Critique Group Interview: Maggie Stiefvater

Yesterday we heard from Tessa Gratton, one of the three authors that make up the Merry Sisters of Fate, about critique groups. Today's interview is with Maggie Stiefvater, author of LAMENT and BALLAD (Flux), and the New York Times bestseller SHIVER and upcoming LINGER (Scholastic).  

I have a huge Author Crush on Maggie - and it feels just like those first crushes from middle school. Her writing makes me giddy, makes me Feel Feelings, and terrifies me all at the same time. The only difference is that I didn't have to worry about my middle school crushes killing anyone off the same way I worry about Maggie killing off her characters. 

And I worry. OH, how I worry. 

Maggie is very passionate about critique partners, so much so she set up a place on her Facebook page (click HERE to go there) for people to connect and find partners of their own. 

See. You have an Author Crush too, don't you? 

1. Everyone will have different criteria for a crit group, but what's the most vital thing to have in common? 

You have to like essentially the same kind of books. What defines "kind" is of course difficult to pin down. Sometimes genre is the strongest factor. Sometimes character style. Voice driven. hard-boiled, plot styles, themes you just can't stand . . . something about the books you read needs to be essentially the same.

2. How do you know when you've found it? 

It will feel like their suggestions came out of your own brain, if you were being objective. They'll feel right, even the wrong ones, in the way that your bad ideas feel like your own even when they're bad.

3. I know your group isn't in close physical proximity. How do you handle this? 

When we're in close proximity, we perform Shakespeare with kitchen utensils, so it's just as well. We usually chat via google chat, or send emails if we can't stalk properly.

4. How do you decide what/when to share? 

It's different for every book. Some books you share when they're all done. Sometimes you need handholding for the first 10K words only. Sometimes you need to bounce theme every so often. The important thing is to know that you can, and that when it's important, really important, you'll have that lifeline.

5. How do you achieve balance when it comes to meeting needs? Is there a natural ebb and flow? 

I . . . . . je ne comprends pas. You mean, do we have the same level of chatting all the time? we're friends too, so we chat about other things anyway, so the level of contact is pretty much the same all the time. It's just that sometimes, instead of arguing about whether or not Justin Timberlake is a music idol, we are talking about books. 

6. How did you decide to handle disagreements? 

We don't have disagreements. We are angels.

Um. We don't have personal disagreements, I don't think, do we, Tess, Brenna? We're sort of very similar, so it's very rare that we don't see eye to eye and in any case there's such a steady stream of communcation that there's no time to simmer.

7. Is everyone in on every phone call/chat/discussion/email? Or do you handle mood with Maggie and pacing with Tessa, etc. individually? 

No, timing would be bad to have us always in group chat. We'll group chat about Merry Fates business or if we're talking about part of the book that we've all read and is about to go to an editor, but usually, we have our different strengths, and we go to each other for help on those things.

8. Did you pinky swear at the beginning to leave personal feelings out of it? 

We never really made any rules. For us, the most important thing is that we are friends who happen to write books that we all love. Also, we all have very thick skins and pretty much utter confidence that revision is the way to Heaven. So I think it's very hard to hurt feelings. Especially because of the whole loving bit. We are as likely to say that we love something as hate it. BECAUSE we say "love" we are also allowed to say "stabby hate".

9. Are you friends first or CP's first or are all things equal? 

Oops, I already answered this one. I think the two things are sort of inextricable, now. We have just been together too long to tell the difference between the two things any more. You critique someone's manuscript three times because you're a great critique partner. You critique their manuscript until 2 a.m. in the morning when they have a deadline coming up because you're a great friend.

(And here's an extra...)

Thank you. I can mail you cupcakes. Or kittens. 

kittens. they have no preservatives.

Thank you, Maggie. Leave questions in the comments section, people, or just show some love.

Tomorrow we'll hear from Brenna Yovanoff!


  1. I love this. Just posted about honest critiques at my blog today.

  2. I am loving this - very helpful. Thanks!

  3. Cool interview! Love Maggie:-) Now off to read Tessa's!

  4. Thanks for all the great tips Maggie. Its good to know that even excellent writers like yourself embrace critique groups!

  5. I would be nothing without them, Heather!!

  6. Wonderful interview! I liked Maggie's answer regarding how to find the right critique partners, that their thoughts should sound like your own if you were able to be objective. Very insightful advice.

  7. I liked her take on critiques. I belong to two and they are very different. Both give me good critique - sometimes I don't listen but they are still good critiques.

    Her comment about finding something in common is right on. One of my groups is all over the place in style and genre, but we all have in common the desire to write great books. It makes up for the times when someone doesn't know the convetions of a genre.

  8. I love the comment about author crushes. I think we all get them!

  9. I have like a how to be successful with integrity crush on Maggie. Her writings a bonus. It's always affected me.


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