Maggie Stiefvater


Howdy. You are really awesome.

That’s all, basically.

I could spend several hundred words telling you how freaking amazing The Raven Cycle is and how much I adored The Scorpio Races.

I could write you an essay about how incredibly skilled you are at blending fantasy with reality, at reminding your readers of the magic that already exists in our world.

I could write a whole letter on your use of mythology in The Scorpio Races and how much this religious scholar just ate that up.

I could write you a book about how following you on various social media platforms has taught me that the world is unfair and that the level of talent you have in the variety of areas you have it is just unreal.

I could go on and on and on about why I went and got a raven tattoo after the release of The Raven King (and yes the biggest raven is named Chainsaw).


But at the end of the day the most important thing for me to say is that I am grateful for you, and all that you do.

Thank you for being really awesome.


Really, thank you.



Jonathan Stroud

Mr. Stroud,1

I was 12, I believe, when I first picked up The Amulet of Samarkand on a whim2 during a school book fair. I didn’t know anything about it save what little it told me on its back cover — curiously enough I noticed something a little different about that description.3 I’d seen footnotes before, sure, but never in so…snarky a fashion,4 and certainly not in fiction. I was curious; I was intrigued. I was also pretty much sold the moment I saw “A London run by magicians” on the back cover.5

And, sure, your book absolutely gave me a London run by magicians6 and an Amulet of Samarkand,7 but it and the rest of the series was so much more than that.8

Through the absurdly delightful and absolutely brilliant Bartimaeus,9 you introduced an almost-teenager to probably the first antihero that made me laugh,10 while also making me think long and hard about enslavement and the role of government and power.11 Combining Bartimaeus’ spirituous wit with Nathaniel’s stubborn ambition gave me a dynamic antihero duo who were equal parts understandable, relatable, and at times even hateable.12 But, come the conclusion of the trilogy…I was left speechless.13

Totally bittersweet, with characters oftentimes teamed up for reasons of convenience as opposed to genuine feeling for each other.14 The multiple sacrifices made by every character at the end of the final novel rang out incredibly true, even moreso now, I think, as I listen to yet more vitriolic rhetoric in this world. The beautifully flawed characters of your trilogy were perfect for me when growing up, and perfect for me even now as a “grown up.”15

Thank you for writing these characters who, in their very imperfections, are damn near perfect.16 My adolescence, my teenage years, and my so-called adult life are all the better for it.



  1. I don’t think we’re on a first name basis yet, given we’ve never met, but this does sound terribly formal.
  2. Can you blame me? The cover was blue and had a shiny piece of jewelry as its centrepiece.
  3. I’m sure you can guess…hint: I’m poorly imitating it right now.
  4. Bartimaeus is now my posterchild for prime “snarkentary” in novels.
  5. What can I say? I’ve got a type.
  6. Eyyy, Natty boy.
  7. Shiny!
  8. Augh, this is where I get a little sappy. Feel free to shield your eyes.
  9. Bartimaeus of Uruk, Sakhr al-Jinni, N’gorso the Mighty and the Serpent of Silver Plumes who rebuilt the walls of Uruk, Karnak and Prague; who spoke with Solomon and ran with the buffalo fathers of the plains; who watched over Old Zimbabwe till the stones fell and the jackals fed on its people. Yes, that Bartimaeus.
  10. He gets all the good one-liners.
  11. Don’t get me wrong: obviously slavery is wrong and I knew this. But it made me reconsider it on a fantastical level — the idea that the spirits were slaves and that they experienced physical consequences from their time on Earth. That they might be friends or enemies outside of their masters’ biddings. That was a new one for me. And, of course, with the events of 2016, thinking about the role of government and power is more pertinent and important than ever.
  12. Oh, Nathaniel. You really needed to learn that both humans and spirits had bad things about them.
  13. Okay, that’s a small fib: I was actually sobbing, but let’s pretend that indignity didn’t happen.
  14. Although I like to think that maybe Nathaniel earned a few points in Bartimaeus’ book for his actions in Ptolemy’s Gate, it was both entertaining and illuminating to see these two band together because it was necessary…even while they actively disliked each other.
  15. I’m still fairly certain being a “grown up” is a myth.
  16. I have a feeling Bartimaeus would be objecting to me even considering he has “imperfections.”

Neil Gaiman

Dear Neil,

I definitely had every intention of finding a few of my favorites quotes of yours and building them cleverly into this letter, but the fact is there are way too many of them and it’s just not going to happen. Frankly if I’m going to be using your words to talk to you I’m not sure why I should bother writing at all. So please appreciate this stumbling attempt to express to you how grateful I am for your profound influence on my life for what it is.

The thing about you, Neil (may I call you Neil?) is that you are not on my favorite authors list because you’ve written some of my favorite books. Don’t take that the wrong way–I own everything you’ve ever written and I deeply love it all. I recommend your writing far and wide and I’ve convinced more than one person to read Sandman who otherwise would flatly refuse to read graphic novels (spoiler alert: they have all adored the series). I even take some time each year to re-read some of my favorites of yours, notably Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book (though Ocean at the End of the Lane did something to me and is definitely going to be on this year’s rotation). But what I really love about you, what really gets me about you, is who you are outside of what you’ve written.

I have a running Google Doc of all my favorite quotes of yours from your books, from interviews, from talks, from social media, etc. On my list of tattoos I badly want I’ve got about six of your quotes (they are the only quotes on my list because generally I’m not that into the idea of word tattoos). If I had to lay down my life philosophy in writing I could probably do it by stringing your wisdom nuggets together.

Your words have had a profound influence on me and on my life for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I’ll read something you wrote and I’ll think to myself, “Wow, I’ve always felt that way but never been able to put it into words. How does he do that?” Other times I’ll read them and think, “Wow he’s brilliant. Why have I never thought about it that way?”

And the thing is, Neil, that I bet you’ll be both pleased to know you’ve had this kind of an effect on my life and also mildly embarrassed by it. I like to imagine that you’d feel a little bit like anyone who listens to you must be an idiot because of course you don’t know what you’re talking about, but mostly you’d be happy to know that all the work you’ve put into your art has done some work of its own. You’re always encouraging people to live their lives, to tell their story, to put themselves out into the world and to change the world just a little bit at a time. I’d just like you to know that you’ve made quite a success of that yourself, and I couldn’t appreciate you more for it.

Thank you, and never stop doing what you do (pretty please),

Facilis Descensus Averno


Madeleine Cassier
Website | Twitter | GoodreadsBookTube

Facilis descensus Averno
“The descent into Hell is easy.” (Vergil, Aeneid VI.124)

The above Vergil epigraph is, of all things, the creed of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters — Nephilim warriors who fight demons unbeknownst to mundanes like you or me within her wildly popular series, The Mortal Instruments. It stresses that, essentially, it’s really easy to go down the wrong path, even with the best of intentions. And, oh, has the descent been easy…for their adaptations.

The Mortal Instruments series has had it rough when it comes to adaptation. Back in 2013, they got a movie, something that the studio, I’m sure, hoped would spawn a franchise. As you can guess, it didn’t really work out — mainly because The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was a poor adaptation (with potential) that ultimately failed due to lazy writing that sought only to cash in upon the success of similar “teen film franchises” such as The Twilight Saga rNxJ8usawDNitPGtRv9ksEhfkeHand The Hunger GamesBut I don’t want to talk about the City of Bones film because, very recently, The Mortal Instruments has gotten a mulligan. They’ve gotten a shot at adaptation redemption.

The newly-rebranded FREEFORM (formerly ABC FAMILY) has just completed airing its first season of Shadowhunters, a television series loosely based upon The Mortal Instruments novels; season 1 drew predominantly from the first novel, City of Bones. Now, as this is a television series as opposed to a feature film, there are far more minutes of material to sift through, and trying to cover all the adaptive aspects of this show would take far too long. So, what I’m going to do is focus in on only two specific adaptive changes — a positive and a negative — that I noticed within the show’s first season because, while I am, admittedly, unlikely to continue further watching the series, Shadowhunters did manage to pull out some adaptive changes that I found interesting, whether or not I think they always succeeded.


SPOILER WARNING: The following post may contain spoilers for certain elements related to The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare as well as Season 1 of Shadowhunters. You have been warned.

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New Book Table Episode: Shadowshaper

In this episode we discussed Shadowshaper, a great urban fantasy YA novel! Our whisperers pretty much loved it overall.

Spoilers start at about 24:12.

22295304This episode will also be available on YouTube.

In this episode you heard from:
Dorothy | @bwp_dorothy
Louisa | @otterbewriting
Sara | @fantasticpiggy
Shelly | @shllybkwrm

Daniel José Older can be found at his website and on Twitter.

You can find his video “Why We Don’t Italicize Spanish” that we mentioned on YouTube.

Don’t forget to check out Louisa’s blog post on The Importance of Being Bennie!

And here is Sara’s Patchwork art!


For listeners of The Book Table, Audible is offering a free audiobook and a 30-day free trial! Sign up at

The Book Table is a podcast from Backroom Whispering Productions. Our theme music is by Mark Wayne.

If you liked this podcast, rate us on iTunes! Or get in touch with us:
Twitter | @BackroomWhisper
Facebook |
Email |


*Nota bene: All links to books available for purchase through Amazon are affiliate links, which means Backroom Whispering Productions receive a small percentage of the sales made through that link.

The Importance of Being Bennie


Louisa Mitchell
Head Writer, Pycera


Imagine the typical plot line of a modern YA fantasy.

You’ve got it, right?

Teen discovers they have mystical powers. Teen tries out said mystical powers. Teen is shocked, amazed, maybe a little scared. Teen doesn’t want to go to the adults in their life; they definitely wouldn’t understand. So Teen gathers their courage and decides to tell their best friend what happened — you know, the friend they’ve known forever? The one who casually talks to their parents and knows where all the dishes go at their house? That friend. Teen tells that friend what’s going on, and that friend responds…how?

“You’re crazy.”

“You’re kidding.”

Or maybe, nervously, “Teen, maybe we should get you some help.”

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