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Fun Friday–Fire Study by Maria Snyder

Friday, February 29, 2008


Happy Leap Year, everyone! 

For the last several weeks (or has it been months?) I’ve been featuring the upcoming Jane Austen movie on Fun Fridays. But those of you who aren’t Jane Austen fans are in luck this week! I am featuring an author whose books I’ve devoured, but there is no formal Regency society or courtship rituals here.

fire-study.jpgFire Study is the third book in the debut fantasy series by Maria Snyder—a wonderful author I met in Seton Hill University’s Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. This is one of the ABA books on my 2008 Reading List this year . . . though I would have read it anyway! I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books and cannot wait to delve into this one.

The series begins with Poison Study, in which Yelena starts her adventure in a dungeon, waiting to be executed for murder. She is given a choice of the noose or to become the new food taster for the Commander of Ixia—a military dictator paranoid of being poisoned. She chooses the job, and learns how to taste foods for poisons without dying. Life in the castle is full of hazards: the General, whose son she killed, wants revenge; rebels plot to seize Ixia; and Yelena develops magic she can’t control—magic which is forbidden in Ixia and punishable by death. As she searches for a way to freedom, Yelena is faced with more choices, but this time the outcomes aren’t so clear.

In Magic Study, Yelena is on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago. Although she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways, and her newfound friends and relatives don’t think it’s for the better. Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magical training. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved in a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince, and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.

And now, at long last, the third book in the series. Fire Study continues Yelena Zaltana’s adventures. When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.  Drawing on untested skills, Yelena becomes embroiled in the desperate fight to stop the Daviian Clan from unleashing a Fire Warper. Unfortunately, fire is one element she can’t control even if her life depended on it. And there is more at stake than just her life. Yelena’s journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. She will have one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

maria31.jpgMeet Author Maria Snyder

What was your inspiration for writing Fire Study?
I wanted to explore the uses and abuses of power in this book. Poison Study, which is the first in the Study series, concentrated on Yelena’s inner conflicts and her self-confidence, and only touched briefly on magic. Magic Study focused on discovering the extent and type of powers Yelena possesses. In the third book, I wanted to show the extent some magicians will go to gain power over others. Using magic to solve problems can be addicting, and, in Fire Study Yelena realizes how much she depends on her magical abilities. She must learn how to balance the use of her power with more mundane methods and to discover that completely turning your back on magic isn’t the right answer.

What sort of research did you do to write this book?
In order to write the scenes with Opal, a glass artist in the book, I needed to enroll in glass blowing classes. The teacher made it look so easy to gather a slug of glass. But when it was my turn—yikes! It was HOT! The big vat of molten glass was kept in a rip roaring furnace at a toasty 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. I held a metal rod, and, while squinting through an eye-melting orange light, I dipped the end into the thick goo and spun it, gathering a glob of glass onto the end. The incandescent glob glowed as if alive.

Once acquired, the slug then needed to be quickly shaped. Glass cooled at a rapid pace, and, even though heat waves pulsed from the slug, it didn’t stay pliable for long. My first paperweight was a misshapened blob. After hours of practice, my ability improved, and I created a paperweight worthy to hold down my next novel’s manuscript pages.

I learned that working with glass required deft coordination, arm strength, tons of patience, and a good partner—it’s a good thing I have a day job!

Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?
Currently my favorite authors all have humor in their books. Since my life is so stress-filled and complicated, I’ve been enjoying light and fluffy reading with Mary Janice Davidson’s vampire series and her new mermaid series, Connie Willis is another favorite of mine, and I’ve recently discover the mystery/suspense thrillers of Harlan Coben. Growing up, I started with mysteries because that is what my mother enjoyed. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were my favorites before I graduated to Agatha Cristie, Dick Francis, Robert B. Parker, Barbara Vine, and Ed McBain.

Who has influenced you in your writing?
I read a ton of mystery novels growing up. My favorite mystery author is Dick Francis and his books have influenced my writing style. I also use first person point of view and try to keep the story’s pace moving. My cliff hanger endings are a direct result from his books; I can never stop reading one of his books at a chapter break. My favorite fantasy writers all have strong female protagonists and interesting characters in common. Barbara Hambly’s books have a nice mix of action, character and humor—all essential elements to what I consider good fiction.

What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?
As a writer, the attraction is in exploring new settings and characters and not having to worry too much about what is physically possible or not. I make my own rules about my world and, as long as I stick to them, can explore various problems generated by the unique setting and situation. As a reader, I enjoy traveling beyond my everyday world to a new place full of wonder and surprises.

What (besides writing) do you do for fun?
I love to travel with my family. Exploring new places and meeting new people and experiencing other cultures are wonderful for the writer’s soul—I also enjoy playing volleyball, reading and I dabble with photography.

What are you writing now?
I’m writing the fourth book based in the Study world titled, Storm Glass. Set five years after Fire Study, Storm Glass has a new protagonist and she’s the reason for the new series title. Storm Glass will be out December 2008. Here is the cover copy of the book:
“As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it’s time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she never knew she possessed…powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.”

Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?
I started writing 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 very 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, 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.

And Now . . . an Excerpt from Fire Study:

The man stepped from the midst of the roaring bonfire. Scorched black from head to toe, small flames clung to him like feathers. He advanced toward me. I broke my paralysis and scrambled away from him.

“Did I surprise you, my little bat?” the man asked. “Counted nine when there really were ten. Hot little trick.”

He knew my conscience had flown with the bats. But who was he?

I scanned the surrounding jungle, looking for my backup. Leif and my friends were at the edge of the clearing.

“No help from them, my little bat. They will burn if they come any closer.”

I tried to project into the flaming man’s mind, but his mental defenses proved impenetrable, a Warper of incredible strength. Running out of options, I glanced behind me and caught sight of my bow.

The blazing Warper pointed and a line of fire appeared between me and my weapon. The moisture evaporated from my mouth. I tasted ashes. A wall of hot air pushed against me and the Warper was before me.

“Fire is your downfall, little bat. Can not call it. Can not control it.”

My body roasted as if I had been staked to a spit over a giant campfire. Just when I thought I would faint, he extended his hands and a bubble of cool air caressed my skin. The break from the heat an intoxicating relief. I swayed.

“Take my hands. I will not burn you. Travel with me through the fire.”


“Because you belong to me.”

  1. Friday, February 29, 2008 8:15 am

    I’ve read it 😀 But I won’t say anything don’t want to spoil anything. But seriously you have to go READ the books. I’ve convinced a few friends to get Poison Study 😀

    Don’t worry Kaye, when your book comes out I’ll be having them buy it too 😀


  2. Friday, February 29, 2008 11:49 am

    Hi Kaye,
    Love your website and blog!
    I’m a Nancy Drew fan too,
    and have a book out called
    devoted to her.


  3. Friday, February 29, 2008 12:50 pm

    I really enjoyed reading the first two (thanks for recommending them). I didn’t realize the third one was out. I’ll have to get over to Barnes this weekend and pick it up.


  4. Wanda Beaman permalink
    Friday, February 29, 2008 6:57 pm

    Ooo, these sound wonderful. I’m going to check my librarys website right now to see if they have them.


  5. Friday, February 29, 2008 9:18 pm

    Ah, a fellow Dick Francis fan. I would guess Shattered made a big impression on you as a budding glass-blower!


  6. Christian McCallister permalink
    Friday, February 29, 2008 10:58 pm

    I really enjoyed reading the first 2 books and have reserved Fire Study at my library but there’s like 30 or so people on the waiting list ahead of me. 😦


  7. Becky permalink
    Saturday, March 1, 2008 12:01 am

    I’ve ordered my copy.


  8. Sunday, March 2, 2008 7:57 pm

    Hello! First off I want to THANK Kaye for posting this interview – Thanks Kaye!

    And well…Wow! 30 people on a waiting list – that’s great!

    I hope you all enjoy Fire Study!



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