Happy New Year! *insert horn blowing and confetti throwing*
To learn more about Maria, her books, appearances, writing advice and more please visit her website http://www.mariavsyder.com/
The images shown with the descriptions of the books taken from Maria's site are the US covers BUT thanks to Maria we are very excited to offer one extremely lucky reader the chance to win all 3 books (yes, all 3!) Study books with the Australian covers! *See details and cover images at the end of the post to enter*
FIRE STUDY: SURROUNDED BY FIRE WITH NO WAY TO ESCAPE THE BURN (STUDY BOOK 3)
1) Can you tell us a little about your background as a writer? How long you’ve been writing? How you got started?
I started because of boredom! My first job after college was as a Meteorologist for an environmental consulting firm. The amount of work came in waves, and we were either extremely busy or bored. During the slow times, I started writing a short story. Ideas were always floating around in my mind, but that was when I began using them. I submitted my first short story for critique at a writing conference in Philadelphia back in 1991, and when the workshop leader gave me 7 out of 10, I thought that was pretty good for a first effort and decided to stick with writing for a while. After my son was born and I only had about one hour a day to myself, I had to decide what was important enough to spend that precious time on. Most days writing won.
2) What kind of projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on a new fantasy novel about a healer set in a world that is recovering from a deadly plague. Her 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 the plague as an attempt at biological warfare 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. This book is tentatively set for a January 2012 release.
3) We’ve heard many fans proclaim their love for Valek (myself included). Did you have any idea he’d get such a huge response from readers?
No – I was surprised by the response. At first, I was worried he would come across as to cold and distant. He also wasn’t supposed to be the main love interest. I had been thinking the Commander would fall in love with Yelena, but that didn’t work out at all! Valek started as a stereotypical assassin character, but he had hidden layers that he revealed to me as I wrote the story.
4) The actual research you’ve done for the Study and Glass series is amazing. Glass blowing, martial arts! Can you tell us what that was like?
It’s always lots of fun to do hands-on research for my books. It’s the best way to learn so I can translate the experience for the readers. For some things, I can use my imagination, or ask an expert, but it will lack the actual smells, motions, and thoughts. And the bonus is getting out of the house and interacting with other people – lol! Expect the time I went to a men’s minimum and maximum security prison – then interacting with the prisoners wasn’t so…fun. More scary, but certainly educational.
5) We have a lot of writers working toward publication around here. Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on? Can you share details on how your own writing process works? (timeline? number of drafts? beta readers? outlining?)
My biggest piece of advice is always persistence. I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. 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. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. 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. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “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! Ever!
As for my process, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer (a.k.a. Pantser). I’ll get an idea and have an ending in mind, and I would like to just sit down and write. However, my editor needs more than an idea and vague ending to approve a project, so I have to write a synopsis of the book. She also knows I won’t stick to it, but she needs it. Then I start. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day and I’ll write from page 1 to page 300. No jumping around and writing scenes out of order – I’m a linear writer. I may have an exciting scene near the end in mind, but I’ll dangle it like a carrot to get myself to write up to that point. Once the first draft is finished, I’ll do a major revision and then send it off to my editor, agent, and critique partner. They’ll give me feedback and I’ll revise again before we get into the nitpicky stuff like grammar issues, typos, etc…
6) As readers we love hearing what our favorite authors are reading. What are you reading right now? What are some of your favorite books?
I just finished The Iron King and The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa – they were wonderful and I’m looking forward to The Iron Queen in March! Here’s some of the books I’ve enjoyed in no particular order: The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins, The Morganville Vampire series – first book is Glass Houses by Rachel Caine, Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr, Shiver, Maggie Steifvater, Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy, Wicked Game and Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready, His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik, Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry, Soulless, by Gail Carringer, Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, Libyrinth, by Pearl North, Coffeehouse Angel, by Suzanne Selfors, Thread of Fear, by Laura Griffin, Shadow’s Son, by Jon Sprunk, Girl's Guide to Witchcraft, by Mindy Klasky, Jaran, by Kate Elliott (science fiction but great adventure/romance - other really good SF novels with great characters are Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - in fact, I recommend anything by Connie Wills - she has a wonderful sense of humor.)
7) Creating an original world full of magic must be a huge undertaking (one you’ve done an incredible job with!) How did you come up with “the rules” and history in the Study series?
As I said before, I’m a pantser. For my first book, I had an idea to make a food taster the main character, and I developed the world from there. At first, I had a King and the whole monarchy of princes, princesses, dukes, and duchesses, but that’s been done to death in fantasy novels. The Commander then sent Valek in to assassinate them and he established a military dictatorship.