Saturday, August 15, 2009

Maggie Stiefvater Interview

The FNC is honored to present to you an interview with the New York Times Best Selling author of Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater. Maggie Stiefvater is a twenty-seven-year-old writer, artist, and musician. Her debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception, was published by Flux in 2008. Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize, called her writing "musical, magical, and practically radiating romance" perfect for engaging sharp minds and poetic hearts. Maggie lives in Virginia with her husband and their two children.

1) Music seems to play a big role in Shiver-Sam’s a musician and likes to compose lyrics-you have an amazing play list to accompany the book as well as original music. As a musician yourself, do you feel a correlation between the composing process of a song and the plotting of a novel? Is a book like a song?

I think a scene is more like a song, and a book is more like a playlist or a really awesome album. You know, one where the progression is just smooth and logical, leading from song to song up to a kick a$$ final song where the credits roll. The best albums (and playlists while we’re at it) is where you have a fast song and then a slow one, a sad one, then a happy one, while all sounding similar enough to go together. So a novel, to me, is the same way. You switch up the scene, one from the next, but they all have to have the same “sound.”

2) Tell us your most embarrassing author moment (we promise we’ll laugh with you and not at you).

Oh man. I was not a huge fan of my first cover for LAMENT and I sent an email to my agent to tell her so. Only I didn’t send it to my agent. I accidentally sent it to my editor.


I will allow a moment for that to sink in.

It was not the worst email in the world, but it was definitely more . . . forthright then I would’ve been. Anyway, I am still on great terms with that editor, but when I realized what I’d done, it was a terrible morning until I found out that he’d taken it in good humor. Phew.

3) Is there any element in any of your books that you have shamelessly taken from your real life?

Well, there is a character in BALLAD who is pretty shamelessly stolen from real life. I steal kernels of situations for almost every scene in my books. Even if it becomes unrecognizable later, through exaggeration or twisting or additions or subtractions, I think good fiction starts out real.

4) Is there any element in any of your books that you wish was a part of your real life (or had been)?

There are a lot of settings I wish I could see in real life. The bookstore and the golden woods from SHIVER. The bonfires from BALLAD. The graveyard from LAMENT. Sometimes I’ll see someone who reminds me of one of my characters and it will make me grin to see what they’d look like real. I think I abuse my characters far too much to actually want any of their lives to be real. I take too much pleasure in making them face their worst fears. Great in fiction. Sort of awkward in real life.

5) If you could have your own personal theme song-one that would spontaneously play in people’s heads the moment they saw you-what would the song be?

“Everybody wants to rule the world” by Tears for Fears. ;)

6) We’re all pretty partial to the bathtub scene in Shiver (we don’t think we’re alone). Can you tell us a little more about what went into the creation of that scene? How the idea evolved?

Actually, it’s funny you should mention that. There are moments when writing books where you get little presents as the writer -- where you have everything planned out and a character surprises you. They’re rare, these moments where you get to be both writer and reader, but the genesis of the bathtub scene was one of them.

It started where Sam was laying in the hospital bed, and Grace notices the scars on his wrists. And I thought to myself, “why did I write that?” So then I thought, well, Sam’s an EmoPet, maybe he couldn’t hack it as a werewolf and he tried to kill himself. So I was all ready to write that up, and then he opened his eyes, looked at his wrists, and said “My mother did this one. My father did that one. They counted down so they’d do it at the same time. I still can’t stand to look at a bathtub.”

I don’t know where that line came from, but it changed the entire book. And the instant he said “I still can’t stand to look at a bathtub,” I knew I was going to do everything in my power to get that boy into one.

I love testing characters by making them do the things they think they absolutely can’t live through.

7) If you were stranded on a desert island with only 5 books which ones would you want?

1. THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, because the characters are so good I wouldn’t feel alone.
2. FIRE AND HEMLOCK, because I never get tired of reading it.
3. JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, because it’s lovely and so long that I would be rescued before I finished it.
4. CALVIN & HOBBES. Any of the collections. Because a girl needs a laugh.
5. A blank book. Because something so minor as a desert island isn’t going to stop me from writing.

8) I’m fascinated by the role your dreams have played in your story creations. How often do you dream about your stories, or about scenes. Can you share a recent dream and describe it’s evolution into a story or part of a story?

I actually dream a lot about my characters, especially when I’m rough drafting. I really do think that your subconscious keeps working hard when you’re sleeping, and it’s a great place to learn things that you already know but are out of reach. I’m trying to think of a dream that’s not spoilery . . . okay, here’s one I had recently as I was writing the synopsis for the book that I’m starting after I finish FOREVER. I had a dream where the main character was running the entire time, and when he wasn’t running, he was bicycling. And then he would run again. And he told me “I run all the time because I don’t know what I would do to myself -- or anyone else -- if I stopped.”

And it gave me a little clue into his personality.

With SHIVER, I dreamt about Grace in the winter wood behind her house, and the first two lines of the book are almost identical to what she told me in the dream. I had to wake up and write them down right away. Beck looked like Robert de Niro in the dream, however, which is unfortunate. And there wasn’t a clear plot, other than the wolves in the wood and a boy who didn’t want to be a wolf anymore. But it was great for jogging my brain.

9) This next question may or may not be spoilery so be warned. There seems to be a slight connection between Shiver and the Take On Me video from Aha. What are some of your other favorite music videos and have they influenced your writing?

Oh, I love that video so much. I’m a huge fan of music videos in particular but they rarely influence my writing. The music, on the other hand. Oh, another video I love? The one for Low vs. Diamond’s “Heart Attack.”

10) Ok we are dying to know something about Linger…can you give us a hint about the plot or who our narrators are? Or maybe a sample of the play list?

Hmmm . . . Linger. I can tell you the song that set the mood. Shiver’s song was “The Ocean” by the Bravery. And Linger’s was “Wash Away” by Matt Costa. And I can tell you the little blurb that’s on my site: “It's about after. What happens after you discover there are werewolves in the wood, after you've fallen in love for the first time, after you've lost what you think you can't live without, after you've become someone you can't live with.”

And it was the hardest book I’ve ever written . . . but also the best, I think. I’m excited about it.

Thanks so much for your brilliant double review and for having me!
Thank you so much for talking with us Maggie!


  1. Maggie is so awesome! I'm currently reading Shiver and let me tell ya she is one talented writer!

  2. I love what Maggie had to say about the bathtub scene!


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