We here at yaReads love us a bit of Maggie Stiefvater. She’s the author of Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception , and she has two more books on the way. Maggie sat down with us this week and let us pick her brains a little. Here’s what she had to say…
So Lament is a book about evil faeries that essentially want to snatch Dee, the main character. How much research into fey folk lore did you do before writing Lament?
A lot. But it doesn’t count, because I did most of it for my own personal entertainment value when I was a teen. I’ve been pretty much obsessed with homicidal faeries in myth and legend since I was young, so I read every book I could get my hands on. When I wrote LAMENT, it was just a matter of consolidating. I do think it’s pretty true to the lore, though. The only really big original concept is that of the Cloverhand, which is all mine, baby.
How did you come up with your character names, or perhaps I should rephrase and ask what on earth possessed you to call your protagonist Deirdre?! 😛
Hahaha! I started writing LAMENT back when I was sixteen and very idealistic and melodramatic and obsessed with all things Irish, and back then, I named all of my characters things like Deirdre and Fiona and Colleen and just about every cliche Irish heroine name ever invented. By the time I got to the publishing process with Flux, I had outgrown it and tried to avoid it by calling her “Dee” a lot in the novel.
What I was too chicken to do at the time was ask my editor if I could change her name, but I was such a newbie author, I didn’t realize that I could. And later (far too late to change it), he confessed that he hated the name too. But it turned out all right, because it did end up being important to the plot. Still, I like to think I’ve become a little more typical with my naming habits.
How did you choose your fearie names?
I went with old Irish names for most of the faeries — trying to stick with ones that were pretty to look at and hopefully not impossible to pronounce. Most of these aren’t the faeries’ true names — they’re the names that they’ve acquired over the years — so some of them have slightly more modern ones.
If you were fey, what would your faerie name be?
I would say Nuala, because I always loved the name Nuala (sounds good too: Nooooooooooola), but I just used it for the main faerie girl in BALLAD. So now I will be forced to choose something else. I’m not sure what — Maggie is a name I chose for myself when I was 16, so choosing yet another that really fits me is a bit challenging.
Dee plays the harp and I know that you also do as well. What else do you have in common with Dee?
Mmm, not much. Dee is a nervous-barfer, and I can’t remember the last time I threw up. Dee is also very self-conscious, and I got over any self-consciousness I had left somewhere around the delivery of my kids, when everyone in the world comes and takes a look under your hospital gown to see how things are coming along. Dee’s also able to sing. I don’t think you’d like to hear me sing.
I think I’m probably a lot more like James, if truth be told.
Did you model any of your characters off of people you know? If so, which ones and who?
Yes, I steal all the time. But I’m very insidious about it. If I stole someone whole-cloth, they’d notice. So instead I steal someone’s shyness, someone’s accent, someone’s bad habits. And then I reassemble them into an entirely different character. Still, I think a clever person who knew me could probably tell where I got some of my influences. Dee is rather like my sister Kate. And like I said, James is a lot like me. My husband shows up in a very hard-to-spot form in SHIVER.
Tolstoy once said that by the end of writing Anna Karenina, he’d spent so much time with Anna that he ended up hating her. Are there any characters in Lament that you dislike, or did not enjoy writing about?
Ha! There was a point where I was hoping that Dee would be hit by a literary car. I’m not sure why that happened with her, since I’m still in love with James from BALLAD and Sam and Grace from SHIVER, even after all the edits. I think it’s probably because I started the seeds of LAMENT years and years and years ago, so I’ve been around Dee for longer than my husband.
The following Q&A might contain spoilers.
Now I’d like to ask some plot specific questions. Firstly, how did you decide that Luke’s soul would resemble a pigeon?
Well, dove. I wanted the idea that a soul before anything happened to it was this pure, innocent thing, and a dove represents that idea. I also liked the idea that it appeared different to different people. The Queen obviously saw it in a much less flattering light than Dee, who was in love with Dee.
Luke’s soul was a dove? I swear I saw the word pigeon. Maybe I was reading too fast!!!
No, you were right, in a way — Dee saw it as a dove, but the Queen saw it as a pigeon and said as much at the end — because they both saw Luke in different ways. To Dee, he’s something amazing . . . to the Queen, he was just . . . ordinary and to be looked down on.
What exactly was in the pasty concoction that Granna was working on?
Mmm. Good stuff involving all the herbs and plants and flowers that faeries cannot abide. There is a lot of plant and tree-lore that relates to the faeries, and I’d like to play with that more in another novel.
Will we find out in Ballad (the sequel to Lament) who is responsible for hurting Granna?
How did Dee’s family end up with a faerie hound?
It was a good way for the faeries to keep tabs on a family that had been of interest to them for a long time, especially after they began to suspect that Dee might be more than she seemed.
Was Luke in love with Dee before, or after he approached her at the recital?
After! Beforehand, he was definitely just thinking of her as yet another job that he really didn’t want to complete.
At the beginning of the novel, Dee is in the bathroom before her harp performance puking her guts up – is that something you’re well acquainted with as well?
Years and years of playing music in public means that I don’t really get nervous anymore (my agent tells me orange juice is great for settling nerves, by the way — I will say it makes me feel pretty even-keeled before speaking to large groups). Even back when I used to get really nervous, I generally busted out with goosebumps instead. But I do know nervous pukers and I thought it would be a pretty visual method of getting Dee’s phobia across.
End of spoilers.
What is your fave YA novel you’ve read in the last six months?
Tough choice, but I’ll have to go with SAVING FRANCESCA, which is surprising, because I never used to like contemporary YA that didn’t feature any supernatural elements terrorizing the main characters. But I was just writing the review for SAVING FRANCESCA for you guys and it made me want to read it again — so it must be love.
You’ve got two kids, right? How do you fit writing in around looking after a family?
Heh. It’s a very delicate balance. I have to say right now that my husband is amazing and supportive and no, you can’t have him. But he’s always been good about taking the kids out of the house and out of my hair when I need to get work done on his days off. They’re also in school three days a week, which helps.
But when it comes down to it, I wrote LAMENT back when my husband’s work hours were crazy, the kids weren’t in school yet, and I was working full time as a portrait artist to make my living. I wrote it in three hour chunks once a week — so don’t let time be your excuse for not finishing your novel!
You’ve got two more books planned for release. Please tell us a little about Ballad and Shiver…
I’m really, really excited about both of these, because I feel I grew so much as a writer during and after the LAMENT writing and editing process.
Ballad, the sequel to LAMENT, comes out October 1st. It’s narrated by James and takes place at Thornking-Ash the fall after LAMENT ends. The official descriptions for both BALLAD and SHIVER are here at my site: www.maggiestiefvater.com/forthcoming.html, but I can add that BALLAD is about coming to grips with the elements in LAMENT that were pushed to the side by the overarching threat of the Faerie Queen. It’s about what it really means for James to be psychic and for Dee to draw faeries to her all the time. It’s about James coming to grips with his feelings for Dee and vice versa.
And SHIVER. Oh, SHIVER. It’s not set in the same world as LAMENT/ BALLAD, and it’s the first unabashedly romantic novel that I’ve written, where the whole point of it is the love story. It’s about a girl who has always watched the wolves behind her house and a boy who must turn into a wolf each winter, and it’s happy, and sad, and bittersweet . . . and I’m really proud of it. I love the plot in BALLAD, but I feel like with SHIVER I really matured even more and played with words in a way I couldn’t when I wrote LAMENT.
We’d like to extend our thanks to Maggie for taking the time out to answer our questions!