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Fun Friday Interview: Maggie Stiefvater!

Today we are delighted to be able to chat a little bit with Maggie Stiefvater, author of Lament, Ballad, and the acclaimed Shiver, the first novel in her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, with the sequel Linger due out in July. (Hooray!)

So welcome, Maggie!  We’re super excited to getting to know a little bit more about you.

First things first.  Many of your characters have some sort of strong musical leanings… can you tell us a little bit about your own musical background?
Music makes the world go ‘round. My mom put me at the piano when I was a tiny maggot, and then I picked up other instruments as I went: harp, guitar, bodhran (that’s a sort of Irish drum), tin whistle, and finally, in college, the bagpipes, which I played competitively for a few years. Yes, I know. You don’t have to tell me.
Anyway, I love music. I have it playing all the time, Celtic, Classical, Alternative Rock . . . I have music playing right now. “I Love the Trees” by Nomos. I was just listening to “Walking the Dog” by Fun. before that.

You’ve shown off some of your doodling on your Livejournal, what other hidden talents do you have?

I swear, I have no other hidden talents beside art and music and writing. I can’t make tortillas. I am not good at sitting still. I can drive a stick shift. Does that count? Also, I can perform a cartwheel.

What is your absolute, no-holds-barred favorite bit of the writing process?

That moment when I write a scene and I know that it is going to hurt the readers in some way, either because it’s so, so bad or so, so good. I love to put characters in situations that almost break them, and the almost-breaking is fantastic — but so is the other side when they become giant and strong.

We’re all about YA fantasy here.  What is it about the genre you find so appealing?

Teens are really powerful, passionate people. Who wouldn’t want to write about that? One day I might write an adult book, but for now, I love writing about that edge when you find yourself.

Do you, have you, or would you work in another genre?

Other than fantasy YA? I always tell people that there is something very lovely about a platonic shower with your boyfriend/ husband/ lover, but that I would never be able to write on in a YA though I really want to. One of these days, I will be unable to stop myself and will have to write an adult book because of that. When you see me come out with my first adult book, look for the shower scene. Because that will be the cause of it all.

Your faeries really are nice and homicidal, aren’t they?  You also seem to know faerie lore like the back of your hand.  Was this all research you did for your books, or was it something you were already familiar with?

Oh, I grew up with this stuff. I was a small, strange child like Coraline or Wednesday Addams, and I always had a fat, dusty tome of mythology in my lap. While other girls were telling you about fairy godmothers, I was advising you to hang open scissors above cribs to keep fairies from stealing the baby.

Musicians are always being asked for their influences–who are your biggest influences in writing?

Hm. Audrey Niffenegger, because she first gave me the “hmmm, I wonder” thought about alternative point of views, and also because she made me cry, which never happens, and made me want to do that to other people. Mary Lawson’s Crow Lake was lovely and subtle and taught me to trust my readers. Diana Wynne Jones taught me to use humor when things got bad.

You have some seriously awesome music on your story soundtracks on your website.  What music is inspiring you right now?

Thanks! I am listening to “Eagle Eye” by Brian Tyler for a Super Secret Project I am writing. And I just handed the draft of FOREVER to my editor while listening to “First Floor People” by Barcelona.

I loved Shiver and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series–Not asking for specific spoilers here, but looking at it in comparison to your Faeries series, are we going to be sticking close to the characters we know, or get a closer look at some of the smaller characters from the first book in Linger and Forever?

A little bit of both. Linger is definitely more a true sequel to Shiver than Ballad is to Lament. We definitely get Sam and Grace, but the world opens up a bit to include Isabel and a newcomer, Cole. I’m very excited to see how readers react to them . . . especially Cole, one of the most challenging characters I’ve ever written.

I’ve just discovered your Merry Sisters of Fate blog that you’re involved in—can you tell us a little more about that?

Ooh, yes! I write short fiction each month over there at www.merryfates.com, with my two critique partners, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. The theory was this: when I was a full time artist, I was part of a movement called “Painting a day.” You were supposed to start and finish a painting each day — usually a small one so you could manage it all. I did it for two years and so there are hundreds of Maggie pieces out there. And I got so amazingly better from year to year because of it that I decided that it would be fantastic to do the same thing with my writing. So we jumped in and started the blog, and for the first year, we each did a short story every week. Now we’ve cut back to once a month because we all have other deadlines going on, but man. Those first stories versus what we do now? It’s been amazing.

Thank you so much for your time, Maggie!  I can promise that the Hollow Tree plans on keeping a very close eye on you in the future!

Thank you guys so much for the fantastic questions!!

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Be sure to check out Maggie’s author website and blog, and look for her books in stores!  They come highly, highly recommended from the Hollow Tree Team!


Book Geek Wednesday: We Geek over Ballad

Okay, so yesterday we put up a review of Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater, who we’ll be interviewing on Friday.  A few days before, Isabelle and I geeked out about the book on instant messenger.  This is the result. 🙂  We didn’t get super in-depth about the book, I admit, but we did squee… a lot.  This might be the tiniest bit spoilery, so be warned!

Isabelle: I loved Ballad
Isabelle: the idea that the muse killed the men she inspired
Isabelle: So awesome.
Isabelle: So brilliant.
Lisa: hahaha
Lisa: I loved James.  Oh man.
Isabelle: I figured you would
Isabelle: LOL
Lisa: ROFL
Isabelle: He was sooo… you.
Lisa: hahahaha
Lisa: YES.  He was.
Isabelle: I did have a soft spot for him though.
Isabelle: I’ll admit.
Isabelle: And I was VERY angry when Dee kissed him.
Lisa: Yeah.
Isabelle: I mean, how cruel
Isabelle: that whole pull and tug relationship was just brutal to watch
Isabelle: /read
Lisa: I mean… I almost wanted her to give in and be with him.  But when she started crying, I was just like… hell no.
Lisa: I loved it. hahaha
Isabelle: I know, me too.
Isabelle: We’re such sadists.
Isabelle: ha ha
Lisa: True.
Lisa: Because really, I didn’t like Nuala a ton… I just wanted James happy.
Isabelle: Nuala struck me as very unfae
Isabelle: She was so typical teenage girl it was kind of weird
Isabelle: I know that was the point… lure prey and all that… but it seemed so odd…
Isabelle: I LOVED the teacher.
Isabelle: He just fascinated me.
Lisa: OH MAN I KNOW.
Isabelle: There was so much about him in general that worked for me… and then when he talked about his old experiences I kind of got shivers and was like, poor dude.
Isabelle: He’s wayyy too familiar with the folk
Lisa: I was picturing him as Ed Quinn…. I’m a sucker for Ed Quinn.
Lisa: Side note—he’s who I wanted for The Time Traveler’s Wife, too… but he’s a bit too old to play the younger years.
Isabelle: I loved that James played bagpipes. I don’t know why but that made him like really cool in my book
Isabelle: lol
Isabelle: Oh… and weird creepy roommate hearing the names and the song.
Isabelle: That whole plot line. FASCINATED me
Lisa: Yeah, I ended up really liking the roommate.
Lisa: Yeah.
Lisa: I LOVED the Ophelia conversation.  Oh my goodness that was my favorite thing in the book.
Isabelle: OH i know!
Isabelle: SO fitting!
Isabelle: That was a really great scene.
Lisa: That where he realizes that she DOES love him, just not the way he wanted… killed me.
Isabelle: I know. The poor kid. He was really so hung up on her.
Isabelle: I mean, even in Lament, where he sends her that last text.
Isabelle: Guh.
Isabelle: Too much.
Lisa: Yeah.
Isabelle: It makes my heart hurt for him.
Isabelle: And I don’t even really fully feel Nuala was right for him.
Isabelle: Though I was glad he was no longer caught up on Dee.
Isabelle: I think Nuala was just… there at the right time and could share something he was really passionate about…

So… maybe not the most professional review we’ve done, and I have to say, I do like Nuala… especially what she turns into and how she develops, she just takes some getting used to.  Anyhow, be sure to come back for our interview with Maggie on Friday!


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, is the sequel to Lament, a story about a girl named Deidre which I reviewed enthusiastically a while back, and Isabelle reviewed just a little bit ago.  Yes, it’s good enough that we both took a shot at it.

Somehow I was taken by surprise when I started reading this and found myself seeing through the eyes of James, Dee’s neurotic-but-quietly-awesome best friend.  I’d even read that it was from his POV, but that had been before I’d read either book, and some hopeful forgetful part of me had blanked it out and was waiting for more Dee.  It didn’t take me to see that Stiefvater definitely knew what she was doing when she decided that James was certainly capable of carrying his own novel—not to mention more than worthy of his own happy ending.

James is barely there in Lament—or really, no, he’s not, but it feels like he is, as the reader, through Dee’s perspective, generally takes him for granted, enchanted as she is by Luke and her own developing possibilities.  Ballad starts as James and Dee are starting their first year at Thornking-Ash, a musical conservatory that sneaking suspicion says has more to it than meets the eye.  Well, sneaking suspicion and that nightly song of the dead.

It doesn’t take James long to wonder just what the hell he’s doing there—he’s already the best piper (yes, bagpiper) in the state, and no one at the school—or even the surrounding area—has the expertise he’d require in a teacher.  He’s not kidding himself, though.  He knows he’s followed Dee there.  Dee, his best friend, who he carries a tortuous unrequited love for.  Dee, who saved his life from homicidal faeries the year before—but who still chose Luke, in her heart.  Dee, who refuses to talk to him about any of it, and avoids his company unless she’s looking for a distraction.

Meanwhile, someone else is distracting James.  Not an altogether welcome someone, either.  Nuala is a muse, offering unparalleled inspiration in exchange for very little—just the years of your life.  James is still pissed at what the faeries have done to both him and Dee, though, and isn’t about to make any deals, even if he is bored out of his mind.  Nuala sticks around regardless, though.  Even at a school full of musical talent, no one can grab her attention like James.  Eventually they start making music together anyway, with no deal being made, and James can’t help but be struck with how human Nuala is.  Well, not human.  But human-ish.  And as a side-bonus, she’s a slap in the face to Dee, which James can’t help but enjoy, just a little bit.  Things come to a head on Halloween night, though, when both Nuala and Dee are faced with death—and James can only choose to save one.

I can’t tell you how awesome this book is.  For some reason, I’m a bit fonder of Lament, but when the pure Awesome in the two books are compared, Ballad blows Lament away.  James is the most fascinating narrator I’ve encountered in a long, long time, and what he says out loud is only half as funny as the things he stops himself from saying.  As a reader you’ll find yourself fluctuating between hopeful and frustrated with his encounters with Dee, and I think the best scene in the book is the one where James realizes that there are different kinds of love, and that you can’t change that, even if you want to sometimes.  I won’t even start on the side story with James’ teacher, Sullivan, which I loved as much or more than the rest of it.

Besides all that, this book has the best ending line I’ve read in some time—a line I’ve been wanting to hear from YA fantasy for a long time, and one I wholeheartedly agree with.  A definite A+.

And so you know, we’ll be interviewing Maggie Stiefvater here for Fun Friday this week!  We’re so excited!


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective – Lament: The Fairy Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

It’s no secret that there’s sort of been a Faeriesplosion in the YA section of the book store.  Well, maybe a parasplosion is a bit more accurate, but admit it, there are a bunch of faerie books out there… we’ve reviewed a handful of them right here.  I’ve read a few, and poked around at several more, and I really wanted to find one to fall breathlessly,  head-over-heels in love with, but instead I kept getting frustrated.

Many books on the market are just not what I’ve been looking for, where the Faerie world has been “reinvented” as a grunge-type underworld.  Which is okay, and certainly one way to deal with the issue, but the ones I’ve read (Tithe, for example) just haven’t done it for me.  This is for multiple reasons, but the main one has always been that… well personally I always thought faeries were cool enough (not to mention threatening enough!) on their own.

And then I heard all the buzz about Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, and basically swallowed that book whole, which caused an impending demand to read Stiefvater’s other two published books, which leads us to Lament.  I’m not going to tell you that this book grabbed me and held me in place from the very first page, because that would just be lying—it took until page six.  After that, though, I was a goner.  Goner than gone.

I am, embarrassingly, almost speechless about this book, because it is so very good.

The main storyline is this: Deidre Monaghan is a normal teenage girl.  She happens to be exceptionally talented at two things: music, and being completely invisible in high school.  Then one summer day at a music competition she’s found and entranced by the slightly older, and utterly fascinating Luke Dillon—who finds her fascinating as well.  While she knows that something is not normal about Luke, and he knows she knows it, she can’t or won’t bring herself at first to question it.  As events (or otherwise) continue to throw them together, though, strange things are happening around and within Deidre, leading her to the discovery that she’s a cloverhand, or one who can see faeries.  And really, that is just the beginning.

There is something immensely lyrical about this book, yet at the same time the language is very fresh and the wit is quick and lively.  It’s the seemingly effortless passing between the modern and the formal that is so breathtaking.  Well, that and the fact that Luke keeps calling Deidre “pretty girl,” because really, I think I gushed that much more every time he did it.  The wonderful thing about this story is that, for all its fantastical elements, the main storyline rings out true and exceptionally identifiable—the story of someone with quiet insecurities, who is suddenly recognized for being beautiful, interesting and powerful, and being recognized as such, becomes so.  Deidre seems to realize her own possibilities as they are seen by Luke, the wayward gallowglass.

Of course the more powerful Deidre becomes (and “awesome” is a fitting description, just by the by), the more danger she’s in, as the jealous Faerie Queen wants her head.  She has the protection of iron with her at all times, but with malicious, and outright homicidal faeries coming out of the woodworks all around, will it be enough?  I can’t tell you.  Well I could, but I’m not going to.  You’re just going to have to find out for yourself.  All I can say is that this is honestly the most delicious book I’ve read all year.  Good enough to read a second time immediately after finishing—though I have Ballad, the sequel, so I suppose I’ll work on that first (she says coyly, even though she’s almost 80 pages into it already).

Meanwhile, Lament has a lot of nice cameos by the PRETTY side of Faerie.  The Daoine Sidhe and a certain triplet of child-sized faeries were of particular delight.  And I may have already said too much about Luke, but let’s just say that he’s dream-worthy.  Ballad focuses on Deidre’s best friend James, who is promising quite a story himself, which I will be telling you about soonly.

Lament gets an A++ from me.  Ms. Stiefvater? You officially have a fan for life.


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