later, we had a 600-page book.

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What was the collaborative process like for two moms?

Kami Garcia: We would talk a lot at first. Margie has a whiteboard and lots of pens. We would map it out super loosely. We were basically like each other’s editors. She would send me her chapters, and I would edit out—hack and slash. I would then send her my chapters, and she would edit.

MS: It taught us not to be precious. I killed Kami’s darlings, and she killed mine.

Did your children influence your writing in any way?

KG: They asked questions that would inform the process. We were like, 'Oh wow, we didn’t realize that was that interesting.'

MS: My middle daughter took three days off at the end of the school year, and she helped edit out the cheesy parts. At first, she thought it was great, and then on the third day, she was like, 'Mom, I have to go to school. It’s the law.'

We also respect teenagers. We think they’re brilliant and passionate. We think it’s harder to write for teenagers than adults, and we really love (the film's director and screenwriter) Richard (LaGravenese), because he feels the same about his teen characters and actors.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION: What Books Do You Like to Read with Your Kids?

How did you react when you found out your book would be a movie?

MS: When we first found out that the book was going to be optioned, our agent, Kami and I were in L.A., New York and Germany. I was crouched in the hotel bathroom (in Germany), talking on the phone, trying not to wake anyone up.

The great thing about being a parent when this happens is that there is always other drama going on that’s not about you. It kept everything in perspective.

What was it like reading the script and seeing the film?

MS: We really trusted Richard from the beginning. It was correct to do so. He’s been a dream. We knew that some things would have to be changed because our book is 600 pages. We never wanted to write (the screenplay). We would obviously be terrible screenwriters because it takes us 600 pages to tell a story.

He never asked us to put things into the books. What made us nervous was when two characters had to be put into one actor, and that’s Viola Davis, and it’s phenomenal. He did it with such grace.

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Kami—as a Latina, what were your concerns as far as the representations of race?

KG: We were really excited to see that Richard represented that in the film. It’s everybody’s book; it’s everybody’s story. Even though it’s a small town in the South, we’d like them to feel that (other races) are somehow represented. It’s important for kids to see that there are powerful characters in books that are not white.

I’m the mom of two Latino kids, and I don’t need them to think that every hero in the book is Caucasian.

Take a look at latinamom.me.

What are your favorite books and/or authors?

MS: I was as geeky as it comes. I always read fantasy: C.S. Lewis. Susan Cooper.

KG: I love Tolkien, Lewis, Bradbury.

MS: We just love to read. All the good characters in our novels love books.

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