December 10, 2010

Winter Blog Blast Tour: An Interview with Maria V. Snyder

It's been a good tour, this week with the Winter Blog Blast. From the humor of Josh Berk, to the immense talent of Uyen Pham we've been fortunate here on our site. Now stay tuned for our last interview -- one we've been really waiting for!

Maria V. Snyder is an outstanding writer -- who started out as a meteorologist. Honestly, we have tons of blogging and writing friends who started out in law, but meteorology? That's such a huge leap, but happily for us, Maria Snyder made it well, and has happily worked in the realm of fiction since 1995. She's here to talk with us about her fantasy projects for adults and young adults, and her new dystopian YA books, Inside Out and the sequel (can we just say, after the cliffhanger ending of the first book, THANK GOD there's a sequel??), Outside In.

We also ask about book covers, feminist characters, and writing for (::dramatic GASP!::) Harlequin.

Finding Wonderland: First of all: YAY, thank you for getting in touch with us. With your new book out and finishing up the sequel and doing signings and such, we know you are SO BUSY, and we really appreciate your time.

Let's get right to it -- we found it interesting that the Poison Study books have been packaged both as YA books and adult books, while Inside/Out is being marketed as a crossover title. Did you initially approach these projects with the intention of writing for a particular age group? Or was it a publisher/marketing decision to package them that way? Do you see yourself more as a writer of fiction for adults?

Maria V. Snyder: When I wrote Poison Study, I thought it would be a standalone book for adults. However my niece, who was 14 at the time, asked if she could read my book. Since she was an advanced reader, I let her and she read it in two days. She loved it and that was when I thought the book might appeal to young adults as well. LUNA books published it as an adult book, but I kept getting emails from young adults who loved it. Eventually, my publisher started a YA line and they re-released Poison Study with a new YA cover. I don't consider myself an adult or young adult author – I don't change my writing style or voice based on the intended audience. What changes is the story.

Finding Wonderland: That's a great approach, and we agree with it wholeheartedly. But we've still got more questions about Poison Study...namely, we noticed that the book had a mind-boggling SIX different book cover designs. In particular, the cover was changed when it was marketed as a young adult book. What about the cover change do you think might appeal more to teen readers? What's your favorite cover design (from any of your books) and why?

MVS: Poison Study has had an interesting five years that’s for sure! ツ I don’t know why the new YA cover appeals to teen readers – perhaps it’s the girl’s face or the vines intertwined with her hair. However, when I do school visits, I always show the students both adult and YA covers and the kids who like the new YA cover always outnumber the ones who like the adult cover. So my publisher’s marketing department do know what they’re doing. My all time favorite cover for Poison Study is the UK YA one. I like it because she’s holding her bow staff, there are poison bottles, books and a castle in the background. It’s about perfect. Plus she’s not some super model – you can see her hair is lanky as if she’d been sweating. That cover really appealed to me. In fact all the UK Study books are perfect in my mind.

Finding Wonderland: (Ooh, we do like that bow, too!) So, Harlequin, of course, is the go-to big name for romance, yet Inside/Out is far more of a dystopian suspense/adventure story, though it does have romantic elements. Was it a challenge to market a non-romance story to Harlequin? In your opinion, why is dystopian fiction such a big draw in YA lit right now?

MVS: Harlequin has been branching out into other genres with their LUNA and MIRA lines. I showed them Inside Out many years ago, they bought the title, and then developed a new YA line so they could publish it. It took them a few years, and I was impatient especially when the Hunger Games came out and was so popular. I figured everyone would think I copied the dystopian science fictional world from that book (and I've seen comments to that effect), but Inside Out was already written! Dystopian worlds became more popular with Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. I think it’s because it was so different than what was out there for teens. Yes there were books like Brave New World, but the Uglies books were told from the main teen character's point of view. The focus is on the characters and their interactions, not the world. When these books began to sell well, the publishers jumped on the band wagon and started buying good dystopian fiction.

Finding Wonderland: Okay, THAT is awesome that your publisher believed in you enough to create a line around your work. Go, Harlequin. That's excellent. And while The Hunger Games and Inside Out are certainly dystopian together, there's really enough room in the genre for both.

All of your books have strong female protagonists with significant power and agency, who think their way out of problems and aren't afraid to act: Yelena, who maintains self-control even in prison; Trella, the Queen of the Pipes. Do you consider yourself someone who writes from a feminist perspective? What do you hope readers will take away from these portrayals?

MVS: I'm all about girl power. Actually, I'm more about independence and using your own brain and resources to solve problems. In most of my books, my main female protagonist learns how to defend herself and it's not an easy or quick process. They also learn how to act and think on their own. I hope my readers take away the sense that with enough hard work and persistence, they can do anything they set their minds to. That they can be independent and learn how to take care of themselves if needed. And I always have some romantic element – as the story and romance progresses, I feel the main male protagonist becomes a partner – sometimes Valek saves Yelena and sometimes she saves him.

Finding Wonderland: Excellent. We like that brains, independence and partnership thing, a lot. ツ

In reading up on you, we discovered that you attend a lot of conferences and conventions. What kind of impact has this had on your fantasy writing career? From a writer's perspective, what's your favorite or most valuable aspect of attending these events? Do you have a favorite conference you'd recommend to aspiring fantasy or science fiction writers?

MVS: It's hard to tell if attending conferences has increased my book sales or not. However, I enjoy being with my fellow authors and meeting my readers. Hanging out with other writers is always inspiring and motivating. And meeting readers is the best! The Pennwriters' Annual conference ( is a good conference to help aspiring writers of all genres. I also like the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group conference – it's smaller than Pennwriters, but because they’re closer to NYC, they invite some fabulous agents and editors to speak. It’s also geared for all genres. Here's the addy:

Don't Leave Yet! Lightning Round:

1. Favorite beverage while writing?

2. Laptop or longhand?

3. Ideal writing location?
Cabin in the woods.

4. More fun to write: dystopia or fantasy?

5. Writing with tunes, or the sound of silence?

6. If you could excel at a career other than writing, what would it be?
Criminal Psychologist.

Thanks again, Maria, for taking the time to talk to us and give us insight into your writing and storytelling process. We can't wait to read Outside In, and the next dystopian, historical, or romantic, or adventurous book you write!

Visit Maria V. Snyder's website to learn more about her projects for adults and young adults:

Don't forget to check out the rest of today's awesome WBBT author/illustrator lineup:

First, the poetic genius of Marilyn Singer @ Writing and Ruminating
Revolutionary Jennifer Donnelly @ Shelf Elf,
Fae-lovin' Julie Kagawa @ Hip Writer Mama,
The brilliant Ted Chiang @ Shaken & Stirred, and finally,
Sassy-smart Sofia Quintero @ A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.

Whew! It's been an excellent week, and we've enjoyed everyone's interviews. Thanks for playing!


Doret said...

I just added Poison Study to my library queue.

And seriously go Harlequin for their willingness to create covers to draw the largest audience.

Anonymous said...

I loved the study and glass trilogies =D a w e s o m e!! it was great reading the interview :)

Jess :)