Book review: Author Maggie Stiefvater brings werewolves to LA in 'Sinner'

Published: Saturday, July 12 2014 3:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, July 14 2014 2:07 p.m. MDT

If author Maggie Stiefvater is asked what she does for a living, she might say she’s a liar and a thief.

Telling versions of the truth and snatching character details from people around her for her novels, art and music, Stiefvater ultimately considered herself a storyteller. That is, until someone told her differently.

Riding back to her hotel in the NASA shuttle (“Even though it was really a bus, I like calling it the NASA shuttle,” Stiefvater said) with a group of other speakers for TEDxNASA, Stiefvater found herself in a conversation with Daniel Burrus.

“He was so good at identifying people’s strengths and weaknesses, that was what he did professionally,” Stiefvater said in an interview with the Deseret News. “He asked me what I thought I did for a living, and I told him ‘storyteller’ because I thought that was what defined everything I did.”

Except Burrus told Stiefvater she was wrong. He said her gift and talent was changing people’s moods through different types of media.

“And he was totally right,” Stiefvater said. “What I really find rewarding about it is the idea that I get into people’s brains and move their mental furniture. He was very good at making it sound very succinct. He sounded like a wizard.”

First book

Stiefvater has been changing people’s moods as the author of books that have been No. 1 on the New York Times best-sellers lists, and as a professional artist and musician, on a career path that started when she was 6 years old.

Stiefvater wrote her first book, about two dogs test-driving a car, not long after she learned to read and write.

“As soon as I could actually write a word, I was writing stories,” Stiefvater said. “I can’t actually remember the moment when I consciously decided to write a story; it’s just the way the world has always processed for me.”

However, Stiefvater does remember the moment when she decided to write professionally. When she was 9 or 10 years old, said she “lost a summer” to reading Diana Wynne Jones books.

“I remember the moment when I opened the cover of one (of Jones’ books) and it said, ‘Books by Diana Wynne Jones,’ ” Stiefvater said. “She was very prolific and had dozens and dozens of titles. And I still remember the moment looking at that and thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll bet this is her career. She does this for a living.’ Looking at all the books she had done, I thought ‘This is what I want to do. My name could be there.’ ”

Heavily influenced by Jones’ writing, Stiefvater continued writing for the young adult audience with the goal of writing the kind of books to which readers could lose their summers.

'Sinner'

Stiefvater’s latest release, “Sinner” (Scholastic, $18.99, ages 16 and up), is a standalone that follows two pivotal side characters from the Shiver trilogy (also known as the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy) — Cole St. Clair, a character loosely based on Stiefvater at the end of her college period, and Isabel Culpeper, based on a girl Stiefvater knew in college who everyone thought was an “ice queen” but who really wasn't.

“I always thought when I was done with the trilogy that I really was done. I had no intention of returning to Mercy Falls in Minnesota,” Stiefvater said. “I was also not quite sure how I could use werewolves again ... I figured I was pretty done with that metaphor.”

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