Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interview with Author Maria V. Snyder

An addition to my September Authors of the Month is Maria V. Snyder, young adult fantasy author of the Study series (POISON STUDY, MAGIC STUDY, FIRE STUDY) and more recently, the Glass series (STORM GLASS, SEA GLASS). Both series take place in the same, fantastical world where magic, politics and romance mix well.

Maria, welcome to “my mind”, I can’t wait to pick yours!

Thank you for inviting me here!

First, I’m compelled to ask: you went from being a meteorologist (Ok, how cool is that?) to writing your debut novel, POISON STUDY, what sent you that direction?

Boredom! (shhh... don't tell ;) 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 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.

You do a lot of research for your books, tell us what that’s like (and I’ve got to ask….does it really count as a tax credit? Because I need to do some research in Greece….)

I love doing hands on research. And, yes - it is a tax credit for writers! There are some things I can use books for, and I prefer to use children's books. Non-fiction books for kids tend to have large color pictures and simpler descriptions and helps me immensely. I'll also go to the Internet, but if I can find a class or a teacher, then I'd rather go that route.

Some of the hands on research I've done is tasting chocolate with an expert to learn tasting methods, learning how to ride a horse (scary for this city girl!), glass blowing classes (working with hot glass was interesting), karate, and fencing.

Yelena, the main character from your first series, is resilient, resourceful, and a character I really admire. How did she come to be, and how much of you, if any, is part of her?

Yelena came to be because she was the best person for the job :) I had a situation. I needed a poison taster who needed to meet a certain criteria. After brainstorming a bunch of "what if" questions, I had a basic personality type for Yelena. As I wrote the story, Yelena's character deepened and grew and surprised me at times.

As for how much of me is in Yelena, that's hard to tell. Writing in the first person viewpoint, I feel like I'm acting. I was involved in the theater in High School, and in order for me to accurately portray a character, I had to know as much about them as possible. Learning the character’s history, family situation, and moral views, I would then translate their thoughts and feelings onto the stage. It is the same for writing. The character’s reaction to certain problems will be decided by their personality not by how I think the situation should be handled. For example,Yelena is braver than I am and a lot quicker with the come back. While I would normally shy away from a tense situation, she dives right in. But I think our basic outlook on life is similar.

That's very interesting, I never thought of writing first person being like that, but now that you say it, I see it completely! I wonder if you're a bad actor would result in a bad first person story...hmmm...

Your world is full of detail, and I love that your two series are set in the same place. Was your love for Opal in the Study series what encouraged you to start the Glass series, or was it another reason? (And thanks for having cameos in the new series!)

Actually, it was my editor's idea! After FIRE STUDY, I wanted to write a different book - one not in the Study world. My editor wanted another Study book to keep up the momentum. She mentioned Opal as a potential character. I liked Opal and she surprised me by how valuable she became in FIRE STUDY, but I couldn't think of a story idea with her. I was explaining this to my editor and was literally in mid-sentence when the idea for STORM GLASS popped into my mind. At first we were going to title the book Glass Study or Crystal Study, but I wanted a new title since I had a new main protagonist.

Many of my readers are happy to see the cameos. Although I didn't think of them that way when I was writing. When I wrote Opal's story, she is in Sitia and those characters also live there, so it felt natural to me that they would interact at some point. I also didn't try to force a cameo - like Valek to arrive just because he's a favorite of mine and many, many readers! That wouldn't have been true to Opal's story.

What’s your organization like with your world-building?

I wish it was better that it is! I have a notebook for each of my books. In the book, I keep track of characters, events, research info, and names. I'd like to make a bible of all the books some day. It would save me a ton of time - right now I have to track down the info from each notebook, or, in some cases, I have to flip through the published book to find something.

Your newest release, SEA GLASS (which released this month, so readers, go and buy it at the Book Store nearest you!) continues Opal’s adventures in Sitia with magic, politics, and a really cool element to me, Opal being a glassmaker. I mean, how many characters are glassmakers? Too cool. Maria, can you tell us a bit more about SEA GLASS and what to expect in the second of the series?

In SEA GLASS Opal is learning more about her powers. She's also dealing with the consequences of these new powers. The Sitian Council doesn't know if they can trust her, and her future agenda doesn't match with what they want her to do. Besides the conflict with the Council, she's determined to prove to everyone that blood magic is still being used. When everyone doubts her, she has to find the inner strength to continue even when she begins to doubt herself.

Readers can read a chapter from SEA GLASS (and from ALL my books) on my website at if interested.

How is it being part of the new Harlequin imprint, Harlequin Teen?

I'm very excited about the new imprint! The two titles that launched the line were wonderful and I believe they have a number of fantastic authors in the line up :) I hope INSIDE OUT does well in April! I already have the first chapter of INSIDE OUT up on my website.

When can we expect the third of the Glass series?

It's really hard to talk about SPY GLASS without giving anything away in SEA GLASS :) I can tell you Valek is back, there is a wedding, and Opal needs to find her place in society and decide on her love life. She really wants to be useful and content.

Just FYI - SPY GLASS is coming out in September 2010 - not 2011 as it's written at the end of SEA GLASS. That was a typo.

Maria, thank you so much for “stopping by”! Your vivid world of Ixia and Sitia have swept me away from my reality, and I’m always excited to continue the adventures of the characters and stories you weave. I can only hope more people are swept away to your magical world after finding out a little more about you and your books.

Anytime - this was a fun interview. Thank you for having me on your blog!


  1. Great job, interviewer and interviewee. :)

  2. Thanks for the interview! I LOVE Maria's work! It is so neat to get a glimpse of behind the scenes! I finished Sea Glass the day I got it and CANNOT WAIT for Spy Glass! I also enjoy her short stories, in books and through her bimonthly email! I LOVE MARIA!

  3. Thank you both, and Amanda, thanks for visiting the blog! She IS a great author and I, too, cannot wait for the next one!


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