Meteorologist turned novelist, Maria V. Snyder’s been writing fantasy and science fiction since she was bored at work and needed something creative to do. A dozen novels and numerous short stories later, Maria’s learned a thing or three about writing. She’s been on the New York Times bestseller list, won a half-dozen awards, and has earned her MA degree in Writing from Seton Hill University where she’s been happily sharing her knowledge with the current crop of MFA students. 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. Readers are welcome to check out her website for book excerpts, free short stories, maps, blog, her schedule, and more.
Coffee or tea?
Tea! Every night I make a big pot of English Breakfast decaffeinated tea and sip it while I’m writing, and when I wake up, I drink regular English Breakfast to get my caffeine fix. I only drink coffee when I need a super boost of energy. However, I’m currently addicted to those Pumpkin Spice Lattes – yum!
After a day of writing, how do you recharge your creative batteries?
I write from 10 pm to 3 am, so after writing, I go to bed. I take most Friday and Saturday nights off, and then I’ll pour a glass of wine and watch DVDs. Currently, I’m watching all the old seasons of Castle. It’s a TV show where a thriller author helps a police detective solve murders.
If you could be any superhero, who would it be? What would you do?
I’d be Bat Girl – love the super cool motorcycle. I’d use my powers to help the women who are being abused, and the women in the Middle East who are being repressed – burkas can hide lots of stuff, including machine guns!
Favorite TV show?
Right now I’m loving Castle. It’s a well written show with great chemistry between all the characters. I also like Bones and my all time favorite…Buffy the Vampire Slayer – talk about girl power.
What’s your idea of an ideal day?
It’s a day when I don’t have anything to do. Where I can read or watch TV or sleep all day without worrying about getting stuff done. I always have a massive To-Do list and would love a day without anything to check off.
If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be? Why?
It would be a butterfly because I used a butterfly as a metaphor in my first book, Poison Study, and also because I love butterflies. I’d also have the names of my kids written inside the butterfly – like along a vein in the wing – very small.
What has been one of your most interesting jobs?
The summer between when I graduated college and my first “real” job, I worked at a kennel. This kennel was just for one very rich lady’s dogs—over 50 of them. She showed them and bred them and hired two of us to take care of them. I loved it! The dogs were always happy to see me and they never complained – I haven’t had such wonderful co-workers since.
What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
I never sat down and said, “I’m going to be a writer.” It happened over time. I was bored at work and started jotting down story ideas and writing short stories. When I quit to stay home with my son, I needed something creative to do or I’d go insane, so I began writing my first book, Poison Study. It was slow—a chapter a month, but I really enjoyed it. I joined a critique group and they liked it and encouraged me to keep going. When I finished editing it, I sent it out to publishers, hoping to sell the book before my youngest was in school full time (after than I’d have to get a job – gasp!). The book sold along with Magic Study and my career was launched.
What books are you reading right now?
I’m reading Halloween: Magic, Mystery and Macabre, it’s an anthology edited by Paula Guran. I have a short story in the book, but I’m reading the others. I’m also listening to Spider’s Bite, by Jennifer Estep. I like audio books for long drives and when I’m doing the laundry—they help pass the time.
Name someone who supported your writing journey outside of family members.
My writing critique group, The Muse and Schmooze was vital to my success! If you read the acknowledgements in Poison Study and my latest book, Storm Watcher, you’ll see all their names.
Was there ever a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up? If so, how did you find the motivation to continue?
Yes – June of 2003. I’d received 40 rejects from agents and 17 rejects from publishers for Poison Study by that point. I had 3 more publishers to try and then I was out of options for the book. I kept submitting to those last 3, but I decided to go into another direction and focus on writing non-fiction articles and teaching. I submitted article ideas/queries to a number of local magazines. I also submitted an application to Seton Hill’s graduate writing program so I could get my Masters and teach. I heard nothing from anyone all summer!! I’ll never forget October 2003. I received a call from Harlequin LUNA – they loved Poison Study and wanted to buy that and a second book. I was accepted into graduate school. And Harrisburg Magazine’s editor called, she loved my ideas and assigned me four non-fiction articles. All in one month!
What’s your favorite writing quote?
I’m not sure if this is considered a “writing” quote, but it’s my favorite: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Thomas A. Edison
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Persistence is my biggest advice. I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can. Consider that time an apprenticeship. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was reading Orson Scott Card’s book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. In chapter 3, Card tells the writer to consider some questions before choosing the main character. He wrote, “Too often—particularly in medieval fantasy—writers think their story must be about rulers. Kings and queens, dukes and duchesses—they can be extravagantly powerful, yes, but too often they aren’t free at all. If you understand the workings of power in human societies, you’ll know that the greatest freedom to act in unpredictable ways is usually found away from the centers of power.”
This comment led me to think about a person who was close enough to the center of power to witness important events, yet not be the Prince or Princess. I thought about a food taster and a scene jumped into my mind. I saw a woman tasting food that was most likely poisoned through the eyes of the King. He watched her with heartbreaking horror because he had fallen in love with her. That led me to wonder about this woman. Who was she? Why was she there? Why would a King fall in love with her? And Poison Study was born.
What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.
From the emails I’ve received from my readers over the last eight years, I’d say I’m very good at creating characters. My readers love them and want more stories with my characters, even the minor ones.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d have to say Dick Francis. He’s a British mystery writer and I’ve read all his books. His books always started with a hook and each chapter ended with a mini cliffhanger. Plus he always wrote in first person point of view and his male characters tended to be quiet types with an inner strength that surfaced when things went bad. I think my style as a writer is similar to Dick Francis—his books taught me how to structure a story that is hard to put down.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope. I’m not the type to look back and say, “I wish…” I’m proud of my books and spend my energy focusing on the next book.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?
I struggle with description and setting details. If it was up to me, all I’d write is dialogue and action, which comes easily. I usually have to layer in the details during revisions. My first draft tends to be sparse with the details.