Maggie Stiefvater’s first book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Shiver
, came out in the summer of 2009 to acclaim from both reviewers and readers. (At BookPage, we called it
“a perfect indulgence for readers of all ages.”) Though it garnered the inevitable comparisons to Twilight
and other recent supernatural romances, Stiefvater’s elegant writing lifted Shiver
above the rest of the crowded field.
Now in Linger, Stiefvater expands the story to include not only Sam and Grace, the star-crossed lovers of Shiver, but also Sam’s werewolf pack and Grace’s friend Isabel, who has her own connection to the wolves. Stiefvater’s writing is as lovely as ever, and Linger will leave readers quivering in anticipation for Forever, the third and final book in the series.
We contacted the 28-year-old author at her home in Virginia to ask about werewolves, happy endings and the upcoming film version of Shiver.
Supernatural romance seems to be the genre of choice right now. Do you think about your readers’ tastes when you’re writing, or do you simply move forward with the story you feel compelled to write?
I’m very dubious about writing to the market. It’s one thing to tweak a current book to be more marketable (like removing all of the f-bombs from Shiver, for instance) and another thing entirely to write what you think is the next big thing. I think a story that you write for yourself, that you love, that you connect with on a thematic level—it’ll last longer. Readers can tell if you’re playing marbles for keeps.
I’ve always loved contemporary fantasy so it was a no-brainer as to what I’d end up writing. Growing up, I was the kid in the library with my head turned sideways, looking for the unicorn/fantasy stickers on the spines of the library books.
Have you always had a fascination with werewolves, or did you have to start from scratch in researching your chosen subject matter?
Actually, I always felt certain I would never write about werewolves or vampires. I thought they were trendy monsters and you would never catch me being trendy, oh no! But then I was tossing around this idea of writing a bittersweet love story for teens, and it just happened to coincide with a short story competition for YA werewolf fiction. Events conspired to bring together that idea of a bittersweet mood, a bad werewolf short story and a well-placed dream.
After that, it was researching I went. Not so much about werewolves, because I didn’t want all the slobbering and shedding that had gotten attached to the lore. Since I was used to writing about old, old faerie lore, it was great to be able to dive back in and see where the wolf legends started. I would say I spent much more time researching real wolves than the jeans-wearing sort. I want the real bits to be true.
If you had to choose only one category for the series, would you say the books are more fantasy or romance? Which category is more important to the stories?
I guess I’ll go with romance out of the two—although I think when you say “romance,” readers assume there is a happy ending, and I don’t think that’s a promise I’m willing to make. But I’d rather people paid attention to the coming of age, not the paranormal elements, if they were going to pay attention to one over the other. The supernatural bits are always a metaphor for something real.
What do you think about the fact that the film rights to Shiver have already been purchased? Do you worry that the film version won’t be able to live up to the version you created?
I am amazingly calm about it, considering how neurotic I can be about projects. I think it’s because, at this stage, I have no influence over the film at all, so I don’t feel any personal responsibility over what the final product looks like. In my head, I know what I want the film to look like—a really simple, moody piece filled with small gestures and pretty photography more than explosions and sweeping romantic subplots. But that’s if I made it. I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll come up with something that might not be the same, but might be pretty darn lovely in its own right.
You added two more points of view in Linger (those of Isabel and Cole). Will there be additional points of view in the third book, Forever?
I think four is a personal high for me. Any more voices in my head than that and I think it’s time to call in professional help.
Your web site notes that Forever will be the final book in the series. Are you planning to wrap everything up, or will you leave a few things for the reader to question?
Don’t think I don’t spy you dancing on the edge of spoilery! I don’t think I’ll ever wrap up an ending entirely. I think the endings that have stuck with me over the years are the ones that leave a question or don’t give you everything you thought you wanted.
Why did you choose Rainer Maria Rilke as Sam’s favorite poet?
I had a very limited knowledge of Rilke when I started out—just some of his more common quotes and poems—but as I delved more deeply into Sam’s backstory, it made sense to give him an interest in something that tied together some of the German language backstory and his interest in lyrics and poetry. Also Rilke examines a lot of the same concepts that Sam does. It got me into reading a lot more German poetry, in translation and not, and annoyingly, I had to abandon a lot of poetry that I liked because it just didn’t fit in with Sam’s character. I try to find poetry that fits with Sam’s voice: introspective, wistful and simple. No rhyming couplets for our werewolf hero.
You composed the music for your books’ trailers, and of course Sam’s lyrics are a big part of the books, as well. Have you ever published any poetry or had any of your song lyrics recorded?
Actually, the closest I’ve come to having any of my poetry published is the snippets of poetry that appear at the beginning of each chapter in Ballad, one of my faerie YA novels. They are attributed to a fictional poet briefly mentioned in the text, and I’ve gotten dozens of emails asking if the volume they supposedly come from really exists. I had never thought myself actually capable of writing poetry until that moment (with the exception of a rhyming poem about a chiropractor I wrote when I was 15).
I am afraid that the most I have done with my lyrics is to record myself (badly) singing werewolf songs on YouTube for the amusement of my readers. I’ve played with several bands with several different instruments, but I think my talents—in a twist I realize is incredibly ironic—extend to the non-verbal.
That’s right. That’s me saying that sometimes, New York Times best-selling authors are better when they leave the words to other people.