Meteorologist turned novelist, Maria V. Snyder has been writing fantasy and science fiction since she was bored at work and needed something creative to do. Over a dozen novels later, Maria’s been on the New York Times bestseller list, won a half-dozen awards, and has earned her Master’s degree in Writing from Seton Hill University where she’s now part of the MFA faculty. She also enjoys creating new worlds where horses and swords rule, ’cause let’s face it, they’re cool, although she’s been known to trap her poor characters in a giant metal cube and let them figure out how to get out.
Editor’s Note: this is part one of a three-part interview. Parts two and three will be published Tuesday June 14th and June 21st, respectively. Also, this interview was originally conducted in March through May of 2016.
Now, to get started, I ask all of my interviewees the same starting question, and that’s this: how do we know each other?
We both attended Seton Hill University’s Masters of Arts program for writing popular fiction. I graduated in 2007 (I’m not sure if we were students together? – in my defense that was 9 years ago!). Then in 2008, I returned and am now on the faculty.
I remember some overlap. I got to hear you read from Magic Study as your thesis defense, and I also remember seeing the very early pages in workshop that made up the opening chapter of Inside Out. But my favorite memory is this: attending my very first SHU class when you were handing out bookmarks promoting Poison Study. I saw the cover art and flipped out, because I’d drooled over the hardcover just weeks before in a Barnes & Noble! So tell me: what made you, a published author, apply for the SHU Writing Popular Fiction Masters Degree?
How could I forget about that workshop! I even thanked you in the acknowledgments of Inside Out. *smacking myself upside the head* That was a great workshop – my favorite of my time at SHU as a student. As for your question, I applied to SHU before I was offered a contract for Poison Study–it was an interesting year full of rejections. Then in October 2003, my ship came in and it brought an entire flotilla of acceptances – a 2 book contract, an agent for my middle grade novel, acceptance to SHU, project approval for a history book for a local company, and four non-fiction article assignments. Yes, all in one month! I delayed SHU for a year so I could meet all my deadlines, but the reason I attended was because I still wished to pursue my craft and learn how to be a better writer. Plus I enjoyed teaching local writing classes and thought the degree would help me be a better teacher as well. I learned so much from the program and made lots of friends and now have an entire network of supportive writer friends. SHU is the home of my creative soul!
In the Q&A after your thesis reading of Magic Study at Seton Hill, and you mentioned that you go out of your way to really LEARN the things your characters are doing in the books. So horseback riding was a must, but you also learned a lot about glass-making, right? Can you talk about those experiences and any others you embarked upon for the name of writing and research?
I do try and do as much hands on as possible. I think it helps me to translate the experience to the reader. The glass blowing classes were a blast. Not only did I learn how to work with molten glass, but I was able to pick up on the lingo. Plus I now have a true appreciation for how much talent those glass artists have and the sheer number of hours they’ve put in to make it look easy. Another fun excursion was a tree climbing/zip lining adventure I did to get a feel for how it would be to travel through the tree canopy.
I also toured of a maximum security men’s prison. That was by far the scariest thing I’ve done in the name of research. At times we were right there in with all the guys, outnumbered 20 to 1 and my friend, who was a correctional officer and the 3 other COs were not armed. She noticed I was looking a little…pale and she said, “don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” She’s 5’ 6” and thin. My response, “You’re going to protect me? Who’s going to protect you?” The public is not allowed to take tours of this facility, but I promised the warden Brad Pitt would play him in the movie!
Brad Pitt? Oh, and THIS I gotta see! Have any of your stories been optioned yet for film or television?
Not really. I did have someone option the rights to Poison Study for two years, but she couldn’t make it work, so she never bought the rights. I’ve had a couple of people inquire about them, but nothing has happened and I’m not holding my breath ;).
All in good time! Who knows, with the popularity of fantasy on television these days, we may see a television show! There’s definitely enough material in your Soulfinder series to support it! Have you ever cast your books? Who would play Yelena or Valek (or Ari or Janco)?
I think a TV show would work better as well. Inside Out would translate best to a movie – it’s set in one location and has lots of action. I’m not that up to date on actors so my choices for my characters are all…older. But I thought Summer Glau would be good for Yelena, Tom Hiddleston for Valek, Chris Hemsworth for Ari and Edward Norton for Janco. My readers love to cast the movie, so you’ll find a couple of online groups/threads on Goodreads where they discuss who they like.
How fun! I’m sure there are lots of threads dedicated to that. I don’t mind older either, and Hiddleston for Valek? It’s got to happen now. 🙂 What about the Commander? That would be an interesting person to cast!
I was thinking Cillian Murphy at one point, but Benedict Cumberbatch might be a good choice as well.
I’m going to daydream about the casting while you answer the next question: in my opinion, you are one of those rare authors who’ve won the cover art lottery. Talk about eye-candy! Care to pick a favorite out of all the covers you’ve had?
I will admit, I did luck out on most of my covers. And it’s really cool to see all the foreign editions as well. In fact, I have them up on my website here:
A reader/friend helped me re-organize them so you can see them all by book vs. by country. I can’t say any one is my favorite, but I can pick favorites by categories. Best Poison Study cover that matches my vision of how the cover should be: UK YA edition. Best cover model that matches the protagonist: the Australian Sea Glass. Best kick-ass heroine cover: UK Touch of Power. Best WTF cover: German Poison Study (with the Turkish Magic Study coming in a close second). And the cover that wins for pure coolness: Japanese Magic Study.
Awesome. I love how you have different favorites for different categories! I think my ultimate favorites is still the very first you had: the US cover art for Poison Study. The sequels too. I wish so badly we could’ve seen what that cover artist could’ve done for Fire Study!
You’re not the only one! Many of my readers really want to have a hardback copy of Fire Study that matches the other two original covers. But Harlequin decided to re-issued the books as trade paperbacks with new covers before Fire Study was released, and I really loved that set (which is the only matching set of those three books). Then they jumped on the YA bandwagon and re-issued the first two with YA covers, but didn’t do Fire Study, causing more angst from my readers who like matching covers! Right now you can’t get a matching set in the US. If I was a bigger name, I’d have final cover approval.
What do you mean, if you were a bigger name? You aren’t? SAY IT AIN’T SO! In all seriousness, big name or not, you’ve had amazing covers. And it sounds like Fire Study is the book to watch for, and it’s not quite as widely available?
I don’t feel like a big name, but I am pretty popular in the UK and Australia. 🙂 Actually Magic Study is the one that you can’t get the original MIRA covers for. You can get the YA cover with the vines. Fire Study has only had one cover in the US so that’s easy to find.
Next week on June 14th: Maria talks about how she manages to publish one book a year while mentoring up-and-coming writers through their Masters’ degrees, what kind of writing advice she’d give to writers just starting out, and what — if anything! — she’d change about her already-published novels!