Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cool Interview with Maggie Stiefvater - author of 'Shiver'

First of all, A Big Thanks to Maggie and to Samantha Wolfert!

I will apologize now to Maggie and any that regularly visit her blog for this pretty plain no-frills version of her blog interviews. She’s given a lot of great information to a lot of great questions so be sure to check them out –

But do stay to read the great information she gives here first.

And if the questions could have been a little better, come to the James River Writers Conference and ask Maggie questions in person. And then come back here and tell me what she said too, in case I wasn’t able to be right there listening. ;)

For those that don’t know, Maggie Stiefvater is the author of the new book ‘Shiver’ – just out, check out yesterday’s blog post for my review of it. And, well, just check out some of the other entries, not like I haven’t made a lot of blog entries about her. She’s hard ‘competition’ for any writer, but she’s also incredibly generous with encouragement and great advice. Take a read here:

What do you feel got you published, and published well, that the other writers could do?

Characters, for sure. I am a firm believer that you could tell the same story over and over again as long as you had quirky, three-dimensional characters for each one. I mean, look at fairy tale retellings. How many times have we heard Cinderella? It’s not the plot that matters -- well, I mean, it does, but not as much as new writers think it does. It’s the players on the stage.

I always use the TV show House as an example for this. It always has interesting plots about people with gross diseases that nobody else can figure out, but nobody cares about that. What everyone cares about is what snarky thing House said in this particular episode and whose personal life he is lambasting these days. Character is king.

Assuming you have had ‘bad’ times as a writer – doubts, questioning, etc.. – how do you deal with that?

Actually, I had the opposite problem. Especially as a teen, I thought my writing was great. I had to grow up and shove that aside to improve, because deep down inside, I really didn't think I needed to. Now, the doubts I have aren't in regards to my writing, but to individual projects. Is this plot working? Are these characters likable? Is this going to be a good follow up to my last novel? I usually work these things out by brainstorming (this is a nice way of saying lying on my floor staring at the ceiling and listening to music) or by talking with my two critique partners. Getting perspective is a wonderful thing.

What inspired you to write Shiver?

I would like to say that I was inspired to write Shiver by some overwhelming belief in true love, but here’s my true confession. I wrote Shiver because I like to make people cry. I had just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger for the second time, and I cried for the second time. I should tell everyone now that I am not a big crier at books. I am kind of a serial career non-crier actually. If you look up ‘schadenfreude’ on Wikipedia, you’ll see a picture of me with a snide smile on my face. And so the fact that this book had made me cry not once but twice, and not just cry but storm around the house doing the seven stages of grief, it really kind of inspired in me this desire to do the same thing to other people. With Shiver, I wanted to write a book that would make someone sneak a peek of it in their cubicle, and then mascara would run down their face, and they could shake their fist at the sky and curse me to the heavens.

About how long was the process from your idea, to the writing, to editing, until you saw Shiver in your hands?


Month 1: Idea! Whoohoo! Working on the logic. Writing the first fifty pages all in a rush.
Month 2: Who are these people? Why are they in my book?
Month 3: I love these people. Although there may be more nookie than I anticipated.
Month 4: I think I just cried at my own book. I have to put this down now.
Month 5: Finished. I think this is the best think I have ever written.
Month 6: Waiting for my agent to read; finding out that she cried as well; tweaking some scenes with her.
Month 7: Submission time. Chew fingers down to fists. Wild auction for book! Maggie is never sleeping again!
Month 8: Editors working on edit letters. Maggie is happily cheating on SHIVER with another book while waiting.
Month 9-14: Intensive edits and line edits. Maggie longingly imagines rough-drafting again.
Month 15: Page proofs! That almost look like a book!
Month 16: Advanced Review Copies! Finally . . . this may be a real book some day. Maggie feels compelled to read her own novel again. Hey, it’s better when it looks like a book!
Month 17: Rumors of finished copies floating around . . .
Month 18: Release date and a real book. Ta-Da!

Was the process harder than you thought it was going to be?

The editing process was a lot more rigorous than I had gone through with my previous books, but SHIVER was also going to be under a lot more scrutiny as a lead title for one of the big publishers. It had to go out with zippo plot holes and tight, tight prose. I have never worked so hard, scrutinizing every word -- but it was worth it.

What was the hardest part for you?

Whoops. Did I already answer this? The editing was tough. I love drafting.

And what did you do to deal with it?

The old butt-in-chair routine. Especially with edits, that are more hard work than creativity, the only way they get done is by . . . well . . . doing them. I also was writing weekly short stories for Merry Sisters of Fate at the same time, so I got to keep my creative juices flowing too.

I hear you are working on another book with the Shiver characters – Linger? – are there plans for more books?

Yep. It’ll be a trilogy. I can’t tell you anything else about it!

Do you feel Shiver is going to be compared to other books in the marketplace now?

I think it’s inevitable. Every paranormal romance is compared to TWILIGHT these days -- even LAMENT, my debut, which has homicidal faeries rather than vampires, got compared to TWILIGHT. And SHIVER has werewolves, which TWILIGHT also has. I don’t think it’s a terrible comparison, mostly because I can see readers of TWILIGHT enjoying SHIVER. But I think, thematically, they’re wildly different. In TWILIGHT, the danger comes from a forbidden love where the relationship itself is fraught with the threat of death. SHIVER is a love story as well, but it’s not love that can hurt them -- it’s the oncoming winter and the wolves in the woods. The fact that the threat is external instead of implicit in the relationship makes it a completely different kind of book.

What inspires you to keep writing?

Oh man, this is like asking a dog why it chases cars. I have always written, ever since I was a tiny little munchkin. I’ve wanted to be a novelist for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I can not write. I used to go for a few months without writing a rough draft, and after awhile, it would just bust out of me like an itch I needed scratch, tens of thousands of words that had been waiting to come out.

So . . . compulsion? Psychosis? Neurosis? A manic muse? One of those.

What would you like to have known, do you wish someone had told you, when you first started this writing journey?

“You’re only as good of a writer as you are a reader.”
“Don’t let ego get in the way of a good critique.”
“Character, Maggie, character.”
And “stop revising that horrible book, The Winding River, that you started when you were 14. It’s never going to go anywhere, it’s just a bad idea. Just put the manuscript down slowly and back away . . . “

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