The Mary Sue Interviews Beautiful Creatures Author Kami Garcia About Her Upcoming Series Legion
Kami Garcia has spent most of her writing career working with a partner — Margaret Stohl, with whom she wrote the Beautiful Creatures series. Now she’s breaking out on her own, with a new series of books entitled Legion. The first one, Unbreakable, came out on Sunday, and The Mary Sue had the chance to speak with her about world-building, writing solo, and her love of Joss Whedon (she’s been called his “talent-sister” by Buffyverse tie-in novelist Nancy Holder).
The Mary Sue: I saw in your official bio that you named your dogs after Spike and Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unbreakable has been described as “Supernatural meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” What is it about those types of stories—Buffy in particular—that inspires you?
Kami: Aside from the fact that Joss Whedon is a genius, I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer because it gave us a kickass heroine, who didn’t need a guy to rescue her. In fact, Buffy was usually the one rescuing the male characters (both human and supernatural). I love Felicia Day’s character, Charlie, from Supernatural for the same reason. I also love Buffy because she’s a normal girl, thrown into a world that she never knew existed, and she has to find a way to adapt. In both Supernatural and Buffy, the characters also experience genuine moments of doubt, which appeals to me. I’m not a fan of storylines in which characters have to give up their whole lives and shoulder enormous responsibilities, without ever having any doubts. That doesn’t ring true for me.
Side Note: I still need one more dog, so I can name him Angel.
TMS: The Beautiful Creatures novels dealt a lot with the world of witches, whereas the Legion’s delving more into the ghostly. What was it like building this whole new world after the success of your first series?
Kami: In Beautiful Creatures, the Casters (our race of Supernaturals) were like a cross between witches and the X-men, because each type of Caster had a distinct set of powers. In Unbreakable, the first book in the Legion series, I wanted to explore a supernatural world that lots of people believe in—one in which ghosts, poltergeists, and demons exist. I’ve always been fascinated by secret societies, so the idea of creating a secret society of ghost hunters added another layer.
Building the world of the Legion is my favorite part of the process, and I’m still doing it because I’m working on the sequel. For me, it’s always about creating a supernatural universe that I’d want to live in (like the ones Buffy or Star Wars)—and a universe that I completely believe in. If I can’t suspend disbelief, how can I expect that from my readers?
TMS: Can you talk a little bit about the journey your main character, Kennedy Waters, is set off on in the beginning of the series?
Kami: Kennedy is an ordinary seventeen year-old girl, who comes home one night and finds her mother dead. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces are responsible—not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her room and destroy a deadly spirit sent to kill her. Kennedy learns that her mom was a member of the Legion—a secret society of ghost hunters whose five members were all murdered on the same night. Now the Legion is in the hands of the next generation, and they want Kennedy to join them. And she doesn’t have much choice because the new Legion members are being hunted—including Kennedy.
So this ordinary girl is thrown into an unknown and terrifying world, and the only people she can rely on are four strangers. But if Kennedy wants to survive, she has to learn to trust them, and herself—something that’s difficult for so many of us.
TMS: This is your first solo series. How was the process different without a writing partner?
Kami: When you write with a partner, you get a constant stream of feedback. So if you’ve written fifty pages of crap, you know it. I call it writing with a net, because the other person will catch you if you fall. Writing alone is totally different. I don’t turn in outlines, but my editor reads the first 100 pages when I finish them—which means I can spend 100 pages wondering if everything I’ve written is terrible. Like most writers, I’m hard on myself, and my work, so that’s torture. To avoid driving myself completely crazy (and turning in a hundred pages of crap), I have authors that read and critique the draft at various stages. I was lucky enough to have Holly Black, one of the most talented writers in urban fantasy, critique Unbreakable from the very beginning.
TMS: What excites you most about this series?
Kami: The Legion series combines my favorite things: paranormal entities, secret societies, ghost hunting, suspense, action, romance, haunted places, kickass female characters, Tetris, and weapon design. But at the core, the series is about five teens who have to come together and use their talents, ingenuity—and, in one case, Aquanet hairspray—to face-off against paranormal forces to protect themselves, and one another. The series poses questions like: How far will you go for the people you care about? What lines are you willing to cross?
I also learned how to make a metal detector out of a transistor radio, a calculator, and duct tape.
TMS: Your first novel, Beautiful Creatures, was recently turned into a major feature film starring Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, and Emmy Rossum. What was that process like the first time around, and did seeing your work onscreen have any effect on the writing process for Unbreakable?
Kami: As a hardcore fantasy and science-fiction geek, there is nothing cooler than walking into a room that looks exactly like a magical setting from your novel. The Beautiful Creatures movie sets and props were so detailed that it literally felt like stepping into the novel. As much as I loved seeing the world of Beautiful Creatures onscreen, that experience did not impact the writing process for Unbreakable.
I do a tremendous amount of research when I write, and several of the haunted locations in Unbreakable are based on real places (e.g., Lilburn Mansion and Moundsville Prison). The walls of my office are covered with photos of those places, as well as images that inspired the fictional settings, the weapons I invented for the series, etc. My research and those inspiration walls impacted my process more than anything else.
TMS: What’s the number one thing that you want to see when you hear your books are being made into movies?
Kami: As a novelist, I’ll always prefer the book to a theatrical adaptation, even if the book isn’t mine, because no one can truly capture all the details that my imagination creates while I’m reading a book. What I enjoy most about any adaptation is seeing the fantasy, supernatural, or sci-fi worlds come to life. It’s like bonus content! I also love it when the novel is treated as source material.
You can read more about Kami and her work over at her official website. Unbreakable is out now!
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