This week, our lovely Amanda talked to author Maggie Stiefvater, author of Lament (Flux, October 2008). But writing isn’t her only love. She used to play the bagpipes competitively and still plays the harp and guitar and piano and a bunch of other instruments “too weird to list.”
1) What is your typical writing day like?
Oh, that there was anything “typical” about it! I used to shove my writing, revising, and promoting into every nook and cranny provided by my toddlers’ napping. Now, however, this great invention called “preschool” has happened and I find myself with a chunk of time from 9-2 to work every other day.
So, this is how it goes down:
1) answer some e-mails.
2) caffeine. Get me sweet tea. Now.
3) feel sorry for the people I e-mailed pre-caffeine
4) put on some music to counteract my Total ADD Superpowers
5) write or revise like mad until lunch time, making massive numbers of lists
6) I just realized I’m making a list right now
7) answer some more e-mails
8) write and revise some more
The only day that differs from this is Sunday. On Sunday, I don’t let myself do anything useful or work-like. I only get to play around and relax. Well, I like to write, even if I’m not working, so this led to the concept of my Sunday Novel. On Sundays, I let myself play with a novel that isn’t under contract. Just something I’m writing for me. So on Sundays, when the kids go down for their naps, my husband retreats to the living room and I retreat to my desk, and for two hours, I work on my Sunday Novel.
2) What is the part of the writing process you hate, and what coping mechanisms do you employ to get through it?
Getting the first three chapters down. I know that for a lot of writers, this is their favorite part, but I despise it. I’m a very character-driven writer, and for the first three chapters, it’s sort of like this:
ME: What’s going on here?
CHARACTERS: We’re starting a plot! Whoooo!
ME: Who’s the main character? What are your names?
CHARACTERS: Let’s burn things!
ME: Who are you people!?
Anyway, I dislike that floaty feeling of not knowing whether or not I’ll connect to these characters and whether or not the reader will ever care about what happens to them. After about three chapters, though, I start to get a handle on these people who happen to be in my book, and that’s when I get hooked on writing it.
My coping mechanism is definitely butt-in-chairness. I try to remember what exciting bit of plot or hint of character first drove me to that idea, and then, I just have to write. Because I know it’s not going to get any better until I get through those first three chapters, no matter how much plotting or outlining or whatever I do. As Larry the Cable Guy says, “Git her done.”
3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?
Wow, there’s so many surprising things. Like – foreign rights. Whoo! Someone is going to read LAMENT in French? Does “pissier than an incontinent water buffalo” even translate?
Or how about cover flaps? I had no idea that such a thing existed. (For those of you who, like me, didn’t know what a cover flap is, it’s like a hot dog bun if your novel was a hot dog.) (I am a queen of similes.) (What do you mean, you don’t get it?)
4) As the author of a YA series, what are some “randoms” you’d like to share with us?
Five random words that rhyme with “faerie.”
1) Parry. As in, with your sword. As in, The Princess Bride, one of my favorite movies ever.
2) Larry. As in, the cable guy. As in he’s funny. Seriously.
3) Cleary. As in, Beverly Cleary. As in: Ribsy, one of my favorite novels when I was a kid.
4) Scary. As in, what my homicidal faeries in Lament are.
5) Merry. As in Merry Sisters of Fate (www.merryfates.com) where I post weekly free short fiction.
5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?
Okay, best call was definitely from my agent, Laura Rennert. I mean, I was thrilled when I got my offer from Flux for Lament, and I was thrilled when I got my first agent call ever (not from Laura). But when I got the call from Laura . . . well, first, here’s how it went down. I already had three agent offers on the table and I was waiting for Laura’s decision to make up my mind. So she calls.
ME (trying to sound professional and probably failing miserably): I have three offers, but I’ve already decided that if you offer, I’m saying yes.
LAURA: I’m offering, I’m offering!
Other exciting calls (that I can’t mention yet) have happened since then, but I still remember this one as the most exciting ever. Because even though I had Lament already coming out and Ballad in the works for next year, when Laura, a career agent, called and offered, it marked something different. It was like instead of just being published, I was really doing this thing. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I felt as if suddenly my career was serious. And Laura has definitely made that happen since then.
For more Maggie, visit her site.