Many of your novels (Lament, The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys) are influenced by the Celtic culture. Where does this influence come from? (Do you have British ancestors or used to travel to the UK as a child?)
When I was very young, all of the novels I loved to read were about magic, and my absolute favorite of all of those were the novels that took place in the real world. Most of those, however, were written by British fantasy authors, so to my child-brain, the UK seemed like the only place that magic could possibly truly unfold. That dove-tailed very nicely with my exposure to Celtic myth and music — my family has Scottish roots, and my siblings and I fell in love with the music very early. I had convinced myself as an adult that the UK couldn’t possibly be as magical as I had imagined as a child, but I still remember quite clearly how awed I was when I first arrived there. It wasn’t that it was otherworldly, though — it was that I felt intensely at home. I mined that peculiar sense of belonging for Gansey’s character in The Raven Boys, actually.
The capalluisce legend isn't very popular, at least in Spain. Could you explain our readers a little about these wild creatures?
I’m not sure it’s well-known anywhere right now. I first stumbled across it when I was a kid — this legend of horses that leapt out of the ocean each November and galloped up and down the shore. If you caught this water horses, they would make the best horses you would ever hope to find. But if they caught you, they would drag you down into the ocean and later, just your lungs and liver would wash up. I thought this story was the greatest thing ever, because I owned a terrible e-racehorse that I loved dearly. The story seemed very lifelike.
When you talk about horses in The Scorpio Races, it's obvious that you know what you're talking about. When did you learn to ride? Did you enter any competitions?
I’ve loved horses for a very long time, and I saved up for my first horse when I was ten or eleven. I was a bit of a daredevil — always tearing around bareback and jumping three-foot-fences without stirrups, but the thing I loved more than all of that was dressage. I’m not sure it looks like much to someone who doesn’t know horses, but it’s one of the more difficult disciplines to master. It is a lot like dancing with the horse — you must be in perfect agreement, and know each other very well.
I showed a little bit. Hunter, jumper, dressage. But as in most things in my life, I was more interested in competing against myself than against other people.
In The Scorpio Races the romance is very subtle and in The Raven Boys there literally can be no kissing. Will Sinner mean going back to love stories?
YES. It was quite nice to think: “there should be a kissing scene here —oh! There CAN be a kissing scene here!”
How did your fans react when you announced the release of Sinner?
It was very satisfying: they broke my website. So many readers clicked on the link to find out more that it overwhelmed all of the servers.
Usually your novels have two or more narrators. Why do you prefer that from having only one point of view? Can you tell us who will narrate Sinner?
I’m very interested in the idea of how we all think of ourselves as the hero in our own lives, even if what we’re doing is not actually heroic. When you step outside a main character and study them from another angle, sometimes you see that they are actually not very nice people at all. And sometimes when you step inside a villain and look at them from that angle, you see that they are actually much nicer people than you suspected. As to Sinner, it will be narrated by Cole and Isabel, two of the characters from the original Shiver trilogy.
Did you plan Shiver as a trilogy from the beginning or did you decide you wanted to continue it when you were writing the first one?
At the very beginning, Sam and Grace’s story encompassed just one book. But then I realized there was more of the world I wanted to explore, and not only did I need more books, but I needed more characters. I wrote about wolves not because I’m interested in werewolves, but because I was interested in the idea of losing your identity. I had toured several schools in the U.S. and discovered that teens would shed all of their peculiar characteristics in order to fit in at school. I thought: what a terrible thing. How awful to give away your identity like that. And the wolves stand in for that, because when Sam becomes a wolf, he is losing everything about his human self. When Cole became a wolf, he willingly gave it away. I needed more books to explore why you might do it willingly and how hard it might be to find your way back to humanity.
When did you first heard of the ley lines and how did you know it could fit in your story? Was that the origin of The Raven Boys?
The ley lines — perfectly straight energy lines that connect supernatural places across the globe — were actually the very last element to appear in the series before I wrote it. I began with the sleeping king legends. Nearly every country has one: a story surrounding a celebrated hero saying that he is not dead, but sleeping, and if found will wake and save his country. For a decade, I fretted over how to modernize that legend. Then, once I had developed a character that would search for a king, I was stumped as to how the Welsh legends could be connected to Virginia. I found the ley lines quite by accident while researching a different sort of myth all together, and I knew at once they were the answer to my problem.
I've read that you began writing The Raven Boys when you were 19, and that Ronan was the main character. Why did you decide to make Gansey the protagonist?
I feel as if the boys now share equal time in the spotlight, actually. Gansey is more dominant in the first book, but we see a lot of Ronan in book two. One of the things I am better at now than I was at 19 — well, I have to admit, I’m better at a lot of things than I was at 19 — is juggling multiple characters. I learned a lot from four rotating protagonists in the Shiver trilogy and then even more from the varied cast of characters in The Scorpio Races.
But you asked why Gansey. Gansey and Ronan represent different sides of the magic, and Gansey is in many ways more accessible. Ronan is wild and dark and impossible, and Gansey is controlled and logical and kind.
Why does it take more time to write The Raven Boys than any of your other books?
I was about to say: the characters. But then I thought, no, it’s the plot. And then I thought, no, it’s the magic. And then I thought, no, it’s the everything. It is like a big mural. Once upon a time, I would work very hard on painting a dog, for instance. Now, I’m working on a painting with a dog in it, but there’s also a table, and a family sitting at it, and all of the food on the table, and the light in the window. It takes longer to write than the other books because it is just . . . MORE than the other books. There is more in each page. Readers tell me it takes longer to read The Raven Boys than my other books, and that doesn’t surprise me. I’m stuffing everything I can onto the page.
Before Lament you had written many novels that never got published. Have you written anything you have abandoned or anything that hasn't been published after Lament?
I throw away quite a bit of every book that I write now: for instance, The Dream Thieves, which is the second Raven Boys book, is 125,000 words long now (or so) and I have a file full of all of the deleted material from the writing of it. That file is over 150,000 words long. But you mean entire projects, right? I have a third installment in my Lament/ Ballad series that is written and languishing. I don’t think of it as abandoned, though. It’s just waiting for me to edit it. I am a much firmer believer in the power of revision now.
Would you have kept writing if Lament hadn't been published? If so, is that your advice for future writers: keep trying, never lose hope?
Oh, of course. In fact, Lament was originally turned down. The editor who ended up purchasing it asked me to revise it, and I did, and then he said it still wasn’t good enough, but to send him my next project. It took me a year to find the time to write another novel, and then I sent it to him. He said that it was so much better that he was certain I could fix Lament if I tried. So I tried. And I did fix it.
I was nowhere near giving up. I always tell writers that there is nothing magical about learning to write a novel. It’s like learning to play Bach on the piano. Anyone can learn it. Some people just take longer, or they stop before they finish learning the techniques. Novelists are just writers who kept going until they were good. Anyone can get there.
Your novels, specially the last ones, are difficult to fit into any categories. Do you think your atypical education is part of the reason why your work is so original?
My. I don’t think you’re allowed to call your own work original, are you? I think my stuff is weird because I’ve stopped trying to amuse anyone but myself. I’ve realized that if I write as well as I can for the reader that I am, I will find other readers like myself and entertain them too. I’ve stopped wondering if my humor is too strange or my interests too particular. I’ve realized that the books I love to read are books that don’t seem to fit into any trend. And so those are the books I try to write. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found loyal readers who are willing to pick up my latest novel, no matter how strange the description on the back might be. That is such a gift.
Do you read a lot of young adult novels? Do you have any recommendations for your Spanish readers?
I read all the time, across all sorts of genres. It’s hard for me to know what has been translated, so I’m going to merely give you my constantly-updated list of recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1246837-maggie-stiefvater?shelf=recommended