After recently reading and reviewing her newest release, Fire Study (book 3 of the Study series), I contacted Maria with fangirlish hopes of getting her to have a chat with us here at the Book Smugglers…and was ecstatic when Maria replied and agreed to answer our questions!
We invite you to pull up a chair, and enjoy.
The Book Smugglers: First and foremost, thanks for taking the time to “chat” with us! And a big congratulations on the recent release of Fire Study, which has just broken the top 50 of the NY Times Best Sellers list!
Maria: Thanks for the congrats and thanks for this opportunity to chat with your readers!
The Book Smugglers: Your biography says that you actually began your career as an aspiring meteorologist! What made you change your mind and decide to become a full time writer?
Maria: Can you keep a secret? I changed my mind because of boredom! My first job after college was as a Meteorologist for an environmental consulting firm. The amount of work came in waves, and we were either extremely busy or very bored. During the slow times, I started writing a short story. Ideas were always floating around in my mind, but that was when I began using them. I submitted my first short story for critique at a writing conference in Philadelphia, and when the workshop leader gave me 7 out of 10, I thought that was pretty good for a first effort and decided to stick with writing for a while. After my son was born and I only had about one hour a day to myself, I had to decide what was important enough to spend that precious time on. Most days writing won.
The Book Smugglers: You also attended Seton Hill University and earned a Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction. Did you find the program encouraged your efforts as an author? Would you recommend formal programs like this for aspiring writers?
Maria: The program at Seton Hill was excellent. I learned so much in the two years I was in the program and would definitely recommend it to aspiring writers.
The Book Smugglers: What sort of research did you undertake while writing the Study books? Do you prefer a more hands-on physical approach, or more book-based approach?
Maria: I prefer a more hands-on approach if possible. My research for the Study books ranged from learning how to taste food the scientific way for Poison Study to learning how to ride a horse for Magic Study. I also signed up for a couple of courses on glass blowing for writing Fire Study.
For the glass blowing classes, the teacher made it look so easy to gather a slug of glass. But when it was my turn – yikes! It was HOT! I learned that working with glass required deft coordination, arm strength, tons of patience, and a good partner—it’s a good thing I have a day job!
The Book Smugglers: Yelena is a wonderful heroine and makes quite a journey of growth over the course of these books. What was your inspiration for this character? We haven’t seen the last of her…have we?
Maria: I don’t think you’ve seen the last of her. 🙂 The inspiration for Yelena came from a variety of sources. I always enjoyed books, movies, and TV shows with strong female protagonists. I would say the biggest influence on her character was Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. She’s smart and has a sarcastic sense of humor. I did mix a little of myself in her. Yelena’s persistence despite the odds is direct from me. Without persistence, Poison Study wouldn’t have been published.
The Book Smugglers: Did you begin Poison Study planning on making this a series? As the fantasy genre is notorious for its series’ spanning many, many books, what made you decide to write Yelena’s story as a trilogy?
Maria: I didn’t plan for Poison Study to expand into two more books. When I wrote the first draft, I had planned for one book. But after I finished, I thought I could continue her adventures. After Magic Study, Fire Study was a given to show Yelena’s character arc.
It’s interesting how Yelena’s story ended up being told through three books. I don’t like trilogies as that middle book is all middle—nothing is resolved. I tried very hard to make each of the Study books a stand alone story with a beginning, middle, and end.
I think fantasy series are popular because the author sets up this wonderful and unique world and readers get drawn in and enjoy “living” there. Readers like to read about familiar characters in these settings. Even you asked me if there were more books planned for Yelena ;>
The Book Smugglers: What are your writing plans for the future? Any upcoming releases we should be on the lookout for?
Maria: My next book will be Storm Glass – Yelena and Leif and a few familiar characters are all in it – it’s just Opal is the main character so I thought I would change the title a bit and do a Glass series with Opal. It’s supposed to be out in April 2009, but the publisher MAY change the date.
Here’s the cover copy:
“As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it’s time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she never knew she possessed…powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.”
The Book Smugglers: So far, your books have carved out a niche in the Fantasy genre. Do you have any plans to write in other genres (science fiction, romance, young adult)?
Maria: Actually, the Study and Glass fantasy series can be read by young adults, but Inside Out, my science fiction novel is going to be marketed as a young adult novel (although I didn’t write it any different than I did the Study books). It’s due out sometime in 2009.
Inside Out is about Trella. She lives in Inside – a metal cube of a world with lots of pipes. She hates her life – she’s a scrub and she is one of many. Overcrowding is an issue and Trella gets sucked into a quest for Gateway – a possible doorway to Outside. She’s a hard character at first – bitter, stubborn, nasty – but she grows on you 🙂 Here’s the beginning of the synopsis I submitted for approval of the book:
I’m Trella and I’m a scrub living in the lower two levels of Inside with all the other scrubs. We’re the ones who clean the pipes and air ducts that crisscross our world and keep us all alive.
Scrubbing is mindless busy work to prevent us from rioting or revolting or something. The uppers don’t want that. The Trava family who rule our world from their spacious upper levels also send the Pop Cops to recycle the dissenters and police the scrubs. I guess I should call them by their official name, the Population Control Police, but no one does that. And it’s a lie. They don’t control the population – just the opposite. The Pop Cops want us to breed until we’ve filled every square inch of the lower levels. And no one knows why.
I hate them all. Pop Cops, scrubs, and uppers. I prefer to sleep in the pipes and avoid contact with everyone. But that’s how I got myself into trouble. Since I know every single duct, pipe, corridor, shortcut, hole and ladder of Inside, the latest prophet wants to recruit me to his cause.
Every fifty weeks or so, the Pop Cops send a prophet down to spout some nonsense about Gateway to Outside. Gives all the scrubs some hope that someone is trying to figure a way out so they don’t have to.
The Book Smugglers: Who (or what) are some of your influences? Do you have a favorite book or a favorite author?
Maria: I read a ton of mystery novels growing up. My favorite mystery author is Dick Francis and his books have influenced my writing style. I also use first person point of view and try to keep the story’s pace moving. My cliff hanger endings are a direct result from his books; I can never stop reading one of his books at a chapter break. My favorite fantasy writers all have strong female protagonists and interesting characters in common. Barbara Hambly’s books have a nice mix of action, character and humor – all essential elements to what I consider good fiction.
Currently my favorite authors all have humor in their books. Since my life is so stress-filled and complicated, I’ve been enjoying light and fluffy reading with Mary Janice Davidson’s vampire series and her new mermaid series, Connie Willis is another favorite of mine, and I’ve recently discover the mystery/suspense thrillers of Harlan Coben.
The Book Smugglers: Being a full-time author writing and promoting your books, as well as being a mom and wife is quite the balancing act! Was it hard to find and maintain a balance? What do you do in your down time for fun?
Maria: I haven’t discovered the perfect balance, yet. My life is rather unbalanced and I perform triage as needed to keep from tipping over! When a writing deadline looms, the family is ignored and the household chores are left undone until I meet my deadline. If one of my kids needs me, then the writing isn’t done that day and the laundry piles up. Funny how the household chores are never the priority. 🙂 Without my husband’s support and help, the whole enterprise would have crashed a long time ago!
As for fun, I love to travel with my family. Exploring new places and meeting new people and experiencing other cultures are wonderful for the writer’s soul 🙂 I also enjoy playing volleyball, reading, and I dabble with photography.
Maria V. Snyder changed careers in 1995 from being a Meteorologist to a Novelist when she began working on her first novel, Poison Study. Published in October 2005, Poison Study won the 2006 Compton Crook Award, was a 2005 Booksense pick, and received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University. Much to Maria’s chagrin, forecasting the weather wasn’t one of her skills. Writing, however, proved to be more enjoyable and she has earned a Master of Arts degree in Writing from Seton Hill University. Since becoming a writer, Maria has been busy attending conferences, teaching writing classes, and doing book events.
Maria’s second book, Magic Study was a 2006 Book Sense pick and a RITA Award Finalist. Her latest release Fire Study made the New York Times Bestsellers list! While doing research for Fire Study, Maria learned that working with glass requires deft coordination, arm strength, tons of patience, and a good partner—she now has an extensive collection of misshapened paperweights, tumblers, and bowls.
Traveling with her family is a wonderful distraction from writing; Maria loves cruising in general and the Caribbean in particular, and is planning a trip to Bermuda in May.
Maria lives with her family in Pennsylvania where she is at work on her fourth “Study” novel, Storm Glass which is due out in 2009.
Thank you once again Maria for the Q&A, and we eagerly await the release of Storm Glass and Inside Out!