For Margaret Stohl, one of the joys of being a young-adult author is that her works appeal to more than just, well, young adults.
“YA has been great for reading overall,” says the locally based writer, a co-founder of the YALLWEST book festival that will be held April 11-12 in Santa Monica. “From Tolkien to Harry Potter, kids and teens and adults can read and enjoy fantasy at the same time — the age bracket is meaningless. One fan could be a sixth-grader, and one could be a 50-year-old woman, but they’re obsessed with the same world. That’s the unifying zeitgeist. It’s spectacular.
“People should be able to read whatever book they want to read. It’s our job to make sure those options are on the shelf.”
In an interview with the Daily Press, Stohl discusses the upcoming festival as well as her book-to-movie experience, her Santa Monica connections and more.
Daily Press: What do you see as the benefits of a book festival like YALLWEST to young readers?
Margaret Stohl: You can’t just hand a book to a kid — you have to strike the spark that’s going to make the kid read it. It’s about the books and the conversations that go with them. We’re trying to hand the right moment to the kids. It’s also about showing our world to as many kids as possible. It’s like a Comic-Con of books.
DP: Why do you think the young-adult genre has had so much recent success crossing into television and film?
MS: YA stories tell these really vivid, straight emotional experiences. We want to engage with real feelings, we’re not afraid to tell big stories and we’re not embarrassed by a big arc, a big emotion or a big feeling. I just saw the “Insurgent” movie with my 21-year-old and my 13-year-old, and we came out high on how weirdly emotional it was. I came to it as a teen action movie, but we were all so struck by it. We all related to it.
DP: Your novel, “Beautiful Creatures,” was adapted into a movie. Were you concerned about how the film would portray your written work?
MS: I assumed it wouldn’t happen — I was shocked when it did happen — but I was never worried what it would be like. We can’t control that. All we control is who we entrust the project to. It was Viola Davis and Emma Thompson — you couldn’t get a better team. I spent 18 years making video games — I’ve worked on “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Spider-Man” and “Sopranos” video games — and it’s an alternative fan universe, an extension of the universe. With “Beautiful Creatures,” I was relieved that I could be proud of it. It was a piece of content that I felt had the spirit of the book.
DP: How has the young-adult author community handled the book-to-screen transition overall?
MS: I’ve been in meetings where people have said, “I love books — they’re like the seeds of movies.” But there’s this broad acceptance of all forms of media, of all stories. There’s no high-low literary judgment. I like a good story, I like a good comic book. I like Virginia Woolf. I am empowered to enjoy whatever genre I want.
DP: Is there a particular book that grasped you as a child?
MS: I was raised in L.A., right by UCLA, and moved to Santa Monica after college. In third grade I loved “The Dark Is Rising” by Susan Cooper — in school at Brentwood Science Magnet Elementary School, we would meet under the stairs of a bungalow and recite the (recurring) poem. I was into classic fantasy from the very beginning.
DP: Where do you get your creative inspiration?
MS: I had a video game company with my husband, who’s now retired, but he’s into robotics and always programming. I have a daughter who’s a programmer, a daughter who is an artists and a daughter who is into classics. I have my own version of people creating all around me. It’s really a Southern California thing. And my sci-fi book “Icons” is all about L.A. — it’s like a scenic tour.
DP: Why do you enjoy writing in Santa Monica?
MS: I’m working on a lot of Marvel stuff, so I’m often holed up in my garden in Santa Monica. I like the breeze, I like to hole up and bunker down and not go anywhere in the traffic. My big trip is to the library. Santa Monica is my creative enclave. I’ve spent time in an art colony in southern Italy, in “the heel of the boot,” and it reminds me of Santa Monica. There are other young-adult authors here, too. There really is a little cabal in my neighborhood.
Editor’s note: For a Q&A with YALLWEST co-founder Melissa de la Cruz, click here.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.