Before she wrote any of her bestselling novels, like Shiver and Linger, Maggie Stiefvater was told her writing wasn’t good enough and she shouldn’t quit her day job. It’s a good thing she didn’t listen.
Maggie Stiefvater worked a solid 9–5 job, with benefits. But she always felt like a round peg trying to fit in a square hole. So she did something bold: she quit. Not just her job, not just the industry, but the whole lifestyle.
“At the end of the day, I decided, you know what, if I dropped dead right now, I would be full of regret of all these things that I didn’t do,” says Maggie. Turns out she made the right decision, going on to write several wildly successful books, including The Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Shiver, Linger) and the Books of Faerie series.
Instead of wandering aimlessly after quitting her job, she became more focused than ever. She dove headfirst into her writing and decided to make a career out of something she always loved doing.
“When I was really tiny I remember wanting to be a writer, I always wanted to be a writer, but I always had in the back of my head this idea that you couldn’t make a living at it unless you got really famous at it—which is true to a certain extent,” says Maggie. “So I always had all these other backup plans I wanted to do. I wanted to be a lawyer, a DJ. I mean there was a huge, long list. An astronaut. Whatever.”
Finally free of the structured work day brought on by an office job, Maggie became extremely focused.She had ambition, motivation and the support of a loving partner on herside, but one thing she didn’t have was glowing feedback from her early attempts to be a serious writer.
“I went to college as a history major. I tried to get into a creative writing class and they looked at my samples and said ‘Yeah, you aren’t actually good enough to get into this class.’”
She adds that her attempts became successful because she learned from her criticism, rather than taking it personally. “It’s very easy for me to separate the creative process from myself,” Maggie tells Faze. “If someone said to me ‘You know what, Maggie, this chapter sucks,’ you don’t say, well this means that I suck or that I can’t write.”
From the criticism, comes growth and this author was more than prepared to move forward with her dream. “I never thought someone telling me that my writing was terrible meant that my writing was going to be terrible forever. My writing was just terrible right then, at that moment,” she reflects. “That’s the way I learn, because I don’t do well in classrooms.”
Now more sure than ever that she’s on the right path, Maggie gets positive reinforcement these days, with fan mail pouring into her inbox by the thousands. She’s been delighted to read what an impact her work has had. One of her favourite letters was from a soldier in Afghanistan, who said his daughter sent him a copy of Shiver, so they could read it at the same time.
“It just melts my black little heart. That’s just amazing,” says Maggie.
While she loves interacting with her fans, and used to spend hours responding to every email, the sheer volume of fan mail has become overwhelming. But she’s learning to find the time to say thank you to fans, while still having the time to write the stories they love.
The fan enthusiasm has led to a degree of fame beyond what this author ever expected— not just for the books, but for Maggie herself. “I always wanted my books to get famous,” she says, “but I don’t think that I ever really imagined that people would recognize me in elevators, which has happened.”
Eager to encourage others who find themselves dreaming of making a living by the pen, Maggie tells aspiring novelists to do what she did, and learn to grow from criticism.
“Stay motivated. Remember that no matter how bad your writing is now, you can always learn to get better. I don’t believe there’s a single person out there who can’t learn, eventually, how to write a good novel”