Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Author Interview: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

kami & margie
photo: Alex Hoerner

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have written a deliciously spooky, magical, southern gothic, supernatural romance-adventure set in the fictional town of Gatlin, SC - which is outside of Summerville, near Charleston. Their novel, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, will be published on December 1, 2009 by Little, Brown Young Readers.   We can't wait - as soon as this book arrives at the library, we will be thrusting it into the hands of every teen in sight!

They are tremendously cool, and graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us.

beautifulWhat inspired you to set your novel in a small town outside of Charleston?

Kami: We wanted to set the story in a place where we believe magic can still happen - a place where people believe in the extraordinary and one that’s extraordinary itself. For us, that could only be the South.

Margie: We both love Charleston, with its beautiful old churches and perfectly preserved houses and overgrown graveyards. And the plantations along the Ashley River were the inspiration for Ravenwood, our own haunted mansion. Although I have to say, we learned about chiggers the hard way!

Did any of your experiences as teenagers, or people you knew at the time, make it into your book?

Kami: Absolutely. My family is from North Carolina, and there are a few characters inspired by some of them. I won’t say which ones because lots of my relatives and Margie’s think certain characters are based on them, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone. But I will say the squirrel story in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is true. My mom has also been known to feed baby raccoons cat food on her porch.

Margie: I’m not from the South, but my family is originally from a one-stoplight town in the West, where my mom dragged Main when she wasn’t in 4-H, my grandma was famous for her pie, and my grandfather was the local postmaster who knew everyone’s secrets. Both of our families are full of colorful characters and casseroles. And the way we felt about books and poetry and libraries as teens appears throughout the book.

The characters in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES face some really scary moments. What is something you weren't afraid of as teenagers that terrifies you now?

Kami: I’m actually scared of a lot of the same things I was as a teen. I’m terrified of snakes, heights, horror movies (especially anything that even hints at demonic possession), and the idea of being buried alive- this one probably came from something I saw in a horror movie. On an emotional level, I’m afraid of losing the people I love or letting them down. But if you flip the question, there are a lot of things I was afraid of as a teenager that don’t scare me anymore. Like being different. Don’t get me wrong – I was different, but there was a part of me that wanted to fit in. It just seemed so much easier. But I don’t feel that way anymore – being different teaches you to be creative and strong. It teaches you how to grapple your way to your dreams.

Margie: You mean, aside from the ever-present terror that nobody will read or like our book? I’ve always been a big chicken. I’m afraid to drop a penny without picking it up. I’m afraid to look in a mirror in a dark room. I live in a spooky 90 year-old house that creaks and whistles in the wind, so I’m always jumping at strange noises. Forget about horror movies. New fears? Lost opportunities—places I’ll never see, stories I’ll never write, missing people I love. I’m afraid to listen to my messages, to answer my phone or the door, because I never have time to do whatever the person on the other end is asking. On average, though, I think I’m braver now than I was as a teen, because I’ve watched my own teens grow up to be so much more confident than I was. I spent my school life trying to not be noticed, while my girls sometimes have blue and green hair (thank you manic panic) and a whole lot to say. They’re true Caster Girls, which means they have the power—magic or not—to be themselves. I only try!

Did you have any experiences as teenagers that were mortifying at the time but are pretty funny now?

Kami: My entire high school experience was pretty mortifying most of the time. I was 4’11” and had to shop in the kids’ department half the time, and I still looked like I was about thirteen in high school. So there were just levels of embarrassment, like the eight circles of hell.

Margie: Definitely my 16th birthday. It was a surprise party, and my mom had gone through my phone book and invited all the cool boys whose names and numbers I had written down. Of course I didn’t actually know any of them! They all came, though, and it was AWFUL! Now it just seems like a funny scene from Mean Girls.

Did you get along with your parents when you were teens?

Kami: This is a trick question, since I know my parents will read this. The simple answer: does anyone? I loved my parents, but they drove me crazy sometimes. I know the feeling was mutual. Once I sassed my mom so badly that she locked me out of the house in the snow. It was even trickier for me because my family lived with my grandma and my great-grandma — four generations of women living in the same house. That’s a recipe for disaster. But the truth is, I learned everything from the three of them. I still believe loyalty is the most important trait in a friend, thank you notes should be handwritten, and vegetables always taste better if you add a little bacon fat.

Margie: I love/hated my parents, just as my teens love/hate me. Can someone come up with a new word for that? I hoved them? I was your basic teenager – ditched bible school, wrote inflammatory articles in the school paper, fought with my brothers. But in my family, you could get out of being grounded by memorizing scripture, and I had a great memory, so that was my fallback. Now my parents are my best friends and I’m writing this from their house in the mountains, which is where I get all my best thinking done. My mom taught me to love reading as a child, and my dad read every book I did in college, just for fun, so he would be able to talk to me about them. We had our rocky times, but no matter what, we stuck it out and we stuck together. My mom used to love the licorice Red Vines, and I always thought of those family ties as the Red Vines That Bind…

While you're waiting for the book to come out, check out the Beautiful Creatures blog.  And stop by Kami and Margaret's individual blogs, as well.

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