For those unfamiliar, how would you describe your fiction?
My stories so far fall under the wide umbrella of speculative fiction. I’ve six fantasy books and two dystopian novels. I would say my style is character-focused, fast-paced, and uses elements from suspense, mystery and romance novels. I also feature strong female protagonists.
What features tend to make for a good first chapter of a novel, or what is an example of a first chapter you enjoyed and what made it work so well for you as a reader?
A good first chapter starts with a hook. An incident that is the spark or stepping off point for the main protagonist. The chapter should raise enough reader questions to make them want to learn more about your main protagonist and her situation. But it shouldn’t be too confusing and should limit the number of characters and events that are introduced. And for goodness sake, don’t stop the action dead to tell the reader everything about a character – a head to toe physical description and lengthy history – that bores me silly! Dribble in the details later in the story.
You have written novels as well as short stories. Do you treat short story writing as a distinctly different sort of writing to novel writing, due the limited amount of space for story development, or do you consider it as basically the same as novel writing but shorter?
Short stories are hard to write. Every time I sit down to write one, I end up with a potential novel. I’ve only gotten the “knack” of it recently. What I’ve learned is to cull all the extra details and focus on this one slice of life, which is different than when I’m working on a novel. Also there is no room for subplot no matter how interesting!
What are you most looking forward to about your tour of Australia and New Zealand?
Meeting all my readers! They wrote letters to my publisher, asking Harlequin to invite me down and it worked :)
Who is one of your favourite fictional characters and what makes that character stand out for you?
Alexia Tarabotti of the Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless). She’s practical, intelligent, unsentimental, and makes good use of her parasol for self defense. The books are set in England during the Victorian Era and has both Steampunk and paranormal elements. Alexia also manages to do quite a bit while still being the proper lady and wearing the latest fashions. The books are quirky and silly, but I admire Alexia and think she is a great role model.
What are some of your favourite short story anthologies and what do you think tends to make an anthology work well?
Well, to be honest…I don’t read many short story anthologies besides the ones I’m in. I’m always frustrated with short stories because I always want to read more about the characters.
You have described in an interview how you took glass blowing classes as research for a character in your third novel, Fire Study. What other kinds of research have you done for your novels and what have been the major benefits of doing first-hand research?
I’ve learned how to ride and care for a horse, pick a lock, taste food the professional way, climbed through a tree canopy, learned how to fence, and I’ve toured a maximum security prison all in the name of research. No other method of research beats hand’s on. It’s the best way I know to translate the experience for my readers. But I will admit there are certain things you can only do by the internet and books. In lieu of time travel, I had to do all my research on the black death in Europe that way. But if given the choice, I’ll try to find a class or expert to help with writing those scenes.
You teach and mentor for the MFA program in popular fiction at Seton Hill University. What is the most important piece of advice you would like to give for aspiring novelists?
To quote Stephen King, “Read a lot and write a lot.” And my own motto, “Persistence! Don’t give up. Keep writing and keep submitting your stories and eventually you will start selling them.” I have a number of writing advice articles on my website at http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php for aspiring writers.
What is next for your fiction writing?
I’m working on a new fantasy series about a healer set in a world that is recovering from a deadly plague (that’s why I was researching about the black death). In the first book, Avry’s world has blamed the plague on the healers and has hunted them down. She is finally caught only to be rescued by a group who wants her to heal their Prince. The group’s leader, Kerrick, knows the healers aren’t to blame for the plague and that she could do some good for a change instead of hiding. Unfortunately, she believes this Prince is the one who started blaming the plague on the healers so she isn’t risking her life for some pampered Prince. As they travel to the Prince’s hidden location, they’re pursued by others who have realized having a healer around might just be a good thing for them, but not necessarily for her. The book, Touch of Power is set for a March 2012 release in Australia.
You can read more about Maria V Snyder and her fiction at www.mariavsnyder.com.
The Australian Literature Review