Archive for August, 2009

Interview with NYTimes Bestselling Sensation (And Cool Girl) Maggie Stiefvater!!

August 26th, 2009 by admin | 2 Comments | Filed in Talking with Other Authors

Okay, so, when I went to New York with my Decatur Book Festival pals back in April to meet with publishers and try to convince them to send authors and illustrators down to Decatur for Labor Day weekend, the publicists at Scholastic threw this advance reader at me called Shiver. I had just told them about my idea to maybe have a Vampires vs. Werewolves smackdown–an audience-participation discussion about which books were better–and their eyebrows had gone half up their heads. They had just gotten these advance copies. They were really excited.

I, however, was not. I was happy to have a possible author for my smackdown of course, but it’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of vampire-, werewolf-, unicorn-, elf-, faerie-or-any-other-magical-creature books. (There are of course exceptions. Stephen King’s The Talisman is one of my favoritist books ever, and also I love love love Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin.) But this I started reading out of obligation. (I couldn’t invite an author whose book I hadn’t read, after all.)

About two paragraphs in, my scalp started to tingle.
Two pages in, and I was completely hooked (and half in love).
390 pages after that I was sad the book had ended, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends at Little Shop of Stories.

I also really, really, really couldn’t wait to meet Maggie Steifvater. And that was way before she hit the New York Times bestseller list in the #3 spot.

So in prep for her arrival (in 8 1/2 days!!!!) I thought I’d ask her some questions so that we could get to know each other a little more. Here is what she had to say:

So, why werewolves?
Well, it’s not so much why werewolves as why wolves. I’m not a big fan of the whole drooling, shedding, slavering half-man, half-beast thing, but angst-because-you-are-a-human-trapped-in-another-form? Oh I am all over that. Werewolves just happen to be an already existing convention. I like to tap into existing folklore when I can; I think old myths and archetypes speak to people on a subconscious level.

On your website you claim to make great cocktail party conversation. What are some of the great conversations you’ve been in at cocktail parties as of late?
Well, this is not really a cocktail party, but I was at a library the other day chatting with one of the librarians, talking about my awful experience when I first starting using google alerts. I set up one for ‘shiver scholastic.’ Because of course my book is called Shiver. And it’s published by Scholastic. You know what else is published by Scholastic? Harry Potter. You know what else is written about Harry Potter? Fan fiction. You know what’s a sort of fanfiction that pairs two characters that never got together in the book? Slash. You know what they write at the end of HP fan fiction? Character property of Scholastic. You know what Snape does when he first sees Harry in an entirely new light, now that he’s taken his pants off? Shiver.
Do I need to elucidate further?
It only took me a day of getting these personally delivered into my inbox to both modify that google alert to include my name and also to seek therapy for what I had seen.

Everyone’s got their teen obsession these days. When you were a teen, what were you obsessed with?

Um. The IRA. Don’t ask me why. I still remember checking out Tim Pat Coogan’s The Troubles from the library and sitting in the car reading the introduction while my mom drove us home. I was . . . fascinated. I’m not sure why. Possibly because it was so angsty. It was a problem of idealistic, mythic proportions, full of angst (see the pattern here). Anyway, it became an obsession. I read just about every book on it, even up through college, wrote three really bad (and really melodramatic) IRA thrillers, and bought Irish papers every week to see if they’d come to an agreement yet, while better one whether or not it would last.

I mean, I had other obsessions, like bagpipes (I practiced two hours a day and competed), medieval illuminated manuscripts (I spent hours doing calligraphy and actually taught it for awhile during college), and horses (we had three). But I think the IRA one is the weirdest.

One of the things I like most about Shiver is that the romance is truly romantic. Care to share any majorly romantic moments in your life?
Well, me and my husband . . . we have an interesting relationship. I think it’s very romantic, but some people just call it weird. We met when I was 19 and were engaged a month and a half later. Anyway, at the time I was just finishing working at a touristy downtown store called the Made in Virginia store — we sold Virginia stuff like hams, and hot sauces, and tiny rubber lucky piggies. Anyway, to commemorate my leaving — I’d worked there for years — I brought in my camera and staged a war between the hot sauces and the lucky pigs, using the toy rifles and cannons and other Civil War memorabilia. My husband — then brand new boyfriend of just a few days — came in and helped me stage various battle scenes and photograph them. I thought it was very romantic. Possibly because he took it all in stride that this was just what girls did.

If you had to choose between giving up music, writing, reading or drawing, what would you pick and why?
Drawing. I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I could do it. Music and writing/ reading, though? (I think writing and reading are the same, you can’t do one without the other in my mind) I couldn’t do it. When I go on travel for a few days and don’t have my music, it makes me feel . . . I don’t know how to describe it. Tired. I don’t realize how drained I am without music until I have it again. And writing — I can’t not write. I have to. It’s a way to process the world.

Shiver is not your first book. How does this one compare, for you, to your first one, both in terms of how the writing went, and also in terms of how it’s been having it out there in the world?
Um, insane. I knew that it was better than my first one — or at least, more me — but I hadn’t even begun to hope it would do this well. Honestly, my editor said “Shiver has a charmed life. Everything you want for a book, this book gets.” And that’s how it feels. Everything I dreamed about as a teen writer, it’s happening. I’m profoundly glad that it’s not my first book, so I can savor just how absolutely bizarre and wonderful this is.

You are incredibly smart about writing and the process of it and doing it well. Who is a writer from the past whom you’d most like to go to for some wisdom or advice (or even just for a comforting pat on the back)?
*blush* Thanks. I feel I still have so much to learn. And some novels still humble me so much — in a good way — when I read them. But a writer from the past? Yeats. I loved Yeats so much as a teen, still do, and he blends a sort of modern angst (there it is again) with a nostalgic sense of folklore. I would say: “Mr. Yeats, you make EmoPet sound so good. How? How!?” For novels, I would like to sit down with Audrey Niffenegger (technically this is still possible as she is quite alive), and just have coffee with her and chat about character development and language.

Does your drawing ever help your writing? Your writing help your drawing?
Help? Hmm, I don’t think so. Just scratches a different part of my itchy creative brain.

I’ve had a couple of discussions lately with YA readers about fantasy fiction vs. reality-based fiction, and what the strengths and weaknesses are of both. Care to chime in?
Hm. I don’t really think it’s a valid distinction, if we’re talking about a novel of either variety that has been done exquisitely. The goal of any good fiction is to engage the reader and make them feel the experiences of the characters on a deep, personal level. When you put it that way, whether it includes paranormal aspects or not is like whether or not it’s set in Cleveland. Reality is just another device to be toyed with by the author as a means to an end. You make you reality. I just think your characters need to be as human as possible. The rest will sort itself out if you make your people real.

(Terra nods her head extremely enthusiastically to this answer.)

Thanks to blogging and the internet there’s a lot of extra “stuff” that an author can do and sometimes has to do for the sake of his or her book. Can you talk about how you make room for that part of the job, on top of working on your books?
Honestly, it gets overwhelming, the sheer number of e-mails and interviews and blogging and facebook and . . . you do what you can, I think, and you do it in a way that suits your personality. So because I’m very conversational and informal, blogging and facebook work well for me. Someone more formal might skip the facebook and just do article-type blogging. Someone who dislikes blogging might do just interviews/ blog tours. I think the imporant thing is to think of the online world as a community where you’re making friends and allies and generally fitting in, instead of as marketing. Because it would be easy to come off odious. Also, I am slowly learning to say “no.” Also “not now.” Because after awhile, yes, it does get to be too much. And it is not writing. And writing is the most important thing.

So if you had to become a faerie, a vampire, a werewolf or a person who mucked out unicorns’ stalls, which would you choose and why?
The person mucking out the unicorns’ stalls. Because if readers learn nothing else from my novels, let it be this: it is always better to be watching the supernatural instead of BEING the supernatural. To be the magical thing makes it ordinary. To merely witness it? Extraordinary.

Just like, um, witnessing Maggie Stiefvater is pretty extraordinary, I think. You can catch her on The Escape stage (at Several Dancers Core) with Richelle Mead on Saturday, September 5th at 2:30. (She is also going to be at Dragon*Con Saturday night at 8:30 PM!)

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like the AJC-Decatur Book Festival

August 21st, 2009 by admin | 1 Comment | Filed in Appearances

I’ve been involved with the AJC-Decatur Book Festival since it was a neat idea being brainstormed by a bunch of cool people over breakfast. Tom Bell, the Programming Director (and in general a person of awesomeness) has been one of my best friends for about a dozen years, and my dear friend (and Little Shop’s co-owner) Diane Capriola and I have been doing the children’s programming together since the beginning. Last year I started up The Escape, a teens-only stage, and we’re doing it again this year. I’ve sold books, met authors, stood in the hot sun, had meetings in New York, led the children’s parade, directed volunteers, done a sing-a-long in the rain . . . I’ve done a lot when it comes to this festival, and I’ve loved every minute.

But I haven’t ever been a featured author before. And this  year, thanks to my good friend Tom’s insistence, I get to not only captain The Escape, I get to be on it. With Lauren Myracle, no less. And, like, a bunch of other crazycool people–many of whom are actually my friends.
I’ve also never, ever been on the poster before. (And the poster has never been quite so cool.) Look closely and you’ll see it. Thanks so hugely, Scott Sanders!!

I’m also not sure I’ve been quite as ginormously psyched and excited about the teen programming as I am this year.
Check it out here is the lineup:
Saturday September 5th:
12:00 —  Chris Schweizer (Crogan’s Vengeance), Eleanor Davis (Stinky, Secret Science Alliance), Drew Weing (Set to Sea, the Adventures of Wulf and Merl), Joey Weiser (The Ride Home, Tales of Unusual Circumstance), Kevin Burkhalter (Kevin Days a Week), Jarrett Williams (Lunar Boy, SuperPro K.O.!), and Allen Spetnagel (Dr. Eisenbart)  are all going to get up on the stage at once and talk about making your own minicomics: how they do it, how they got into it, and how you can do it too!
12:30 —  The amazing Ally Carter (I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover) will be talking about her spy-tacular series following Cammie, Josh, Macey, Bex and the rest of the Gallagher crew.
1:00 — The local gang of high school hilarity, the D.U.C.K. Improv troupe, will be educating and entertaining with their literary, audience-fed improvisation.
1:30 — Okay here’s where me and Lauren Myracle talk to each other (and you guys) about Pure and Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks and other good stuff in our “Smells Like Teen Spirit” discussion.
2:00 — Two terrific gals, my shoptastic pal Aimee Friedman (Sea Change, The Year My Sister Got Lucky) and local luminary Jackson Pearce (As You Wish) are going to ruminate on the pros and cons of falling in love with a boy who may or may not have magical powers in “If You Broke His Heart, Would He Bleed? Falling In Love With a Supernatural Boy.”
2:30 — Bring out the claws and the fangs, gang. Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy series) and Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver) are going to be moderating this werewolves vs. vampires smackdown: an audience-participation discussion battling out which creature of the night has better books.
3:00 — Did you think this stage was only about the girls? Guys, there’s a lot more for you on the Escape stage (and the world of books) than you might think, and Jon Scieszka (you may remember him from The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales) is going to tell us all about the latter in this special Guys Read half hour.
3:30 — Last year she was a smash hit on the Escape stage, and I am completely psyched to welcome her back to the festival this year: Sara Shepard has come out with three new books since she visited us, two in the Pretty Little Liars series, and an adult book (The Visibles) too!
4:00 — I have been asking my good friend (and former co-worker) David Levithan to come visit me at the AJC – Decatur Book Festival since it started up, and now I’m happy to say he’s finally coming down south! I couldn’t be happier about the timing, either, because his new book Love Is the Higher Law is about one of the most beautiful YA books I’ve ever read.
4:30 — So, last year when I was starting to make plans for the teen stage, I went and talked to the teen advisory board at the Decatur Library about what kinds of stuff they might want to see on the stage. And one of their suggestions was some kind of panel where people were recommending things for them to read. The result I came up with was “Break In Case of Emergency, This Book Could Save Your Life,” a panel of non-YA authors talking about the books that meant the most to them when they were teens, or books they’ve read since that they wish they’d read when they were teens. This was one of the best conversations in the whole festival (in my opinion), and this year’s conversation (with Robert Olen Butler, Hollis Gillespie, Mark Fitten, Laurel Snyder and Michael Malone) is sure to be another amazing one.
After that you can all go to the Youth Poetry Slam on the Children’s Stage out on the square at 5:30, which is always jaw-droppingly awesome and full of terrific energy.
All of these Escape activities happen at Several Dancers Core, by the way, up in Decatur Square, between Raging Burrito and Carribean Harry’s (so you know you can get a good bite if you need to), right in the middle of all the festival action.
Looking forward to seeing as many of you there as humanly possible!!

Thanks, North Carolina!

August 8th, 2009 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Appearances

A week ago today (for some reason things keep happening that prevent me from immediate posts), I had the distinct pleasure of not one but two talks and signings in the fine state of North Carolina. My first appearance was at the West Regional Library in Cary, where I talked to a great and enthusiastic group of folks–many of whom were aspiring writers. I got to answer some really interesting and challenging questions, like “What makes a good editor?” and it was great to get the fabulous tour and meet all the awesome librarians there.

Even better? A bunch of my friends from college made it, too!Here is a photo of me and Dan Auman–the man who was technically my first editor, when I had my chapbook printed by St. Andrews Press!

Sunday’s signing was spectacular too. I got to meet with the Printz Book Club at the Eva Perry library in Apex, NC, and boy what a smart bunch of teens! We had a great discussion about real life drama vs. the drama in the books we read, plus talked about writing, shoes, playing wilderness family and other fun stuff!

All in all it was a terrific visit and I have to give a huge shout out to Valerie and also my dear friend Becky for putting this together. Thanks, ladies! And I hope to be back soon!