Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Thursday, May 7, 2015
Co-authors Tami Garcia and Margaret Stohl sat down with us to talk about their creative teamwork on BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.
AudioFile Magazine: Tell us how you work as a writing team in terms of developing characters and developing plot details. Do you have any tips for teen writers about how to work with a creative partner?
Kami: Everything Margie and I do begins with a conversation. We discuss the characters—everything from their hopes and fears to their pet peeves and favorite candy. In terms of plot, we always know how the book will end before we start writing, and we create a loose outline that focuses on the key scenes. I have a similar process when I write solo, but I create a beat sheet (based on Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat). It’s a useful way to develop the plot without creating an overly detailed outline. I would recommend using beat sheets to writers of any age.
Margie: I tell teen writers that the most important thing is to learn how to finish what you start, so find a writing partner who makes you get off your butt and do your work. Kami was that person for me – I called her the Punisher -- and I never would have finished that first book without her forcing me to do it. Look for a partner whose strengths complement your own. I’m more drawn to the insides of people’s heads, and Kami is a master plotter. And then find a way to disagree. We made one rule, to keep going forward, and haggle about the compromises later. We killed each other’s darlings and kept on going; for us, that was key.
AudioFile Magazine: Your website provides fans with fine content, creative sparks (such as the video contest around the original song “Sixteen Moons”—which is included in the audiobook), and a community! Do you enjoy interacting with fans online? Have you found that you can connect with people online in different ways than in person as happens on traditional book tours?
Kami: The "Beautiful Creatures Novels" are published in 50 countries and 39 languages, so we have fans all over the world. I love social media because it allows me to talk to readers everywhere. Sometimes readers get nervous at events, but it’s less intimidating online and they are more likely to reach out and ask questions, or chat in ways they wouldn’t in person.
Margie: I don’t think our fans realize quite how well we know them online! We’ve been seeing some of them for years now, and we look forward to hearing about their lives. We’re all part of the same big YA tribe, and our readers are everything to us. I’ve gotten to meet readers in Brazil and Taiwan and the Philippines and Kuala Lumpur and Prague and Rome and Paris and Madrid and on and on and on; it really is a small word and we share a passion for the same books and authors, so we always have a lot to talk about, in any language.
AudioFile Magazine: Seeing how fans respond to differences between the book and the audiobook leads to the question of how you feel about other formats “beyond the page” – What kind of input did you have on the audiobook production? What’s it like for you to listen to Kevin Collins performing your story?
Kami: The audiobook producer called us and asked lots of questions about everything from pronunciations to colloquial expressions. I think he even taped me saying a few of the characters’ names. I think Kevin Collins nailed the characters and tone of the novel, and fans tell us all the time how much they love the audiobook. Of all the different forms a book can take, audiobooks feel the closest to the page to me—at least, if you have an amazing narrator like we did. One aspect of the audiobook that was an amazing surprise was hearing the song “Sixteen Moons” actually performed to music.
Margie: Yes, it was amazing to hear those words actually put to music! And I think we’ve always had fabulous actors involved in our productions, which I love. The audiobooks are particularly important to me, because I have three family members who struggle with vision for different reasons. Also, I love seeing how important audiobooks are to learning disabled students and kids who struggle with reading. Access is everything!
AudioFile Magazine: Kami, your series of “The Legion” novels is lots of fun for those of us with a craving for thrilling pace and edgy atmosphere. When you are writing without a partner, how do you find yourself developing a narrative’s details on your own?
Kami: Developing intricate storylines and characters isn’t any more difficult when I’m writing solo. Forcing myself to write is another story. I always get twice as much work done when I work with Margie because I know she is waiting for my pages. Whenever I begin a new project, I create an inspiration board that includes photos, quotes, and song lyrics that relate to specific characters, places, and the general mood of the novel. Once I can see it visually, the pieces fall into place, and I start plotting.
Margie: I loved writing the Icons, but I learned things from Kami that I keep in my mind even when I write alone. She’s the voice of my internal editor, to this day, and sometimes I read my solo novels and think, “How would Kami rip this up?” It’s actually super helpful. She’s my writing sibling and always will be!
AudioFile Magazine: Wrap up question for both: You both have graduate degrees and have experiences of one kind or another teaching. Any advice for teens who already see themselves as writers—of stories, videos, games—about career development that allows for creative growth along the way?
Kami: You don’t need an MFA in Creative Writing to be a writer (though there’s nothing wrong with pursuing one if that’s your passion). For anyone who wants to be a writer, the most important thing you need to do is read—and not just within your genre. For people who don’t go to college and major in English, Literature, or Creative Writing, it’s important to understand the craft of writing as it applies to creating characters, plot development, literary elements, etc. I still read nonfiction books about writing craft all the time.
Margie: Be patient, and don’t give up. Real progress is slow and steady and way less glamorous than you think it will be. Try to love where you are right now, and what you’re doing. Do what you can do to get some writing in, every day, and don’t rush the story. If you’re writing and it feels good, you’ll get somewhere. Learn how to finish what you start. Trust your own brain – no two people work the same way. You’ve got this fact in your corner already!
Any audiobook recommendations to share with your teen fans?
Kami: The "Harry Potter" audiobooks are my all-time favorites. They capture the characters and dramatic elements in the novel perfectly.
Margie: Anything from Diana Wynn Jones, who wrote the book that became Howl’s Moving Castle. I love classic fantasy!