Sunday, June 28, 2009

Maria V. Snyder Interview!

One of FNC's favorite fantasy authors, Maria V. Snyder, was gracious enough to take time from her very busy schedule to answer a few writing-centric questions in our blog's very first author interview!

Snyder has written the fabulous three-book Study series, which transcends both YA and adult labels as it chronicles the story of Yelena Zaltana. You can read more about Yelena and the Study series
here. Her latest release is Storm Glass, the first novel in her Glass series. This Study spin-off series follows glassmaker and magician-in-training Opal Cowan, a character readers first met in Magic Study. Check out our review of Storm Glass here. Snyder fans won't have to wait much longer for Opal's second book -- Sea Glass will be released September 1, 2009, and we can't wait!

Check out the interview below for insights into Snyder's creation process, her life as a "Pantser," the trials of world-building, her road to success, her dream-collaboration with Joss Whedon, and more.

What was your creation process for the Study series? Meaning, what was the original nugget that inspired the books – the character, the job of a food taster, the world of Ixia? How did it develop/evolve from there?

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 centers of power.”

This comment led me to think about a person who was close enough to the center 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. Then the Commander came along and assassinated my monarchy so I had to adjust my initial idea :)

When in the process did you realize there would be more than one book? How did you outline the series, and did that affect the plot of the first book?

When I reached the end of Poison Study, I thought I could write another book. My intent had been to write a stand alone book. I didn't start Magic Study because I thought if I couldn't sell Poison, no one would want Magic. When I got “the call” from my first editor, she offered me a two book contract and asked me, “You do have another book right?” I was like, “Yeeeeaaaahhhhh....when do you need it by?” LOL When I finished Magic, I knew I could write one more.

I don't outline. The other books didn't affect the plot of Poison because they came later. I'm a seat of the pants writer (a.k.a Pantser) so I discover the story as I write so that is how one book became three :)

What were the most difficult and best parts of building the world of Ixia and Sitia?

Details are always hard for me. I like action and characters, but don't like writing all the details. When my editor gave me her revision notes, they all were about adding more details to the world. The best part is I am in charge of this world. I set the rules and hire the help and decide on names and uniforms and no one can argue with me. However, once I set the boundaries and laws, I'm stuck with them. As a Pantser, this has gotten me into trouble :)

Did any characters besides Opal gain larger roles than you initially intended for them, either within a series or between the two?

Ari and Janco were just supposed to be stereotypical soldiers and have one or two scenes, but they muscled into way more. The Commander surprised me in many ways. He was supposed to be one of the bad guys and he refused to be pigeonholed and really shocked me near the end of Poison Study. I would love to take these characters and do more with them. I have written two Study short stories, one with Valek as the main protagonist and the other featuring Ari and Janco. I must admit, writing the one with Ari and Janco was a blast. Especially, when I was in Janco's head. Both these short stories are up on my website at: if anyone would like to read them.

What do you see as your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as a writer?

This is a hard question! I've gotten thousands of emails from readers and many comment on my characters and how they've fallen in love with Valek and enjoy the various people in my stories. Weakness is probably I'm light on details and my grammar is horrible! But I counter that one with “It's my style.” ;>

Briefly detail your journey to publication after finishing Poison Study. (Finding an agent, an editor, promoting the book, etc.)

It took me two years to find a home for Poison Study. I submitted it to literary agents first. Collected a stack of about 40 rejections from them. Then I submitted PS to the major publishers like Bantam, Tor, Roc, Ace etc... rejections rolled in. Targeted small presses to earn more rejects. I had made a list of 20 publishers that would look at stories by unagented authors, so I was determined to submit PS to them all. The 18th submission was to LUNA Books - a new (at the time) fantasy imprint of Harlequin. I felt it was a long shot. I did have the strong female protagonist they were looking for, but I wasn’t sure about the romantic sub-plots. But I sent it anyway. Four months later, LUNA calls and offers me a two-book contract. I had about 18 months to write Magic Study, and a two-year wait for Poison to hit the shelves, so I got a website together and printed bookmarks, etc... for promotion. My publisher sent me on a mini book tour to the West Coast.

Your novels have won multiple awards, been chosen as BookSense picks, and received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly, and Fire Study even made the New York Times bestseller list. What is your current goal as a writer?

A movie deal would be nice. Or even a TV show – directed by Joss Whedon of course :) Otherwise, I'd like to keep selling books and improve as a writer. Getting to the top of the New York Times list would be awesome, but I really can't focus on those type of goals when I'm writing or I would freeze. I try and focus on writing a good story and anything that happens after the book is published is a wonderful bonus.

Want more Maria? Check out Maria's website and her MySpace page.


  1. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your crazy schedule Maria to talk to us!

  2. I'm here cos of the Thanksgiving post. I'm VERY thankful for Snyders books :) Great interview.

  3. Great interview! Maria V. Snyder is my favourite author so I really enjoyed this interview :D

  4. Excellent interview - loved her honesty about getting published; it gives us hope!


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