Margaret Stohl is no stranger to collaborative efforts: she and Kami Garcia co-authored the bestselling Beautiful Creatures series, which spawned a film version that was released on Valentine’s Day this year. Stohl’s new endeavor is a projected four-book dystopian sci-fi series that begins with the recently released Icons (Little, Brown), about four teens who use their emotion-based superpowers to try to save Earth following a cataclysmic alien invasion referred to as “The Day.” And this time, Stohl’s going it alone. Well, sort of.
While Stohl may be writing the Icons novels by herself, the series launch has been anything but a solo affair. For her nine-city tour, she invited more than 20 YA authors – including Garcia, Shannon Hale, Ally Condie, and Stephanie Perkins – to join her at different stops along the way. The tour tagline: “Friends don’t let friends tour alone.” “There’s a lot of loneliness in a book tour,” Stohl said. “A lot of grilled cheese sandwiches alone in your hotel at night. I wanted that collaborative magic that comes from writers being together.” She cites YALLFest, the Charleston, S.C. young adult book festival she and Garcia help organize, as her inspiration for the group effort. “I wanted to include the writers I love and celebrate them as well, so it [ended up being] a great opportunity for everyone.”
That includes the fans who, Stohl said, likened the experience to being invited to an exclusive dinner party with the author and a few of her closest friends. And what could be more fulfilling for teens than hobnobbing with their favorite authors, discussing their favorite books, and commiserating about the awkwardness of adolescence? “In a way, our readers are a lot like us: we were all so lonely and fringy and freaky that it’s so great to share,” Stohl said. “I always say, ‘I’m cracked. My characters are cracked. And you, reader, you’re cracked too.’ For them to see a whole tribe of equally cracked outsiders? I think there’s something about sharing that community that’s inspiring.”
Stohl also has a community’s worth of backup at Little, Brown. Prior to the May 7 publication of Icons, the publicity and marketing teams rolled out a widespread promotional campaign, including a cover reveal in Entertainment Weekly; a sneak peek of the first six chapters on MTV’s “Hollywood Crush”; in-theatre advertising throughout May and June on 150 movie screens in New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles; and a live-action book trailer featured on the “Beautiful Creatures” film DVD and Blu-ray, and online via an extensive social media push on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and with more than 12,000 hits on YouTube.
Nellie Kurtzman, v-p of marketing at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, says of the Icons social media campaign and book trailer, “The strategy of our social media team was to build intrigue for the world of the novel by creating a ‘prequel’ to symbolize the events of The Day when they arrived – while also capturing how epic the book is in scale.”
Now that the Icons launch tour has wrapped up, Stohl is already at work on her next project. She and Garcia are solidifying the schedule for YALLFest, which will take place on November 9; Veronica Roth and Lauren Oliver will be keynote speakers. Garcia, too, has a solo project in the works: Unbreakable (Little, Brown) – the first book in her new Legion series – will be published in October. And Stohl is collaborating on the Icons movie, to be produced by Alcon Entertainment (the same company behind the film version of Beautiful Creatures).
There’s also book two in the series to look forward to, in spring 2014. What might readers expect? “Everything I write is about big feelings. What I care about is trying to be brave enough to feel how you feel and to be emotionally true,” Stohl said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s aliens or emotional weapons or whatever – it’s still a real story about big feelings that have to come out.”