A Q&A With the YA Authors Behind The Caster Chronicles - With Giveaway!

Photo Credit: Alex Hoerner

Authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have just released the second novel in The Caster Chronicles, Beautiful Darkness. Now authors take readers behind the scenes of their popular YA series – and don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of this interview!

The series follows teens Ethan and Lena as they struggle to keep their relationship (and each other) alive despite the magical threat that surrounds Lena . What is something that you know about Ethan that has not made it into one of the stories yet?
In the distant future, there lies ahead a time so dark that Ethan can’t stomach anything—even Amma’s cooking. We know it’s hard to imagine, but it’s true . . . or is it? Ethan is such a great guy. He’s the most loyal person we’ve ever met. And it’s a good thing we love him as much as we do, considering how much time we all spend together.

Can you share something that was unexpected about Lena's development as a character over the first two books?
Lena’s had a rough time. It’s almost too hard to talk about. We’re pretty committed to the reality of the fantasy in The Caster Chronicles, so nothing happens without a reason, or without consequences. We’ve always known the end result and major plot points of our larger story, but not necessarily all the stops along the way. So sometimes characters surprise us. With Ethan and Lena, we’ve always known what would happen between them, but we didn’t realize how it would feel to write it. We knew things were going to a dark place, but we didn’t know exactly what that would mean until we wrote it. So everything about Lena, in our second book, felt surprising—even to us. Especially to us!

Much of Beautiful Darkness, explores the way that Lena and Ethan's relationship is tested by Lena's grief; what are some details you used to reinforce her downward spiral?
Again, we go through Lena’s emotions with her, just like Ethan does. When you love someone, it’s hard to watch them suffer. There are so many teens, girls in particular, who struggle with confronting their own inner “darknesses” that it was really important to us to make her feelings realistic. Trauma or despair or depression can fundamentally change you into a different person, and that change is what we were trying to represent on the page. When Lena loses it, she really loses it—just like the rest of us. We’re both the kind of readers (and were the kinds of teens) who experience “real” feelings when we read a book, fantasy or not. So the emotional truth in our book is no different than if we were writing realistic fiction. When you live in a fantasy world like we do, it is realistic fiction.

Beautiful Darkness also has Ethan exploring more of the world beyond the Gatlin that everyone can see. Which location was the most challenging to get a feel for as you were writing?
We both spend so much time in the South that there weren’t many parts of the world—Mortal or Caster— that we haven’t experienced in one way or another. We will tell you that sometimes, like everyone, we get it wrong. Sometimes we went too fantastical, and a particular scene wouldn’t have the weight of a real environment. But the thing about a sequel is, we know our own world so well that one of us would catch the moment right away and cut it!

 What is a key component for surviving and thriving in the magical society of the Caster world?
The Caster world—both Dark and Light—is ancient and dense. There’s a kind of vastness to the whole mythology that really opens up in our second book. Where Beautiful Creatures established the transformation of Gatlin into something more than meets the eye, sort of ripping off the blinders, our second book establishes how much more there is in the Caster universe. So more than anything, you need a spirit of adventure, a sense of exploration, and a working knowledge of Latin wouldn’t hurt either!

What is an aspect of the story that has been shaped by the fact that you are a writing team?
One or another of us is always there to hit delete when we need it! Also, our story is wilder than it would be if either one of us were working on it alone. You would think that having a writing partner would hold the other person back or keep the other person in check, but sometimes it works the other way. It feels like one of us is always giving the other one permission to go for it. We originally wrote Beautiful Creatures on a dare, and maybe the spirit of the dare has always stayed with us.

Is there a song or a band that gets you in the Caster frame of mind?
Margie has the soundtrack to the highly inappropriate musical, Spring Awakening, on repeat. (Starring Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, most recently of Glee, by the way!) Kami is a Black Sabbath and Soundgarden girl. Margie writes to music. Kami writes to silence. Clearly, we can’t work in the same room while we are actually writing!

In the process of writing a series, many ideas get left by the wayside. What is something that was originally part of The Caster Chronicles, but has since been edited out (aka a Caster Chronicles deleted scene)?
That’s a great question. In fact, deleted scenes do exist, and our readers will get to see a few in the near future. But for now, all we can say is that in terms of Beautiful Darkness, Lena originally went through an even harder time. 

The Caster Chronicles has a very diverse cast of characters; if we promise not tot tell the others, who is your favorite?
That’s so mean! It’s like choosing a favorite child! It changes all the time. Lately, Margie has had a fondness for Link, while Kami identifies with Amma. (Kami and Amma are the two most superstitious people either one of them knows!) Margie takes issue with Kami thinking her biscuits are better than Amma’s though, and is trying to convince the two of them to have a bake-off at the next Gatlin County Fair.

Can you share a detail from the next Caster tale that RT Readers can keep their eyes open for?
We swear to you, the next year at Stonewall Jackson High is not something you want to miss—that poor school will never be the same. And the town of Gatlin has more than hurricane force winds coming its way. “Good Lord willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise.”

GIVEAWAY ALERT: One lucky reader will win an audio book of Beautiful Darkness and one lucky reader will win a copy of both Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post about why you love YA Series or e-mail here with your comment, mailing address and the subject line "The Caster Chronicles Giveaway.” And don’t forget to mention which prize you are hoping to win! One entry per person. The contest winners will be revealed on November 19th. 


Blog Update 11/19/2010: And the winners are ... Sophie Riggsby and Jessica Louise Livermore Wright