As a New York Times bestselling author of fantasy books, Maggie Stiefvater has established herself as both an exciting and successful author.
But writing isn’t what defines her. When the Virginia resident isn’t writing about about the magic of dead Welsh kings or Celtic water horses, she is an artist, plays the harp and bagpipes and loves to race souped up cars.
Those experiences are what enable her to create fantastical worlds that emerge in her novels.
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“If someone asked me what kind of person I was, and what I did for a living, I don’t think I’d identify as a writer. I think writing is a by-product,” she said. “For me, it’s important for writers to have a life, so they have something to write about.”
Stiefvater will bring her imagination and wit to Greenwood Middle School from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8 during a special community literacy event hosted by the Greenwood Public Library. She’ll discuss The Raven Cycle, her four-book bestselling series, as well as her other interests, in the presentation and book signing.
The event is free and open to the public.
What drew you toward being a writer?
I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t reading. Not only did I always want to be a writer, but I always knew exactly what kind of writer I wanted to be, which was the kind of author when you walk through the airport and you see the stands out front with trashy paperbacks, and the author’s name is bigger than the title and it’s all glossy. Anyway, I always wanted to be a commercial storyteller, that’s always been the goal, the idea of telling stories. I love to do that in any medium — music and writing and art.
With the writing, how did you go from your ideal to be a commercial writer and getting there?
It was super-easy. I only had to give up all of my social life as a child and spend all of my time writing books. By the time I hit college, I had 30 finished and unfinished novels. I know there’s that rule that’s been proven flawed, but I think it holds true: 10,000 hours to mastery. So I just started putting in those hours really young.
Have you always been interested in fantasy, or did that come later?
I always loved the magic. Not even just the magic, but speculative stories. When I was growing up, one of the most impressive books I read was Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park.” It left this indelible impression on me. It’s not magic, it’s science, but it feels like magic because it’s impossible and beautiful.
How do you try to take that speculative aspect and work it into your own stories?
The main thing for me is all of the speculative things have to mean something else. If it’s not tied into an element of truth, it’s just going to feel silly, like a fairy tale instead of something that might actually exist.
What’s an example of that?
When I wrote the “Shiver” trilogy, which is about people who turn into wolves in the winter, and eventually they stop turning back into people, it was because I went on a bunch of school visits when I was starting out, and I saw all of these kids who were losing their identities, becoming less quirky and cool because they were trying to blend into the crowd. Even though the book is about people turning into wolves, in my head it was about losing your identity. Whenever you base it on something true like that, it makes it feel more grounded.
How do you construct these different worlds you come up with?
First off, I’m very selfish, and I start out with what type of book I want to live with for the next year. It’s all about me at that point, because it’s hours and hours of your life at that point as it become immersive with everything about it.
Why do you think people get so involved with these kind of speculative novels that you write?
I was a history major in college, and one of the things I loved about that is, when there were gaps in medieval history, there were no written texts about that time. They would give you legends and mythology instead, because you could find the truth in between all of these fantasy parts. The thing that I think people really respond to in fantasy is it makes it easier to actually sympathize with a situation.
When you go out and do appearances like this, what’s it like interacting with the fans who love your work?
It’s really interesting. A lot of times, there would be five people or six people or zero people when I was first starting out. Now, it’s become a very different thing, because I can be certain there will be people there. The big thing I think about now is, I try to put myself in their shoes. What is it they’re hoping to get? What will make them feel that it was really worthwhile to come see me? That’s what I try to give them.
How did you get into racing cars?
I was raised by a family that is into racing cars. My father would never have fancy cars, he’d only get cars that had been fancy 30 years ago, and then he’d spend all of this time fixing them. I grew up among all of these cars that were falling apart. But it taught me about the nuts and bolts of them, and what everything on them does. I had a race car and have souped up cars now.
Do you have a favorite car?
The car that’s always going to be my soul car is my ‘73 Camaro. But the one that I’ve currently been tooling around in is my souped-up Mitsubishi. I just put a 2.2 in it, and it has 525 horsepower, but that’s not why people actually notice it. About a month ago, I let readers spray paint at one of my festival events, so it’s completely covered in crazy colors.
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Meet the Author: Maggie Stiefvater
What: A presentation and book-signing by Stiefvater, the bestselling author of “The Raven Cycle” series as well as other books.
Where: Greenwood Middle School, 523 S. Madison St.
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8
Information: (317) 881-1953 or www.greenwoodlibrary.us