No Brakes Required | Maggie Stiefvater

Photo courtesy the St. Louis County Public Library.

Maggie Stiefvater drives, and fixes, fast cars. She’s had troubles in the past with the brake pedal going alllll the way down, and when she was telling stories to the crowded room at the St. Louis County Library last week, she had a new story with that same plot twist to share. Rather than renting a car for her months-long book promotion tour, she bought a truck for her brother in Detroit, and was going to deliver it in Dallas. Ninety minutes outside of St. Louis, however, the brake pedal went allll the way down. She was able to coast to a gas station, and get a ride to her gig, where she gave the truck away (disclosure of known mechanical issues included) in a drawing for those present. “I have the title in my bagpipe case”, was my favorite quote of the night.

Stiefvater is a storyteller, which was evidenced by her natural, off the cuff talk that completely entranced the audience. Her newest book, All the Crooked Saints, was released on October 10 by Scholastic Press. She told us how the story was created, the place that inspired it, and—the most interesting part—how it changed as it was written. One of the main themes is what it means to be a pilgrim or a saint. Do you have to be one before you become the other? What do we do when our inner darkness manifests?

And then she played the bagpipes.

Stiefvater was nice enough to answer a few questions for us, and signed books for all who were present. She is on tour until the end of December, and I certainly hope that the rest of her trip is as uneventful as possible.

The Arts STL: Neil Gaiman said in Coraline that “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.It seemed the dragons in All the Crooked Saints came from within. Do you think that the internal battles are more difficult to slay than those that are external?

Maggie Stiefvater: Absolutely. Who doesn’t love a good external dragon? A definite bad guy, something that certainly needs to go, a creature that can be solved with one uncomplicated solution: chop off its head. But the truth is that external dragons are rarely that simple (is it really bad, or is it just bad that it’s breathing fire in the suburbs?), and internal ones are even less so. It’s incredibly hard to tell when we’re standing in our own way; we’d always prefer to give the blame to something or someone else. Even once we realize we’re our worst enemy, the road remains rocky: knowing we need to change isn’t the same as knowing how to change.

One of the things I love about your work is that female characters are just as strong as the male characters. Is this a deliberate choice, or is it naturally occurring in your writing?

Beatriz, one of the main characters of All the Crooked Saints, is one of the most challenging characters I’ve had to write in a long time, but not because she’s a strong female character. She’s a girl-scientist, a person with a very specific personality type. I’m very intrigued by psychology, and I’m very intrigued by the concept of Myers-Briggs personality types. It’s a system that sorts everyone into one of sixteen personality types. Many of the types I find not very useful for talking about personality and psychology, but many of the rarer ones are explained very beautifully by Myers-Briggs. In particular, the INTP, one of the introvert types, is known for its whimsical science, its handsome curiosity. I have several INTP friends, and they are often misunderstood, particularly when they are women. No one knows quite what to do with the lady mad scientist. So I set out with Beatriz to write one as a main character. It was more challenging than I expected because the workings of their mind are so curious and web-like, so interested in ideas rather than action. I wanted to stay true to that as much as I could, and maybe put a woman of the sort not often seen in YA fiction front and center. I will say it’s been very satisfying to see the reactions from INTP readers. They really like her.

The faith structure in the book is very unique. Did it evolve along with the characters?

It evolved from my childhood and my prodding around in mythology. I was raised Catholic, and any Catholic can tell you that it’s a strange and superstitious faith, full of equal parts miracles and magic. The Catholic faith has survived for so long by allowing the mythical heroes and secret folktales to creep down the aisle and share a pew. I wanted to nod to that as I wrote Saints, as well as examining the different ways believers come to both religion and science. They mean something different to everyone who engages with them.

Do you believe in miracles?

I do. Sometimes, though, believing in miracles means realizing that you have to be the one to perform them for someone else. | Melissa Cynova

Upcoming appearances:

Tuesday, October 31, 7:00 PM. Changing Hands Phoenix, 300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. http://www.changinghands.com/event/october2017/teen-maggie-stiefvater-all-crooked-saints

Wednesday, November 1, 7:00 P.M. The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84105. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. http://www.kingsenglish.com/event/maggie-stiefvater-all-crooked-saints

Saturday, November 4. This is a multi-author, all day event. Signing lines will be according to con rules, so direct questions to con organizers: http://www.tatteredcover.com/2017-colorado-teen-book-con

Sunday, November 5th. Austin State Capitol and surrounding grounds. Signing line rules are up to the festival. https://www.texasbookfestival.org/festival-intro-page/

Monday, November 6, 7:00 p.m. FirstOntario Arts Centre Milton, 1010 Main Street East, Milton, Ontario, ON L9T 6H7. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. http://mplca.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=794&backTo=Calendar&startDate=2017/11/01

November 7, 7 pm. Indigo Oshawa, 419 King Street West, Oshawa, Ontario L1J 2K5. Talk & signing. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. https://www.facebook.com/events/1715648368743493/?linkId=40238395

Wednesday, November 8. Time TBA. Livras Babar Books, 46 Ste-Anne #2, Point-Claire, Quebec. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. https://www.livresbabarbooks.com/

Saturday, November 11th. Charleston, SC: YALLFest Details to come: https://www.yallfest.org/schedule/. YALLFest has very specific signing line rules; please visit the website for details.

Sunday, November 12, 2:00 P.M. Hillsboro Plaza Shopping Center, 3900 Hillsboro Pike #14, Nashville, TN 37215. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the bookseller-on-site in order to join the signing line. http://do615.com/events/2017/11/12/ya-author-event-with-maggie-stiefvater-author-of-all-the-crooked-saints

Monday, November 13th, 6:00 PM. 215 E. Third St., Dayton OH 45402. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the bookseller-on-site in order to join the signing line. http://www.daytonmetrolibrary.org/news/3031-about-the-book-authors-at-the-dayton-metro-library

Wednesday, November 15, 7:00 pm. Urbana Free Library, 210 West Green Street, Urbana, IL. Talk & signing. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the bookseller-on-site in order to join the signing line. http://host6.evanced.info/urbana/evanced/eventsignup.asp?ID=18674

Thursday, November 16, 6 pm. St. Joseph Library, 304 S. Main Street, South Bend, IN. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the bookseller-on-site in order to join the signing line.

Sunday, November 19th, 7:00 PM. Red Balloon Bookshop, 891 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. http://www.redballoonbookshop.com/

Monday, 11/20, 7:00 p.m. Wellesley Books, 82 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02482. THIS IS A TICKETED EVENT. I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. http://store.wellesleybooks.com/event/maggie-stiefvater

Tuesday, November 21, 6:00 pm. Hooray for Books, 1555 King St. Depending on the size of the crowd, I will sign books brought from home, but please be prepared to buy one book from the store in order to join the signing line. Alexandria, Virginia 22314. http://www.hooray4books.com/

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