"Beautiful Creatures" hits theaters this weekend, but before it was a movie, it was a best-selling book by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, friends from California who initially didn't think anyone but their kids would be reading the tale of mortal Ethan Wate and his beloved, caster Lena Duchannes.
The writing partners spoke to Moviefone at YALLFest, the annual Young Adult book festival they helped organize in Charleston, S.C. -- not far from Gatlin, S.C., the fictional small town they created for "Beautiful Creatures." Garcia and Stohl admitted that turning their first book into a movie was a wild but happy ride all thanks to their respect for writer-director Richard LaGravenese.
Here are five interesting things they shared about their book and the process of turning it into a film.
1. They Wrote the Book on a Dare
"Beautiful Creatures" started off as a collaborative idea cooked up over a lunch between friends who liked to swap books. But then Stohl told her oldest daughter -- Garcia's student -- who dared them to actually write the book. "We took her up on it and started writing and writing. We weren't even thinking about having it published, because we were writing it for our teenagers. We would change things as they made suggestions, like they wanted to read more about Ethan's best friend Linc and Lena's cousin Ridley -- and that's how we went on until we were finished." Of course after it was done, they -- along with their trusty kid readers -- felt they had a compelling story on their hands that could actually get published.
2. Ethan Is a Nice Guy On Purpose
There's a common trope in young adult literature -- and teen-targeted TV shows -- in which the edgy bad boy is portrayed as always being the most desirable. Garcia and Stohl weren't interested in promoting that trend ("Girls need to realize that sometimes a jerk is just a jerk," said Stohl), so they came up with Ethan: a 16-year-old guy who's loving, supporting, and smart -- not to mention a selfless gentleman. "We joke that we made him the exact opposite of every guy Margie and I dated at that age," Garcia admitted, laughing. "That's why he's such a great guy."
3. One Actor Was Their Dream Come True
Some authors must be shocked at who plays their characters, and you can add Garcia to that list -- but in a good way. When she found out Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons was going to play Macon Ravenwood, she thought it was a joke. "He's who I always pictured in my mind as Macon -- his voice, his demeanor, everything. I thought they were playing a prank when they told me, because he's exactly who I thought of for the character all along."
4. Gatlin Isn't Real, But Its Culture Is
Although you won't find Gatlin on a South Carolina map, Garcia has the Southern roots to base a lot of Gatlin on real people and places -- they even used some of Garcia's (that's her married surname) family tree as inspiration for some of the names. "Kami grew up with three generations from the same town in the South," Stohl said. Garcia added that it was easy to make Gatlin " the kind of place where gossip spreads immediately and everyone knows everything about each other." And those Civil War battle reenactments that glorify the Confederacy? "Oh yeah, those really happen!" Garcia says.
5. They Don't Mind the Changes, Really
Although fans of the four-part series may get in a huff about the considerable changes to the book, the authors say they understand why their 550-page book had to be streamlined. "We're not screenwriters," Stohl said. "That's a completely different skill set. Our books are hundreds of pages, and screenplays are what –-120 pages? We wouldn't have known how to cut down our story that way." But more than that, they trusted LaGravenese to keep the spirit of their unique story. "He just got us. He loved the characters, loved the Southern Gothic, and he had our same vision for what the story was really about," Stohl added.
Alden Ehrenreich (Ethan Wate)
Ehrenrich plays restless teen Ethan, who falls for the new girl despite the town's opposition to her mysterious family. He was discovered at age 14 at a friend's bat mitzvah by Steven Spielberg when the director saw him in a short film. With Spielberg's help, he lined up some TV roles including the "Wendigo" episode of "Supernatural"; he then appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola films, "Tetro" and "Twixt." He next stars in the thriller "Stoker," which opens in limited release on March 1.
Alice Englert (Lena Duchannes)
The New Zealand native, who plays conflicted caster Lena Duchannes, is the daughter of Oscar-winning director Jane Campion ("The Piano") and second-unit director Colin Englert. Her parents divorced in 2001 when she was 7. She made her film debut at 8 and at 12 appeared in her mother's short film "The Water Diary." After leaving high school to pursue acting, she starred with Elle Fanning in "Ginger & Rosa" for director Sally Potter, and in the Roland Joffe thriller "In Fear," which screened this year at Sundance. She recently wrapped "Singularity" opposite Josh Hartnett.
Emmy Rossum (Ridley Duchannes)
Rossum plays Siren Ridley (she s<a href="http://news.moviefone.com/2013/02/11/emmy-rossum-beautiful-creatures-interview_n_2662907.html">poke to Moviefone</a> about how much fun she had playing her first villain), but you already know her from her roles in "Mystic River," "The Day After Tomorrow" "Poseidon," and "The Phantom of the Opera." She released her debut album, "Inside Out," in 2007. She currently stars on the Showtime series "Shameless" as Fiona Gallagher.
Thomas Mann (Wesley Jefferson "Link" Lincoln)
Mann plays Ethan's best friend, who's one of the few people in town willing to ignore the gossip about the Ravenwoods, despite the fervent preaching of his ultra-religious mother (Emma Thompson). Mann also played Ben in "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" and Thomas in "Project X." His other credits include "Fun Size" and "It's Kind of a Funny Story."
Zoey Deutch (Emily Asher)
Deutch, who plays mean girl Emily, is another showbiz kid: her parents are "Back to the Future" star Lea Thompson and "Pretty in Pink" director Howard Deutch. She began acting in 2010 on the Disney Channel's "The Suite Life on Deck," then played Sarah Michelle Gellar's bratty stepdaughter on the CW series "Ringer." She just landed the lead role of Rosemarie in the upcoming film adaptation of the Vampire Academy books.
Tiffany Boone (Savannah Snow)
Boone plays another mean girl who bullies Lena. "Southland" fans might recall her from last season: She's the girl who gets in Officer Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie)'s face until he <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZMRWOcFsds">punches back in frustration</a>. Her other credits include an appearance on the series "Suburgatory" and the horror comedy "Detention."
Kyle Gallner (Larkin Ravenwood)
Larkin is Lena's cousin, an Illusionist who has the power to change his appearance. Gallner starred as Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas on "Veronica Mars" and had recurring roles on "Smallville," Big Love" and "CSI: New York." He also played the lead in "The Haunting in Connecticut" and the 2010 remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street." He just wrapped production on "CBGB," in which he plays rock legend Lou Reed.
Rachel Brosnahan (Genevieve Duchannes)
Brosnahan is seen in flashbacks as Lena's great-great-great-great grandmother, who caused the Duchannes family curse during the Civil War. She plays Rachel in the just-debuted Netflix original series "House of Cards," and has appeared in episodes of "Gossip Girl," "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Good Wife." She also has a celebrity relative: Handbag designer Kate Spade is her aunt.