Welcome back! We’re continuing our celebration of NJ Romance Writers Golden Leaf Hall of Fame recipients. This achievement is awarded to an author who has won three times in the same category. We have the privilege of recognizing two fabulous authors at this years’ “Put Your Heart in a Book” Conference on October 17, 2014.
Today, we’ll move away from Romantic Suspense and onto our Paranormal Hall of Fame Recipient, Maria V. Snyder. Below is my interview with Maria. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting excerpts from her award-winning books.
Hi, Maria. Congratulations on winning New Jersey Romance Writers’ Golden Leaf award three times in the Paranormal category. It’s a wonderful testament to the success of your stories.
MVS: Thank you! I’m thrilled and honored to have won the Golden Leaf three times.
Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Two of your three Golden Leaf winning books (Touch of Power and Scent of Magic) are from your Healer series. What was your favorite part of writing this series? Do you have a favorite book/hero?
With the Healer series, I really enjoyed writing the interactions between the characters and how they change and grow throughout the series. I also experimented with switching POVs between Avry and Kerrick and really loved getting into his head and showing more of the world since they weren’t together during most of books 2 and 3.
There are parts of all three that I love, but overall Touch of Power is my favorite of the 3 because the characters were all together and it was fun writing their banter. My favorite character is Belen. He’s the protective older brother type – the others call him Poppa Bear and that’s perfect for him. I always wanted an older brother who is built like a linebacker but is the sweetest soul until someone picks on me, then he’d defend me. And readers will find that character in all my books – I can’t help it!
Where did you get the story lines for your Golden Leaf winning books?
Storm Glass is a spin off from my Study series. Opal, the main protagonist was instrumental in Fire Study where she discovers she has a rare form of magic. She can trap magical power in glass that then can be used by other magicians. It’s equivalent to inventing batteries. I really liked her and wanted to explore more about her powers. I also wanted to feature the Stormdancers who can harvest the energy from big storms into glass orbs. These orbs are then used to fuel the local factories. This is where my meteorology degree from Penn State University came in handy. In 2005, it was a record season for hurricanes with four Category 5 hurricanes (Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma). The 2005 season caused $180 billion in damage and killed approximately 2,280 people. Hurricanes release a ton of energy in one day. Enough energy to meet the electrical generating needs of the entire world for 200 days. And I thought wouldn’t it be nice to harvest that energy and use it productively! But of course something has to go wrong and that’s where Opal comes in. Someone has sabotaged the glass orbs so they shatter when being filled with the storm’s energy and Opal is sent to figure out what’s going on.
For the Healer series, I had this vague idea about a healer or an apprentice healer during an epidemic. She was either going to be sought after for her powers – like everyone wanting her, or be hunted. I wasn’t sure. Then one night my daughter couldn’t sleep and she wanted me to tell her a story. She knew all my other books, so I started telling her about this healer. And every night, she’d ask, “What’s next?” That’s why Touch of Power is dedicated to my daughter.
I also have to credit an old Star Trek episode titled The Empath – about a race of healers/empaths who would can take on the injury or illness of another and they heal themselves. As a mother, this ability really appealed to me – I would have loved to take on my kids illness and injuries so they didn’t suffer. I also thought that even though the healer heals faster than a normal person, she would have to decide who is healed and who can heal on their own.
I read on your website bio that you get very hands on in researching your books. What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done in the name of research?
That depends on your definition of outrageous. I did a tree top adventure that included climbing and zip lining through the trees to research a character avoiding capture by traveling in the tree canopy. I visited a men’s maximum security prison – that was the scariest thing I’ve done. I took a number of glass classes to learn how to work with glass, including blowing glass, cutting, fusing, and making beads for jewelry. <I agree, the prison sounds very scary!>
How do you approach world building?
Through the eyes of the main protagonist. I don’t do a ton of world building before writing a story – I just decide on the basics. I start with a character and a situation and the world develops as I write. I did have to draw a map for the Healer books because they were going to be traveling and their world was in turmoil. It was fun making that map and I wrote a blog post about it. If anyone is interested they can go here: http://seeingnight.blogspot.com/2012/01/author-guest-post-giveaway-touch-of.html <Thanks!>
What tips do you have for writing a successful series?
Keep a series bible! <Great advice. Dee Davis said the same thing!> When I wrote my first book, Poison Study, I thought it would be a standalone novel and didn’t keep good notes on the characters or anything. When Harlequin bought the book they wanted a second one, then a third came naturally. Next thing I know I have a spin off series and nine years later, I’m writing another set of 3 Study books. I really wished I kept better track of everything and everyone. I’ve a dedicated reader who is working on a spread sheet for me now.
Another tip is to plant little clues in your first book that you can expand on in the next books. JK Rowling was a master at this in her Harry Potter series – even the smallest thing that didn’t seem relevant at the time, would come back in a future book. Also make sure each book has an ending. That the major plot/problem is solved during that book. You can leave other threads untied, but in order for the reader to feel like she had a satisfying read, then that is important.
What’s your favorite/most productive time of the day to write? Do you need a certain type of atmosphere to write (noise, silence)?
My most productive time to write is from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. I’ve always been a night owl and once my kids were able to get themselves up and on the bus, I switched to writing at night. I play music while writing – mostly pop so I don’t really listen to the lyrics and I drink a thermos full of decaf tea.
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
I do have two teenagers and there’s the soccer games, marching band, laundry type of things that dominated my non-writing time. When I have time to myself, I enjoy reading, playing volleyball, and taking pictures. I also love to travel and have gone to some exotic locations.
Here are some rapid-fire questions.
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve lived or visited? I loved visiting China and hope to return for a longer visit next time.
Print book or digital? Print – I still enjoy the feel and smell of a book in my hands. I do read digital when I’m traveling – it minimizes the weight of my suitcase.
Book or author who inspired you to become a writer: Dick Francis.
Favorite color: Red.
Dream date (place and person): Chris Hemsworth in Paris. <Yes, please!>
Favorite movie: The Princess Bride. <It’s one of mine, too!>
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mint chocolate chip. <Another favorite. Must be something about the name Maria!>
Italian or Chinese food: Italian. I love pasta!
Favorite season: Winter. I also enjoy skiing.
Jamie Dornan or Colin O’Donoghue? Colin O’Donoghue! <Agree, although Jamie is pretty fine to look at, too!>
You can catch up with Maria at the Put Your Heart in a Book Conference next month, where she’ll be signing her award winning books. Visit our website for more information. But hurry, registration closes October 4th!