Tomorrow Beautiful Creatures opens in theaters with an all-star cast, so this Valentine's Day you'll find me stuffing my face with chocolates in a dark movie theater (and how many of you will be joining me?). The Castor Chronicles (there are four books in the series) is one of my top recommendations for people asking about the next big YA series--it hooks you from the very beginning and has all the ingredients of a blockbuster. Beautiful Creatures is a little bit Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, a dash of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, and a whole lot of delicious Southern gothic. A small town with a dark history, a family curse, magic, and star-crossed romance--not to mention all the twists I can't even hint at without a spoiler alert. If you're new to the series I'll offer you this word of warning: Beautiful Creatures may cause you to stay up all night reading, followed by an obsessive need to start the next book, Beautiful Darkness.
It's hard to believe but the first book was written on a dare from seven teenagers close to the authors who wanted something different, a strong and magical female protagonist--who doesn't narrate the story--a specific setting (and in my opinion there is nothing like the South for visceral atmosphere), and no vampires or werewolves. This is just one of the anecdotes Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl shared when they answered questions from our Facebook fans in the exclusive Q&A below. You can read the rest after the jump. And let me know what you think about the movie!Q: What inspired you to write Beautiful Creatures?
[Kami Garcia]: We wrote Beautiful Creatures on a dare from my students and Margi’s daughters and my sister. Seven teenagers who wanted to find a book that was a little bit different than what they were reading. They wanted a female protagonist who was very strong and magical. And they wanted to hear a story that was from a boy’s point of view instead of a girl’s. And they said, no vampires, no werewolves, and we had to find a really specific setting for the book so that it didn’t feel generic. We did not write it to be published, we wrote it for them. We wrote it a few chapters at a time until at the end of the 12 weeks, we had the entire book.
Q: How did you come up with the names in your books?
[Margaret Stohl]: Kami’s family is from a small town in North Carolina. My family is from a small town in the West. They both happen to have genealogists for their families. We are from a very small town community background where there is a lot of storytelling and a lot of familiarity about your own family so the stories get handed down generationally. Thus, as Kami always says, we plundered our family trees and we stole many names from Kami’s family, from my family, also French Creole names which are a part of the region, and we stuck to sort of specific names for each that would appear within each family. But the most famous name comes from Kami’s relative Anna Gatlin Harmon. And we stole her name for Gatlin, our town.
Q: Are any of the characters based off of real people?
[KG]: The only other characters that are based off of real people are all of the real people; the Castors are all completely made-up by Margi and me. The real characters in the book, the funny characters, the postman is based off of Margi’s grandfather, the great aunts are based off of my great aunts. We kind of used real characters to populate the town from our own families which is funny because some of those characters and their antics seem even more outrageous, like opening up everyone’s mail and reading it before you deliver it, but that is actually what Margi’s grandfather actually did. But don’t tell the postal service.
Q: How did you come up with all of the twists in the story?
[MS]: We plotted out everything in a conversation before we started and then we kind of went with it. I think one of the things that happened is that we had an overall outline for the story but we would surprise each other when we handed chapters back and forth to each other, because that is how we worked since we are two people. So, it is kind of like that game where you all take turns adding on to a story and it changes with every person. So sometimes, we would just pull stuff out of the blue that wasn’t in our outline and we would be like dun-dun-dun! And then the other person would have to deal with it. But I think we kept surprising each other and I think that kept surprising the reader quite often in the process.
[KG]: We like books with twists. So I think it’s natural for us to write things with twists.