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Pop Culture of My Life: Maggie Stiefvater

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Stephen Voss

Maggie Stiefvater — the YA author whose fresh, wildly imaginative fantasy series the Raven Cycle draws to a close with The Raven King — riffs on some of her favorite books, TV shows, music, and movies.

My favorite book as a child

The Days Are Just Packed: A Calvin & Hobbes Collection. Calvin & Hobbes is a very tricky thing: it’s about a child, but it’s not just for children. It has magic in it, but it’s very true. It’s funny, but it’s dead serious.

The book that cemented me as a writer

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. My father handed it to me when I was 11, and I devoured it (there’s a dinosaur pun to be had in there). The novel is more savage and wistful than the film, and that sense of missing a place I had never been stuck with me.

The movie I’ve watched over and over again

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. What can I say? I’m always up to watch some repressed issues play out in limited palette.

The last book that made me cry

I’m a lizard monarch devoid of visible feelings, so I don’t generally cry… but I did shed a tear while reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. Maybe two tears. Maybe four tears and a tablespoon of snot. I was moved.

The first album I ever bought

An Ace of Base album. My parents listened to all the albums we bought to make certain the lyrics wouldn’t corrupt us. I chafed and snarled under such a dictatorship, and although I’d had my eye on a Billy Joel album, I selected Ace of Base because I liked imagining my parents sitting stoically through it in the living room. It was just as satisfying as I hoped. 10/10 would do again.

My literary hero

Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. Wizards with bad coping mechanisms are my role models.

My last TV binge

Scrubs. If they were wizards instead of doctors, all I’d ever do is watch that show. I suppose if they were wizards it couldn’t be called Scrubs. Capes, maybe. Look, I just want you to take one minute to imagine Zach Braff as a modern-day entry-level magic practitioner.

The song that always makes me feel better

I have a large variety of electronic tracks that I listen to in my car every time I’m required to go to the grocery store. I filled half my trunk with a subwoofer to better listen to this music, but the tragic side effect is that with the reduced trunk space I’m required to go to the store twice as often.

The group of fictional pals I dream of joining

The knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They were always questing and feasting and monologuing and usurping and generally being outdoorsy while making veiled social commentary, and these are all things very relevant to my interests.

My favorite movie

Big Fish. Or Top Gun. If you combine those two movies, you will actually know everything there is to know about me. The first is about being larger-than-life, and the second is about how ambition drives some people to wear aviator sunglasses.

The book people might be surprised to learn I love

Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life by Maurice Sendak. I suppose it’s actually meant for children or terriers (both of these feature in the story), but I still love it. It’s about a dog who becomes both a nanny and an actress and is also a little bit about getting eaten by lions.

An illicit book I had to read in secret as a kid

The Encyclopaedia Britannica. My parents owned a complete set when I was a child; I decided to read them all in order. I had made it through two volumes when my parents realized that I intended to do nothing but read them. After that my sordid affair was forced into secrecy. They didn’t have to worry, anyway. I gave up when I got to the entry for “capybara.” The Encyclopaedia noted that the animals were “edible, but not palatable” and I was so outraged at a supposedly unbiased Encylopaedia making a judgment call on flavor that I called off the entire exercise as pointless.

The TV show that doesn’t get its due

The BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Like I said before, I have a thing for repressed emotions and limited palette, and this has that, plus magic.

The fictional place I’ve dreamed of moving to

The past. When I was an angry but dreamy young child, all I wanted to do was travel to a bigger, more mythic time bristling with nobility and mysticism. Some time period where the things too powerful for names existed a little closer to the surface. It took me 30 years and a history major to figure out that one of those time periods was now. 

What I’m reading now

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín. It’s a dark, strange YA novel coming out this August that repurposes old fairy mythology in a grim and fascinating way. It’s coming out this August, and I suspect it’s the sort of book that everyone will read and then at once tap someone else’s shoulder to ask them what they thought of it.

A version of this story appears in the May 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Pick it up on newsstands now, or subscribe online at ew.com/allaccess.

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