Kelly interviewed Maggie Stiefvater about her Young Adult fantasy novel Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception. Be sure to also read Kelly’s review of Lament. Learn more about Ms Stiefvater at her website.
Lament hearkens back to the old faerie legends, which were often tragic and often frightening, and not at all sugar-coated. How did you become interested in faerie lore, especially the darker stuff?
When you write about things like homicidal faeries, you get asked “why faeries?” a lot. And once I valiantly fight back the urge to answer, “Why not?,” I realized that I don’t really remember when my fascination with faerie lore first started. I do know that somewhere back in the swirling mists of my youth, I checked out a copy of Katharine Briggs’ lengthy and fascinating tome, An Encyclopedia of Faeries. She catalogs all sorts of lore about British faeries, most of them sounding feral at best and down right terrifying-will-eat-you-in-your-bed-and-then-talk-about-the-culinary-experience-at-otherworldly-dinner-parties at worst.
And I don’t know, it just sort of resonated with me. It felt more real than the Tinkerbell sort of faeries. Real magic ought to be like that, you know? Brilliant and beautiful and unexpected and completely untamed. Like nature.
Anyway, those who know me best know that I’m not really a pink fairy dust kinda girl.
Music plays a large role in Lament. Are you yourself a musician? Did you listen to any specific music while writing Lament?
Yep, I’m a musician. In college, I was a competitive bagpiper, which means I was not just a bagpiping geek, but the queen of bagpiping geeks. I also play harp, piano, tin whistle, enough guitar to get me into trouble . . . the thing is, once you tackle the bagpipes and come out on top (panting, bloody, but triumphant), all other musical instruments are pretty much inclined to bow down and do whatever you say.
I think highly of pretty much all musicians, with the exception of people who play the saxophone or the accordion. Those two instruments just ain’t for me. Sorry, all talented saxaphonists and accordion players out there.
I listened to a lot of Celtic music while listening to Lament (I know, you’re shocked — positively shocked — aren’t you?). From the amazingly traditional (Bothy Band, Lunasa, Susan McKeown) to the wishy-washily New Age (A Celtic Tale, Enya, Loreena McKennitt). I love ’em all. Also, peculiarly, I listened to Shiny Toy Guns and the The Bourne Ultimatum Soundtrack. Whatever works, you use. No questions asked to the musical muse.
What writers are your personal favorites? What writers have influenced your writing? (And what’s a good book you’ve read recently?)
I should preface this entire answer with the disclaimer that I have only recently begun to enjoy novels where supernatural beings do not pop out of the woodwork or bodies don’t float by in the rivers or main characters do not get sucked into portals into other worlds where they may or may not encounter love, loss, and dragons. Plain old realistic fiction really has to be exceptional to have a hold on me.
So, with that in mind, my favorite authors have traditionally been Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones, and Dean Koontz — that sort of thing. Stand out books in the history of Maggie-read books have been The Time Traveler’s Wife, Good Omens, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Peeps, and Feed. I always add exceptional books onto my Goodreads page, if anyone’s interested in seeing what titillating me.
My latest find was John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, which is quirky, funny, and really well-paced.
Do you have any advice for new writers just starting out?
I always say: READ! It’s the best way to learn how to write; read the good stuff in your genre of choice, because there’s no such thing as having too much knowledge. Also, be wary of critique partners. They can be either the best or the worst thing in the world. I am lucky enough to now have two critique partners who read and write fiction very similar to mine, and their perspectives are priceless. But there are thousands of excellent writers out there who just will not mesh with what you need as a critique partner — it took me a long time to realize that finding a good critique partner is as challenging as finding a good spouse.
Also, WRITE. You can’t get better unless you’re writing. Not thinking about writing or twiddling over what you have written — you have to be writing new words. It’s the sheer number of original words written that will make you get better at what you do.
Is there one question you always wish someone would ask you, but no one ever does? If so, what is it? And what’s the answer?
Yes. “May I give you this French pastry I am holding?” Answer: “Yes.”
Maggie Stiefvater’s next novel, a sequel to Lament, will be called Ballad: The Gathering of Faerie and is expected in fall 2009.