The book, titled All the Crooked Saints, takes place in the 1960s in Bicho Raro, Colorado and follows the lives of three members of the Soria family—each of whom is searching for their own miracle. There’s Beatriz, who appears to lack feelings but wants to study her mind; Daniel, the “Saint” of Bicho Raro, a miracle worker for everyone but himself; and Joaquin (a.k.a. Diablo Diablo), who runs a pirate radio station at night.
Adding to the mystery (and magic) of the book is the book’s intriguing cover—which EW is pleased to reveal exclusively below.
“There are owls in the book because owls are a very scientific creature that gets credited with a lot of magical superstitions,” Stiefvater tells EW. “There are roses in the book because roses are a very magical flower that take a lot of science to truly understand. Put that together and well — as the kids say, that’s it. That’s the book.”
With Stiefvater’s latest novel set to hit stores on Oct. 10, EW caught up with the bestselling author to find out more about what’s in store for readers, her process, and of course, her upcoming Ronan Lynch trilogy.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: All three of your characters are looking for a miracle. What do miracles, or the idea of miracles mean to them?
MAGGIE STIEFVATER: Miracles! Miracles! Miracles! This book is full of them. I was taught by nuns for the first dozen years of my life, and so I was raised with a pantheon of peculiar saints: decapitated saints who carried their own severed head through the streets of cities, saints who exorcised demons from the bottoms of milk pails, saints who flew unexpectedly.
The Soria family are saints as well, and the miracle they perform for pilgrims to Bicho Raro is as strange as most miracles are: They can make the darkness inside you visible. Once the pilgrims see their inner darkness face to face, it’s up to them to perform another miracle on themselves: banishing the darkness for good. It can be a tricky business to vanquish your inner demons, even once you know what they are, but the Sorias are forbidden to help with this part. They’ve all been told that if a Soria interferes with the second miracle, it will bring out their own darkness, and a saint’s darkness, so the story goes, is a most potent and dangerous thing.
The three cousins in the story all have their own relationship with the family miracles: Daniel, the current acting Saint of Bicho Raro, wants to help the pilgrims overcome their darkness through holiness and empathy. Beatriz, on the other hand, would prefer if the Sorias approached the miracle from a more logical and scientific place. And Joaquin is less interested in miracles and more interested in broadcasting rock & roll from a pirate radio station in the back of a battered box truck.
How did you come up with the name “Bicho Raro”?
I’d just finished writing the rather heavy final installment of the Raven Cycle, and I thought it would be nice to switch things up with something playful and — dare I say it? “Feel good”? Does that sound like a Stiefvater novel to you?
So I tried to be as playful in my language as I could. I figured if my words were frolicking, readers might too. “Bicho raro” (“rare bug”) is just a little way to speak fondly about odd people, like “strange bird” or “odd duck.” It’s less about the Soria family themselves and more about the varied pilgrims who come to Bicho Raro.
What inspired the novel’s setting?
Three years ago, I convinced Scholastic that instead of flying to all of my tour events for Sinner, the companion book to the Shiver trilogy, I would instead drive my 1973 Camaro to them. Seven thousand miles, coast to coast, just an American girl in a muscle car, seeing the breadbasket of our fine country while hawking a novel about burned-out werewolves — nothing could go wrong.
Spoiler: Everything went wrong. I spent my time evenly divided between meeting readers and repairing the Camaro by the side of the road.
At one point, the brakes went out (for the second time), and I coasted into an auto repair shop in Del Norte, Colorado. The sun was white, the air was dust, and the mountains were sharp as hell all around. While I waited for the mechanic to take a look at my brake lines, the receptionist told me tall tales and ghost stories about straight-arrow desert roads and demons dancing in the dust and strangers appearing in the night.
I thought to myself: This is where my next novel takes place.
What made you decide to set All the Crooked Saints in the ‘60s? Is there something in the history of Colorado at that time that speaks to you?
Music! Music! Music! When I was growing up in the ‘80s, my father always had the radio set to the Golden Oldies — I didn’t realize, in fact, that it wasn’t contemporary music. I thought Del Shannon and Patsy Cline and the Byrds were everyone’s current groove. Even after I discovered differently, it didn’t matter; that music had become the sound of my childhood. There’s something about ‘60s music and the ‘60s in general that I think pairs perfectly with a novel about the teen experience — ‘60s America was going through an adolescence in a lot of ways, and it was a time of mystical joy, innocence lost, increasingly uncomfortable self-awareness of the limitations of tradition, and colorful agitation for change, all of it emotional and urgent. If that’s not a description of being a teen, I don’t know what is.
I’ve been dying to write a novel steeped with the music of that time for about five years now, and for this one, it made sense. I had an incredibly grand and self-indulgent time listening to the music Joaquin and Beatriz spin in their covert broadcasts.
Your work has always been infused with aspects of magical realism. What would you say are some of your influences?
Magic! Magic! Magic! For this book in particular, Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, Erick Setiawan, Ali Shaw, and maybe even John Irving — I have read a lot of wonderful magic realism and wry, intimate family stories over the last decade, and Saints is my affectionate nod to them. It was also informed by movies, though — I really wanted to capture the mood of films like Big Fish, Chocolat, and Amélie. That whimsy and magic and nostalgia. … These are strange, hard times that we’re living in, and I wanted to write about magic — I always do — but I also felt like I wanted to leave readers with something that made them happy, hopeful, and excited about all the odd miracles that exist in the world and in themselves.
Of course, I have to ask one question about the upcoming Ronan trilogy. Is there anything you could tease about it?
Insert, Stiefvater said, an enigmatic smile here.
All the Crooked Saints will be available for purchase on Oct. 10.