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Maria V. Snyder is a fantasy and science fiction author best known for her New York Times best-selling Study Series. She’s written five other series, including the Glass Series, the Healer Series. Her books have won numerous awards.

Maria will be the Keynote Speaker at this years Write Stuff Writers Conference. She will also be presenting half-day seminars on Thursday and Friday afternoon, and two one-hour sessions on Saturday. GLVWG member Donna Brennan asked Maria a few questions about the sessions and seminars she will be presenting at the conference.

Donna: One of the sessions you will be teaching will be on serial writing. I noticed that characters in one of your series often show up in another. Is this typical when writing a series?

Maria: That happened with in my Study and Glass series. They are both set in the same world. The Glass books are a spin-off from the Study books. After I wrote the first three Study books, I was burned out with writing about those characters and wanted to start something new. My editor really loved the world I created, and she liked the one minor character, Opal, the glass magician. I was in the middle of telling her why I couldn’t write about Opal when an idea for a story popped into my head! From that one idea, I wrote three Glass books.

That frequently happens with long series of books. Authors will switch to other characters in the same world in order to bring in a fresh perspective. After several books, it becomes harder and harder to find new problems for your characters and for them to continue to change and grow over the course of so many books! Plus, there’s always the danger of going into the “realm of the ridiculous,” also known as “jumping the shark.” 

Donna: When you wrote your first book (which won the 2006 Compton Crook Award for Best First Fantasy Novel), did you plan it as series or did the characters just not want to leave you alone after the book was completed?

Maria: Poison Study was supposed to be a stand-alone fantasy novel. When I finally found a publisher for the book, they wanted a sequel. It was easy to change the ending and write a second book. When I finished that one, I knew there was still another book to complete Yelena’s story.

Donna: Another of your Saturday sessions is about how an independent bookstore works. Why is this kind of information useful to an author, and how can we use that knowledge to help sell our books?

Maria: Independent bookstores can be a wonderful resource to authors. They have loyal customers, and some host book clubs and events. It’s important to know how they operate so when an author has a new book out (or even with their backlist), they can approach a bookstore about getting their books on the shelves and perhaps doing an event at the store. Booksellers appreciate when authors understand how difficult it is to be a small business and are willing to accommodate them. 

Donna: On Thursday your seminar is about creating believable villains. Is there a trick to giving our villains depth? How different is that from giving our heroes depth? 

Maria: It’s not much different than giving your protagonist depth. Villains need goals, motivation, and conflict. But you also need to look at what set them on their path and other factors so your villains are well-rounded characters.

Donna: Your Friday session is about audio books. Is the audio book market different than the print or ebook market?

Maria: Yes, it is much different. Audio book listeners are frequently multi-tasking while listening. The narrator is just as important as the author so finding the prefect narrator is key. It’s also quite a process to produce your own audiobook. I’ll also be discussing the pros and cons of keeping your audio rights or selling them to your publisher.

Donna: If the target audience is different, how does that affect the way we market our books?

Maria: Knowing your target audience is the most important aspect of marketing. You need to know where your readers are in order to reach them. For example, if you’re writing YA, then your readers are on their phones, watching TikTok videos. For middle grade readers, school visits and library programs are important.

Donna: I know you will be giving the keynote address on Saturday, but the conference website doesn’t tell us the topic. Can you give us a hint of what you’ll be talking about?

Maria: The title of my address is “Navigating This So-Called Writer’s Life.” I talk about how expectations and perceptions about a writing career don’t always match up to what actually happens. That there are surprises waiting around every corner, and writers need to be flexible in order to preserver. 

Donna: Thank you very much, Maria, for your time. I look forward to all I can learn from you at the conference.

Maria: You’re welcome! I’m looking forward to the conference. It’s always inspiring and motivating when I spend time with other writers talking shop!

This year’s Write Stuff Conference runs March 23-25 at the Best Western Lehigh Valley Hotel. Registration is still open!