Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Interview: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Written by Aly

Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to spend several hours over breakfast with the fabulous authors of Beautiful Creatures. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl took time out of their busy schedules to meet with me for an interview. Wonderfully enough, the formality of an interview was replaced by open and friendly chatting amongst girlfriends. Our conversation wandered around all over the place including discussions about books, publishing, the world of YA, teaching (all of us share a background in teaching), and, of course, Beautiful Creatures, the book.

As we sat down at a corner table in the restaurant to chat, Kami immediately ordered a Diet Coke. For any of you who were wondering if all the comments about Kami drinking lots of Diet Coke with ice were real, I am here to testify that they are.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not going to be your typical interview. Despite having prepared questions, the direction of the conversation moved from a traditional question & answer to a free flowing dialogue. What I have written below is an organized account of our time together and hopefully reflects the essence of our conversation.

Two Authors, One Voice:

Even though I had read about Kami and Margie’s writing process, I was still curious about how two articulate and independent women were able to tell a story as one. During my morning with them, I found myself chuckling when one would finish the sentence for the other or how they easily played off of each other’s comments. From watching their interactions, I came to see why they have been so successful at creating one authorial voice.

The two met several years ago when Margie’s oldest daughter was in Kami’s class. They quickly found a kindred spirit in one another, and their friendship was born. The initial friendship expanded to include the sharing of books and a writing partnership, first as critique partners and eventually as story collaborators.

When they talk about their writing style or process, they use the phrase “writing over one another’s work” (the process of editing each other’s words until you have no idea who wrote what) and how the idea of this often times freaks out other writers. And yet for them, it works. They write sentences, paragraphs and chapters in this fashion, until it is truly a blend of the both of them, sans ego.

The Evolution of Beautiful Creatures:

From scanning through articles and interviews about Beautiful Creatures, I had learned the basic story of the Caster Girls and the role they played in the development of the book. However, I wanted to hear more of it from Kami and Margie. According to the duo, the story of Beautiful Creatures developed after being challenged by the teenage girls in their lives. Basically, the girls issued an ultimatum that if the pair were going to talk about writing, then they needed to “put your pen where your mouth is,” so to speak. Garcia and Stohl began writing and, week after week, chapter after chapter, they shared with their daughters, sisters, friends, and family the story of the Ethan and Lena and the supernaturals of Gatlin County, which would later become the manuscript for Beautiful Creatures.

Initially, they considered putting it on the web, but instead, gave it to their friend, author Pseudonymous Bosch (The Name of This Book Is Secret, from The Secret Series). Margie, then, shared about how she received the phone call from agent Sarah Burnes, who loved the manuscript and wanted to represent them. When Stohl got off the phone with Burnes, she told Garcia “I think we have an agent?!" (Sounds a little like magic to me?!?)

Once they had acquired an agent who believed in the book, the next step was to secure a publisher. It was fascinating to hear about how the manuscript auctioned off. With the guidance of their new agent, the manuscript found a home with Little, Brown and Company, a publishing company who understood the vision and direction of Beautiful Creatures, and have worked with Garcia and Stohl to see that vision come to fruition.

The Story of Beautiful Creatures:

I have to admit that when I first read the quote from author Holly Black describing the book as “A lush southern gothic…” I was intrigued. What was a Southern gothic tale anyways, and why bother writing one? Yet, in speaking with Garcia and Stohl, it is clear that they both knew they wanted to write a Southern gothic tale - something big and lush with a sense of history, the significance of family, and community. It didn’t end with just the idea of writing a southern tale. There were several other qualities they wanted the novel to possess. Between Garcia and Stohl, they have six brothers and they believed that the story would be better served by having a male narrator. Additionally, they were also adamant that there would be an empowered girl character who resembled in many ways the fantastic girls in their lives.

Garcia and Stohl also made a conscious decision about the choice of new names for their supernaturals. They wanted something different than vampires, werewolves, and traditional magical creatures – although they love novels featuring these as well. Not only were they intentional about the names for their supernaturals, but as they built their universe in which to tell the tale, they created a unique set of powers for these characters. Finally, no Southern gothic would be complete without traditions, secrets, and eccentric characters.

The People of Beautiful Creatures:

One of the elements that I enjoyed when reading Beautiful Creatures is the characters, both major and minor. I was curious how they developed their characters and were they based on anyone specific. According to Garcia and Stohl, Ethan and Lena were not created from specific individuals from their lives. However, many of the other characters are a compilation of the people who they have known. With genealogy trees in hand, names and people were modified or adapted to fit the needs of the story.

When I heard this, I couldn’t help asking, “So who inspired the milk duds and popcorn?” Margie laughed and explained to me that her friend Kerri was the inspiration behind that particular food combo. This lead Kami to talk about how one particular story in the book about Ethan’s three aunts and a baby squirrel was modeled on an experience she had with her mother who frequently rescues animals in need. I also discovered that Link and Ridley’s characters were influenced and developed through the feedback of the Caster Girls (a group of girls that read through the original chapters) who demanded more of these two characters.

Supernatural Powers:

In talking about some of the characters in the book, I mentioned that I was curious about the powers that their supernatural beings possessed. I began campaigning for a lexicon of the powers included in the book to be developed. Kami laughed about the request, and both agreed it would be a good thing to include on the website. They promised that once things settle down that one would be created.

Of course, my curiosity was piqued, I had to ask both Kami and Margie which powers they would want.

Kami: Cataclyst or a Sybil – She spoke about how she would love to be able to manipulate the elements or read people’s faces.

Margie: Palimpsest – She shared about how she would like to be able to walk into an old house a see its history. I had to admit that was one gift that thoroughly confused me, but Margie can definitely explain this gift better than anyone else. *smile*

If you were wondering, they did manage to get me to tell them what powers I would want. After joking about how I would never be mistaken as having the power of a “siren”, I decided that the power to heal was a cool gift to possess.

The Portrayal of the South in Beautiful Creatures:

One of my friends has asked me to see what reactions that the duo had received about their portrayal of the South. Garcia shared that most of the Southerners that they know who have read the story have appreciated how the tale seems to capture the essence of the South. Kami’s family is from North Carolina, and Margie has studied the South for years in college, so they both have a deep love for Southern culture. There is both a respect for the people and an understanding of the quirky characteristics that make the South the South. They were particularly flattered when authors like Carrie Ryan, a Southern writer, and Melissa Marr, an author who also taught Southern literature, felt there was authenticity in the world they created.

Beautiful Creatures – The Story Continues:

Now, I would have been remiss if I didn’t try to extract some information from the two of them about the next book. Both are extremely adept at not giving away secrets, nor did they reveal much about what would happen in the second book (which has recently finished revisions and back in the hands of their editors). However, I was able to garner from our discussion that some of the questions that arose in Beautiful Creatures will be answered or expanded upon. Such as Ethan’s mother’s death, and if and what powers if any Ethan actually has. Rest assured, the world of Beautiful Creatures has many secrets yet to be explored.


Somewhere I had read that Kami considered herself to be superstitious, and the book definitely has its share of superstitions in it. So when I brought up the topic, I wasn’t surprised that this was nearly as lively of a conversation as the book discussion (see below). Margie basically indicated that if there is change on the ground she feels compelled to pick it all up. However, Kami’s list was significantly longer than Margie’s. Some of her superstitions include, not knowingly stepping on a grave, and “knocking on wood” to avoid a jinx. Kami also doesn’t like crows, harbingers of bad omens.

Books Outside of the world of Beautiful Creatures:

I couldn’t have breakfast with two authors and not ask them about books. But be prepared if you are going to ask this question, because they are well read in the area of YA fiction. The conversation around books flowed at an amazing pace. Though I had not read quite as many of the titles they had, I was glad that I was at least familiar with the authors and titles that came tumbling out. Kami’s tastes tend to lean slightly more toward fantasy and sci-fi, with a few realistic fiction novels thrown in. Margie is a fantasy reader, who also reads a great deal of the realistic fiction available today. However, both Stohl and Garcia agreed that there were some more recent titles “you really should read,” which included:

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis
Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Upcoming releases, such as White Cat by Holly Black, Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus, and The Body Finder by Kim Derting are getting early praise from one or both of them (depending on who is hiding the advanced copy), though these books will not be available to the general public for several months.

In thinking back on my morning with Kami and Margie, I realized what a unique experience I got to have. With the recent release of Beautiful Creatures, their lives are going to be rapidly changing. At least, I can say that I met them “when”. I had an exciting morning with these amazing ladies, and truly appreciated getting to know them better as authors and individuals. I wish them the best with the official release of Beautiful Creatures.


  1. Kami and Margie are the best! Thanks for the Shadow Hills mention!

  2. Anastasia - Kami and Margie glowed about Shadow Hills. I am plotting to steal their ARC! LOL - Aly

  3. What a fun interview ... sounds like it was an amazing breakfast :) And wow, Beautiful Creatures sounds fantastic... I just bumped it to the top of my reading list!

    Thanks for sharing, Aly!

  4. Gret interview! I'm excited about the lexicon of powers. Thanks for bringing it up!

  5. Loved the interview, and Kami and Margie are so much fun!!! Thanks so much for mentioning The Body Finder, made my day :)