The Booktopia Book Guru asks
Maria V. Snyder
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States and lived there until I graduated from University. I attended Our Lady of Ransom elementary school, St. Hubert’s secondary school, Pennsylvania State University for my Bachelors of Science degree in Meteorology, then I attended Seton Hill University for a Master of Arts degree in Writing where I’m now on faculty, teaching and mentoring writers. I’m married and have two children and am currently living in central Pennsylvania with my family.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve, I wanted to do live theatre (acting and dancing) on Broadway in New York City. I’ve always been creative, taking dance classes, acting classes and enjoyed drawing and painting. At eighteen, I realized I wasn’t talented enough to pursue an acting career so I decided to be a meteorologist. I was fascinated with big storms, and was pretty good in math and science. I started writing when I was bored at work as an environmental meteorologist, and it was a fun hobby for awhile. But at age thirty the hobby turned into a vocation and I wanted to be a published writer.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen I swore I would never have kids. I was going to get a job, a cabin and four dogs and live in Colorado so I could ski the Rockies. Instead, I have two kids, a regular house, one cat and live in Pennsylvania. However, I still ski.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
I really can’t link my development as a writer back to art. I’m inspired and influenced by people so I’ll name the three people who have influenced me the most. Alis Rasmussen (she writes as Kate Elliott), her expert help, advice, and friendship was just amazing. And knowing that she finished a novel when she had twin baby boys at home gave me no excuse not to write.
My husband is another one who encouraged me, and never complained when I left him home with our two children while I attended writer’s conferences or took writing classes. With his job, he travels all over and I’m fortunate that I can tag along. Travelling is very inspiring and is great for a writer’s soul.
And my writer’s critique group’s monthly advice was invaluable. They gave me a reason to have that next chapter written, they encouraged me when I wanted to give up, commiserated with me over the innumerable rejections, and were always honest in their critiques.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I always loved to read and I kept getting ideas for stories that I thought I’d give writing a try. I still dabble in the other arts, but with writing, I’m actually good at it (or so I’ve been told by non family members)
My latest novel is INSIDE OUT. It’s about a dystopian society living in a contained world called Inside. They have lost track of what is outside their walls, and they have split into two levels of society – the Uppers and the Lowers (a.k.a. Scrubs). The main character, Trella is a scrub. She cleans the ducts and pipes that keep the Insiders alive. Trella hates her fellow scrubs, and prefers to remain in the ducts, exploring Inside.
When a prophet claims he can find the location of a Gateway to Outside, he recruits Trella to help him. Of course, those in charge and the Population Control Police (a.k.a. Pop Cops) don’t want her upsetting the status quo. The book is a fast paced account of Trella’s race to locate Gateway before the Pop Cops catch her and feed her to Chomper (a machine that converts people into fertilizer).
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
First, I want my readers to be entertained. My books are fast-paced and filled with characters you care about. Second, I hope they feel that with persistence and effort anything is possible. My heroines are usually very stubborn and don’t quit even when the situation looks impossible.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Most people don’t realize how hard it is to complete a novel until they sit down to write one. I’ve had dozens of people tell me they have the first three chapters done, but (insert excuse here). It is so easy to procrastinate when writing, and I admire those who finish their novels despite overwhelming difficulties with family or their health. I most admire author Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit and Unbroken, despite battling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that is exacerbated by vertigo. When I have a cold or am tired, I don’t feel like writing and really just want to plop myself on the couch and watch a movie. But I can’t, because if Laura can write, then so can I.
I’ve been fortunate to have met a few of my goals, however, there are a few more I’d like to accomplish. There is a magazine called, The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, that publishes short stories. I’ve been sending them my short fiction for years and they’ve all been rejected. One goal is to keep sending stories until they publish one! Another is to be invited as the Guest of Honour for a science fiction/fantasy convention. And I’d like to reach a wider audience.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Persistence is my biggest advice. 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!
Thank you for playing.
Thank you for inviting me!!
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French, Korean and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for over twenty-five years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au.