Maggie Stiefvater on: dogs test-driving Porsches, overcoming rejection, and why the word 'chuckle' makes her shiver...
Oh, I'd be all over the island of Thisby from the Scorpio Races. Yes, I know the island is plagued by man-eating water horses. Yes, I know the weather is terrible. But the scenery is great, and I'll bet the music is too (I played the bagpipes competitively in college, so I imagine I would fit in).
Which of your characters are you most similar and dissimilar to?
Some days, I really want to answer this question with The Gray Man, the scholarly and efficient hit man from The Dream Thieves, just to see what the reaction would be. The truth is that I steal a real human heart for each of my characters. I might wrap them in a very different set of details than that real-life model, but they all start as someone real. Which means that, yes, sometimes I steal my own heart. Look for the obsessive characters. Characters with insomnia are a good clue. The most dissimilar to? Maybe Leon from Sinner. He doesn't have an obsessive, terrible bone in his body.
You faced lots of rejection in getting Lament published – did you see this as a failure? And similarly, what would you say is your biggest success as a writer?
Rejection in the publishing business isn't really a "no". It's a "not yet". I didn't want to get published with a book most people didn't like, so I never saw it as rejection. I didn't want to trick my way into being an author. I wanted to publish books that made readers want my next one without knowing what it was about — and I would say that's my greatest success. At the moment. You'd get a different answer if you asked me tomorrow. Or after lunch.
If you were writing a review of yourself as a writer, and had to sum yourself up in a review-style caption, what would it be and why?
"Maggie Stiefvater gives readers all the bewildering mind-bending horror and delight of a fever dream without any actual viruses involved".
Which authors do you most look up to – is there a specific book you wish you'd written?
I love Diana Wynne Jones' ability to combine humour and real magic, but I wouldn't want to have written her books. Novels are such products of US that it's hard to imagine wanting someone else's. It's a little sinister. Like, oh, hey, yeah, I'd wear Susan Cooper's body.
If you were creating your family and friends out of the characters you've written, who would be who?
I'm going to answer this question backwards, which is to say that there are two brothers in The Scorpio Races and I just stole my two real brothers for them without changing too much.
Your books are praised for being so different – what do you think made them so different, and what would you say to young people who have an idea in their head for a story, but think it too different to be a success?
A long time ago, I heard a piece of advice that went something like "write the book you wish you could find on the shelf but can't". And that's what I do — and probably that is why my novels are so peculiar. If it's already out there, I don't need to write it. Young folks: just write the best book that only YOU can write.
The Shiver trilogy spent more than 40 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list – but is there a book or series that has had less recognition, that you think should have more?
Mm, I'm happy with how all of my books have done. I think Shiver is my most commercial book so far — the easiest to hand to your hairdresser and your vet and your mother and your dentist — and that's why it stayed on the bestseller list so long. But the most commercial doesn't necessarily mean the best, and I'm quite fine with not equating success with sales. I think the Raven Cycle is the most challenging thing I've written so far, and I'm really pleased that readers are following me on the journey.
All of your books have won countless awards – but if you were awarding prizes to your characters, to people who supported your books or to your fans, are there any specific prizes you would give out? And what would be your acceptance speech should you be at an Oscar-type ceremony celebrating your books?
I'd give out a prize to the booksellers who first read the early copies of Shiver and said, OH HEY LET'S RECOMMEND THIS TO OTHERS. And another prize to the parents who read my books with their teens, and vice versa. I love nothing better than hearing "I got my mother into reading your novels!" I don't care for acceptance speeches, so probably I'd just play a tune on a ukelele and then vanish in a puff of smoke.
The reason I loved the Shiver books in particular was because of how beautifully they were written – what was most important when writing the books for you? Was it the way it was written, the characters, the plot…?
I actually was hugely influenced by Rainer Maria Rilke when I wrote the Shiver trilogy. I ran across a quote of his in the front of another novel, and it was so beautifully written that I thought: if someone wrote a novel where every line was this beautiful, what a novel that would be! Of course, it's also impossible, but it was a new sort of goal: to pay intense attention to the way I told my stories on a word-level. That said, for me, it's always the characters. Always, always.
Sticking on the theme of that trilogy, what makes YOU shiver, what makes YOU linger, and what would YOUR forever look like?
The word "chuckle" makes me shiver, as it's the worst word ever. I linger over cars with large engines. My forever would involve music playing constantly and probably some very large trees. I like trees.
Snog/marry/avoid the raven boys?
All of these options seem so extreme. There are other uses for boys, too, right? Friends and whatnot? Let's judge each raven boy on a case by case basis, shall we?
If you could live in a fantasy world (faeries, werewolves, even psychics etc) which would you live in?
I would just like to have Tony Stark's house and cars and elevator. Does that count?
What is your most favouritest song of all time? (I know you make your own music but by another artist, not of all time, just right now)
I don't know if I could pick a most favouritest song, because it so depends on mood and I love so much music — I bought over 1,000 songs last year. I know that "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" was my first favorite song — I was four when it came out. And I will never not love "Phantom Limb" by the Shins. But I also adore things like the Village soundtrack by James Newton Howard, or Zoe Keating's Into the Trees album. I post lots of music on my Tumblr when I find it.
When you first thought up Shiver, did you know it was going to be a trilogy?
No, but by the time I sold it to Scholastic, I had edited it enough to see that the end I had in mind took place further down the road.
When you write a book, do you plan or do you just wing it and see what happens?
Oh, I can tell you what would happen if I winged it. I would crash and burn a fiery death. I have to know where I'm headed, at least an end point, or I will never make it there.
If you could rename any of your books, which would it be and what would you rename it?
I would rename Shiver. I would call it A BONANZA OF WOLVES. I think that's a great title. A plus for me.
Have you ever written a book that hasn't been published? What's it about?
I have, in fact, over thirty unpublished novels, because I started writing when I was seven or eight. They are unpublished because they are terrible. They are also about all kinds of things, but the first one I can recall is about two dogs test-driving a car. They were Scottish Terriers. It was a red Porsche. And the first line of dialogue was, "It, like, hugs the road." Clearly the stuff of great fiction.
• Maggie Stiefvater's new book Sinner is the companion novel for her bestselling Shiver, Linger and Forever trilogy.
Content pulled from The Guardian, July 2014