Maggie Stiefvater, the wildly creative mind behind beautiful, compelling and unputdownable books like The Raven Cycle series, The Scorpios Races and The Shiver series has gifted us with a new standalone, All The Crooked Saints. Since she’s one of a handful of authors we have on auto-buy, we had to check in with Maggie to get a sneak peek before the book releases in October.
J: HI Maggie! So let’s start at the beginning, what inspired you to start writing ATCS?
MS: Conceiving a novel idea is a lot like holding a stick of butter. I think we can all agree that a stick of butter is a great thing, but not by itself. You have to do something with it, and oh, all the possibilities!
I had a stick of butter for ATCS, and it was this: a family both tied together and threatened by magic in the southeastern Colorado desert. One of my favorite books growing up was A Wrinkle In Time and its companions (honk if you’re excited for the movie), and one of the things I always loved about them was that family was paramount. So that was the first stick of butter. I knew I wanted to make something with it, but it took over a year before I had figured out what recipe I wanted to make and where to get the ingredients.
J:Roses and owls are featured on the (gorgeous!) cover and in the book. What was it about them and do they have deeper meaning?
MS: Once upon a time, when I was a child, I thought I wanted to be a professional rose grower. I had a lot of things I wanted to be as a child — I guess most kids do — but this one persisted for a long enough time for me to plant an entire garden of roses in my teens, growing them from cuttings, grafting them like a mad scientist, raising them to tender adulthood. I suppose I like them for the same reason I like all of the arts — they’re science, but they’re also beauty. A lot of time and deliberate work goes into something that is meant to be effortlessly appreciated.
And owls. I think I might have a bird thing, honestly. Ravens in The Raven Cycle, owls for ATCS, [spoiler *redacted bird species* spoiler] for [spoiler *redacted upcoming novel project * spoiler]. I really find myself drawn to the mythology and folklore that surrounds birds — for ATCS, for instance, I spent a lot of time reading about Mexican witches who also sometimes turn into owls.
I also have a lot of flying dreams. I don’t remember what that says about you. I might actually be a bird.
J: Being a bird would just be one of many miracles in this book! But these miracles aren’t necessarily the traditional kind people might expect. What do the miracles mean to the characters in this book.
MS: The Soria family can perform only one odd miracle: they can make a pilgrim’s inner darkness visible and concrete (and then it’s up to the pilgrim to defeat this newly visible darkness). Even though there’s only one kind of miracle though, there are many feelings about it among the Soria family. To one, it’s spiritual — a calling. To another, it’s science — as magical as heart surgery. To yet another, it’s frightening. It’s powerful, and we humans tend to have very mixed feelings about power.
J: What was it about the 1960s, Colorado and pirate radio that made it the perfect backdrop for the Sorias, their miracles and their family story?
MS: The 60s were a coming of age for our country — a growing up out of innocence and ignorance into something more canny and self-aware. The world was getting bigger and more interconnected in a hurry. Suddenly many eyes were opening to the injustice, dangers, and possibilities that had always existed all around them — and the bodies attached to those eyes began to decide yo do something about it. That parallels the Soria family’s story well. Plus, I love that music. I grew up listening to it, so it’s incredibly nostalgic.
J: Love. That. And it explains whey there is something so basic, poetic and noble about these characters. Did they arrive in your mind as whole or did they evolve? What was the process?
MS: I wanted the main character of this story to be the Soria family as a whole, rather than any individual character. Their struggles and successes are intimately tied together, and so I tried my best to make the narrative focus match that. That said, scientific Beatriz and dreamy, bombastic Joaquin and gentle, wise Daniel were set very early on in the process. They’re the anchors, for sure.
J: Swinging back to music, if there was a theme song for this book, what would it be?
MS: I actually have an abbreviated playlist HERE
J: You write novels, you write music, you create art. What inspires you most?
MS: Like a badly tended rose, I wither without all of these in my creative life, but I suppose if I had to choose one, music is the one that powers my soul. Just a few chords can take me to an entirely different emotional plane. To me, that’s a miracle.
J: OK, to close let’s play a round of Quick Questions….
1. Right now you’re obsessed with…artists from the 1920s.
2. Your most defining personality trait is… curiosity. Maybe.
3. Haha. OK, if you could only drive one car the rest of your life it would be…my 1973 Camaro, even though it’s a brat.
4. The song you’re most likely to hit replay on is… right now? I’m really digging “Fool,” by the Sweeplings.
Love it! Thank you Maggie!