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.