Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movies Make Me Burn Brownies

Tonight while I was making brownies (these brownies, in fact), my agent called and told me that we had not one, but two offers on the film rights for THE SCORPIO RACES (which, as you'll recall, has only been on shelves for two seconds).

I burned the brownies.

I picked one of them and four seconds later, the news hit the Internet, because the Internet knows everything. This is what the Internet is saying:
Warner Bros. & KatzSmith Productions have optioned the film rights.

I have to confess, of all the books I've written, this is the one I wanted made into a movie in the worst possible way. As I wrote, every scene was translated into words from a visual movie scene in my head.

I made some more brownies to celebrate.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Opposite of Cynical

Okay, so - so - so. Every year that I publish a novel, I think that I'll be all cool and suave and cynical about it. Cover - done it! Advanced Review Copies - done it! See it on shelves - done it!

But it never seems to work out that way. Every year I get ulcertastic before the book comes out, and every year I have that glow of signing the first copy, and every year, my first professional review makes me bite my nails, hoping it's good.

And this year, for The Scorpio Races, unbelievably, I have five starred reviews. I am not only not inured to the excitement of starred reviews, but the news of getting the fifth star left me absolutely useless for the rest of the day. I mean, I thought this book was the best thing I'd ever written, but I never thought that I . . .

insert more ellipses here to stand for my blinky eyes.

★ “Masterful. Like nothing else out there now.”
-Kirkus, starred review

★ “a study of courage and loyalty tested . . . an utterly compelling read.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “A book with cross-appeal to lovers of fantasy, horse stories, romance, and action-adventure, this seems to have a shot at being a YA blockbuster.”
-Booklist, starred review

★ “gets better and better…all the way, in fact, to best.”
-Horn Book, starred review'

I can't quote the last one yet, from School Library Journal, because the issue's not out yet, but . . . man. I have to say that the Horn Book one has a ring to it. I like saying it at the dinner table. In the car. While doing laundry.

Which I guess is the opposite of cynical.

My Annual Dear John Letter to NaNoWriMo

Maggie in 2011 says: A lot of folks have been asking me about my thoughts on NaNoWriMo (not without reason, as I write novels quickly and once a year), and I thought the best thing was just to post my final NaNoWriMo post from last year. This is my Dear John letter to NaNoWriMo from last year, and the novel I'm referring to in it is THE SCORPIO RACES. I think it pretty much says what I need it to say.

Maggie in 2010 said:

Dear NaNoWriMo,

We're through.

I know that you have enough people who love you and care for you that this break-up won't be difficult for you (Last collective word count of all NaNo'ers, everywhere, was 1,776,482,205 words), so really don't have a problem telling you exactly what I think of you.

You're a bad concept, NaNo. You suck.

No, no. Let me back up. I can be reasonable. Just because I'm feeling vehement and emotional about you ruining my life . . .doesn't mean I should be unfair.

You are not a bad concept. You're a bad concept for me, NaNo. This is why: you make me write crap, NaNo. You make me make bad novel decisions. You take away my ability to brainstorm between chapters. You make me rush through characterization. You make me pack filler in that will only get ripped out later, having taught me nothing about my novel. You make me into a bad writer.

You know what hurts me the most, NaNo? I want to write something meaningful. Something with subtext and theme. That's the reason I write, really. And you took that away from me. How could I possibly contemplate the greater picture when I was constantly chasing word count? What kind of conceptual boyfriend are you anyway? That you would make me write superficial tripe?

Oh, for weeks I believe your spiel: that it was okay that we were bad in the sack together now, that we'd get better with revising. But I see through your lies, baby. We will never get to sweet, sweet passionate love on the beach from where we are here. Basically, if we played the game your way, I'd end up rewriting every single word I wrote.

So this is me saying, I've been cheating on you. Since November 15th, I threw on the brakes, reread what I'd written, cut out huge parts, and started writing my novel the way I like to. And the difference is that now I have 23,000 words that I love. Instead of 50,000 words that I can't stand to read over.

But it took me a long time to get to that point, NaNo. Because you made me feel like I was turning my back on some great goal that I'd made. You hit me where it hurt, NaNo; you know that I don't like to give up a goal once I've made it. So here's where I say thanks. You taught me that not all goals are good goals. That some are picked up out of principle and aren't worth pursuing. You reminded me of what I used to always tell people in conjunction with my little goals speech: that you should choose your battles wisely.

And you aren't a good battle, NaNo. You're just a bad boyfriend and a lousy literary lay. I'm taking my Secret Novel and getting the hell out of this relationship before you can hurt us anymore! We'll be fine without you. Nay, better off without you! When you see me walking down the street with the hardcover edition of Secret Novel in 2012, looking fine, fine, fine with its deep theme and subtle characterization, I hope it makes you throw up a little in your mouth.

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving.

50,000 superficial words of love,



Maggie from 2011 adds to this: I don't have a problem with other people doing NaNoWriMo. If that's what it takes to motivate you, go for it. If you work well that way, go for it (not that you were sitting around, waiting for my approval). But for my style of writing, for my creative process, it will literally never work. I cannot knowingly write crap. I just can't. I can and do write crap, but I can't realize that I'm doing it at the time.

I know that lots of people use NaNo for the community, and I get that, too, but for me . . . I'd rather build a writing community that I have year round, a community that I know better than just a forum cheering zone. It's why I encourage everyone to have beta readers and critique partners: people who become friends and reading buddies. That's the sort of community I crave, not one with a sort of expiration date. I kind of feel like NaNo offers everything a writer needs, but in a diet version. Just because you don't write full time doesn't mean you can't have a full time support system and deadlines that you set for yourself. Having only a little time to write doesn't mean you can't have the non-diet, full-fat, all the whipped cream and sprinkles too please writing accoutrements. I wrote my first published novel only on Wednesdays, from 6-8 p.m., because that was all the time I had. Deadlines are good. Community's good. But NaNo . . . one month . . .

The how the story is told is just as important as the story itself to me, which means . . . NaNo and me are never meant to be. You, however, are welcome to it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing the Book I Always Meant To

I realized that I spent so long being cleverly quiet about The Scorpio Races that I never did a post about why I wrote it. I think, since today is its release day, I shall, especially since the story of it ties into a piece of advice that I really like to give to writers just starting out (I should mention that it still feels really odd giving out writing advice, even though book #6 is coming out today. I wonder when that will internalize?)

The reason why I wrote The Scorpio Races is because of a piece of advice I was given or read or found when I was a teen. I wish I could remember where it came from, but it was this: write the book you've always wanted to read, but can't find on the shelf.

Well, the book I always wanted to read had water horses in it. It's a tiny corner of Scottish and Irish and Manx mythology: swift and beautiful horses that jump out of the ocean and attack people or cattle. The legend was more complicated than that, though — the horses had their own kind of magic. Some of them turned into young men and attempted to lure women into the ocean with them. Some of them appeared as cute little ponies and tried to lure children onto their back. My particular favorite part of this legend was the line that said that as more children climbed onto the pony, its back would lengthen to accommodate them. Later, the victims' lungs and livers would wash up on the shore. 

I tried to write about them when I was in my teens. They weren't the focus of the novel, merely one of the many faerie creatures in it, and the novel failed disastrously. There are a lot of reasons why that book didn't work, but it can basically be boiled down to this: it wasn't Maggie enough yet. It was fun, but anybody could've written those versions of faeries.

Then, after I finished the mammoth draft of a faerie book that was eventually rewritten entirely under the guidance of Editor Yoda (becoming LAMENT), I started on a sort of standalone sequel to this giant novel. It was called THE HORSES OF ROAN and it was yet another attempt at writing about water horses. I was closer this time. I was chiseling away with my writing, becoming a writer that only I could be, instead of the writer I thought I ought to be, or the writer the manuals recommended. It really was closer. There are still parts of that book that I'll cannibalize for others.

Here's photographic proof of my obsession. Back then, as part of my quest to become a better artist, I was doing monthly artist studies, eventually creating a piece in the style of whoever I was studying. That month I was studying my long-dead artist boyfriend, John Singer Sargent. The subject I chose? Water horses. This painting, "The Horses of Roan," (which is giant — 40" wide) is still in my living room. It was closer to the Maggie-Idea of water horses than any of my novels had been, but I wasn't sure why.


THE HORSES OF ROAN was set in the marshes of Virginia and used the man-to-horse shape-shifting element and it was close, like I said, but still, someone else still could have written it.

Fast forward five books later. By now, I've been to the UK several times, enough times to know that a sizable piece of my soul is somehow lodged there in one of the rainier corners. I've also written the Shiver trilogy and watched more hours of carnivores pulling apart prey animals than I care to mention and I'm well aware that I have a fascination with the beauty and the horror of nature. And I'm also sort of kind of house-hunting, and I realize that my desire to get as far away into the country as possible is not one shared by absolutely everyone on the planet. I find myself explaining why I'd sacrifice convenience to live out in the middle of nowhere, and explaining my childhood growing up with cottonmouth snakes under the porch and no neighbors that I could see and grocery stores one hour away and sitting on the deck listening only to crickets, and further away, more crickets. And, finally, I have four siblings, two of them ten and twelve years my junior, and they're going through late teenhood, and all our conversations are at once familiar, funny, and aggravating.

And now I was ready to write the book that only I could write. Because if it was about these things that were eating at me, it would have emotional truth, and no matter how great your plot or your hook or your legend is, if you don't have the emotional hook, it's just not going to mean anything to anybody else. It might be fun. But it will also be forgettable.

So I wrote a book that was about siblings and how it looks when they are your best friends and entire social network and what happens when one leaves. And I wrote about Thisby, a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, a rocky little bit of a place that looked a lot like where my soul was lodged 3,000 miles away. I wrote about why some people left and why some people stayed, the hardship and the beauty of it. I wrote about deadly carnivores that weren't villains and humans who were.

Oh, and it had other Maggie things in it: I adore race movies and I'll watch absolutely any one of them that comes on. Days of Thunder, Herbie, The Black Stallion. I love reading about descriptions of food, so in that went. I love old magic that looks like superstition until suddenly, in the dark, it's real. I loved the horses that I had growing up and in college, though I remember just how much work they were too, in the frosty mornings when your fingers are too cold to work. And, of course, the ocean, too. As a child we used to vacation in North Carolina and I would sit for hours just watching the ocean, making up stories about horses springing from the foam, watching each wave curl in differently. I nearly drowned as a kid and so I both loved it and feared it. It's hard to forget that sensation of warring emotions, equally matched.

And of course, finally, in chapter 46 of The Scorpio Races, I wrote the scene I'd been imagining since I was my daughter's age: a herd of water horses tearing in from an angry sea. Chapter 46 isn't a very long one, and it wasn't late when I wrote it, but after I finished the last sentence of it, I closed my computer and had to stop writing for the night. It's a weird feeling to finally do something right after doing it wrong for so many years. I knew before that that The Scorpio Races was the best thing I'd written so far, but that was when I really realized I'd written the book I'd wanted to find on the shelf all those years ago.

I can't believe it's finally out.

In retrospect, this blog entry seems so maudlin and earnest. But I'm going to hit "post" now before I change my mind.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Have No Words, So More Pictures


It's finally here. Well, I mean, tomorrow. But tomorrow is practically today, if you're using the Children-Friendly Method Of Counting Days Until Christmas, where you don't count the day you're currently living, nor Christmas itself.

Remember how I posted about November Cakes and how I had to touch everything in The Scorpio Races for it to be real? That includes the cliffs that the deadly horse race is run beneath. I visited . . . a lot of cliffs.

Danger, Maggie! Stay Back!

Me At the Seven Sisters

Me freezing in Normandy near Omaha Beach

Me at Bempton Cliffs

Me at Flamborough Head

I realize I made some dubious wardrobe decisions on those trips. I don't want to hear about it.

Man, though, I'm excited for this book to be out. Aside from the launch party in D.C. this Thursday and the California dates I have this week (I'm not even going to bother getting off of West Coast time), I also have two online events for those who can't make it out to a bookstore. There is this one:

And also an online live chat with Mundie Moms. That one is on Thursday at 9 p.m. and the original announcement is here.

What else? I feel like I should just get everything out there all at once. I was hoping to have my UK tour schedule available today, but alas, that will have to come later. Oh, oh, I should mention that on the home page of the website, you can now download me reading the first and second chapters of the book, as well as the music from the trailer (I think I mentioned that last one earlier, but the second chapter is a new development).

Now I have to go and brush my hair, because I'm going to drive down to Richmond to sign and doodle in the pre-ordered copies of SCORPIO at Fountain Bookstore. If anyone is in the Richmond area and dying to see what I look like signing and doodling in a lot of books, I'll be getting there at around 3 p.m.ish.

That's it! I think I shall close in the same way I opened. alkd;flajsd;fljksld;fkjaslkdfj;alskjdflasjdf.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Second Post About Food. This Time, Imaginary.

Well, slightly imaginary.

Weirdly, it has now suddenly only days away until THE SCORPIO RACES comes out. I remember back when it was still SecretNovel. So. October 18th. (well, October 20th, if you're coming to the release party in D.C.). Rumor has it is has already appeared in some readers' hands.

I'm not thinking about that. I'm so very ulcer-free right now. I mean, I've already waxed poetic about how this is my favorite novel of everything that I've ever written. And I've already talked a little bit about how I spent an obsessive amount of time on the research for this novel. (CUE THE SLIDESHOW OF ENDLESS CLIFFS). But now it is time to share recipes.

I’ve always loved reading food descriptions in books, and one of my favorite agonizing pleasures was reading about foods that didn’t exist. I still remember the 42 century butter pies on a stick that Diana Wynne Jones wrote about in A Tale of Time City. Completely delicious sounding. Completely not real. I always wanted to be that author. The one that torments loads of readers by inventing food so delicious they can't resist it . . . and then laughing meanly when they realize it's not real.

And I had the perfect opening in THE SCORPIO RACES. It's set on a tiny, remote island with not much to do and the yearly Scorpio Races are a big deal, so to kick it all off they have a folk festival involving bonfires, superstitions, and beer. This, I thought, would be a great place to insert a fake seasonal food. At first, all I had was the name: November Cakes. Even I wasn't quite sure how these things would bake up until the main character's brother showed them to us:

Finn finds my left hand, opens my fingers, and puts a November cake in my palm. It oozes honey and butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand. It begs to be licked.

Of course, as with all food descriptions in my novels, I quickly warmed to my mission and proceeded to fill the pages of the book with more things about "the moist crumb, the nectar that seeps from the base of it, the icing that soaks into the cake before you can lick it off." Oh, yes, now we were getting somewhere. My legacy as a fake food writer was beginning to look more promising.

There was only one problem. Something about this book demanded that I put my hands on everything in it I possibly could. I had to do an incredible amount of hands-on research for it, because I just couldn't stand to wing anything. And this exact same principle meant that I found myself in the kitchen spending hours trying to make November Cakes.

Pots and Pans used to Make November Cakes The mess.

Honey Caramel Sauce Ready to go in the oven

Variations on a theme

Close up of November Cakes

Basically, I've failed in my quest to invent a lovely fake food. Because I'm sad to report that November Cakes are no longer fake. Nothing can be fictional if there's a recipe:

ETA! USE THIS RECIPE! November Cakes, II.

*dedicated blog/ twitter/ facebook followers might remember when I was asking about Golden Syrup. This was the recipe I was thinking of. You can use it instead of honey.
** click to make the image better. I mean, bigger.

Three more days . . .

In Which Maggie Posts About Food. Twice.

Because I know you guys are just tired of seeing gorgeous photos of the gorgeous places I've been touring, I decided that I would instead do a food blog for last week's tour of Portland and Seattle. This proved more difficult than I imagined, however, because it turns out that a) being allergic to preservatives means I don't eat very much, and b) there is nothing intuitive about taking photos of your food. It means that I ate three meals without remembering to take photos first. But, sans one plate of salmon & ravioli, one pair of Chipotle soft tacos, and three cups of tea, this is everything Maggie Stiefvater ate from October 8-14th. My next post will also be about food, but also about books.

Thanks to everyone in the funky, bearded, plaided Pacific Northwest for welcoming me. What a great corner of the world!

I would do this again for my next tour stop (California, next week), but I can tell you already, it will be all tea and avocados.

Tour Food, Portland & Seattle

Some of that was more delicious than it looked. And some of it was less delicious than it looks.

C'est la vie?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Which Fake Band Names Turn Out to Be Real

So, this fake band name turned out to be harder than I thought. First of all, I had a short list of favorites, and I kept googling them (because if they turned out to be real band names, they obviously couldn't win, whether or not the original titler was aware that their fake band name was a real band name) . . . and this kept happening. So if you are not a winner and you think your band name was awesome and should've won, google it. It might truly be awesome and my favorite ever . . . and a real band.

Also, there were an unfair number of unicorn band names representing. Apparently the cultural unconscious was feeling very unicorny at the time of this blog posting.

Some were hilarious and indecent. So, no.

Some were hilarious and completely nonsensical. So, no.

Some of them sounded suspiciously like they could've belonged to local Celtic bands that played the same bars mine did in college (it takes talent to invoke that much leg hair in a band name).

In the end, it came down to two:

Elizabeth Bennet's Petticoats, and Charlotte's Temper. In an ideal world, I'll confess I would've preferred Elizabeth Bennet and the Petticoats, but that small issue was not enough to edge it out of first place. Ultimately I think I would buy Charlotte's Temper's album and go see Elizabeth Bennet's Petticoats live.

Elizabeth, you get the signed copy of Scorpio. Email me!

But Charlotte, you get a signed copy of one of my other books (I haven't decided yet which to inflict upon you), so you e-mail me too.

My email is Stiefvater Reader Mail at gmail dot com. No spaces and make the dot a proper dot and all that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Plaid, Free Songs, Free Books

1. I kept intending to write a proper review/ recommendation of ANANSI BOYS, which I read while I was in Australia, but for some reason, every time I sat down to write it, all that came out were words in one syllables, which makes for a lousy book review. Sample copy of my early blog posts about ANANSI BOYS:

This book is good.
This book is fast.
This book is fun.
This book is what it says it is.
Which is fun.
This book is a good, fast, fun read.

I'm just not sure it's going to get any better than that. I liked this book better than its predecessor, AMERICAN GODS, and you don't need to have read that one in order for this one to make any sense. The only other thing I can say is that I immediately went out and bought another copy to give away to a friend, so that should stand for something, surely.

2. I'm on tour in the Pacific Northwest this week. Portland = funky and awesome. Also, very plaid. As one native noted, "some people are wearing plaid to be ironic, and some people are wearing it because their blood is plaid." I would like to point out that IRONIC PLAID is the best Celtic band name ever. Feel free to use it.

3. Since it is only eight days away from the release of THE SCORPIO RACES, I've updated my website with a bunch of things that some readers have been asking for — like a place to download the music from the Scorpio book trailer for free, a slideshow of my research for the novel, and me reading the first two chapters. I did just find out that we got a fourth starred review for it from Horn Book, and proved to myself that I am still a book geek by galloping around the house when I heard the news.

4. If you are in the Seattle area, here are my events, including my event tonight. I will be wearing stripes to everything. All I have packed are stripes. Well, I guess if I merely wearing my jeans and striped socks, you won't be able to tell. Another great band name? INVISIBLE STRIPES.

5. I reckon I should give away a copy of THE SCORPIO RACES today. If you post a great fake band name (just one, please, so choose carefully) here in the comments today, I'll pick one person to get a copy of THE SCORPIO RACES, which I'll mail when I get back into town on the 14th. I reckon that's all the rules I need. International's okay, only one band name, only until today at midnight EST. (My computer is still on EST even if I am not)(Well, I definitely am still on EST. I merely am located in PST).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Which MagicalNovel Disappears Like Cookie Dough

Today, I realized I had to delete 39,911 words from MagicalNovel. Well, I actually realized it sometime last week, but I've only just now worked up the nerve to do it.

This calls for cookie dough.

A lot of that is gone right now.

Just like my novel.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Werewolf Nookie & Homicidal Faeries in Several Languages

One of my favorite pastimes while traveling overseas is browsing in bookstores, because I love seeing the different covers that different countries put on novels I've read. My reactions tend to go one of two ways: OH. MY. WHY? or WHY DON'T WE GET THAT COVER?

It's been a very very long time since I've posted the covers of my latest foreign editions, but here they are. Do they inspire OH. MY. WHY? or WHY DON'T WE GET THAT COVER?

Bulgarian Edition of FOREVER

Italian Edition of FOREVER

French Edition of FOREVER

Spanish Edition of FOREVER

Chinese edition of Linger

 German edition of Linger

Russian edition of Linger

Polish edition of Linger

Italian edition of Ballad

Mexican edition of Ballad

Polish edition of Lament

Spanish book club edition of Shiver

Swedish Paperback edition of Shiver

Serbian edition of Linger
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