Inside Beautiful Darkness

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Mean Girls - LatinitasAuthor Kami Garcia was raised outside of Washington D.C, but always held a connection to the South. At the age of thirteen, Garcia and her family moved in with her grandmother and great-grandmother, both who grew up in small towns of North Carolina. Garcia grew up living the southern way, but couldn’t be more different than her grandmother and great-grandmother. “I wasn’t exactly like either of them. I wore tons of black, a lot of rings, and spent hours writing in my journals. By the time I graduated high school, I had probably filled a hundred of them,” said Garcia. Garcia earned a Masters degree in Education and taught in Washington D.C. until she moved to Los Angeles, where she taught for twelve years and worked as a Reading Specialist. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, and dog Spike.

Margaret Stohl was born in Pasadena, California where writing was her way of life. Stohl has written everything from video game manuals to action screenplays to poetry. Stohl studied American Literature at Amherst and Yale, earned her Master’s degree in English from Stanford University and studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. Stohl also taught as a teacher’s assistant at Yale and Stanford. “I spent more years in school than a person ever should, because let’s face it, reading books is so much better than having a job,” said Stohl. She now lives in Los Angeles, California with her family. She admits that almost every member of her family has been involved in the process of writing The Beautiful Creatures Series as she has them edit her drafts on a daily bases.

In this exclusive Las Comadres Author Teleconference, co-authors of “Beautiful Darkness,” Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl answer a few questions as they discuss their highly successful novels, what its like to be considered the next “Twilight,” and share some advice for aspiring writers?

Interview:

1. What was your inspiration for “Beautiful Darkness” and “The Beautiful Creatures series?”

Kami Garcia: We got the idea to write “Beautiful Creatures” from Margaret’s teen daughters and my teen students and we were talking about the kind of books that we like to read and the kind of books we wished were out there. We came up with this idea that we thought was clever. We went home and we told Margaret’s daughters about it and they said, “Well you guys will never write a book, your not gonna write a story, your gonna start and you won’t finish.” So basically they dared us and we wrote “Beautiful Creatures” in twelve weeks. Almost like a serialized fiction. We gave her daughter’s and my students pages every day or two, they were texting us all the time, and the story which later became a book, kinda virally moved through several high schools. And that’s how it was born.

2. In the novels what is the importance of giving the female protagonist, Lena Duchannes, the power and strength, as opposed to giving it to the lead male character, Ethan Wate?

Margaret Stohl: I have three daughters and I aspire to be as strong as they are. And I think as a mother of teenagers we were all reading the same fantasy books and my girls became disillusioned with some of the books they were reading, because they felt like some of the girls had incredibly low self-esteem and had nothing they could do but follow a boy around and they said, “Why does the girl never get to be powerful? Why is the girl never the magical one? Why does she just follow around the boy and be in love? I can rescue myself.” So because we were writing this book for them we had a set agenda that they gave us and the challenge was no vampires, we are tired of vampires, we’re tired of whiny girl narrators, we’re tired of the girls never having powers, and we’re tired of books that feel generic. We want a really specific sense of place. That is really the way we wrote this book to meet those four demands and so that kinda framed the way we worked on it. For a very specific readership of seven teenagers. We only know strong women.

Kami Garcia: I don’t know if we could write a weak girl, unless it was a moment of weakness. We don’t know any teenage girls that aren’t strong. We really don’t. And I think even teenage girls that aren’t armed, that seem quiet and maybe they aren’t physically strong, a lot of them still  are really strong inside.

3. How does it feel to have “The Beautiful Creatures” series considered as the next “Twilight?”

Margaret Stohl: That sounds great…if it were true it would feel even better. We never wanted the book to be anything, but what it is. We just wrote the quirky little book that it is and we’re just happy that people have been able to connect with it the way they have. And that is really all we wanted to tell one specific story, a story that belongs in a really strange little town in the middle of the south with these strange powerful families and that’s it, thats what we set out to do.

Kami Garcia: If we have a tenth of the number of people that enjoy the Twilight Saga than we are lucky. We are just happy to have readers all over the world that enjoy the books. I didn’t think they would be reading the book in all these different countries that we get emails from. I think that’s really special.

4. What advice would you give young girls who are aspiring authors?

Kami Garcia: Read as much as you can. Read good books, read in your genre, read out of your genre. I think if you wanna be a writer you have to write. A lot of even adult aspiring writers are like, “my draft isn’t like your book.” I feel like saying, “if you could have even seen what the draft of our book was like. Your looking at a book in a store that is published, that an editor, copy editor, and authors have gone over hundreds of times.” Don’t compare your draft to something published. Write the best draft you can and finish it and then go back and fix it. But don’t look at a book in a book store and think, “oh my writing isn’t as good as that.” That is an impossible standard to meet, especially when your young.

Margaret Stohl: I encourage teenagers to work on having a perspective, even before they can write it. When you read a book, read it critically and think, “Did i like that, yes or no? Why didn’t I like that?” What were the components that made it interesting to you, because then you start to develop a perspective and I think that’s kinda the first thing to developing a voice which is more than anything something an author needs to have.

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