I found the the series “The Raven Cycle” by ruthlessly judging a book by its cover. I got the audiobooks from my library, and listened to them like it was my job. Only once before have I read a book that portrayed tarot readers as something other than stereotypes. (The Grift by Debra Ginsburg) There is a house full of tarot readers and psychics, a young, awkward but brilliantly smart and funny protagonist, four earnest young men, and a story that weaves in and out of socioeconomic issues and magic. It’s urban fantasy at it’s best.
Here are some questions that I had for Maggie about her books and the cards:
1. How long have you been reading the cards?
My origin story is a fairly common one: a friend gave me a deck over a decade ago with the vaguely threatening warning “cards only work if they’ve been given to you instead of purchased,” and then I found that they didn’t work for me anyway. I tried to memorize the meanings and smack some sense into them, but they remained a pile of cards. I didn’t touch them for years after that until I got a very, very intuitive read from a friend probably five or six years ago. It was the sort of read where she would say “this card in this position means you’re an asshole, this card says this is what to do with that information.” I didn’t realize the cards could be like that — just raw, honest weather reports instead of nebulous, prognosticating wisdom. I could get behind a ritual that told me whether or not I needed an umbrella in the upcoming week instead of waggling its eyebrows and saying I might be traveling over water sometime in the future. I like wise mirrors, and that’s what this kind of read seemed to promise.
2. Would you consider yourself an intuitive reader, or pragmatic, or a bit of both?
Intuitive. I don’t expect that’ll ever change. It’s how I run my life for the most part, anyway, why should the reading be any different?
2. One of the characters in the Raven books says that the tarot readings will be accurate but not specific (except for Blue), and that it’s easier that way. Do you find this to be true in your own readings?
Most of the answers my reads provide solve for the underlying problem that is at fault, instead of the specific issue the querent has in mind, always and ever more interested in solving the person instead of the world. So they do generally seem accurate but not specific. On some rare occasions, though, particularly if I’m reading for couples, they can be wildly specific. I find those reads harder, though, especially if I’m reading for someone I have just met. You have to go out on a limb and really go for the specific message the cards seem to contain, knowing that you might be totally off-base.
3. Adam’s relationship with the cards was so personal, and quick. I had this exact reaction to the cards – I knew they were Mine, but had no idea what they were. Was this your experience with meeting the cards, as well?
The first deck I clicked with was the Wild Unknown. They reward the intuitive reader, I think, and they felt primal in a way that felt appropriate to telling someone how to change their life. Is it terrible to say that I never really loved a deck until my own, though? I’m working on drawing another deck now and I’m not sure I’ll ever work with one I didn’t create myself again. It says things in a language I know.
4. Adam uses the cards to connect to the magic and the ley lines – in this way, he’s the Magician and the deck is one of his tools. Blue is/was the Page of Cups. Do you have a card in your head for each of the characters?
No — that’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t really appear unless I needed in “on screen,” so to speak. I do know my favorite card, though — the Moon. I love the uncertainty and possibility contained in it.
5. One of the things I loved the most about these books was the accurate portrayal of the tarot readers. They are all unique, they all use the cards differently, each deck is personal to them, and they can be complete assholes while doing readings. The scenes in the house were literally like any night in my kitchen with my friends. How many readers do you know, woman?
Many, many, many, and like you said, in real life, people use tarot for different reasons and in different ways. Wise mirrors, after all. One of the more unusual uses I’ve seen for them is a friend who uses the cards for intuitive plot spreads — teasing out what you mean to be writing about.
6. Is there any chance of a backstory book with Persephone or Maura? I know that’s an obnoxious question to ask an author, but I just can’t help it.
Ha! I love both of them, but I don’t care for prequels — it’s not as fun for me if I know absolutely every way it turns out. But I’m sure tarot will appear again in future books.
And if THAT weren’t enough, she made a damned tarot deck, too! The Raven’s Prophecy tarot is GORGEOUS. It reads like a mother and is so completely clever. You guys – the Magician has all of his ‘tools’ carved into his hand. Brilliant. She also has a new book coming out in October. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy at the ALA Conference in Chicago. It’s wonderful, and I’m nearly finished with it. I also got to say hi to Maggie, who was just lovely. She filled out the questionnaire for us and I hope you enjoy it.
1. What you appreciate the most in your friends.
Curiosity, integrity, and self-awareness. My schedule means that I swing from acres of time to none of it, so all of my friends are the sort who don’t mind that they might go from having a lot of me to suddenly having none of me. They’re an odd sort that mostly all get along with each other even if I’m not there, and I’m fairly certain because folks who are interested at poking at the more enigmatic parts of life and personality are generally interested in other folks who are also interested in poking at the enigmatic parts of life and personality.
2. Your idea of happiness.
I think I’m a generally happy person. I’m happy when I’m purposeful, I’m unhappy when — wait, I see this is the next question.
3. Your idea of misery.
Misery for me is being powerless, without a plan. Once I have a plan, I’m good, even if the situation is still just as crappy.
4. Where would you like to live?
I live in the middle of nowhere in the Shenandoah Valley, which is my favorite place to live. I reckon I’d also live in the middle of nowhere, Yorkshire. I prefer it when the world feels empty.
5. Your favorite colors and flowers.
I like yellow roses and yellow cars, but I don’t know if I’d call them my favorites — I’m just always pleased to see them. I know that I like roses because they are fussy and don’t always love you back, and I know I like yellow in general because it is aggressively cheerful. I reckon if you look at the art I’ve created over the last decade, a very clear palette comes into sight: inky blacks and browns, burnt oranges, turquoise. I like things that look like they’ve been around awhile.
6. Your favorite poets.
I am not good at poetry, but W. B. Yeats (“that is no country for old men”) and Rilke (“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone”).
7. Your heroes/heroines in fiction.
I like the badly behaved experts, generally speaking. Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle is a perfect example of the type — bratty, vain, accomplished, secretly noble.
8. What role does divination play in your life?
I use the cards more for others than for myself — it’s a great ice-breaker for people you don’t know, and it’s a great way to start a hard conversation with people you do. When my friends and I get together in groups, we’ll often spend one of the nights just reading each other’s cards, talking out plans, thinking about the future and how we connect or don’t. There’s something satisfying about the ritual of it, the making an evening meaningful. In my own life, my connection with the spiritual and the future tends to be gut feelings and dreams, instinct and insight. I’m not very structured.
9. Your heroes/heroines in real life.
I try not to build folks up or put them down. It’s true that some of us are doing better jobs at being heroic than others, but I feel like I get along better if I just try to regard everyone as human.
10. What is your present state of mind?
Snot. I’m distractingly ill at the moment. But beyond that, I feel both excited and unsettled. I’ve long had a sort of nagging suspicion that this year was going to change everything for me personally, and now I find myself looking at a lot of moving pieces that I don’t have control over. Ordinarily I’m good at shifting my future using my own plans and skills, but 2017 is full of things that I have to wait on instead. It’s exciting because I love chaos and change, but it’s unsettling, because I am normally the one driving the boat.
11. What is your favorite tarot deck or divination tool?
I read with my own a lot (is that allowed? Can I say that?) (Yes. It’s awesome and I read with it a lot, too) Often when I go places and people ask me to read, they have me do it with a copy of my deck that they’ve bought), but I also like the Wild Unknown and the Golden Tarot. I’m always looking for the perfect deck which exists in my head — something subtle and archaic — but I haven’t found it yet. I’ve started drawing a new one. Maybe that’s the one I actually want.
12. Your favorite songs?
Impossible. I listen to music nearly every minute of every day, in a wild range of genres. But it’s easy enough to say that I prefer stuff in a minor key and stuff with interesting harmonies. I listen for timbre more than melody.
13. What is your favorite word?
Piscatorial. Of or relating to fish or fishermen.
14. What is your least favorite word?
15. What sound or noise do you love?
Mourning doves in the evening.
16. What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of a television turned on but with the sound turned off.
17. What turns you on?
18. What turns you off?
19. What is your favorite curse word?
20. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“That was touch and go, wasn’t it?”