Maria V. Snyder: From Meteorologist to Novelist

If you told Maria V. Snyder 20 years ago, that she would be a New York Times best-selling author, she probably wouldn’t have believed you. Snyder’s dream was never to become an author but instead to be a storm chaser. It wasn’t until she got her degree in meteorology and became an environmental meteorologist that she began writing. It was then that she realized she loved writing more than studying meteorology and went back to school to get her Masters of Arts degree in fiction writing from Seton Hill University, where she now teaches.

I recently had the opportunity to get to know Snyder, learning more about the start of her career, love for writing, hobbies, and what she’s got planned next.

Zakiya N. Jamal (ZJ): How did you first get interested in writing?

Maria V. Snyder (MS): Boredom! I was working as an environmental meteorologist for a consulting firm and I was either crazy busy or bored. During the slow times, I jotted down story ideas and possible plots.

ZJ: When did you write your first novel?

MS: I started my first novel in 1996. I wrote about a chapter a month and submitted the pages to my critique group for feedback then made revisions. It was a slow process, but I finished the novel in 2001.

ZJ: What was the transition from being a meteorologist to novelist like?

MS: It was a slow transition. When my son was born, I went from working full time to part time, then, when my daughter was born two years later, I quit working as a meteorologist. Writing at that time was more a hobby – something to do that was creative and fun. When I finished Poison Study [my first novel], I thought the book was pretty good so I submitted it to agents and publishers. After 57 rejections, I received an acceptance! [In total] the transition spanned eight years and instead of going back to work, I kept writing.

ZJ: Where do you get the concepts for your novels?

MS: Everywhere! I get story ideas from books, magazine articles, TV shows, movies, the theater, from something my kids say, from my travels, or from the people I meet. Life is [a] fodder for my stories.

ZJ: Almost all of your series are trilogies except the Outside In/Inside Out pair. Is there a reason why you write your series in the form of trilogies? Can readers expect a third Outside In novel?

MS: I don’t really consider my books trilogies. What happens is, after I write three books about the same characters, I’ve had enough. I want to move on to new characters and new worlds with a whole new set of problems. In my opinion, trilogies are just one huge story broken into three parts. As for another Insider book, there are no plans for a third book at this time.

ZJ: Are you working on any new projects currently?

MS: I’m working on a new set of Study books with Yelena and Valek. There has been enough time from the original three books for me to be excited about the characters again and I [came up with] a new idea. The first of them is tentatively scheduled for January 2015 release.

ZJ: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

MS: Lots! I have a number of writing advice articles on my website that they can read but my biggest piece of advice is always persistence! I’d been writing for 10 years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. [You should] 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. 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. I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice: ‘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!

ZJ: The worlds of the Study and Glass series and the Healers series seem to be similar. Is there a connection between the two worlds at all or is that just a coincidence?

MS: There isn’t a connection; they are two separate worlds. However, I will admit there are many similarities between them. In both worlds there is magic and a lack of technology – no electricity or modern machines. I just think it’s more fun and challenging to have characters [that] ride horses, fight with swords, and don’t have instant communication. Many fantasies are set in medieval times, but with my worlds I didn’t want to be restricted to what words I could or couldn’t use and those times were not the best for women and my ladies are strong, smart, and independent.

ZJ: What is your writing process like? Do you start writing as soon as you come up with an idea or do you do a lot of research first?

MS: I don’t do that much research before writing. I’m a “seat-of-the-pants” writer; I discover the story’s events as I write so I never know what I’m going to need as far as research is concerned. As I’m writing, I’ll encounter things I need to research so I’ll make a list as I go and just put a comment in my story and move on. However, that doesn’t work for things that propel the story and are integral to the plot. For example, in my Glass books, the main character, Opal, is a glass artist and I needed to take a number of glass blowing classes while working on those stories.

ZJ: What do you do when you’re not writing?

MS: I enjoy playing volleyball and I love to ski. I also dabble with photography and make jewelry plus I read and love to travel.

ZJ: Who are some of your favorite authors?

MS: This is always a hard question to answer and I’m glad you [only] asked for ‘some’. Some are Rachel Caine, Illona Andrews, Mindy Klasky, Jeri Smith-Ready, Kate Elliott, Gail Carriger, Harlan Coben, Sebastian Junger, and Dick Francis.

ZJ: If you didn’t choose to be an author what do you think you would be doing?

MS: Before I started writing seriously, I always thought it would be fun to work in a bookstore or be a librarian. Now if I had to change careers, I would become a criminal psychologist – I find the criminal mind fascinating!

ZJ: What has been your greatest accomplishment/experience as an author?

MS: This one is easy to answer. A teen girl who was contemplating suicide was inspired by the actions and courage of Yelena (my protagonist from the Study books) that she decided to keep living. That is without a doubt my greatest accomplishment as a writer – better than any award or being on a bestseller list.

Snyder would like to thank her fans for their loyalty and support and for inspiring her to be a better writer. She hopes that you continue to support her as she continues with her writing. If you’re interesting in learning more about Snyder’s works you can read the first chapter of all her books on her website and read a few of her short stories there, as well.

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