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.
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.
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.
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.