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An interview with Maria V Snyder

Maria V Snyder published her first novel Poison Study in 2006, a title which went on to win the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. Continuing this remarkable fantasy series, Maria soon wrote Magic Study and then Fire Study, which became a New York Times bestseller. Storm Glass, her fourth title, began a new trilogy, continuing the magical journey of character Opal Cowen.

Maria kindly spoke to Fantasy Book Review in September 2010.

The Poison Series is very unique in its setting and style, is there anything in particular you look for when you're writing a new scene, character, book?

I don't do too much advance research or outlining for a story (I'll research as I go). I tend to come up with a character and a problem and then go from there. The style and setting are my own way of writing and are influenced by my upbringing and experiences.  Characters tend to be people I'd like to have as friends or people I'd like to read about.

You give great advice for young writers who want to get recognized, is there something you wish someone told you before you started writing?

I wish someone gave me permission to write utter crap J  Many new writers are so worried that each sentence is perfect, that they can't get past the first three chapters.  Writing the first draft is a train wreck in progress – you just have to strap yourself to your seat and ride it out—use those clichés, don't worry about spelling and grammar, etc… No one is going to read it but you.  Once the thing slides to a stop, then you can go back and fix up all the problems and make it better.  You'll actually be surprised that it's better than you had thought!

How has the success of both the Poison Study Series and Glass Series impacted on you as a writer and person?

It's given me greater confidence in my writing.  It's helps when I'm struggling to finish a book to look at the shelf and see the others – their presence means I did it before so I can do it again.  But there is also the added pressure – I don't want to disappoint my readers, I don't want to keep writing the same character over and over in different settings/situations.  I don't believe I've changed all the much as a person because of the success (of course I'm biased). I do feel more qualified or more of an expert about writing and publishing and I'm very satisfied with my accomplishments. 

Are there messages in the books you want readers to find, like hidden puzzle pieces?

Not really.  When I write, I focus on the characters and on keeping the story action-packed and fast-paced.  I write to entertain and if the character learns or discovers some truth or lesson, than I do hope the reader “gets” it, but it's never done on purpose.

The Glass Series finishes with a twist that I wasn't expecting, would there be enough for a new series?

I'm not planning on writing a new series set in Ixia and Sitia in the near future.  If I were to continue it would be with a new main character like Heli the Stormdancer or Fisk or Reema and Teegan and there's more than enough there for them J.  My next fantasy novel is 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, others who have realized having a healer around might just be a good thing for them, but not necessarily for her pursue them.  It's tentatively set for a January 2012 release here in the US.

(FYI - This would be a spoiler for those who haven't read SPY GLASS)

Opal is a rather intriguing character and so is Devlen (love bad boys) how would you describe their relationship in modern terms?

They already been through some very tough times, so I think their relationship is pretty strong.  They're life partners and will support each other no matter what.  I know many of my readers are upset that Opal chose him because of his past actions. However, I saw his terrible actions being fueled by his addiction to blood magic. It's like being an alcoholic or drug addict. Many people do horrible things while drunk (like driving a car and killing someone) and they'll rob and mug people for money to buy more drugs. But once they overcome the addiction they can be very different people. I've sat through a number of assemblies in high school and listened to young men and women tell their horror stories and how they overcame the addiction and are now helping others not to make the same mistakes they did. That has stayed with me all these years.  And that's how I wanted to show him.

Our Maria V Snyder reviews

Spy Glass by Maria V Snyder

After siphoning her own blood magic in the showdown at Hubal, student glass magician Opal Cowan lost her powers. Immune to the effects of magic, Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying through the glass on those with the powers she once had. Powers that make a difference in the world. Suddenly the beautiful pieces she makes begin to flash in the presence of magic and Opal learns that someone has stolen some of her blood. Finding it might let her regain her powers or discover that they're lost forever...

"As the final book in the series Spy Glass does not disappoint. It incorporated the aspects that I enjoyed most of the Yelena Zaltana series with the likeable personality of Opal (who seems to get herself into her own special brand of trouble). Having been disappointed by the previous two books in this series Spy Glass, in my opinion, redeemed the Opal Cowan trilogy. I would say that this series is worth reading but there are better books out there and, given the choice I would rather reread the Yelena Zaltana series than the Opal Cowen series."

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Sea Glass by Maria V Snyder

Like the colorful pieces of sea glass washed up on shore, Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents. But instead of finding a tranquil eddy, Opal is caught in a riptide. Her unique glass messengers which allow instant communication over vast distances have become a vital part of Sitian society. Once used solely by the Councilors and magicians, other powerful factions are now vying for control. Control of the messengers equals control of Sitia. Unfortunately that also means control of Opal. If that isn’t enough of a problem, Opal’s determination to prove blood magic is still being used is met with strong resistance. The Council doubts her, her mentor doubts her, and even her family is concerned. When her world is turned upside down, she begins to doubt herself. In the end, Opal must decide who to believe, who to trust, and who has control—otherwise she will shatter into a million pieces and be swept out by the tide.

"We return to find Opal in the perils of another storm that rages beyond control. In her search for answers, Opal faces many more walls and complications on her journey to self-discovery and faith in those that surround her."

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Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

Choose: A quick death...or a slow poison...About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonising death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

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Magic Study by Maria V Snyder

Completing her apprenticeship could prove deadly... With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic - or face death - Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician's Keep.But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Nor the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges - and Yelena catches his eye.Suddenly she is embroiled in battle of good against evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life...or be her downfall.

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Inside Out by Maria V Snyder

I’m Trella. I’m a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I just do my job and try to avoid the Population Control Police, who dream of recycling scrubs into fertiliser. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels?It’s not like it’s dangerous… Well, turns out it is. Because I know every corridor, pipe and shortcut I’ve become the go-to girl to lead a revolution. I know if we find a gateway to Outside it’ll be suicide plain and simple. But guess who likes a challenge? I should have just said no…

"I would highly recommend this book to any Snyder fans although this book seems to follow a similar pattern to Poison Study (Snyder’s first book). This book is not the sort of high fantasy of the Yelena Zaltana and Opal Cowan novels. It has more of a sci-fi feel to it and even though it is nothing compared to novels like Ender’s Game, Snyder pulls it off well." Anna Sheldrick, Fantasy Book Review

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Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder

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 in to 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 hadn't known she possessed… - powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she's ever known.

"A tale of a young woman’s desire to find the truth, to find her destiny, but most of all, to find inner peace, Storm Glass is the first novel of the Glass Trilogy by Maria V Snyder."

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Fire Study by Maria V Snyder

Yelena's apprenticeship is over - now her real test has begun. When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder - able to capture and release souls - spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before. Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself - and save the land she holds dear.

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Outside In by Maria V Snyder

What would you do if you were stuck in a giant cube, floating through space and something from the outside wanted in? Well, that is the subject of Maria V Snyder’s latest book. Although I wouldn’t say that Outside In was her best book to date it is still an enjoyable read and kept me so hooked that I accidentally read the first few paragraphs of the Acknowledgments page thinking it was still the novel.

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Scent of Magic by Maria V Snyder

I still think that if you are going to read any of Maria V Snyder's books it should be the Study series but failing that you can't really go wrong with Touch of Power and Scent of Magic. They are good solid fantasy books for young adults. Although I am bored of the characters I can't wait to read the third book. The story has kept my interest enough and there are so many unfinished story lines that I will be annoyed to have to wait for the next book, although I won't be too annoyed.

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