Tuesday 22 November 2011

Scholastic & Foyles Events with Maggie Stiefvater - 12th November 2011

Maggie Stiefvater & me

Last week I was very excited to have the chance to meet up with Maggie Stiefvater, author of Lament, Ballad, Shiver, Linger, Forever and The Scorpio Races (links will take you to my reviews).  I met her last year when she came over here on tour (click here to read my event write up) and was really looking forward to seeing her again.  Thanks to Catherine at Scholastic a few of us got to meet up with Maggie for brunch at the Covent Garden Hotel before her afternoon event at Foyles.  We were spoiled with delicious food (bacon, pancakes and maple syrup - yum! Although unfortunately due to allergies Maggie was only able to eat a couple of fried eggs) and great conversation.  We did try to get Maggie to tell us about the new secret novel she is currently working on but unfortunately she didn't spill any secrets so we'll all have to keep waiting until it's finished.

Caroline & Lynsey

Lynsey & Maggie


After brunch Lynsey, Caroline & I set off in hunt of Ben's Cookies as a treat for Maggie (we may possibly have bought some for ourselves too but I'm not going to confirm that rumor lol!) before heading to Foyles for the event.  Things kicked off with a guest appearance from Jonas and Plunkett, their song Spaceship was on Maggie's play list when she was writing Linger.  They also wrote the music to the song Summer Girl which is the song Sam wrote for Grace in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series and is the song that Maggie used in the Forever book trailer. 

Here are Jonas & Plunkett singing Summer Girl:

and here they are singing Spaceship:

I loved Summer Girl after hearing it on the Forever trailer but hadn't heard Spaceship before.  I have to say I'm now a big fan of theirs though & have downloaded all of their songs on iTunes (Spaceship is actually a charity single raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital - a very worthy cause so go and buy your copy now!).

Adrian (Plunkett), Jonas & Maggie

When it was time for Maggie to talk she had the audience in stitches when she told us about how she found out that Linger was number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.   She was actually on a plane at the time and her Dad had forgotten to turn his mobile phone off which got Maggie in trouble with the stewardess!

Maggie then gave us her top 10 tips for writing a Maggie Stiefvater novel:

1.  You need to decide on a mood - Maggie's mood for writing Shiver was that she wanted to make people cry when they were reading it.  Maggie said she is one of those people who never cries at sad movies or books, she usually laughs at the sad parts. She did say that The Time Traveller's Wife is the only book that has made her cry, in fact it even made her cry the second time she read it (proper crying with snot bubbles & everything - Maggie's words lol).

2.  Get an idea - Maggie mentioned that you could steal an idea but it is generally frowned upon unless the person who came up with the idea originally is already dead!  Some examples of good ideas included "scientists create dinosaurs on an isolated island", "a man dressed as a bat who goes around solving crimes" and "a boat containing Leonardo DiCaprio sinks".  Maggie's books tend to have similar ideas behind them:
~ Lament - A boy has to kill a girl but doesn't want to.
~ Shiver - A boy turns into a wolf but doesn't want to.
~ The Scorpio Races - A girl has to ride a killer horse but doesn't want to.
Did you spot the theme yet?

3.  Decide on the ending

4.  Research is the key - Maggie because obsessed with cliffs when she was doing research for The Scorpio Races, she visited cliffs in California and throughout the UK.  When she was on tour in Paris and had a day off but instead of spending a day in the world's most romantic city with her husband she made him take her to Normandy so she could visit the cliffs there.

5.  Start writing - you can have the best idea ever but it's worthless unless you actually write it

6.  Something should die within the prologue or first chapter (this is a Maggie Stiefvater novel after all!) - Maggie did say you could possibly substitute killing with severe maiming but she would have to see it in context to decide if it worked or not!

7.  There is no step 7

8.  Put food in it - Maggie said that she likes to read a book that makes her salivate.  She mentioned a book that I think was by Diana Wynn Jones (I didn't catch the book title I'm afraid) that mentioned butter cakes, Maggie was desperate to try them and was horrified to discover that they don't exist.  She decided that she wanted to do something similar to her fans when she was writing The Scorpio Races and came up with the November cakes.  Even though they weren't supposed to exist Maggie found she couldn't resist experimenting and after an afternoon of baking she managed to create them - you can find the recipe on her blog here (I'm going to have to try and have a go at baking them sometime!).

9.  By now the story should have a beginning, an end, a good mood and someone should have died.  At this point you're probably stuck - research is the key that will dig you out of the hole.  Think about why the book is important to you.

10.  Ignore steps 1 - 9!  Maggie said that writing is different for everyone, you have to find the way that works best for you.


Maggie also took questions from the audience:
  • Why does Malvern (a character in The Scorpio Races) put salt and butter in his tea?  Maggie wanted to show that the character is eccentric and well travelled so she made him drink Tibetan bitter tea.  She said that the tea is traditionally made with yak butter (although technically that isn't possible as female yaks are called naks so it should be nak butter!).
  • Was your first trip to London what you expected?  (I may have the wording of this question incorrect).  Maggie said that her friends had told her that school visits in the UK would be very different to ones in America and she found that was definitely the case.  She visited 6 schools and gave the same talk she usually does at home but didn't get the same response over here.  She also found pupils were very shy about asking questions, at one school the first question was actually a comment "your accent is very cool".  This did give other students confidence to ask questions but it was more like a visit with her grandmother than a school visit with questions like "what airline did you fly over with?" and "what is your hotel like?".
  • What do you find is the saddest thing to write?  Maggie said she doesn't get upset writing sad scenes in her books, in fact she usually laughs while writing them.  She likes to play with people's emotions!
  • Who is your favourite character?  Maggie said her favourite character to write is Cole but she definitely wouldn't recommend dating someone like him.  In fact she advised the audience to go out and search for a Sam!
  • Where is The Scorpio Races set?  Maggie didn't want to answer this question but she did whisper that all the place names are Irish so that was probably a good hint.
  • Will there be a third book in the Lament series?  Maggie said she had always planned on the series being a trilogy and she does still plan to write the 3rd book.  The book was kind of pushed into a ditch when the Wolves of Mercy Falls idea came to her, it was about to climb out when The Scorpio Races pushed it back in and then it was knocked back down yet again by her new secret novel.  Maggie did say that if the idea still refuses to climb out of the ditch when she has finished the current book she's working on then she will have to shoot it in the head herself to put it out of it's misery.
After the event had finished it was time for the signing and Maggie very kindly posed with us for this group picture.

Caroline, Lesley, Maggie, me & Lynsey

Then the four of us headed off for an afternoon of shopping, eating and lots of book chat - I do love spending time with other book bloggers :o)  I'd like to say a massive thank you to Catherine at Scholastic and Neil at Foyles for arranging such a fabulous day for us.  We had an amazing time and it was great to get to chat with Maggie again!

Who Was There?
Catherine - Scholastic
Maggie Stiefvater - Website
Jonas & Plunkett - Website
Caroline & Lesley - Big Book Little Book


  1. Sounds like you had a fab day :)Wish I could have been there!

  2. Ooh it looks like you had a fabulous time. I love the writing tips.

  3. @ roro - you're welcome, I'm glad you liked the post :o)

    @ whispering words - it was a fab day thanks & it would have been lovely to meet you!

    @ Viv - we had a fantastic day & Maggie's writing tips were great. She is so funny to listen to :o)



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