Ok, I’m doing something different this week! Because I am a rebel and I’m having a rebellion! This week I am not recommending a book – this week I am recommending A WHOLE AUTHOR. (buh, buh buuuuuuuuuuuh). Not only is this a recommendation for said author’s entire body of work, it’s also kind of recommending her as a person you should follow on The Social Media because she’s really really cool.
Everybody, meet Maggie Stiefvator:
I became an unabashed Maggie fangirl in kind of a weird way. I knew of her but hadn’t read any of her work until a blog I follow (Forever Young Adult – check ‘em out) reviewed her book The Raven Boys (more on that later), which sounded like my cup of tea. As it turned out, it was DEFINITELY my cup of tea, so the moment the sequel, The Dream Thieves went to paperback (I’m poor), I bought it.
So Maggie does this thing where she randomly signs copies of her books and then scatters them around without telling anyone. Imagine my shock when I open my shiny new Dream Thieves and see this:
I was sure I was being punked, so I took to Tumblr, a den of toxicity that I usually avoid being active on, to see if someone could confirm the legitimacy of the signature and MAGGIE CONFIRMED HERSELF. Cue Meg flipping the eff out.
Because The Raven Boys was one of my favourite books of twenty-whenever (I can’t honestly remember – 2012 ish?), and because I now owned a signed copy of the sequel which turned out to be EVEN BETTER, I decided I need to know more about the magical unicorn of an author who wrote them. I mean, the woman just randomly signs her books and leaves them around in stores for unsuspecting fans to buy. That is magical unicorn behaviour if I ever saw it.
So here’s the thing – Maggie Stiefvator is straight up baddass. She’s a visual artist, musician, mom, owner of seven Pygmy Fainting Goats (You think I’m kidding – I’m not), racer of fast cars (you think I’m kidding – I’m not) AND a best-selling author. I would think this woman is basically super human, except that she is very, very open about the fact that she is nothing of the sort. And that makes her even more awesome.
But seriously guys, we’re talking about a person who writes a book, draws and epic book plate for said book, writes music to accompany said book, then drives to signings in a car that she has painted to look like a car from the book.
MAGGIE I WANT TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND.
But anyhoo, this is a Friday Reads column, and I’m here to promote books, not the cyber-stalking* of an author I admire, so I guess now is probably a good time to talk about, you know, things you can read.
I have not read Maggie’s entire body of work, though I plan to. The reasons for this shortcoming amount to a) I’m poor, b) I don’t have a library card currently and c) I refuse to pirate books online. If you want to see her entire book-ography go to maggiestiefvator.com (where you can also purchase her hand drawn set of Tarot Cards if that floats your boat, which how would that not? It’s the coolest?!?). I will, however, wholeheartedly recommend to you the books I HAVE read, because they are awesomeballs.
As mentioned previously, The Raven Boys was my gateway drug. It’s book one of a four-book series called The Raven Cycle. Said cycle wrapped up just this past April, and I still have so many feelings about the final book, I can hardly articulate it. If you like any of the following: magic, welsh kings, terror, friendship, fortunate telling, hard-to-like boys and/or people in general, lady-psychics, whacky side-characters, bat-shit craziness and gorgeous world-building then settle in folks, ‘cause I found your dream books. And don’t be fooled by the four male protagonists – they are tempered by kick-ass chick Blue Sargeant, who only needs one of her to match the awesome of the quartet of boys. Not to mention her incredibly awesome psychic mom, Maura, and Maura’s equally awesome psychic friends Calla and Persephone. Girl power abounds.
Plus Maggie writes magic and horror in ways that speak to me on a soul-deep level that I can’t explain lest I sound like more of a crazy person than I generally already do, but I’m just saying. There is one chapter in the final Raven book that was such a perfect blend of creepy-ass magical darkness and awe with a side of ew gross, and OH SNAP, that it’s become the benchmark goal for every piece of magic-horror I ever plan to write in the future. I’m serious guys.
And if for some reason the above doesn’t interest you, you can go pick up The Scorpio Races which is a stand-alone, girl-and-her-horse novel in which the horses TRY TO EAT YOU. It sounds ridiculous but it’s not, it’s terrifying and amazing. If you need further convincing, Maggie animated a trailer for it, because why would she not?
Just read the books, guys, have I ever steered you wrong?
And if nothing I’ve said so far is enough to convince you to go check this lady out, then I’m going to leave you with this: the most beautiful post about real-life magic I have ever read (in Maggie’s own words):
Are you listening closely?
As an author, I travel a lot. At one point, I was on the road one day out of every three — planes, hotels, rental cars. There’s a rhythm to it, like running up a very long flight of stairs. You figure out how many stairs you can take in a jump, and how to breathe-in-breathe-out to keep from wasting your lungs, and you learn how to tell when you have to stop to rest your knees or you just won’t make it to the top.
The airports and the planes and the people can all start to seem the same after awhile, if you’re looking at them wrong. If you let them. Anything in life can sound ordinary if that’s all you’re listening for.
Back in 2014, I was in a Texas airport. The night had that glittering senseless jitter to it that happens when you’re tired but going home, finally going home. I was early for my flight and sitting several gates away from my real gate, listening to music. A young man sat down two seats away. Ordinarily, tired and occupied with the peculiar every-day magic of the music in my headphones, I wouldn’t have noticed him, but a moment later, a phone rang. He asked if it was mine; it wasn’t. Someone had forgotten it on the seat between us.
We both looked at it.
It rang again for someone who didn’t know to pick up, and then he took it away to one of the United desks for them to give it to someone who would listen. He didn’t return.
Two hours later, I went to my real gate to board. Full flight. Everyone was checking and double-checking their seat assignments as they defended their right to aisles and windows. When my seatmate settled himself next to me, I looked up, and it was the guy from the waiting area. He had a tilt to his chin that telegraphed that he thought he was hot shit and a grin that said he recognized me.
We laughed ruefully and applied our headphones — we both knew the routine of polite air travel. But the agreeable tingle of the coincidence still ate at me, and I could tell it ate at him, too, because after a few moments, he offered me a truffle from his bag. I told him I couldn’t take it because of my allergies, but the headphones came off. We started to talk.
And he was a big talker. He was cocky. A surgical resident. He told me how he loved the hell out of taking internal organs out of people. He described how he listened to sixty-minute epic soundtracks in his ear buds while he removed appendixes and gallbladders, kidneys and stones. He told me of watching Dateline by himself at the end of seventy and eighty hour work weeks, and he told me about his Hyundai, which I made fun of. Confidentially, he whispered to me about a surgeon he knew who had the goal of removing every gallbladder in Texas. Two hours into the flight, the conversation tilted toward spirituality. He’s hot shit, he confessed, and works hard, but he sometimes wonders if he’s allowed to want to be successful, or if that makes him a bad person. Because he’s working a lot of hours in a week, and he’s tired, but he’s pretty sure that he’s hot shit, but maybe that’s not allowed.
I was watching him fumble his fingers over each other. He was scratching a hole in his own palm.
And all at once there was a phone in my head, and it was ringing just for me.
“One of your parents has obsessive-compulsive disorder,” I told him. “Maybe both.”
The shimmering grin slipped. “How did you know? How could you know that?”
I asked him if he was getting treatment for it.
He said, “No, no, I’m over it. How could you know that?”
Because in a foggy way, that phone was still ringing between us, and now, I recognized the number.
I said, “Don’t kill yourself.”
He replied, “No way,” and then he started to cry.
The shit-eating grin had vanished. He told me how he’d made up his mind that he didn’t want to make it to 35. He’d researched all the ways to make sure he didn’t. Over the next hour, I told him about my OCD, and how I thought his uncertainty over wanting to be successful but also wanting to be humble was a function of his OCD’s spiritual obsession. That he wasn’t over OCD, that you never were, but that his agony didn’t have to be a real thing. He could be both humble and successful. It wasn’t against the rules of goodness to be proud of what you’d done, as long as you were doing things for the right reasons.
I told him how once I bought a race car, but I’d given it away to someone who could use the money, because I realized I was only racing to look sexy in a car, and not because it was really making me happy.
I told him he didn’t have to worry about looking sexy in a Hyundai, though, and he replied that he would look sexy in anything, and then he cried a little more.
Everyone else in the plane was asleep, but we were wide awake.
When we got off the plane in Virginia, the surgical resident gave me an awkward side-hug, and he wiped his face. Then he dug in his bag for the wrapper from his truffle. As the other travelers shuffled past us sleepily, he pressed it into my hand. He didn’t want to give me his name, he said, but he wanted something for me to remember so that when we ran into each other again in 15 years, I’d know who he was.
After we’d parted ways, I turned my phone off airplane mode, and a text came in that had been sent while I was in the air. It was from the person I’d given the race car to. I hadn’t heard from him in nearly six months. The text said only: thank u maggie i have such a hppy life bc of u
You have to be listening closely. Phones are ringing all over the world, and sometimes they look like magical forests, and sometimes they look like race cars, and sometimes they look like surgical residents.
** Please do not stalk people, in the cyber way or the other way, that’s creepy. Don’t be creepy.