Interview: Maggie Stiefvater: Linger-ing Possibilities
by Paulette Suhr
Published: July 25, 2010
The awesomely popular Maggie Stiefvater recently took time out from her busy schedule (did you know she personally answers all of her fan email? Isn't that grounds for sainthood?) to answer some questions for The Trades.
P: Where did you come up with the idea for a 'werewolf nookie' trilogy? Did you know when you started writing that the story was going to span three books?
M: Oh, trilogies. Do you know that I am, for the most part, a diehard lover of standalone books instead of series? I’m really not good about keeping up with reading continuous series, unless they have a well-defined end point. So -- I survived The Black Cauldron series, the Dark is Rising, Harry Potter . . . but I can’t muster enthusiasm for open-ended adult urban genre series. And now look at me. Writing two of the things.
The trilogy concept was late in the game. First, I thought Shiver would be a standalone, but there were a lot of loose ends that I didn’t use in Shiver, particularly about Grace, and so I thought, I need one more book to wrap this up. Well, as soon as I started plotting out Linger, I realized that the story arc needed three, so I didn’t even begin writing Linger until I knew that the trilogy had been green-lighted. But three it is. FOREVER is the last one.
P: At the end of Shiver, Beck makes three new werewolves to go along with one of Grace's friends who turns, for a total of four new wolves. Yet, in Linger, we really only see two of these characters. Will the other two play prominent roles in the third book?
M: Look at you trying to get spoilers. Nice try
P: (Sorry everybody. I tried!)
P: Shiver is written in the alternating POVs of Grace and Sam. Linger also gives voice to Isabel (who is my favorite character) and one of the new wolves, Cole. Will the third book further expand this to include more than 4 points of view? Do you do anything special when writing to make sure that each of these characters sound distinct from one another?
M: Ha! It’s funny, because people either love or hate Isabel -- which makes me think I’ve done my job well with her. It is definitely a constant concern to keep the voices distinct. I will rewrite an entire section if I feel like it doesn’t read like that character’s voice. There are words that can’t ever be uttered by some characters, because it just doesn’t fit their personality.
As to more than 4 POVs -- man, 4 already made me consider drinking. Never say never, but I can’t imagine, right now, ever attempting more than that in one book. Unless the book was 1,000 pages long.
P: Linger contains references to Candide, Rainer Maria Rilke, and other classic works/writers. Most Americans never read Voltaire or Rilke unless we major in literature in college. When you included references like this, were you hoping to inspire some of your young readers to seek out these texts? Or did you include these references specifically for gifted or well-read teens like Sam? Or maybe they simply fit Sam's character and that's all there was to it?
M: I did them to make me look clever.
No, I’m kidding. I did them because that is who Sam is. It’s not really enough to say “and he was this really well-read cute boy who read poetry! and classic works!” Because that’s just crappy characterization. The poetry and literature can’t just be trappings that I tack onto his character -- if he’s going to read them and they really do matter to him, they have to make real appearances in his narrative. So I had to read a ton of poetry, going through stuff, throwing out loads of possibilities because I liked them but didn’t think that Sam would, and include specific references. I really do hope that readers try to find out more afterward. It does my little black heart good every time I get a letter from a reader that says they hunted down Rilke after reading Shiver.
As to the major stuff -- I was a history major in college, no literature involved (well, one class on Chaucer, but that hardly counts). True confession: I read through a lot of the classics when I was in my teens because I wanted to feel clever. I’ve never regretted that.
P: The word on the street is that a Shiver movie might be in the works. Can you comment on that?
M: It’s true. Warner Bros/ Unique Features have optioned the film rights, which means that they are thinking about trying to make it into a movie. So far they’ve gotten a screenplay written, so . . . we’ll see! I don’t really have any input into the process, so I’m afraid I’m pretty crummy as far as being a font of knowledge about it.
P: I also read that you sold another trilogy idea to Scholastic. Let's see, so far we've got faeries and werewolves. Can you tell your fans what your next series is going to be about?
M: Oh - no! Not another trilogy. *Maggie shudders* I do have another series in my head, but I’m taking a bit of a break from series for a few years. Rather than a trilogy, I sold three, unrelated books to Scholastic -- so three standalones. They’re all vaguely paranormal young adult novels, but that’s all I can say right now. Well, I guess I can say that the next one that will come out after FOREVER is about blood and beaches and kissing.
P: What about your influences? Are there particular writers, singers, screenwriters, artists who really inspire your creative endeavors?
M: Yikes, this list would go on forever. I think it’s probably easiest to throw in links in this respect.
My favorite books ever, on goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1246837
The music I listen to while writing, on my blog: http://m-stiefvater.livejournal.com/tag/playlist
And artists? I have three Johns in my life. I really love John Singer Sargent and John Bauer and John Williams Waterhouse.
P: What has been your biggest challenge as a writer?
M: Balancing writing with the business of writing -- blogging, interviews, travel, taxes . . . there’s a lot of non-creative stuff that you do to have a creative career, and finding a good balance is like finding a cat with five legs. It’s hard to find and if you do find it, it’s not exactly what you thought it would look like.
P: Let's say life as we know it is about to end and you're in charge of creating a literary time capsule for the aliens who recolonize Earth to find. What kidlit books--classic and contemporary--would you insist on including?
M: That goodreads list of favorite books that I linked to earlier? One each of those, thanks. Mostly I think that I’d include the Harry Potter books and DVDs of the HP movies. Because then the aliens could spend the rest of eternity reading the books, watching the movies, and then fighting with each other over whether the movies are good adaptations are not. They’d never be bored. You’re welcome, universe.
P: Thanks Maggie! Everyone at The Trades wishes you continued success and happiness (and we look forward to fighting over who gets to review that Shiver movie!)