Kami Garcia, author of the bestselling Beautiful Creatures and contemporary romance The Lovely Reckless, brings readers her most personal and striking story yet — one that tackles complicated relationships, abuse, and self-discovery. With a different feel from her previous releases, Garcia comes back with more heart and a story that is impossible to forget. Read below for my conversation with Kami Garcia, with topics ranging from her writing style to the story behind Broken Beautiful Hearts.
For starters, what first inspired you to tell Peyton’s story in Broken Beautiful Hearts?
I was trying to think of something like The Lovely Reckless that would send a message… a topic that would reach out to someone if they didn’t have [someone] in the same boat as them. And then it occurred to me that I had never written [about an abusive relationship I’d experienced as a teen]. I had told people, but I hadn’t written anything about it.
I have a lot of teens who write to me about going through emotional abuse or physical abuse, and I was just thinking that all these teens that I write for are so brave; I should be able to be that brave, too.
I dated someone in high school who was a fighter. He ended up pushing me when I confronted him about it. I broke up with him, and at first he was very apologetic. But, as often happens in domestic violence situations, the abuser is often very apologetic and sweet, and then when you don’t give them the thing they want, the rage kicks in. I never imagined I would be dating a guy who would physically hurt me.
But that happened, and I told my close friends, but I didn’t tell my parents… [and] I didn’t tell a counselor [or] any adults.
It was almost like I rewrote my history [in Broken Beautiful Hearts]. In the story, Peyton tells people; it’s like she does the things I wish I had done. So in a way, it was like I was rewriting the story in the way I wished it had played out.
Compared to your previous releases, how would you describe the writing process for Broken Beautiful Hearts?
It started out the same. Usually, I come up with an idea or a character, and then I come up with inspiration boards; I collect photos and quotes and all kinds of things out of magazines that remind me of the characters or the setting or [even] the mood.
Then I usually start brainstorming, or I make lots of notes about the ideas I have. And then I am usually ready to [start writing].
This time it was much harder, though. Even though Peyton is different from me, and even her situation is different from me, when you are writing about the emotions that surround someone hurting you physically, [you don’t] expect how hard [it will] be to write. It felt much more visceral, and it felt much more like being back in that moment.
Was Broken Beautiful Hearts always what you had in mind for the title of the book, or were there others that were in the running?
The original title was Broken Battered Hearts, which there is a reference to at the end of the book. And I think I actually told people that online casually, [though] it had never been on a cover. It was the working title of the book, and the title we thought we were going to use. But within house, people were worried “broken” and “battered” didn’t sound like there was going to be a layer of hope [in the story]. We changed it, and the hard thing was coming up with another word, because I liked the pattern already. I didn’t want to change the whole title and there aren’t a lot of B adjectives that work; a lot of them sounded very strange. I have a passage at the end of the book that refers to both the old title and the new title. In a way, that explains why I changed it. I wanted it to feel more transformative.
How difficult was it switching from writing fantasy in Beautiful Creatures to now writing contemporary romances, such as The Lovely Reckless and Beautiful Broken Hearts?
I think it is really hard to write a contemporary.
For me, I’ve always loved [when] there’s a world hidden in plain sight. I love that idea that there could be magic and casters and shadowhunters and all these people around us, and we just aren’t aware.
I read a lot of fantasy growing up, and for me, writing fantasy comes much easier because I can always think of new obstacles — and I [also] like to kill people in the books sometimes, and you cannot be randomly killing people in a contemporary book!
I think a contemporary is harder because you have to find the magic of everyday moments or relationships and situations that don’t seem magical on the surface, like falling in love.
What does a typical day in the life of Kami Garcia look like?
There’s a lot of me pretending that I’m getting ready to work or preparing to work. I’m in my pajamas and wearing my noise-cancelling headphones.
I used to write on the computer, but I can’t actually type properly, which slows me down. Also, when I’m typing, I find myself going back and editing and messing around with [my work] and not moving forward. That’s kind of a procrastination tactic, too. So, I just started writing long hand. I find that it keeps me moving forward at a faster pace.
How long did it take for you to plan and write Broken Beautiful Hearts?
It took me a really long time to write in my world. Usually it takes me about the same length of time, unless I am writing with a writing partner. When I was writing with [Margaret Stohl] and we wrote the Beautiful Creatures books, those were much faster. There were two of us, and also I feel like when you write with a partner, you are sending things back and forth, so you have more motivation to [finish]. Depending on how much research, it will take me a couple of weeks to outline, and then it takes me about four months to write the book.
Where do you see yourself going next? Do you have any other projects in the works?
I do. I have two things in the works right now, but they are secret. It’s not a movie, and it’s not the third book in the Legion series, which I am going to write eventually.
If you could give a single piece of advice to young writers, what would it be?
Finish the draft. Even if you decide halfway through that you think it is a terrible idea, sometimes, through finishing the book, you could end up writing a scene that has an amazing character in it or an incredibly compelling conflict, and that you could end up pulling out, and that could be your killer book idea.