On 24th March, the lovely Kate at Scholastic invited a small group of bloggers to meet Maggie Stiefvater for tea and cake at ‘London’s oldest’ patisserie, Maison Bertaux. Making my way to this tiny French cake shop, I felt sort of nervous. It was the first time I had been to an event like this. I had a bag of Maggie’s books with me, hoping it wouldn’t be rude to present her with so many to sign at once and secretly hoping for a coveted Raven Doodle to go with my favourite (and most recent) novel of hers, The Raven Boys.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived... I couldn’t see anyone distinctly bloggerish, or Maggie-looking so asked one of the very French accented men behind the counter if he knew where they were. ‘Ah yes, the book thing, Eet ees downstairs,’ he told me, indicating the door I’d just entered through. Seeing my confusion, he showed me that the shop was split into two, another front door leading into the second part from off of the street. I eventually stumbled down the tiny staircase and spotted a reserved table with several people leaning forward chatting, and a copy of The Raven Boys on the edge of the table. Hooray!
Leanne from District YA and Sophie from So Many Books, So Little Time
I sat down a bit shyly, but it was really a very welcoming set of people I was joining. There were four other bloggers (one had got man flu and hadn’t been able to make it), Maggie and Kate. Kate immediately sent for supplies, a selection of cream cakes and scones arrived, with tea and hot chocolate. I can’t actually eat cake as I can’t eat gluten, and Maggie is intolerant to preservatives so couldn’t join in either, but they certainly looked scrumptious! The hot chocolate was great too! We talked about the bizarre art on the walls, all done by, of all people, Harry Hill. Maggie, as an artist herself, was intrigued but I think ultimately found them as weird as the rest of us.
We quickly learned just how enthused Maggie was to be adopting a pair of ‘fainting goats’ when she got back to the USA. We heard about the new love in her life; her race car (do check Maggie’s website and twitter for photos, it’s quite a piece of art in itself!) and, of course, about her writing. Maggie is 31, but already has a number of bestselling novels under her belt. She told us that she had written or started countless novels aside from those published, but not all of them had made it to completion. She had learnt that the key to finishing a novel was having an ending firmly in mind. The Raven Boys itself was apparently drafted whilst she was at school, but it wasn’t until she thought to introduce Blue’s character that the book seemed to be complete enough to re-work and finally publish. I found this interesting as I very much felt when reading the book that Blue completes the existing circle of boys in the book.
She was very close-mouthed about the new book The Dream Thieves (due out in September) and we didn’t pry. She discussed The Dark Is Rising books by Susan Cooper and how much these had influenced her writing and how awe-struck she had felt when meeting Susan in the flesh. She also talked about the importance of critiquing partners and another blogger had bought a long a copy of The Curiosities, a collection of short stories by Maggie and her critiquing partners that I hadn’t heard of before. The collection is printed in such a way as the critiquing notes and doodles each wrote for the other is displayed alongside the text. It really gives a good feel for how to give and receive constructive criticism.
It was so refreshing to hear Maggie say that ultimately, she writes for herself, not for any particular genre or audience. Indeed, though her books are categorised as young adult, a higher percentage of her readership in the US are actually adults.
After a good couple of hours of chatter, we said our farewells and snapped a few photos. I felt very relaxed in her company and excited for the release of The Dream Thieves in September. And yes, she did sign every one of my books without a thought and yes I do now own a Raven Doodle which I think I will frame and give pride of place on my mantelpiece.