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

Spy Glass is the eagerly awaited third and final instalment of Maria V Snyder's Opal Cowan series. After the disastrous outcome to the events of the previous book's adventures, Opal is back at her family home licking the wounds.Opal now has to adapt to life without magic. She tries to get back into her usual routine but without her magic she finds it difficult. The sight of the glass kilns that used to comfort her just reminds her of what she's lost and the consequences of her actions.Her despair soon turns to hope though when she receives a call from an unexpected [...]


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Sea Glass by Maria V Snyder

In the second book of the Opal Cowan series Opal is finally ready to graduate from the Keep and now must decide whether or not she is going to continue working for the Sitian council, or whether she is going to try and make it on her own. Will Opal go it alone without the council and risk having her magic exploited by others for personal gain? Or will she stay with the council and let them exploit her gifts for the benefit of everyone but at the risk of losing her freedom?She makes things worse, however, by directly disobeying an order from the council to return to the Keep and [...]


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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 Yelen [...]


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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 [...]


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Inside Out by Maria V Snyder

While everyone believes in the Gateway, a way to get to the Outside, Trella is happy to ignore them knowing that the Gateway doesn’t exist. It is a spark of hope in the otherwise depressing life of the Scrubs and Trella will have none of it. For a Scrub life is what it is.Life as a Scrub means that Trella spends her life cleaning the various vents and pipes in Inside. She likes spending the days alone as she follows the trolls that are used to clean the pipes. When she isn’t working she sleeps above the vents instead of her bunk and spends as little time with the other sc [...]


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Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder

Four years after she helped Yelena Zaltana save Sitia from the Fire Warpers the one-trick-wander, Opal Cowan, still has not developed the myriad of magical skills that her fellow students at the Magician's Keep have discovered. To keep her mind off her inability to use the most basic of magic Opal spends her time in the glassworks where she makes the glass messengers that she is famed for. All this changes when Opal is summoned to the Master Magicians and asked to help with a problem in the Stormdancer Clan. The glass orbs that they use to tame the storms have been breaking and kil [...]


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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 [...]


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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.The book continues to follow Trella, the protagonist of Inside Out, as she tries to help get the Cube back into order after the rebellion she incited in the first book. Afte [...]


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Scent of Magic by Maria V Snyder

The army of the dead are coming… Avry of Kazan, the last Healer of the mystical Fifteen Realms, has a power that can’t be matched. But in the minds of her friends and foe alike, Avry no longer exists. Now, as the psychotic King Tohon builds an army mightier than any that has been seen before - a league of undead soldiers - Avry must face her toughest, most terrifying battle alone. Fighting to be reunited with her family and her lover Kerrick, Avry must infiltrate Tohon’s troops. But does she have the power, the rare magic; to do what legend says is impossible?I am [...]


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