Last week, on Wednesday and Friday, I attended Word Play as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival. Here I was lucky enough to attend a couple of Maggie Stiefvater's events and meet her. For those of you who may not know, Maggie is the best selling author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Shiver, Linger, & Forever) and the Books of Faerie series (Lament & Ballad), as well as the upcoming The Scorpio Races.
I had an awesome time, especially as Maggie is both a brilliant and hilarious storyteller. All throughout her Meet Maggie Stiefvater event I was in stitches.
Beware, this is long!
* First Maggie addressed the two questions she hates most - what inspired her to write Shiver, and why werewolves. The first she answered by saying that there is no absolute answer. Maggie describes ideas as pimples - on the first day, you're going about your business. On the second day, you have a feeling. Then on the third day, BAM! You have a volcano on your face. So the idea for Shiver came about like this - on the first day, Maggie was going about her business. On the second day, she got a feeling. Then on the third day, a deep voice boomed down from the heavens - "Maggie Stiefvater. You will write about werewolves and kissing." The rest, as they say, is history.
* Maggie also feels she was inspired by her cynicism. She said that she was never one to cry in books or movies. In the cinema, as the hero lay dying (here she used facial expressions and hand gestures to show blood spurting from what we assume to be the hero's sliced throat) she'd be the one yelling "It's just a flesh wound!" One day though, she read The Time Traveller's Wife for the second time and cried. Not pretty tears silently sliding down her cheeks, but snot bubbles and full out sobbing (during which her kids and pets hid under tables, her husband demanded to know why she did this to herself again, and to which she answered by throwing things at him). Thus, Maggie decided she wanted to write a story so poignant, with characters so real, that they would leave the reader utterly devastated. I'm sure you'll agree with me that she achieved her goal, yes?
* As for why werewolves, this answer went many places, so I'm not sure I'm able to fully explain it here...or quiet as well as Maggie did! She began by saying how actually she hates werewolves, because they shed, they slobber, they have a problem with the lunar cycle, and something about a World War that I can't rightly remember, sorry. She also mentioned being coerced to see New Moon on opening night and the consequent effects of Jacob Black, his tearing his shirt off, and the 50-something lady sitting behind her growling. Then there was a story about how Maggie read The Plant People as a child, got freaked out, and then couldn't remember if she'd picked it up from the fiction or non-fiction section of her library. Instead of illustrations, it had actual photographs, so she began to believe it was all true. And so later when she caught glimpses of Michael J. Fox's Teen Wolf...well, she got paranoid is possibly putting it lightly! Finally, she came to the conclusion that she hadn't written about werewolves, just wolves. In fact, about shifters! She thought maybe it was a metaphor of identity loss...which she said in a much fancier way that sounded brilliant! What it truly comes down to though is that Maggie finds wolves both terrifying and beautiful, and so she wrote about them. She also told the story of when she was on tour and visited actual wolves and how they all howled, right there next to her. It's a brilliant story, and I believe you can read about it on her blog. (Yep, here.)
* After these explanations, Maggie asked for questions. Actually, she shamed everyone in to asking questions by telling the story of her first tour where she met with schools of British students. Her jokes didn't get many laughs but she pushed through, and when it came to the questions all she got was 6 schools of blinking raccoon eyes! Though finally someone commented that her accent was awesome, which opened the floodgates on questions like 'how was your flight' and 'how do you pack for such a trip'. She answered these, just in case anyone was wondering!
* Now I don't remember all of the questions exactly, but I made notes of her answers. First she was asked about how she writes - whether she has a plan, or she just goes with it. Maggie answered that she tries to have a plan, but that usually the book goes where it wants to and so she simply goes with it. She said it's like her recent tour in the States, where she road tripped it. She had a plan to leave here, stop here, arrive here finally, but instead she passed a huge Viking announcing Little Norway and so she just had to deviate to see where that would take her. Might not be worth anything in the long run - she said that was true of Little Norway - but that she wouldn't know unless she went there.
* In response to being asked how long she's been writing for, Maggie said forever. She remembers writing her first story about two dogs test driving a car. She told her Dad she wanted to be a writer when she was a child, to which he said 'oh, you want to be poor?' This led to her telling the students that becoming a writer doesn't just happen and that she has enough rejection letters to cover the floor of the event room. She told them that it's never a complete 'no' however, just a 'not yet' and that it's a matter of trying again and again.
* Someone asked about how she writes and how long it takes her to write a book. To everyone's delight, Maggie's thinking process involves lying on her floor and listening to music loud enough that it rattled her butt cheeks! And that it takes about 4 months for her to write a book.
* My favourite story she told is this one, about the release of Linger and it's debuting on the NYT bestseller's list. This list comes out on Wednesdays at 5.30pm EST exactly, and the week of Linger's release, Maggie was desperate to know if she'd made the list. She was travelling that day, and so told David (her editor, I think?) to call her the moment he had the list. Of course, on the day, the phone she was using died, so she called him again from her Dad's phone to tell him he had to call that number instead. At exactly 5.30pm! Now, Maggie was meant to be off the plane and at her destination before that time, but because the world works the way it does, her flight was delayed so that when 5.30pm came about she would only be a little into her flight. This did not make for a happy Maggie! She listened to the flight attendant's spiel about turning off all electronic devices so that the plane wouldn't crash with a bit of resentment. 10 minutes later a mobile phone goes off and Maggie's thinking what idiot is trying to crash the plane when her father hands her his phone and tells her it's her call. Yep, it's 5.30pm! So she shuffles down as low as she can in her seat and warily watches the flight attendant who is scanning the plane, her spidey senses tingling. DAVID: 'Maggie?! Are you ready to celebrate?' MAGGIE: *whispers* 'Noooo.' DAVID: 'Linger has debut at number 1! Congratulations!' MAGGIE: *whispers* 'Woooo.' FLIGHT ATTENDANT: *eyes zero in on Maggie* *announces over the loudspeaker* 'Would a certain person please turn off their electronic device before the plane goes down in a ball of flame and we all die!' Seriously, I had tears in my eyes I was laughing so hard. Maggie went on to say how the flight attendant gave her the cold shoulder for the rest of the flight. FLIGHT ATTENDANT: *hands out drinks, smiling* *comes to Maggie* 'We don't serve your kind.' Poor Maggie. She couldn't celebrate the way she truly wanted to either, so she was doing things like pointing out the window and saying 'doesn't that look like a number 1 to you?!'
* After such an amazing event however, Maggie felt too much pressure and so writing Forever was harder than ever. She actually spent 4 months writing it, and then 2 weeks before it was due she dumped it. All of it. With David sobbing in the background, she said she completely rewrote it, and so Forever actually took her 8 months to write.
* She was asked if she designed her covers, which was a no. Though she detailed how she had some small input on Forever's cover, like changing the colour of the red they were using, and the shape of the leaves (which they had as maple leaves!!) She also wanted to change Sam's pants, stating that he would never wear skinny jeans, but they ignored her there! This led to Maggie telling the story of her April Fool's joke this year, where she announced that she would be writing a 4th book in the series called Litter. She also designed a cover for it, with Grace and Sam surrounded by puppies. But unfortunately the joke wasn't taken as she'd expected, which led to her having to contact Goodreads and make them remove the listing for Litter. I remember the joke, but I had no idea it was taken seriously by anyone! That is just too funny!
* The last couple of questions were about how she creates characters, whether she puts people she knows into her books. Maggie says that she doesn't make any character like any one person, but that instead she takes from all different people and creates a character from a mash of it all, so that they can feel as real as possible. She said she puts herself into her villains, so that they are believable and 3D - she can understand their motives this way. She went on to state that despite all of this, she's actually put her two brothers into The Scorpio Races. She didn't say as which characters, but she'd hoped they wouldn't recognise themselves. I believe she wasn't that lucky.
* Detailing The Scorpio Races before she finished, she said it's her favourite she's written so far and that it is Deadliest Catch crossed with My Little Ponies. There was a lot of murmuring after that, so I'd say she has some new interest in it! I know I can't wait!
I also attended Maggie's Stories that Move presentation, which was about creating book trailers. She hosted this with Aussie author Tristan Bancks, and it was fun. They had some technical difficulties to begin with, but each showed their trailers and discussed briefly how they created them. Both her and Tristan said that book trailers act as visualisations to their words, and as an introduction to their books. Tristan went on to say that creating their own trailers also helps them to focus on what their books are about when they want to talk about them.
Maggie was fantastic! When I met her she was so nice, and we chatted about what our fave books were of her series. I told her I liked Shiver because I enjoy the build up. She said she usually loves the middle book. She was very pleased to hear that the end of Linger devastated me. Honestly, she laughed in delight! I had all my books on me, and Maggie was nice enough to sign them all. I'm so glad she came to Brisbane and that I was able to meet her and attend her events.
While at the festival I also met Emily Rodda, who is a best selling Australian author of middle grade fantasy. I grew up reading her books, so it was a lot of fun meeting her. She's next to Maggie signing my books below.