I had the amazing fortune of meeting New York Times Bestsellers List author, Maria Snyder, last week. We were both waiting patiently for more visitors at a school bookfair, and I took full advantage of the lull in activity by interviewing Maria. I have split the interview into two parts, as Maria gave me so much information that it would be an injustice to her (and you) to try and cram it all into one post.
What made you take up writing?
I didn’t always write, so boredom as a young adult was the main reason. I finished college in the early ’90s with a degree in environmental meteorology and then got a job as an air quality scientist. I did some field work and dealt with lawyers who wanted air permits, and it was all quite boring.
I decided to go to a writers’ conference on a whim. One of the offers of the conference was a critique of a short story, so I submitted one. When the lady handed it back to me, she told me that it needed some work, but it was “pretty good.” I wanted to know what “pretty good” really meant—did that mean a 5/10 or something else? She said that it was a 7/10. That encouraged me. If it hadn’t been for her, I don’t know if I ever would have started to write in earnest.
So what did you do after the conference?
I wrote short stories for three or four years. One of the short stories seemed to have more to it and, as I worked on it, it turned into the beginning of Poison Study.
I joined a writers’ group, which we later fondly called the “Muse and Schmooze” group. The ladies there told me that the story wasn’t too bad and promptly ripped it to shreds, but all nine of them were constructive in their critique. Every month I wrote and submitted a new chapter, and they helped me to polish and revise it. They acknowledged my abilities and gave me advice on how to make it even better. I didn’t use all of their advice, but most of it did enhance the book considerably. When you open the book to the page of acknowledgements, you’ll notice that I have named each one of the writers in the group. My appreciation of their input is huge.
How did you go about trying to get Poison Study published?
I submitted queries to forty agents, and all but one of them rejected it. The one agent who liked it asked me to make some changes, but when I sent it back to her with the changes in place, she was no longer interested in representing me. I then decided to send it directly to seventeen publishers. One of them said yes.
The editor assigned to me at that publishing house was very good at her job: she encouraged me to add in more description, to develop the characters more, and to build up the detail of the fantasy world. Her changes were perfect, because I tended to write in a very direct, action-focused way at the time, and she made my writing richer for it.
Are you still with that publishing house?
Yes. Originally, Poison Study was published by Harlequin’s Luna Books, but later they wanted Luna to represent an urban line of books, and they created Mira to be a fantasy “catch all” line. My recent books are with Mira.
I have written another book, though, called Storm Watcher: a middle grade book of mainstream fiction about a thirteen-year-old boy who is both fascinated with and scared of weather. It’s like a cross between City of Ember and Logan’s Run. I won’t publish it with Mira because of the genre, but it is tentatively scheduled to be released in the fall of 2009.
Part two of my interview with Maria Snyder coming soon.
If you would like to win a signed copy of Poison Study, the first book in the Poison, Fire, Magic Study trilogy, there are a few ways to get an entry in. You will get one entry for each of the following, as long as you send me a link to the proof here or via e-mail (inkmeister at inksnatcher.com):
1. Link to this interview (part one or two) from your blog
2. Link to Maria’s site (http://www.mariavsnyder.com/books/) from your blog
3. Blog about this contest
4. Send referrals, for any one of Maria’s books, to five friends (and have them e-mail me to say they got one)
4. Twitter/Facebook etc. about this contest
5. Comment here
Published in October 2005, Poison Study won the 2006 Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, won the Salt Lake Co. Library’s Reader’s Choice award, was a 2005 Booksense pick, was nominated for four other awards, and received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly.