Spoiler alert: The answer is not John Green.
Don’t get me wrong, I love John Green. Who doesn’t? I would do anything to be able to write the way he does. His prose is beautiful, his characters are complex and engaging. His stories make me laugh, cry, and celebrate life. He is, in short, one of my favorite authors. That being said, I do not want to be him.
It seems that these days, after the mania that was The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns movie adaptations, John Green has become a household name. Most people love him, some people hate him, and even people who don’t have a particular opinion about him know who he is. He’s been on dozens of talk shows and done countless interviews. He’s not simply an author anymore. While walking the red carpet for the Paper Towns movie premier, he looked more like an A-list celebrity than the nerdy writer that all his fans know him to be:
John Green handles his newfound fame so well. He’s still the same thoughtful, grounded person. He still writes the same. It doesn’t seem like the ideal life for an author, though. Writers don’t write to become famous. We write because we have a story to tell, and, generally, writers are introverted people. John Green himself says, “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”
So, yes, John Green is living every aspiring writer’s dream to be successful. But he seems to have surpassed success and gone straight to stardom. While I would love to be known for my writing, I definitely don’t want to be famous for it.
There’s a fine line to tread between being known and being famous, and I think that Maggie Stiefvater toes that line perfectly. Earlier, I said that John Green is one of my favorite authors. Maggie Stiefvater is the other. Stiefvater isn’t as well known as John Green, but she still has a strong fan base. And, unlike John Green, her debut novel wasn’t a best seller. She likes to tell the story that her first novel sold enough copies so that she could buy a new mattress, and not much else. On the other hand, her first bestseller, Shiver, sold enough copies so that she could buy a blue 1973 Camaro and name it Loki.
At thirty-three years old, Stiefvater is at that perfect place in her career that I would love to be in someday. She has at least fifteen books out, another one coming out in 2016, and has published over one million words so far. Her books win awards and most are best sellers. She does panels at BookCon, goes on book tour almost every year, does talks at schools. In 2010, NASA asked her to do a TED talk, which she did and entitled it “How Bad Teens Become Famous People.” Despite all of this success, she remains grounded and true to herself. Just two weekends ago, on October 16th, she raced John Green in her Mitsubishi Evo at NerdCon and charged a $5 entry fee to spectators, donating the proceeds to charity after the race. When she goes on book tour in the United States, she almost always drives herself, no matter how far or what condition her car is in. She interacts with fans on almost a daily basis through social media, constantly doing giveaways and meet-ups.
Those are all statistics, though. Facts. Proof that she’s successful. Maybe that’s partly why Maggie Stiefvater is the author I would want to be, but it’s not the whole reason. To get to the heart of it, she is the author who made me want to write. I was writing before I read her books, but I didn’t want to be a writer. I was twelve when I read Shiver, the first book of hers that I’d ever read. I remember lying on the living room floor, reading the last word, closing the book, then flipping it over to read it again and again and again. Maggie’s writing is like poetry. Stringing words together to make a story is art when she does it. It’s hard to explain, but when I first read Shiver her prose struck something deep inside of me and I realized, “This is it. This is what I want to do.” Still, to this day when I want to write and can’t, or start to doubt myself, I pick up a Maggie book and she inadvertently reminds me why I ever wanted to do this.
So, if I could be any author, I’d want to be Maggie Stiefvater. Partly because she’s successful. Partly because she’s just an all-around awesome person. But mostly because she is the reason I’m here right now, majoring in creative writing. She’s the one who made me want to write in the first place.