Author Interview and International Book Giveaway with Maria V Snyder
Maria V. Snyder earned an MA in Popular Fiction Writing from Seton Hill University. Her freelance articles appear in magazines and newspapers, and she enjoys teaching fiction writing classes at the local college. Maria is the very popular author of the 'Study' and Glass' fantasy fiction series.
TSR: A very warm welcome to you Maria, and a very big thank-you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.
MVS: You’re very welcome. Thank you for inviting me.
TSR: What sort of books did you read when you were a child and what was your favourite?
MVS: When I was very young, I read Dr. Seuss and Leo Lionni. My favourite book at that time was Fredrick, by Leo Lionni. I moved onto Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, and then into Agatha Christie, Dick Francis and Ed McBain (all mystery writers).
TSR: Can you tell us a bit about where you live generally and why do you like living there?
MVS: I live in south-central Pennsylvania in the United States. After I graduated from Penn State University, I was hired in this area. I met my husband here, and we settled in the area. I like the change in seasons, and being close to my extended family.
TSR: What made you choose to study meteorology at University?
MVS: As a child, I was always fascinated with storms. When I learned about meteorology in sixth grade, I thought I might want to pursue that occupation. Plus not many adults at that time knew what a meteorologist was, and I was a brat, delighting in their ignorance and asking if they even knew what a hydrometeor was. Do you? Without looking it up? (I’m still a brat ;-)*.
TSR: When did you first start writing seriously?
MVS: Back in 1995 when I was home with my son. I only had a couple hours to myself, and I spent them working on my first novel, Poison Study.
TSR: Did you always want to become a writer and why?
MVS: No. I wanted to chase tornados and do research on severe storms. I only started writing when I was bored at work (shhh...don’t tell my former employer). I discovered I wasn’t very good at forecasting, so I worked as an environmental meteorologist for a consulting firm. With consulting, you’re either busy or bored. So I started writing short stories during the slow times. I really enjoyed it, so I kept writing.
TSR: What made you decide to focus upon the ‘fantasy’ genre in your writing?
MVS: I enjoyed reading fantasy and most of my story ideas are within the fantasy genre. I also write science fiction, which I also enjoy reading. Plus fantasy allows me to play more than science fiction. For example in Storm Glass, I had magicians called Stormdancers who can harvest the energy from deadly storms and bottle it in glass orbs. Not only does it render the storm harmless, but it creates an energy source for the world.
TSR: How do you decide the names for your characters when planning your stories?
MVS: Before I start a story, I look through a couple baby name books I have, and find names I like that have a special meaning, making a list of names. For example, Yelena means shining light. Since she starts her adventures in a dungeon awaiting execution in Poison Study, I liked how her name represents a glimmer of hope that she still had even when at the lowest point in her life. I wrote an article about Naming Characters on my website. Here’s the link if anyone is interested in reading more: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice/naming.php
TSR: Do you use writing plans for the books that you write?
MVS: No. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer (a.k.a. pantser ;-). I get an idea and have a general ending in mind, and I discover the rest of the story as I go. The fun part is when something unexpected happens, the scary part is I always spend the first half of a novel worried I won’t have enough plot for a full novel, and then spend the second half worried I have too much. You’d think after writing 8 books, I’d relax, but I don’t!
TSR: Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?
MVS: Yes. I write from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. every night and I can’t go to bed until I write at least 1,000 words. Some nights I can do 2,000 or more, yet other nights it’s a struggle to get those 1,000.
TSR: Where do you like to do your writing?
MVS: I have a home office and that works, unless I have too many non-writing things to do. Then I have to leave the house or go down in our recreation room where I can’t see the distractions. For example, I have three boxes of holiday cards on my desk that are waiting to be filled out and mailed. If I go downstairs, I can’t see them :-)
TSR: Would you have any sound advice for those who would like to start writing a book for the first time?
MVS: I have advice and tips on my website. From finding a critique group to how to find agents and publishers, there’s a good bit of information. Here’s a link for those who are interested: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php
Persistence is always my biggest piece of advice. I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can. Consider that time an apprenticeship. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!
TSR: Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you enjoy?
MVS: I love playing volleyball, and play on two recreational teams. I also enjoy photography, and have been taking classes to learn more about the art and science of taking a good photo. Reading is, of course, a must, and I’ve been dabbling in making bead jewellery to feed my addiction with anything sparkly :-) Travelling is another enjoyment of mine.
TSR: ‘What was your inspiration for writing your ‘Study’ Series?
MVS: I was reading Orson Scott Card’s book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. In chapter 3, Card tells the writer to consider some questions before choosing the main character. He wrote, “Too often—particularly in medieval fantasy—writers think their story must be about rulers. Kings and queens, dukes and duchesses—they can be extravagantly powerful, yes, but too often they aren’t free at all. If you understand the workings of power in human societies, you’ll know that the greatest freedom to act in unpredictable ways is usually found away from the centres of power.”
This comment led me to think about a person who was close enough to the centre of power to witness important events, yet not be the Prince or Princess. I thought about a food taster and a scene jumped into my mind. I saw a woman tasting food that was most likely poisoned through the eyes of the King. He watched her with heartbreaking horror because he had fallen in love with her. That led me to wonder about this woman. Who was she? Why was she there? Why would a King fall in love with her? And Poison Study was born.
TSR: How did you think of and then develop Opal’s character, in the Glass Series?
MVS: Opal’s character grew out of my need to find a close relative of Tula, one of the victims in Magic Study. She had a bigger role in Fire Study where her glass magic was discovered. This wasn’t planned at all – I needed some way to imprison evil souls and using Opal came to me in one of those wonderful, I’m-glad-to-be-a-pantser moments! I have to give credit to my editor who suggested I expand on Opal and explore her story, and that’s how the Glass series started.
TSR: I love the covers of your books, do you have a say in their design?
MVS: No. The publisher has the right to package the book however they want. I do fill out an Art Fact Sheet where I can suggest interesting visual scenes, describe characters and clothing/colour schemes. I can suggest changes to the covers and on occasion they will change it because I had a logical reason. For example, the US cover of Inside Out – at first they had the girl looking pass the reader’s shoulder and I told them the main character, Trella is a very direct character and she’ll look you in the eye and tell you exactly what she thinks of you. So they sent me a number of pictures of the model and I was able to choose the one I liked best. But overall, the covers have been lovely and I love them all – I trust the art department to know what will grab a readers’ attention.
TSR: Are you currently reading a book at the moment and if so, what is it?
MVS: I’m reading The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa. It’s the second book in a YA fantasy series set in the world of the fae. It’s wonderful and just as good as the first book, The Iron King.
TSR: What is your all time favourite book and why?
MVS: This is a super hard question to answer! I have so many favourites in various genres. If you twist my arm....ow! Okay, okay, I’ll tell you....geez. It would be The Gate to Women’s Country, by Sheri S. Tepper followed closely by Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card and third would be Jaran, by Kate Elliott. All science fiction, by the way – odd considering I write mostly fantasy :-)
TSR: You have two new books being released in the UK in January and April 2011. They are entitled ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Outside In’. Can you tell us a bit about your new books?
MVS: Inside Out is a dystopian science fiction novel that focuses on Trella, a scrub living in the lower levels of Inside. The world of Inside is basically a metal cube, and the inhabitants have forgotten what’s outside their world.
Trella hates her life, the other scrubs, and the uppers who rule their world via the Population Control Police (a.k.a. Pop Cops). She prefers to stay in the ducts to avoid everyone except her single friend, Cogon. Cog is friends with all the scrubs, and he's the one bright spot in this dull metal world. He tends to believe the propaganda spouted by the prophets in the lower levels. Trella believes these prophets are all Pop Cop spies. However this new prophet claims he has the location of a Gateway to Outside on a disk that's hidden in the upper levels. He wants Trella to retrieve the disk and find Gateway.
Why Trella? Since she spends most of her time in the ducts, she alone knows every single duct, pipe, corridor, shortcut, hole and ladder of Inside. It’s suicide plain and simple, but she can’t let a challenge like that go unanswered. And as soon as she finds that disk, her world gets turned upside down.
Outside In continues Trella’s story about 12 weeks after the events in Inside Out. So much has changed and not everyone is happy with the changes. Plus Trella feels her job is done, and thought she can now relax, letting others take over. Too bad she thought wrong.
I can’t say too much about Outside In as it would spoil some of the twists in Inside Out. If your readers would like more on Inside Out, there is a website with a cool video book trailer, quiz, and the first three chapters of the book. Here’s the link: http://www.whatsinsideout.com/
TSR: Are you planning to write any other books at the moment?
MVS: Yes. I’m currently working on another fantasy novel about a healer set in a world that is recovering from a deadly plague. Her world has blamed the plague on the healers and has hunted them down. She is finally caught only to be rescued by a group who wants her to heal their Prince. The group's leader, Kerrick, knows the healers aren't to blame for the plague and that she could do some good for a change instead of hiding. Unfortunately, she believes this Prince is the one who started the plague as an attempt at biological warfare so she isn't risking her life for some pampered Prince. As they travel to the Prince's hidden location, they're pursued by others who have realized having a healer around might just be a good thing for them, but not necessarily for her. This book is tentatively set for a January 2012 release in the United States.
TSR: What simple things in life make you smile?
MVS: Email from my readers. Flowers from my husband. And my children.
TSR: If anyone is interested in learning more about you and your books, where’s the best place to go?
MVS: All are welcome to visit my website. I have the first chapter of all my books online as well as a number of free short stories to read. Here’s the link: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/ I also have a blog where I post updates, interviews with authors, book reviews, contests, and general comments on life and writing. My blog’s address is: http://officialmariavsnyder.blogspot.com/
TSR: Maria, I have been absolutely delighted and very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed by me for this site. I would also like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today.
MVS: Thank you for this opportunity to spread the word about me and my books. It was a fun interview and a legitimate excuse to procrastinate :-)
* The answer to what hydrometeors are... they’re rain drops :-)