Author Carrie Ryan describes Kami Garcia’s latest, The Lovely Reckless, as “Fast and Furious meets Romeo and Juliet.” As huge Beautiful Creatures and The Legions fans, we knew we had to get our hands on The Lovely Reckless! We discovered a realistic romance about the daughter of an undercover cop who falls for a car thief. And the ship-worthy romance between Frankie and Marco is as risky as the drag races that bring them together! So of course, we jumped at the chance to chat with Kami about everything lovely and reckless.
What inspired you to write Frankie and Marco’s story?
I had this idea for this contemporary romance and Holly Black and Margie Stohl kept saying I should do it. But for me it had to feel real. That’s hard to do well. I grew up in Maryland, and while this book is not autobiographical, it’s inspired loosely by experiences from my youth. My stepfather was an undercover cop in Maryland and he also sold cars. He was very transparent about all the danger in the world because he worked on the street in really rough neighborhoods where he saw people doing terrible things to each other every day. It would surprise my friends when they’d be over and our dinner conversation would be like, “What would you do if someone grabbed you?” Frankie also has these weird conversations with her dad who is also an undercover cop.
How would you describe Frankie and Marco?
Frankie – fearful, brave, loyal, protective, risk-taker
Marco – loyal, protective, puts others first, street and book smart
Would you say your school experience was more like Frankie’s or Marco’s?
Like Frankie, I went to both private and public schools. One of my schools did experimental things like taking a ridiculously wealthy neighborhood and a project neighborhood and then mixing those kids into the same school. It was interesting to see the divide where certain groups did not interact. Because I was in the middle I could have friends in both groups.
And I was a teacher for 17 years, so I taught at both really affluent schools and in really underserved schools in Maryland in an area called Capital Heights that was really rough, like, we had gun drills. You were not allowed on that campus after dark. It was interesting because I worked with at-risk kids after school. A lot of times the detention was due to fights, but I noticed that it didn’t matter if the person judging them was white or black, or whatever. More powerful in the judgment was what neighborhood and circumstances the kid came from. In many cases, these kids were getting abused at home or had no food or had a parent in prison or a parent who took off. That bothered me the most about the job—the way people were so quick to throw some kids away.
This book is a great romance, but probably due to everything you just shared about your personal experiences, it’s also thought-provoking, with racially and economically diverse characters. How essential was that to Frankie’s story?
The book is full of fast cars and illegal street racing but one of the questions in the book, it’s not a lesson because I don’t believe a book should teach a lesson, I think you should just get out of the book what you get out of the book, is is it ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason? In the book, Frankie’s white, Marco’s Latino and her best friend is half Latin-half white. This cast is very diverse. You have all these kids and it’s interesting because the so-called bad boy in this book gets into trouble and gets into fights and he’s characterized as a huge trouble maker and that might not be the case if he weren’t Latino and poor; so for me it was interesting to examine the class difference.
You touch on so many issues with this book. Did you have a goal when writing it?
Ultimately, I wanted to write a book that was fast-paced, had lots of action and romance, was a fun read, had a mystery, but also had messages about diversity and acceptance. I also wanted it to be commercial and fun to read whether you were a big reader or just discovered books!
Frankie has a real evolution in this book! A lot of that was struggling with her parents’ perceptions vs. hers…
I liked the idea of playing with Frankie’s decisions. In some books the character starts out strong, but I think it’s interesting to take a character that starts out fearful or not advocating for herself and then becomes strong. How do you go through something like that and pull yourself back out and decide who YOU want to be instead of who your parents want you to be? Frankie spirals downward after she sees her boyfriend murdered and doesn’t see the same future as her parents. This is extra hard as a teen. I loved showing the progression of how, as things become more important to you and you’re more convinced in your position, you will be able to fight more for your position.
How was writing this book different from the others? Did you research street racing?
I’ve been to street races. Even though they’re really dangerous, they’re also really fun to watch.
I wanted to balance these exciting moments with fast-paced romance and a lot of action, just like my paranormal books. It was really fun! But it was different writing contemporary; for example, if something goes wrong you can’t just do a spell and you can’t kill a whole bunch of people off! I loved writing the magic in my other series, but it was also fun for me to just describe regular school situations because it was something else I know.
If you were on a street racing team, which authors would be on your team and why?
Carrie Ryan has the guts for it. And Tahareh Mafi would love street racing! Most people don’t know that she’s crazy. She does wild, crazy stuff like skydiving! And Maggie Stiefvater does race! It’s almost cheating to take her because that’s a given. She would be our ringer!
Who is your favorite bad boy with a heart of gold?
It’s so hard because I love a lot of bad boys. But my all-time favorite is Dallas from The Outsiders. I feel like I would have loved to be in that book because I would have done a much better job than Cherry of keeping him alive.
Actually, I adore that book and actually wouldn’t change a thing, but I love him so much. Oh, and I love Warner from Shatter Me. I loved him early on. I always felt like there was more to him.
What’s next for you?
I would love to do more with this world and these characters. Some people have asked me to write Cruz’s book. But next up I have my X-Files Origin books which I’m writing with Jonathan Mabry. I just finished the first book and they will follow teenage Mulder and Scully in the late 1970s.
He’s writing Scully’s and I’m writing Mulder’s. I’m a huge fandom person and X-Files is one of my favorites. That book should be in bookstores in January. And I have another contemporary coming out in fall 2017 that’s set partially in DC, so conceivably the characters from The Loveless Reckless could appear, but it’s a completely different set of characters.