Wednesday, February 6, 2013

From Book to Film: “Beautiful Creatures” Authors Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Profile by Jack Silbert
My friend across the hall refuses to see any movie until she’s read the book that it’s based on. Well, if she wants to see Beautiful Creatures when it opens this Valentine’s Day, my neighbor better get cracking: The first novel in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s four-book supernatural romance series weighs in at a hefty 563 pages. But book length certainly hasn’t slowed the ravenous fans who have turned these modern-gothic tales into YA best-sellers. And it’s not just teens and tweens: Garcia and Stohl count themselves among the 55% of YA readers who are adults.

Co-author Kami Garcia
As with most authors, Stohl and Garcia were devoted readers at an early age. “I was the person who read by the nightlight even though the shadows were scary,” Stohl told Media Darlings. “I read at the piano. I sat in my closet waiting to go to Narnia. I was the head of the Susan Cooper fan club in 3rd grade. I always read fantasy, that was my thing.” In addition to Cooper, her favorite authors back then included C.S. Lewis and Diana Wynn Jones.

Garcia was also an avid fantasy reader—with a special interest in science fiction. “I loved Tolkien, I loved C.S. Lewis, but I also loved The White Mountains,” she explained. “I loved Bradbury, and I loved Stephen King by the time I was in 6th and 7th grade.”

Co-author Margaret Stohl
The two crossed paths when Stohl’s teen daughters were students of Garcia, who was then a teacher and reading specialist in Los Angeles. Stohl and Garcia were curious to know what teens would like to see in a YA series. Garcia’s students didn’t hesitate to share their thoughts: They didn’t want any more vampires. (The Twilight books had done that to… uh… death.) They wanted a boy narrator. They wanted to read about a girl with cool powers instead of just being in love with someone powerful.

After a lunch together and some notes scrawled on a napkin, Stohl and Garcia had the basic idea for a book. As two working moms, their collaborative process had to fit within the frameworks of their professional and family lives. (Garcia brought her baby with her to that initial three-hour lunch.) They’d talk over their ideas of character and story. Next they’d loosely map things out with colored markers on a whiteboard. Garcia and Stohl would then separately write chapters, usually at night. They’d trade chapters back and forth, over and over, till it was no longer clear who’d written what. All the while, Garcia and Stohl would run the latest chapter by their trusted teens, whose feedback and questions would be incorporated in the next round of edits.

Twelve weeks later, the 563-page manuscript was complete.

That's Jeremy Irons as Macon
Ravenwood and Alice Englert
as Lena Duchannes. 
It didn’t take long for Hollywood to come knocking. Things got a bit hectic, such as the conference call when the authors tried to decide which movie studio to choose. “One agent was in New York, one agent was in L.A., Kami was in a different place in L.A., and I was in Germany with my family,” Stohl recalled. “It was the middle of the night so I’m crouching in the bathroom trying not to wake anyone. The agent in New York was in the movie theater lobby of Twilight.”

Garcia added, “First she was calling from the theater. I could people going, ‘Shut up, get off your phone!’ Then she called back from the hallway—you could hear all the wolves.”

The two put their faith in the movie’s director and screenwriter, Richard LaGravenese. They knew from the start that, in adapting the book, some things would have to change. (“Nobody expected to sit in a movie theater for 600 minutes,” Stohl reasoned.) The authors stayed out of the director’s way, and in return he made no demands of them to insert new characters into the book series just for the sake of the film. The relationship worked out quite nicely, and there was only one alteration the authors were a little nervous about. “Two of our main characters had to be combined into one role, which Viola Davis plays,” Stohl said. The finished product allayed their concerns. Added Stohl, “I have to say, it’s phenomenal.”

Despite all the attention that has come their way from the books and now the movie, Garcia and Stohl haven’t had too much trouble staying grounded. “The great thing about being a parent when all this is going on is that there are always other dramas that are more important,” Stohl told us. “There is always some kid who has to be driven somewhere. It keeps everything in perspective.”

Be sure to visit Media Darlings on February 14 for our review of the Beautiful Creatures movie!

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait for this! I wish Mortal Instruments would jump start production like Beautiful Creatures :)

    I'm looking forward to both adaption :)