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Though The Vampire Diaries has gone on to become a hit CW series, co-creator Kevin Williamson wasn’t interested in adapting the book on which it’s based until his partner in crime, Julie Plec, found a way to make sure it didn’t tread on Twilight.

“Someone very close to me had died. I was at a really, really low place,” Williamson said during the ATX Festival’s panel looking at their careers. “Julie and another friend of ours said, ‘You need to work. Work yourself out of this grief.'” Therein lies how The Vampire Diaries came into the Dawson’s Creek creator’s orbit.

However, when Williamson read the L.J. Smith book, he only made it 64 pages before putting it down. “I said, ‘Not for me,” Williamson said. Plec decided to finish the book and find a new window into it that would get Williamson excited about the project.

“There’s not a lot in here for Kevin to get excited about,” Plec said. “I made a decision right then and there is the one thing I’m not going to do is force him into doing this because if he’s not happy, then the whole point of all of this is stupid… We both use the show as an exercise of grief. It’s an outlet. Really the entire series is an outlet for grief and an allegory for being alone.”

Still, Williamson and Plec struggled to find what the show would actually become. “We literally did not know what the show was,” Plec said. “We looked at Buffy as a template.” It wasn’t until Stefan’s (Paul Wesley) monologue in the second episode of the first season that things really clicked for Williamson. “I stumbled along the way,” said Williamson, who noted that he had “too much too soon” earlier in his career with the success of Dawson’s Creek and Scream. “Luckily I had Julie.”

For more from ATX 2015, follow @ew on Twitter.

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