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Interview with Maria V. Snyder

by Michele Lee

Maria V. Snyder is an award winning author of books Poison Study,  Magic Study, and Fire Study,  latest release is the young adult dystopian novel Inside Out from Harlequin Teen.

ML: Let me start by saying I absolutely loved Inside Out. You were clearly channeling the dystopian masters with this novel, and yet you managed to keep it from feeling totally oppressive while I was reading it. Not at all what I expected from a Teen Harlequin book. What made you want to write such a stand out book like this?

MS: A dream! I dreamt the whole story, the world, the characters, the Pop Cops, and even the twists! When I woke up, I wrote it all down before I could forget it.  I haven't ever done that before and haven't since - I wish I could remember what I ate for dinner that night ;)

ML: You're writing for a teen audience, and I'll admit I had to wallow through several English teacher's attempts to teach dystopian novels in high school. Do you think Inside Out and Trella can reach a teen audience better than Orwell, Bradbury and Huxley and why or why not?

MS: Wow that's a loaded question - lol!  I can't say I can reach a teen audience better than those three famous authors, but I do think a teen audience can relate to my novel.  The main protagonist is a loner who doesn't want to hang out with her social group, and she only has one friend.  She thinks her life sucks and that the upper workers have it made. Trella believes she doesn't fit in with the other scrubs. Her views of life have been spoon fed to her from an early age.  She's supposed to think that way. 

Which is similar to growing up today.  Your parents tell you what's right and wrong and how you're supposed to act.  When brought down to the basic bones of the story, it's a classic coming-of-age.  But I added in adventure, suspense and action--which I hope entertains the readers as well as shows Trella's growth.  And I think today's teens will be able to relate to Trella verses some of those older characters who lived in an older time. Trella reflects today's attitudes towards freedom, independence and cynicism.

ML: Inside Out is much different from your other work (to begin with it's science fiction and your other books are fantasy). For readers and librarians who might not know, can you tell us some of the differences and more importantly, some of the similarities that could interest Inside Out and SF fans in your other titles?

MS: With Inside Out, one of the major difference was I had to keep close track of the setting details. Since the world is completely contained, I had to know where everything was and stay consistent throughout the story. I drew up maps and diagrams in the early stages of writing.  And this is the main science fictional element. I do have some advanced weapons and technology, but it remains in the background.  I don't explain the scientific reasons why and how a kill-zapper works, just show one being used and the result.  

FYI - The maps of Inside weren't included with the book, but they are posted on my website at:

As for the similarities, I wrote the books in first person point of view with a strong female protagonist, and I kept my style--action packed, complex plot, cliff-hanging chapter ends, some twists, and a little romance :)  I didn't try and change my word choice because this was a young adult book and I didn't simplify the plot either.  Young adults are savvy readers and have been enthusiastic about my all my books.

ML: You've done a lot of interesting research for your books. Which experience was your favorite?

MS: I really enjoyed taking the glass classes.  I learned how to gather and work with molten glass as well as cut glass, fuse glass, make glass beads and a stained glass mirror.  Glass is a fascinating medium and you can reuse it and recycle it forever.  I do have to add, learning how to ride a horse (the real Kiki) was the most challenging and educational.  Kiki was the best teacher I've had so far :)

ML: If you were in a library and it was burning down (horrifying I know) which books would you save?

MS: The rare books that are irreplaceable.  A decade ago this would have been a harder question as once a book is out of print, a reader was out of luck.  But now, with eBooks, the Internet, and scanners etc...if you really wanted a certain book, it's not hard to find a copy.

ML: What are some of the challenges in writing (and living it) a totally contained world like Inside?

MS: Finding a good hiding place - I had to be very creative with this one :)  Waste is an issue - what do you do with the trash?  There isn't much as they have to reuse, repair and recycle everything.  Also there are limited resources.  I tried to anticipate all the needs of the people living Inside - food, air, water, clothing.  Paper was another challenge--paper uses a ton of natural resources and harsh chemicals even when it's recycled.  I didn't have the space or the resources to have paper in Inside.  Instead they use wipe boards and refillable markers.  Ink can be harvested from indigo plants grown in hydroponics. 

ML: Is there an unknown book you love, but no one seems to know exists?

MS: I really enjoyed Libyrinth by Pearl North - it's a YA by a new author and I don't think it's well known. It has books and a library that's a maze and good characters.

ML: Likewise, is there a book you love that everyone else seems to hate?

MS: Not that I can think of :)  I pick up books based on recommendations from my friends and family and from blogs so usually someone really loved it so I'll pick it up.

ML: You said on your blog that the idea from Inside Out came from a dream. Have any of your other dreams fueled stories?

MS: No.  It was the only one so far.  I don't even get help with stories I'm working on!

ML: What are you working on now?

MS: I'm working on Outside In, the next book in the Inside series.  It starts about nine weeks after the end of Inside Out.  I really can't tell you too much or else it will spoil the plot of Inside Out.  I'll just say, Trella finds herself in more trouble.


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