I'm so thrilled to have the incredible New York Times Bestselling Young Adult and Sci-Fi / Fantasy author, Maria V. Snyder, on Creating the Write Reality today as my MARCH Author Spotlight!
For those of you who are new to my blog, once a month I feature an author whose work I’ve read and enjoyed. It’s especially exciting when it’s someone whom I’ve met in person and have had the opportunity to spend some time with. I first met Maria two years ago, at The Create Something Magical Conference Book Fair. We had a nice chat, and I purchased Poison Study which came with a matching bookmark. Somehow, the bookmark got separated from my bag of swag and newly purchased books, and landed on the floor of my car as I left the conference. So I put it in the cup holder on the way home, and that’s where it stayed…for the next two years! So, when I ran in Maria this past October at the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Conference, I was like, “Oh my God, there’s Maria V. Snyder. I have her bookmark in my car!” Talk about effective top-of-mind marketing. That said, I had the pleasure of her company throughout the conference, and asked her to be a guest. She very graciously agreed…
Okay, before I begin—shameless plug on Maria’s behalf—the next Create Something Magical Conference (Iselin, New Jersey) is this weekend! Maria will be the featured conference keynote speaker during breakfast on Sunday. The conference is open to readers and writers, so come join us! If you decide to attend her Saturday morning breakout session, I’ll be the one moderating, so do say hello! Click here for conference details.
A little bit more about Maria… Meteorologist turned novelist, Maria's been writing fantasy and science fiction since her son was born. Twenty years, thirteen published novels, and seventeen short stories later, Maria's learned a thing or three about writing. She’s been on the New York Times bestseller list, and has won a half-dozen awards. Her latest book, Shadow Study, the first book in the continuation of the Study Series, was released on February 24th.
“After years of clamoring, fans of Snyder's awesome Study series are about to be rewarded with a new adventure featuring former poison taster turned Soulfinder Yelena Zaltana. Snyder's complex world and rich characterization are what have made this series so unforgettable, and she doesn't miss a beat in this new installment. Having Yelena, Valek, Ari, Janco and the rest back is pure reading pleasure! 4.5 stars out of 4.5 stars.” ~ RT Magazine (March 2015 issue)
This new series is a welcome return of the couple who last starred in 2008’s Fire Study. As usual, Snyder combines deftly drawn characters with a complex political scene and tops it with a dollop of romance. Although some will be disappointed that Yelena and Valek don’t spend much time together in this entry, Snyder has tied in some of the events from her more recent “Glass” series (last visited in 2010’s Spy Glass). One bonus for longtime fans is a glimpse at Valek’s post and the path he took to become the twisty spymaster and assassin he is today.” ~ Library Journal (February 15, 2015 issue)
Read my review of Shadow Study below…now on to the interview.
Maria, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy book tour schedule to stop by. Goodreads has been buzzing since last year about your latest release, and the return of Yelena and Valek.
MVS: Thank you for inviting me to your blog!
You’re very welcome. As a new reader to the Study series, I’ve just finished an ARC of Shadow Study. Both Yelena and Valek are beloved characters of the series. How did you balance what to include from prior books into this new trilogy?
MVS: That is always a hard task with any book that’s part of a series – some readers will remember the details from prior books while others will not. What I do is focus on the current story’s events and if there is something from the past books that is mentioned, then I’ll do a quick explanation and move on. Or if a character is faced with a similar situation, then I’ll have her reflect on the prior incident – this way the information is given to the readers without it become a boring re-telling of past events.
What are you favorite story threads in this series? Is there any in particular that we should be paying special attention to?
MVS: I really enjoyed exploring Valek’s past and how he transformed from a teen who’d just witnessed the horrendous murder of his three older brothers into the best assassin in the land. With the original three Study books (Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study) all the focus had been on Yelena as she dealt with her own traumas and overcame many obstacles. In these new Study books, the focus is more on Valek. Yelena still has problems to deal with, but Valek is the one who will change the most. Poor guy is going to be put through the wringer!
How do you see Yelena and Valek growing and evolving in this series?
MVS: Their relationship definitely grows and changes into a more mature connection and they both have problems to face. Valek’s past memories are triggered by the arrival of a new hot shot assassin who is much younger and threatening to take his job. Yelena is dealing with the sudden loss of her magic – someone or something has blocked her ability to use power and she must change the way she sees herself and adapt. She has to realize that she is more than her Soulfinding abilities.
On your website, you have covers from two versions of your series. What’s the difference between the adult and YA versions of the Study series?
MVS: The covers! Nothing in the story was changed – no scenes were removed. Actually in the YA version there is a map and the price of the book is cheaper. When Poison Study was first published – it was considered an adult novel. However, I kept getting all these emails from teens who LOVED the book. Which was really fun and I told my publisher about them. When the YA explosion happened with Twilight and The Hunger Games, my publisher put new YA covers on the books to reach more readers. I don’t mind, I love that my books have a good cross-over appeal.
Many new writers wonder what it’s like to a bestselling and award-winning author. How has your career evolved and what advice would you give others intent on following in your footsteps?
MVS: I’m not sure how my career evolved other than I kept writing books that I’d personally enjoy reading. I also think focusing on the characters versus the plot and setting makes a difference. However, as you know, it’s hard to pin down what might be the reason, I’m doing so well. I also have a good relationship with my readers – I take the time to return emails, to comment on posts, and to engage them by asking them questions and hosting contests. Because of that they actively recruit others. I think that giving away books is the best thing to do – bookmarks or shot glasses or pencils are fun, but aren’t going to convert any new readers – if you think about it, have you found a new author from a promotional item? I haven’t – but I’ve found many new authors from others who rave about a certain book.
What has been the most effective ways you’ve found to engage with your readers and continue to build your fan base?
MVS: Facebook has been a great place for me to connect with my readers. It doesn’t take as much time as a blog and there is a chance for an interaction via comments. I host contests and giveaways on my page and also ask questions. I once asked for help to name a horse in my book and received over a thousand names! The winner won a signed copy of my latest book. I’m also on Goodreads, which is a great site as everyone loves books there and I send out a free email newsletter quarterly or when I have news to share. And I still do book signings – I think they’re a great way to meet my readers and to meet potential readers – I’m friendly and can talk to just about anyone! That helps!
Name one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging things about being an author today?
MVS: The most rewarding aspect is when I open my email and one of my readers has sent me a poem, or painting, or video they did that was inspired by my books. I love that I’m providing a spark to their imagination. I also love when they tell me they signed up for kickboxing or karate because they want to be able to defend themselves like Yelena. Love it! The most challenging thing is getting it all done. I’m so behind on my email replies – it’s embarrassing! And balancing promotion with writing and my family is hard – I have to set some limits, which is why I don’t Tweet or have a Pinterest page or blog very often.
Do you do it all yourself, or do you have someone to assist you with your schedule and all the demands on your time?
MVS: My sister-in-law helps me with the contests. She’s so organized and will keep track of who wins and then I’ll sign the books or book labels and she mails them out. That’s a big help. Other than that, no I don’t. But my husband is threatening to retire soon and become my assistant so I see that as a good thing – he’s also organized and with him, I’ll be able to start self-publishing some of my stories that my publisher wasn’t interested in.
If you had to do it all again, would you do anything differently?
MVS: That’s a great question! Do I have a good answer… I would have liked Poison Study to come out as a YA title right away – it was published the exact same month/year as Twilight and I think I’d reached more readers that way. I also would have wrote more Study books right away instead of waiting. They are my most popular series and I lost the momentum when I switched to Opal in the Glass series. And I really wished I pushed my publisher to release Inside Out about a year before they did – they waited 2 years to publish it – meanwhile The Hunger Games was on the top of the bestseller list. Inside Out was written well before The Hunger Games was released and they missed that wave.
What's next for you?
MVS: I’m working on more Study books. I finished the first draft of Night Study and that is set for a February 2016 release and then the third book, Dawn Study will be released a year later. After that…I’ve no idea!
Any local appearances that you’d like to share?
MVS: After the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference this weekend, I’m flying to London to do a 3 week book tour! Can you tell I’m super excited?? And then I have a few more signings and conferences in the US in April and May. Readers can see a complete list with details here: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/appearances.php
Thank you, again, Maria! It was great chatting with you. Looking forward to the next book in the series, and seeing you at the Conference…
MVS: Thanks again for hosting me on your blog! If your readers would like more info about me and my books, I have the first chapter of all my books on my website as well as a number of free short stories (including ones with Yelena and Valek) they can read. Here’s the link: http://www.mariavsnyder.com. My Facebook page is where I’m the most active with updates and news. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/mvsfans
SHADOW STUDY REVIEW
Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.
Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…
RATING: 4.5 STARS
Shadow Study is the start of a new trilogy which builds on an earlier Study trilogy (Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study), and is considered #4 in the Soulfinders series.
We rejoin the two romantic leads, Yelena and Valek, at the start of the book. Yelena is on her way to a romantic rendezvous with Valek, when she’s attacked by an unseen assassin who manages, with the aid of a well-placed arrow, to take away her magic. Soon afterward, Valek is called back to his post to investigate a smuggling ring, while Yelena pursues a mission to find her attacker. What neither of them know? One of Yelena’s sworn enemies has escaped from prison.
Told from three points of view—Yelena, Valek, and Janco—Ms. Snyder weaves a complex, character-driven tale of political intrigue, magic, and deceit. Many of the characters in Shadow Study were introduced in earlier books. One of the exceptions is a young female assassin named Onora who has her heart set on Valek’s job. Her relationship with the third POV character, Janco, unfolds in a way that compels you to watch. Woven throughout the story, Valek’s past is revealed to us, and we see him evolve into the King Killer and master assassin he is today.
Both Yelena and Valek are strong, smart, and likable characters, while Janco’s voice is unique and entertaining to follow. I enjoyed meeting the cast of characters, and seeing these old friends interacting with ease, all the while wishing I had the entire history (Poison Study was the only book in my library prior to this). By far one of my favorite characters was Kiki, Yelena’s Sandseed horse. What can I say? I'm a sucker for animals.
Although this book can be read as a standalone, to get a full appreciation of the nuances of the story and the characters, I recommend reading the earlier books. If you do start here, definitely pick up the series from the beginning to catch up before the next one comes out.
For a smart, complex, and character-driven story, try the Study series! You won’t be sorry…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria earned her MA degree in Writing from Seton Hill University where she's been happily sharing her knowledge with the current crop of MFA students. She also enjoys creating new worlds where horses and swords rule, 'cause let's face it, they're cool, although she's been known to trap her poor characters in a giant metal cube and let them figure out how to get out. Traveling is one of her biggest distractions from writing and Maria hasn't said no to a trip yet. She has visited China, Dubai, Malaysia, Europe, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — all provided wonderful fodder for her stories.
BUY MARIA’S BOOKS:
Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shadow-study/id933733352?mt=11&uo=4&at=11lS7I
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadow-study-maria-v-snyder/1120173718?ean=9780778317401
Books A Million: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Shadow-Study/Maria-V-Snyder/9780778317401?id=6109239449027
Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Shadow-Study-Maria-Snyder/9780778317401 (free international shipping)