Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Because of A Book with Margaret Stohl


Today, I am proud to welcome Margaret Stohl to Write For A Reader.  Margaret, or Margie as some call her, is one half of the awesome writing duo that is responsible for the upcoming YA release, Beautiful Creatures (Dec '09).  Let me share with you a little bit about her, in her own words.

Writing has gotten me in and out of trouble since I was 15 (back then, mostly just in trouble.) I have written everything from video games and video game manuals to live action screenplays (one optioned, many never happened) and animation (one optioned, one never happened), as well as poetry in the UK & the US, marketing documents in Vegas, coverage for a big Hollywood agency where a guy walked around with a writing crop hitting desks, and an Imax movie (come to think of it, not sure what ever happened to that...?) For 10 years, I designed &/or wrote for lots of video games, one of which was nominated for “Most Innovative Game Design,” but I lost to a rapping onion. If you know games you get why my two bad beagles are named Zelda and Kirby.

School: I spent more years in it than a person ever should, because let’s face it, reading books is so much better than having a job. I fell in love with American literature at Amherst and Yale, earned an MA in English from Stanford, and studied creative writing under the late great poet George MacBeth at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. I taught Intro to Film as a TA at Yale and Romantic Poetry as a TA at Stanford. Don’t tell the people at Yale but sometimes I taught the section before I’d seen the movie it was about...

I live in Santa Monica, CA, with my family, most of whom were enslaved into working with me in one form or another on my forthcoming YA book for Little, Brown. I’m not kidding; when my daughters wanted to go to school I said “Why are you so selfish? Get back in there and edit,” and by said I mean yelled and maybe threw things, it’s all a haze. I have a writing partner named Kami and she is why we ever get anything done. (Well, K and the daughter-slaves...)

And so we wrote a book this year, and it’s going to come out in lots and lots of countries in a few months. And I am really, really hoping there is no hot title about a rapping onion coming out at the same time. 

You can find Margie on her blog, at Goodreads, at the Beautiful Creatures Facebook page, and at the Beautiful Creatures website.

On car trips long before car seats, the three of us lay in the back of the station wagon in the night. My mom read aloud by the dim light of the glove compartment. The glass on the window was cold, and I would press my face against it and look out in the dark desert sky, trying not to let my brothers see me cry. Banner in the Sky. Where the Red Fern Grows. The Outsiders. Ah, Ponyboy. At gas stations we shuffled out of the car, jarred by the smell of the gasoline and the lights and the Cheetos, hiding our wet faces until we could disappear into the story and the Way Back again.  At least, that’s how I remember about those trips, though I’ve forgotten where we were going.

I remember hiding in my closet with a pillow and Jello powder stolen out of the garage, reading the entire Narnia series. Sitting high up in our avocado tree reading A Wrinkle in Time and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Crowding under the steps of our classroom bungalow with Pam Ling, to recite the poem from the front of The Dark is Rising books. “When the Dark Comes Rising, Six Shall Turn it Back/Three From the Circle, Three From the Track…”

I read the Little House books by my nightlight, even though the shadows scared me, and The Girl of the Limberlost on the piano bench instead of practicing. I held Anne of Green Gables low enough in the church pew that you might confuse it for the Bible. When we visited my grandma, I stole into her linoleum basement and borrowed everything from my mom’s old bookshelf, with battered covers and titles like Sal Fisher at Girl Scout Camp, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and one about a particularly dashing student nurse named Cherry Ames. To this day, even my daughters have been known to exclaim, “Pshaw, Mrs. Shaw, and all the Little Shaws!”

Because of a book, I had Fancies. I knew that, if caught in a thicket, rowan and ash would protect you from Dark Magic. Likewise, a Highway was old magic, neither Light nor Dark, so our station wagon was vulnerable in traffic on the 405. I believed that eyes flashed when angry, a boy traced a girl’s cheeks with a thumb just before a kiss, and that you could be stricken if caught out in the rain, though I was vague on the details. I pined for lawn and muslin, fine whalebone stitching, dressing gowns and/or smoking jackets (and yes, if you had asked me I would have used the word pined.) Thought I had not even the smallest bustle, I still hoped to live in a gabled house overlooking an azure sea/apple orchard/Sunnybrook Farm with a cupola and a garret, a root cellar and a grape arbor. A secret garden would be ideal, but I’d settle for a veranda. In fact, I’d pull right up to it in my surrey and pass a pleasant afternoon on the settee in the parlor with a cherry cordial and a thick slice of icebox cake.

Because of a book, I’d hold warm salt against your ear if it ached, make an onion poultice or a mustard plaster for your chest if you had galloping consumption, the aigue, or even a fainting spell. Dropsy. Horsehair. Battenberg. Petit fours. Kid gloves. Real silk stockings. A muff. I’d have come calling and left you my card. My name was probably Lavinia, and I was here for the High Season. Or the Grand Tour. Or cream tea in the drawing room. Or as a companion for my aunt, Her Ladyship, who was of a Higher Station. I hoped I wasn’t being forward. I demurred.

Because of a book, I was never quite sure where I was, what you just said, or why I should know things like, say, 4 x 7. “Never hold a lady by her arm,” said I, at five, to my father, while getting out of the station wagon. “You, sir, are either a jealous husband, or you’re insane.” What can I say? I was always looking for a duel, or at least fisticuffs and a few boxed ears.

Because of a book, I went to study at the school that had Emily Dickinson’s house on campus. I took 36 English classes. I went to a Writers Program in the UK and took more. Because of a book – because of a thousand – I began to write.

Because of a book, I have never once had a single thing I Fancied – neither mustard plaster nor cupola -- yet I have somehow always had all of them. Because of a book, I had Expectations. Tens of thousands of books later, I expect I still do.

And that, as someone in a book once said, has made all the difference.

About Beautiful Creatures:
There were no surprises in Gatlin County
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Pre-order it at Amazon

About The Outsiders:  First published by Viking in 1967, The Outsiders immediately resonated with young adults. This groundbreaking novel was like nothing else out there—it was honest and gritty, and was a deeply sympathetic portrayal of Ponyboy, a young man who finds himself on the outside of regular society. Forty years later, with over thirteen million copies sold, the story is as fresh and powerful to teenagers today as it ever was.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells


bermudaonion said...

What a great post! I love that she remembers what her mom read on their trips and not their destinations! I loved The Outsiders too and I think it's still popular these days. I'm looking forward to reading Beautiful Creatures.

mstohl said...

Thanks for giving me a chance to spew, Shelly! It was an incredibly interesting exercise. As you can see, by the way I just couldn't stop... :)

Emma said...

I am a slave.

Caster Girl 17 said...

I will look out for anything about a rapping onion.

Awesome autobiography type thing. Very entertaining.

Astohl said...

Aaah, the secret reading of childhood! For me it was reading Heidi by the light outside my window when I was supposed to be asleep. She was just like me, raised by her grandfather, eating hard cheese and black bread with Peter sitting in a meadow of buttercups in the alps. Ok, none of that is like me except the grandfather thing. After that it was years of secret reading, and I don't know why, it's not like anybody was trying to stop me. Maybe, like a Double Double, the books were better when devoured alone.

Trying not cry at the end of The Outsiders while reading it under my desk in 6th Grade English. My weekly Nancy Drew read under the piano. Most recently, The Diceman in the bathtub, in the car and in my closet.

Secret reading is just as good as an adult.

caster girl 15 said...

I LOVED the Little House books. I still remember learning about making a ball out of a pig's bladder and when they built a house in the dirt hill or something. great interview/spew fest, really funny!

Kami Garcia said...

Leave it to my writing partner to write the best post about books. But escaping inside a book is one of the things we share, and although I wasn't interested in secrets gardens, I was jumping into that church right along with Ponyboy and Johhny in The Outsides. But for me (predictably) it was Dally I loved.

The Outsiders had a very real impact on me as well. I lived in a neighborhood where social lines were drawn, and I never had any madras.

I can attest to Margie's love of books because they are stacked all around us in the office where we work. And she did want to name one of her daughters Eudora after Eudora Wheltly. Her husband didn't go for it.

Scott said...

That was beautiful, Margie.

Jenny said...

Wow!:D You expressed your love of literature so eloquently.This is such a nice blog feature, Shelly, everyone needs to read it. Books can have such a powerful impact and really shape a person.Thanks for sharing, Margie!

Caster Girl 25 said...

Wow Margie you are my hero!!!! Amazing amazing! Can't wait to someday meet you.... :)

The Book Resort said...

What an amazing post. I loved reading NAncy Drew under the covers w/ a flashlight or by moonlight.

Fiona said...

Because I grew up on a steady diet of Trixie Beldon and then Nancy Drew, I couldn't understand why nothing remotely mysterious ever happened to me. Then I got into Sweet Dreams romances and wondered why Australian boys didn't ask me to go to the local pizza shop for a slice after school, and why we didn't have "Spring flings", Homecoming and Proms...Yes Margie, I can relate...

mstohl said...

I'm with you guys on HEIDI and the black bread crusts, pigs bladders, houses built into dirt, and of all things -- TRIXI BELDEN! Have not heard that name in years! And by the way, Nancy Drew was my mom's first great love, which is why she was reading us books throughout twelve hour car rides in the first place. Glad to hear so many of us really got the Outsiders. Now you all need to go read Dark Is Rising, if only for me :)

Thanks again, Shelly. This was really a trip for me. xo

mstohl said...

And yes, Fiona, where have all the Spring Flings gone...? I never had one either!

mstohl said...

And thanks, Scott! *waves fondly*

And Jenny! And Bermudaonion and 25 :)

http://www.rachelkovacs.com/1894.html said...

Thanks for the article. Very helpful. I'm a publisher myself and I always like to read articles like yours.

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