Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Shy Introvert’s Guide to Stiefvater Signings

I’ve gotten a lot of messages and asks about what to expect/ do/ not do at one of my signings, so I thought I’d do a big post about it. Many of them strike me as the questions of shy introverts — I could be projecting, as I'm still an introvert, and used to be quite shy myself, but I think not.Back in the day, I used to dread speaking on the phone and hated to go to any sort of social event where I might inadvertently violate some unspoken social code that everyone else somehow knew but I had missed. I’d do as much research as I could before the actual thing, and then, if I still couldn’t figure out if I’d feel embarrassed not knowing how to get in line or how to get a drink or where to park my car or whatever, I just wouldn’t go.

Readers are often shy people — that’s why they like books, I mean, is a novel going to LAUGH AT YOU BEHIND ITS HAND? No. Books do not have hands. So this is a guide for my shy readers (and perhaps useful to not-so-shy newbies).

1. Pack all of the books you want me to sign. I’m happy to sign copies of all your other books — just remember to buy at least one from the store sponsoring the event. If you have a lot of books and you feel awkward about it, feel free to hang back to the back of the line. You’ll usually find a handful of other people with giant stacks and perhaps you can bond over your large collection of novels written by people with the last name Stiefvater. Or, if you’re both painfully shy, you can just stand close to each other and avoid making eye contact.

2. Arrive at the event. If you want a seat up front or to be early in the signing line, you can get there early, but you don’t have to go crazy with the earliness. I sign for everyone who comes, no matter how long it takes, so you’re not going to miss out there. Last year, the events ranged from 20-200 people, so the worst case scenario is that you’ll be at the end of that line. Usually the events last two hours from beginning to the very bitter end of the signing line.

3. Buy the book. For the painfully shy, this is also a good excuse to ask any questions you might have about the event structure. Also, sometimes the events give out numbers to attendees to reward the people who arrive first and get them closer to the front of the line. Usually if they’re going to do this, you get one of these suckers when you buy a book. If you’re confused about the format, remember that everyone else there is probably confused too, because there’s no standard-issue-book-signing-protocol, so everyone is just playing along.

4. Poof — I arrive. I’m driving Loki my ’73 Camaro to all of the Sinner tour events, so I will manifest in a cloud of exhaust fumes and gasoline odor. I shall have my sister with me for all of the events through Omaha, and then in Denver I will pick up Brenna Yovanoff, and then for the Utah events all the way through L.A., I’ll have Tessa Gratton and Brenna stuffed in the car. I’m telling you this because if you also enjoy Tessa’s or Brenna’s novels, they will be loitering aimlessly in the store and will be happy to sign their books too, if you ask them or just wave the copies in front of them.

5. I talk. Probably for ten or fifteen minutes, I will say something enlightening about Sinner or the writing process, or perhaps just give readers a status update on my goats. Then I take questions from the audience for another fifteen-twenty minutes. I’m happy to answer questions about any of the other books, but if it’s super spoilery, it’s better to whisper it in my ear as you come through the signing line.


6. Giveaways. At the first event and last event of the tour: Charlottesville, and Los Angeles, the store will raffle off one of the electric guitars I doodled on. You have to be there to be eligible for those, and they’ll hand out the raffle tickets there — probably when you buy a book. Sometimes the stores have other giveaways, too, but they’ll all sort of go like this.

book wrappers

7. Book wrappers. Everyone who buys a copy of Sinner at the tour events will get the custom book wrapper I did — you don’t have to do anything special to earn one, and you don’t have to ask for it, and probably they will be set up on the table beside me for you to just take one. Before you ask, you can have one for every copy of Sinner you buy. So that means if you want one for a friend, you’ll have to buy her a copy of the book as well. That’s just fair to everyone else who bought a book in order to get one. (and for those of you who can’t get to a tour event, do remember that if you pre-order a copy from Fountain Bookstore before July 1, they will send you one of the book wrappers).

8. Post-it notes. While you stand in line, the booksellers will often ask you your name so they can write it on a sticky note. This is not because they want to call you later. It’s for the personalization in the book. It’s often loud, and names are hard to hear, and this makes it easier for me to not write a really embarrassing spelling of your name in your book. It’s totally okay if you don’t want your book personalized, too. Sometimes people ask me to write something long and complicated in the front and I stare at them, not because I think their face is weird, but because it’s hard to think of something clever on the spot.

9. Meeting my face. I know this can be the nerve-wracking part. Dread slowly seeps through your bones as you get closer and closer to the table where the author sits like a hulking vulture. Trust me. I know it. People often get flummoxed or embarrassed or sometimes they just stare into the middle distance as I sign. Here are some things that I like to hear if you can’t think of anything else: a) which of my books you like the best, b) where you first read my books, c) things you’re hoping I’ll write about some day. Or, if you don’t want to say anything, that’s fine, too. I will not think that you’re socially awkward. The painfully shy can always just smile and avoid eye contact and possibly slip an index card with a song recommendation on it over the table. I’m sorry that this moment is sometimes anti-climactic, too. Because it only is a minute or two after standing in line.

10. Photos. I’m always happy to take photos with readers, so long as the flash is off. Usually there is a bookseller who can take it for you, or you can ask the person behind you in line. I have never seen anyone in line be annoyed about having to take a photo for someone else, so don’t feel bad about this.

11. Giving me things. Sometimes readers want to bring me things. I am very flattered by this, but it also makes me feel strange to accept gifts when I am giving you nothing in return but books that I hope will make you cry in public. Also, I’m always traveling by small car or plane, and so drawings and whatnot usually get crushed. And ever since I heard the story about what a deranged reader once baked into author brownies, I won’t eat any food that’s brought. So if you want to bring me something, just write your favorite line from a book, song, or poem onto a slip of paper and give it to me. That’ll be more than enough. I just like your shining faces.

12. Ta-da! It’s over! You have signed books. You have heard me talk and possibly asked me a question. You possibly have made eye contact with several other readers. You have totally survived. Does that answer all of the questions? Here are the tour dates in July, in their entirety. You can see that I drive from right to left across the country.

7/2: Charlottesville, VA, 5 p.m. NOTE: this is a guitar stop!
7/3: Baltimore, MD, 4 p.m.
7/5: Pittsburgh, PA, 4 p.m.
7/7: Chicago/ Naperville, IL, 7 p.m.
7/8: Chicago, IL, 12 p.m.
7/8: Milwaukee, WI, 6:30 p.m.
7/9: Madison, WI, 7 p.m.
7/10: Iowa City, IA, 7 p.m.
7/11: Omaha, NE, 4 p.m.
7/14: Denver, CO, 7 p.m.
7/19: Salt Lake City, UT, 7 p.m.
7/21: Reno, NV, 7 p.m.
7/23: San Francisco, CA, 7:30 p.m.
7/24: San Francisco/ Menlo Park, CA 7 p.m. NOTE: This is a group event with Brenna Yovanoff & Tessa Gratton — we'll be talking about working together as critique partners.
7/28: Los Angeles, CA, 7 p.m.
7/29: Los Angeles/ Montrose, CA - 7 p.m. NOTE: this is a guitar stop!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eyes Up, Writers

On Twitter today — and everyday — there was some chatter and scuffle about Some Authors’ Careers and Some Authors’ Fame and whether they had deserved it. Some folks invariably said the chatter and scuffle was jealousy. Some others invariably said not everything is jealousy.

Here’s what I think: having a writing career is like driving a race car.

I’m not really a grand race car driver, mostly because I’ve discovered that I don’t really care about winning against anyone but myself, which turns out to be not the point of organized sports. But I have been in race cars, and on race tracks, and have spent many hours doing classwork at over 70 mph.

Enough to know that a writing career is a lot like driving a race car.

One of the things they teach you in every single form of car racing is to keep your eyes up. Up. Upper than that. Upper than even that. Don’t look at the dash, because then you won’t see what’s happening on the road. Don’t look at the road right in front of you, because you won’t see that the turn you’re going into links into another turn and you could set yourself up for both. Put your eyes up as far as you can see down the road, and look there. Only when you see the absolute farthest point can you start to calculate the best way of getting there.

(this is great advice to use when you’re driving normally, by the way)

A writing career is like that. Use your peripheral vision to look at the things that are coming at you day to day, but never forget that every decision should contribute that farthest-away-point you want to get to. Never forget that every tiny success and failure is just a steer or counter steer toward the real point of the thing.

And here’s the other thing they tell you about keeping your eyes up: don’t fixate on the person in front of you. If there’s another driver just in front of you, the tendency is to stare at their bumper and then take the turn just like they do. But guess what? Then the absolute best scenario is that you will take the turn just like they do. So if they’re taking it wrong, you’ll take it wrong too. If there’s a better way, a faster way, a cooler way, a way that involves painting a giant knife on the side of your car and listening to Finnish rap very loudly, you’ll never know.

Eyes up, drivers, they say: look past the car in front of you. All you need to do is to note them well enough that you can pass them when you find a better way to take the turn.

Don’t fixate, writers. Eyes up, writers. I don’t care if x or y is doing a or b. What does that have to do with me? I have my eyes on where I want to go, and no one else matters.

The race is Maggie vs. Maggie. Who are you competing with?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Books Don't Make You Smart

Here is a lie we’ve all been told: books will make you smart.

This week, the Internet churns once more over the latest article denouncing adults who read young adult fiction. The argument is always the same: young adult/ thrillers/ romance/ sci-fi/ chicklit/ picture books/ subway maps are not as good for you as adult literary/ nonfiction/ dead Russians/ the calorie lists on Chipotle menus. Lovers of the former are always ready with a defense — either that the former really are as quality as the latter, or that not everything you put in your brain has to be good for you.

Rather than contemplating a new defense — surely, I could, as I write young adult fiction —I wondered instead why we keep seeing the same scuffle in different hats.

And I think it’s because of this untruth: books will make you smart.

I believe the book industry may be one of the few industries that promises you will actually become more clever if you buy their product. Car companies might swear you’ll look cooler in an Audi than a Kia, but they don’t tell you that you’ll actually become a better person behind the wheel of one. Computer companies might shout that their equipment is smarter, but they stop short of promising that your entire life philosophy will improve if you buy their products. When I bought my office chair, no one told me, “Well done. People who sit in leather chairs turn out to be stronger women.”
But we have this prevailing theory that books will make you smart, and it’s this theory that allows us to judge a book’s quality by how far it stretches your mind. According to this idea, if it doesn’t make you smarter, it’s a lesser book. It becomes a guilty pleasure, like food that doesn’t contribute to your daily vitamin requirement. Cue up the articles on the tragedy of the populace reading young adult, or turning to magazines, or — horrors, shall I whisper it — watching television in lieu of reading.

Don’t they know that reading makes you clever? Don’t they know that television and movies are for non-intellectuals? Hoi polloi turn the TV on. If you’re someone who’s going to be someone, you open a book.

But books aren’t smart: stories are.

Not all stories, of course. There are wise stories and flippant stories, stories that stretch your mind and stories that only make you laugh. Stories that are true and stories that won’t ever be true.
A book is merely a medium for carrying a story. So is a television series. So is a movie. So is a play, or a or a puppet show, a video game, a note from a stranger. The medium itself carries absolutely no promise of intellectual content. There are shallow books and world-changing movies. There are ridiculous non-fiction texts and complex young adult novels.

A book is just words. A movie is just images. These things can’t change you.

Only the story can.

So if we can accept that books can — and are meant to — fulfill all kinds of purposes, we can stop pretending that a good book only means a book that demands probing analysis. If we can further accept that genre is merely a jacket for the story, we can possibly also stop arguing that this shelf or that shelf in the bookstore has the corner on intellectual greatness. Someone who writes smart stories can put them into any form, any medium, any length — and they do. Look at the artists who work across several different forms. Do they grow more or less clever when their stories are filmed or shelved, packaged for grown-ups or packaged for teens? If you long for a mind-bending story, you can find them anywhere, if you look for them. If you’re looking for a stupid story, I promise you that you can find them anywhere, too. If you’re looking for grotesque generalizations, you’ll also find that confirmation bias is a powerful thing.

Books don’t make you smart. Stories do. And that is a truth I’ll defend to anyone.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sinner Book Trailer - with Animation and Singing and Whatnot

I'm revoltingly pleased to announce that I've finally finished animating and recording the music for the Sinner book trailer.

Here it is!


The book itself comes out July 1st in the U.S. (July 3rd in the UK).

The song can be downloaded for free on my Soundcloud account.

You can find full tour date info here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

MY CHARACTERS ARE NOT ME: But They Are The Questions in My Head

Today, a reader asked me about the source of the Gansey family wealth, and as I answered her, I thought about why Gansey is who he is, and why I wrote his family’s wealth, and what was I trying to explore when I invented him. Because there were ten thousand ways to write Gansey, and I chose this one: why?

It's because Gansey is not me — none of the characters are truly me — but they do exist to answer questions in my head. Sometimes I write them because I think I already know the answer, and I'm showing my work. But sometimes I'm hoping to find the answer through my writing. For instance, the characters in the Raven Cycle:

GANSEY: I am not filthy rich. I was not born into old money. But I was born into all kinds of privilege, especially educational privilege. My mother taught me music from the moment I could read. My father has an encyclopedic knowledge of history and a love of reading and made sure that he passed that on. There is so much to be said for not having to reinvent the wheel, and the educational advantages that I took for granted when I was eight are now glaringly obvious to me. So Gansey — well, that part of Gansey, the questions of privilege and what you owe the world when you have it — started there.

RONAN: I am not an angry gay street-racing Catholic boy. But I was an angry street-racing teen who fought with her body, and I grew up fervently Catholic, and I had all sorts of beliefs about myself and gender and everything else that did not play well with Catholicism. Ronan — parts of him — are questions I asked when I was a teen and still ask now.

BLUE: I am not the only non-seer in a family of seers. But I, a consummate non-specialist, a professional dabbler, am so used to finding myself in a world full of language I understand but do not own. When I was in a rally car, I engaged with cars in a very different way from those who lived and breathed rally. When I was in a Celtic band, I did so with a German last name and the knowledge that I couldn’t really claim the music because the blood in my veins was from the wrong place. I am always finding myself places where I possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the elements at play — but know I don’t really belong. But what is belonging? Blue asks that question for me.

ADAM: I was not born in a trailer, nor was I abused. But I have been very poor with very not poor friends. I have been not poor with very poor friends. I have been given opportunities to get ahead by jumping the line and I have watched what happened when I turned them down. I've also given people opportunities to jump the line and seen what happens to both of us when they take them (or not). Adam is the Gansey question turned inside out. Also, I have also been super shitty to friends and had them be super shitty to me — how shitty can you be to each other and still be friends? Can you afford to give your whole heart to a someone who doesn’t have blood ties or other debts to you? Adam — and the rest of the characters in the Raven Cycle, really — ask this question.

NOAH: Asks the question of why glitter and kittens are so great.

So, readers are always asking me which character I relate to the most, but that’s really not the best question. I relate to all of them, or I wouldn’t be writing them — I’d choose a different camera to point at the story. The question, I guess is: why these cameras? What are you trying to look at, Stiefvater?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Giant Sinner Tour & Also Book Wrappers & Guitars

Readers who have followed me for a while will know that each year, I try to do something special to some of the pre-ordered copies of my novels. This year I had a really ambitious idea and Scholastic was lovely enough to help me take this concept and run with it.

First, I did portraits of Cole, Isabel, and a wolf:

sinner, maggie stiefvater,  

and Scholastic is printing them on posters that just happen to be perfectly sized to do this:

   maggie stiefvater, book wrapper, sinner   


I think not. Scholastic was also kind enough to ship three white electric guitars to my house, and I did things to them too.

maggie stiefvater, electric guitars, sinner maggie stiefvater, book wrapper, sinner, isabel culpeper    

The guitars will be raffled off on the first and last event of the Sinner tour. One of them will be given away during a Scholastic/ This Is Teen online thingy. I’ll be sure to pass along info when this happens.

The book wrappers require rather less luck to acquire. Every copy of Sinner pre-ordered from Fountain Bookstore will be signed and come with one of the them. (Also, FB would like to remind everyone that if you pre-order Sinner and Blue Lily, Lily Blue at the same time, both books will ship in October when BLLB comes out — if you want two shipments, you will have to pay two shipping costs).

Also, the book wrappers will be available at every single stop on the Sinner tour.

 I’m also pairing up with Seven Stories Bookshop in the UK again this year, and their pre-ordered copies of Sinner will include this signed custom bookplate.


Now, on to the tour! Again, because Scholastic loves me, they are allowing me to do a coast-to-coast driving tour for Sinner in Loki, my Camaro. I did this for the Forever tour back in 2011, and I think it’s sort of nice and circular to head out again in the car for this return to Cole and Isabel. Also, it means I’ll smell like gasoline and exhaust at every event.

maggie stiefvater, camaro 

Here is the schedule. I’ve done a bit of math and it seems to be 3,964 miles one way.

7/2: Charlottesville, VA
7/3: Baltimore, MD
7/5: Pittsburgh, PA
7/7: Chicago/ Naperville, IL
7/8: Chicago, IL
7/8: Milwaukee, WI
7/9: Madison, WI
7/10: Iowa City, IA
7/11: Omaha, NE
7/14: Denver, CO
7/19: Salt Lake City, UT
7/21: Reno, NV
7/23: San Francisco, CA
7/24: San Francisco/ Menlo Park, CA
7/28: Los Angeles, CA
7/29: Los Angeles/ Montrose, CA

Full details here on the website.  

Note: I will also be at BookCon/ BEA in NYC, IRA, ALA, BYU Symposium for Young Readers (Provo), and Decatur Book Festival.
Note, part two: I will not be touring overseas this year because I am going to need every second of spare time to finish the Raven Cycle on time (I trust you’d rather have that book than my body).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Cover & Title of Raven Boys III is . . .

Happy St. Mark’s Eve! Behold the official cover and title of Raven Boys III, which comes out October 28, 2014.

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