All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.
KARIN: You have two different series published right now. LAMENT which deals with faeries and SHIVER which is about werewolves. Not only are these two series about very different subjects, but they are geared to different age levels. Which do you find more enjoyable? Faeries or werewolves? Tame or edgy?
MAGGIE: They both sort of scratch different itches. When I was writing LAMENT, I constantly felt the tug to write older and edgier, and while I was writing SHIVER, I constantly felt the loss of the magic and folklore that runs through the veins of the LAMENT series. Also, LAMENT is . . . well, it has funny bits. I miss funny bits. But, again, SHIVER has emo bits. I miss emo bits too. I guess it’s a good thing that my schedule at the moment goes like so: write a SHIVER book. write a LAMENT book. write a SHIVER book. write a LAMENT book.
The way I see it, both books are, at their cores, talking about different things. Faeries are nostalgic literary devices that pull up lost connections with nature and a loss of innocence and magic. Werewolves ask questions like who makes you who you are? and get to play the part of metaphors for loss of personal identity, something I see happening all the time in our homogenized world.
So I guess I didn’t answer the question, did I? I think the answer is that I enjoy both of them for different reasons, and with my planned novels in the future I can see how some will follow the LAMENT mold and some will follow the SHIVER one.
KARIN: After reading the biography posted on your website, It makes sense that you would make music a huge part of LAMENT. It states that you play the Celtic harp, piano, and bagpipes. (I love the bagpipes by the way – my high school mascot was a Highlander so we had bagpipes at our football games) Do you play any other instruments that aren’t listed in your bio? When did you start taking music lessons? Do you still play regularly?
MAGGIE: Music plays a huge role in my life. In college I was actually a music composition major for half a semester (long story, don’t ask) because I really wanted to write movie soundtracks. Music is definitely another way to describe a story — I remember watching Braveheart and looking around at my fellow viewers and then thinking “no one would be crying while watching this movie if it wasn’t for the soundtrack.” I was struck with a deep and persistent desire to toy with people’s emotions after that.
I can’t remember what I have listed in my bio. I play the piano, bagpipes, bodhran (a type of Irish drum), the tin whistle, the guitar, and the harp. Some better than others. Since getting hit by a drunk driver, I can’t play the pipes like I used to, but they used to be my best instrument. My mom started me on the piano when I was a teeny ankle-biter, then I started the pipes when I was fifteen or sixteen. Man, I miss them.
I still play music pretty regularly, and I compose tunes for all of my books, too. I just got out of the recording studio for SHIVER and BALLAD’s pieces — I did a book trailer for SHIVER (it’s getting released in July) and one of the tracks is featured in that. It’s nice. It fills the music-composition-hole I have had since I got out of college.
KARIN: How do you prefer to write? Alone or with people around? With music or in silence? In an office or in a more relaxed location?
MAGGIE: Oh, definitely alone, and always with music playing. I am very easily distracted (ooh, I should make sweet tea! I should do laundry! I should google myself!)(actually, you don’t want to know how long it took me to do this interview) and music helps ground me. Before I even start writing a new novel, I create a long playlist that fits the theme of the book. When that music is playing, I am instantly whisked away to that world. It’s amusing to go back months later and play the playlists again, because it’s like I never left.
KARIN: You recently returned from a writer’s retreat with the Gothic Girls. What did you get accomplished while you were there? Did you work on an individual project or did you all work together on a collaborative project? Do you plan to make the Gothic Girls writer’s retreat a regular thing?
MAGGIE: I don’t have enough adjectives for how amazing the retreat was. In terms of actual word count, I didn’t accomplish much. But as far as actual brainstorming on plots and discussing industry stuff and getting completely invigorated and wound up to write more — absolutely wonderful. We were relatively unstructured, breaking off into smaller groups when we talked about our individual projects, but we always came back together for dinner and picked a topic to go round the table and talk about. We also never slept. I’m not sure how we managed this, but I don’t think I went to bed before 3 a.m. any of the nights we were there. I didn’t remember that humans needed sleep until I got back home. Definitely can’t wait to do it again.
KARIN: The Internet and technology is extremely important in this day and age. You have a Livejournal blog, you are on Facebook and Goodreads, and you Twitter. How important do you think an author’s web presence is for the sale or promotion of their book? What are some of the most useful technology tools you use?
MAGGIE: Mmmmm. This is a good question, but it’s also a hard one, because there are no real firm numbers for the answer. You can’t say: “Oh, I blog three times a week, and that sells one hundred more books a month.” You can look at how many LJ friends you have, or Twitter followers, or Facebook friends . . . but there is no equation to turn that into a number of sales.
I came from a blogging background before I was an author; I was an artist, and an online presence is basically what made my career possible. I lived in the middle of nowhere, so I had to get myself to potential clients. I created a work of art every day for two years and blogged about it as well. (http://greywarenart.blogspot.com) Anyway, so that’s where I was coming from when I got my book deal. I switched over to LJ, because I liked the community, and I kept blogging because I liked it. I think that’s a huge part of blogging — if you don’t like it, it will show, and it won’t get you any friends or readers.
Some of the online stuff that I do is because I decided to try it and liked the networking — Twitter and Facebook are that way. Some things I’ve tried and not liked — Myspace is the devil, for instance. And Goodreads was purely for me — I liked the quality and number of reviews on there; I get a ton of books because I’ve read friends’ reviews on Goodreads.
My online philosophy is pretty much this: 1) what would I like to see my favorite authors doing? 2) how can I make friends with other authors and finally 3) how can I put myself out there online without being in your face advertising? I hate having products shoved down my throat, and the online community lets you be out there and visible without being obnoxious. I really, really love LiveJournal (I’m http://m-stiefvater.livejournal.com).
KARIN: How closely do you pay attention to the reviews of your books?
MAGGIE: Heh. The proper answer would be something like “I never read reviews; I am above all that as the creative master of my work.” But it would be a lie. When LAMENT first came out, I loved reading my reviews, both positive (which you’d expect) and negative (which you maybe wouldn’t). Not only did I learn a lot from them, but I loved seeing how people saw my characters. I think I read every review that came out in the first three months. Then I got sucked into other writing projects and other fixations and stopped paying attention to reviews, and I thought I was over reading them. But now SHIVER and BALLAD are coming out and once again I find myself using google alerts to read early reviews for them too. Eventually I’ll get tired of reading them too, but for now — I really want to see how my new characters are received. I just . . . hmm, how to put this. I write for an audience, and until I hear that audience speak, I’m not satisfied. Does that make sense? I have never written well in a vacuum.
I will say that, unless I know the reviewer as a friend, I don’t respond to reviews. Google means that more authors than ever are reading their own reviews, but I think it’s absolutely crucial that reviewers get to write their reviews as if they aren’t. Because the audience for reviews is not the author; it’s the reader. And that means that the reviewer shouldn’t be afraid to speak critically about a book. So let it be known here that reviewers should feel free to schmear SHIVER with impunity. You won’t hurt my feelings and I won’t leave snarky comments about your mother. Promise.
KARIN: You’ve marked HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins and THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson with five stars on Goodreads. (I loved both of these books too.) How often do you find time to read? How do you balance reading books and writing? What book is on your nightstand right now?
MAGGIE: I find it really hard to write when I haven’t been reading, plus, I’m a writer because I’m a reader. Because I love books. So I always have something sitting on the living room end table or by my bed or on the passenger seat of my car. I don’t write on Sundays, so I’ll often get a lot of reading done then. I try to read at least one book a week. I put my absolute favorites up on Goodreads with a review, because I try to pimp out my favs, and I put up everything that I read on Shelfari, just to help me keep track of what I’ve read. Right now I have BLOOM by Elizabeth Scott downstairs, I just finished LIPS TOUCH on the airplane, and my new/old copy of THE GOLDEN BOUGH is waiting for me in my studio.
Reading is a writer’s text book. When I get stuck, the first place I turn to is my shelf, to find out how authors I love have solved the same problem. And it’s also the best reward. Every time I finish a novel or get a check from my publishers, the first place I go is the bookstore. What can I say? I love books.
Thank you so much for your time Maggie.
Click HERE for the link to my SHIVER review.