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Students meet 'Shiver' author through Skype

Author Maggie Stiefvater engaged her audience of Park Rapids student readers with insights on her books, snippets of her experiences. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, it's the frozen woods, the protection of the pack and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, he experiences a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever...

A lyrical tale of alienated werewolves and first love, "Shiver," has captivated The Book Club's imagination.

Wednesday, the Park Rapids high school literary enthusiasts had a conversation with the author, Maggie Stiefvater, via Skype.

Skype allows video conferencing via Internet, the author residing in Virginia, the students convening in the basement of Beagle Books. Despite some technological blips (the connection failed several times) the after-school conference proved to be enlightening and entertaining, a first in Park Rapids.

Authors are reluctant to head to remote northern towns, storeowner Jennifer Geraedts said. This allows them to interact with readers without leaving the comfort of home or office.

Casual, funny and, at times, downright ribald, the author of the bestseller shared "sordid little things you'd otherwise never know."

Stiefvater spoke from her studio, dogs climbing on her lap to see just what was happening on the screen, barking at impromptu intervals.

She compared the evolution of her storyline to that of a pimple's appearance, arriving without warning. "I'm a horrible person," she confided, grimacing. "I want to make people cry."

Her modus operandi: "I assign my brain a problem to answer." Werewolves held a fascination. A dream about wolves put the wheels in motion. "I woke up thinking I can work with this," she said of "Shiver," now 24 weeks on the New York Times' bestseller list.

"Why Minnesota?" her readers wanted to know of the book's setting.

"I wanted a place that already had wolves," she said. "A good fantasy is 90 percent reality, 10 percent lies.

"And Minnesota is damn cold," she added. "I wanted them to be wolves a long time," she said, of the metamorphosis from wolf to human, come summer.

"How much do you get paid for this?" a student asked. (It was not among the questions drafted under the guidance of high school media director/ club facilitator Susan Cassidy. But the author responded blithely.)

"I don't mind answering that," she told the students. "I didn't have high expectations," she said of monetary rewards. "I've been writing since I was a kid," recalling a conversation with her dad.

"So, Maggie, what do you want to be?" her father had asked of her aspirations.

"A writer," she announced.

"Oh, so you want to be poor," he replied.

"Making a living as a writer is tough," she admitted. "Either you make a lot of money or none."

Writer's block is a gift, she counseled. "It's your subconscious telling you to stop, it's niggling you that something's wrong with the plot."

Stiefvater's first book, "Lament," bought a mattress, she said, recalling her unbridled joy at receiving the notice from her publisher.

"Shiver," she said, stirred more interest from her publishers. "Most people can't quit their jobs 'til they have five on the shelf. I did it in two."

"You will hear 'no' a thousand times," she said of aspiring authors. "You need confidence. I could plaster my walls with rejection letters. But I had faith. It's not a permanent 'no;' it's a 'not yet.'"

Members of the "we have to find a name!" book club arriving for the event were Tandra Robbins, Elizabeth Nichols, Taylor Ondracek, Jessica Johnson, Rachel Fineday, Kymberly Weeks, Nikky Pederson, Paula Guajardo, Elizabeth Lempola, Jessica Sindt and McKenna Coats.