Maria V. Snyder

Interviewed by Bree Taylor

mvsbiophotoMaria V. Snyder is a New York Times bestselling author of 16 fantasy and science fiction novels and a variety of short stories. She currently works as a teacher and mentor at Seton Hill University alongside her writing career. Her most popular series, the Chronicles of Ixia series, spans nine books over 12 years. Snyder’s most recent novel, Chasing the Shadows, the second book in her Sentinels of the Galaxy series, is due to be released on November 18, 2019.

What would you consider to be your biggest sources of inspiration when coming up with ideas for new stories to tell? 

Traveling! I love to travel and I’m always finding inspiration for stories. Not all of my ideas will make it into a book or become stories, but I keep a journal as I travel and write it all down. For example, traveling to China back in 2004, I learned about the Terracotta Army discovered near the first Emperor’s tomb and learned that they were built to protect him in the afterlife, which got me thinking about the afterlife and what happens if one of the warriors is broken – do they disappear in the afterlife and, if so, how does that impact the Emperor? This all mutated over the years and I sparked on the idea of the discovery of these warriors on other planets in the galaxy and that became Navigating the Stars.

What is the biggest challenge for you in creating such vast and rich fantasy worlds, like the ones we see in the Study and Healer series?

Keeping track of all the details! As the books went from 1 to 3 to 9, the world became a large complex beast! Also coming up with unique elements to each world. I find that creating new worlds is harder to do as I don’t want to repeat the same elements. The Eyes of Tamburah, which is my latest fantasy novel is set on a desert world and the citizen all live underground to keep safe from the killing heat when the sun’s at apex. I sparked on this idea while traveling in the Australian Outback.

 What writers and/or books most inspired you to start writing?

I started writing because I was bored at work and needed something creative to do. But at the time, I was reading and enjoying Ursula K. LeGuin, Barbara Hambly, Kate Elliot, David Eddings, Mercedes Lackey, and Andre Norton. A mix of science fiction and fantasy authors. I also loved Dick Francis’ mystery books. They were written in first person POV and always had mini-cliffhangers for his chapter endings – something that I do as well.

The Study/Glass series are often considered to be YA. Did you write them with a teen audience in mind?

I didn’t start out writing them with a teen audience in mind. I was thinking Poison Study would be a stand along adult fantasy, which is why I detailed a certain traumatic event. If I’d known there would be so many YA readers, I wouldn’t have written that with so much detail. But Poison Study was published the same month as Twilight and many YA readers were looking for other books to read. Of course once I realized this, I modified my writing a bit. Same tone and same complex plots, but not as much detail. Sex scenes always fade to black.

When working on your novels, do you find yourself writing chronologically, or do you tend to jump around a lot?

I start at page one and write chronologically. I can’t jump around, then I’d be tempted to write all the fun parts and be left with nothing but the drudgery! In Magic Study, I knew Valek would show up and I was looking forward to their reunion, but I had to write up to that point – it was like dangling a carrot.

Do you have a type of scene that is your favourite to write? 

I love it when I’ve got a group of characters all together and they’re bantering and teasing each other. It’s fun – also scenes with humor!

What is your favourite thing about writing fantasy novels? 

Swords and horses and magic! Oops, that’s three. If I had to pick (do I, really?), I’d say magic. Because that’s the only thing unique to a fantasy story. Magic is fun to create and use and takes just as much work as building a fantasy world. It appeals to my scientific side.
What do you feel is the hardest part of the writing process for you? 

Getting that first draft done. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer and figure out my story as I write. The hardest part is usually the middle of the book, when I’m not sure what’s going to happen next or what I need to do to get to the end. I usually have an ending in mind, but sometimes, the plot goes in a different direction. In those cases, it’s always better than what I’d been thinking. And it’s also instinctual – I’ll reach a point and go “yup, that’s it – that’s the end.”

There was a seven-year gap between Fire Study and Shadow Study. Did you find it difficult to return to Yelena’s world (and POV) after so long?

Yes! I had to re-read all the Study and Glass books to get back into that world and characters. However, I’d been thinking of Valek’s past and his character arc for a couple years and so when I wrote the book, his chapters just came so easy. I had a harder time with Yelena because I got her to a good point at the end of Fire Study – she had her character arc – the new books are more focused on Valek’s character arc – also Yelena was super powerful, what could I do to her? The answer was to yank her powers and see what she does! I’m not called a super villain author for nothing.

Have you found it difficult to balance writing, teaching, and personal life?
Yes! It’s been a constant struggle. I’m lucky that I have a very understanding family and my friends are patient! I must admit these last two years, I’ve been writing two books a year and it’s exhausting! I’ve one more year left and then I’m going back to one book a year. I know readers like having books more often, but I can’t keep up this pace.

What would you consider the hardest part of getting a book published? 

There are so many people writing and submitting manuscript to publishers, just getting noticed by editors and agents is super hard. Then if you do find a publisher, finding readers is also difficult as there are a ton of books out there.

A lot of research has gone into some of your novels, like Inside Out/Outside In. What do you feel is the biggest benefit of research? If any, what do you feel is the biggest drawback?
The biggest benefit is being able to accurately translate an experience/information to your readers. I love hands-on research just for this very reason. I can read that a glass kiln is super-hot at 2100 F, but it’s not the same as standing next to one and feeling the heat pulse and press on your skin and squinting at the bright orange glow inside as if a piece of the sun had been broken off and stuffed inside.

If you had to pick one of the worlds you’ve created to live in, which would it be? Why? 

The world of the Study/Glass series (Ixia and Sitia). Because all my friends live there and it’s the most complex of my worlds. Plus I’d get to hang out with Ari and Janco – need I say more?

If you could go back, what would be one piece of advice you would give yourself when you started writing?

To listen to my editor!! When I finished Fire Study, I was burned out with the world and characters. I’ve been with those characters a long time – it took me three years to write Poison Study and another two to find a publisher. However Fire Study hit the New York Times bestseller list when it was released and my editor and publisher wanted to keep up the momentum. I should have listened. I think the Study/Glass books would be more popular if I’d done that.

Bree Taylor is in her final year of the Creative Writing BFA at the University of British Columbia. Her primary focus in writing is Young Adult and New Adult fantasy. She is currently working on a New Adult fantasy novel centered around modern witches in Vancouver.


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