"When I read the script ... I immediately emailed Sheryl Anderson and said, 'Netflix needs to renew this minute,'" she tells PEOPLE of the series

By Claudia Harmata
June 10, 2020 10:38 AM
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Even Sherryl Woods, the author behind the 11-book Sweet Magnolias series, wasn't expecting the shocking cliffhanger to the books' new Netflix show.

"The cliffhanger accident was not in the books, but boy, what a way to [end the season]," Woods tells PEOPLE. "In fact, when I read the script for the 10th episode, I immediately emailed Sheryl Anderson and said, 'Netflix needs to renew this minute.'"

The writer and former TV critic recently sat down with PEOPLE to dish about the adaption of the Southern drama — which stars Joanna Garcia Swisher (Reba, Gossip GirlAmerican Pie 2), Brooke Elliott (Drop Dead Diva), Heather Headley (She's Gotta Have It), Justin Bruening (Grey's Anatomy), Chris Klein (American Pie) and Jamie Lynn Spears (Zoey 101).

"I have been so fortunate with the casting," she says. "I think Jo-Garcia captures Maddie just right, and Heather Headley is the perfect Helen — this sort of a cross between dominant and strong and sure as a professional, but the vulnerabilities as a woman are there, too. And Dana Sue (Elliot) has a whole balance of those kinds of things, too."

Netflix

When adapting the books into the popular new show, Woods says the screenwriters drew upon storylines from the first three books: Stealing Home, A Slice of Heaven and Feels Like Family

"They drew the threads for season 1 from the first three books so that those books introduced the three main characters," Woods explains, referencing Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue. "They pulled little threads from each of their stories and wove them into this first season and introduced things that happen over the course of the books."

"It's interesting, because I think that the show has stayed really true to the books on the big stuff," she adds. "I mean, in terms of the community, in terms of these key characters, and so on."

That includes the main trio's iconic "margarita nights," which Woods says was inspired by her own get-togethers with close friends.

"I have a group of friends that I've known for a number of years and we get together, not as often as they do, but we do get together for margarita nights from time to time," she says. "So it sort of became, for me, a symbol of friendship was this gathering around the margaritas."

Netflix

"Friends are very important in my life. The women friendships that I've had, some that go back to when I was a little kid and others have been since college and so on. The bonds of those friendships — I think that a lot of times women, when they get married or their careers are big and successful, they lose a little bit," Woods adds of her inspiration for the books. "So I wanted to write a series showing the strength of having that lifelong support that these three particular friends have and how important that can be."

Throughout the first season, which is streaming now, viewers are introduced to Maddie, a stay-at-home mom, who is left to rebuild her life after her marriage to ex-husband Bill (Klein) falls apart after his affair with a nurse at his office, Noreen (Spears).

Maddie's two best friends, Helen (Headley) and Dana Sue (Elliott), are there to help, with their own stories coming to life as well as the three partner up to open a fitness spa together.

Netflix

While Woods can't confirm a season 2, who was in the car, or if we've have seen the last of Noreen, she says she's just as hopeful as viewers to see more of the Sweet Magnolias.

"There's a lot more to each of their stories," Woods says.

In the meantime, fans can continue spending time in Serenity with the new audiobook collection.

"People who want to listen to it in the car or at night before they go to sleep, there's so many different formats available now," Woods reveals.

The Sweet Magnolias audiobooks are available for free for readers with a valid library card on hoopla digital and available for purchase everywhere audiobooks are sold.