Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Terra's Interview with Maggie Stiefvater (Who is Coming to the Decatur Book Festival!)

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 a little of 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.

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.

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.)

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!)

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