If you’ve followed Maria V. Snyder‘s fantasy novels since Poison Study, you won’t want to miss this guest post today as Maria gives us some scoop on the third book in the “Glass” series, Spy Glass (on sale now!). Find out which risky spot Opal lands this time–and the research Maria did to prepare for Opal’s journey…
Thanks for inviting me back to Harlequin’s Paranormal Romance blog! I can’t believe I’m up to seven published books with number 8 due in March. My first book, POISON STUDY arrived in bookstores in October 2005 – 5 years ago!
Today, I’d like to talk about my latest release, SPY GLASS. I’m happy to say that even though this is my seventh book, I’m still as excited as I was five years ago…well maybe not quite that excited as nothing compares to the first time…but still thrilled. One of the most gratifying aspects of being a published author is interacting with my readers. Before POISON STUDY was published, my sole focus had been on getting the book to print. I never really thought about what happens after—that people from all over the world would read my book and then take the time to email me about it.
Through these emails, I’ve made friends all over the world, but I’ve also made a local friend, Kathy, who asked me to sign a set of Study books to donate to our local Relay for Life team to support breast cancer research. I agreed and we met at the library so I could sign the books. I discovered Kathy also plays volleyball, is into martial arts and has two dogs—we’ve been good friends ever since.
So what’s all this have to do with SPY GLASS? Kathy works as a Correctional Officer (CO) in a state correctional institute for men which also houses a Special Management Unit (SMU) for the worst offenders. Her stories of the inmates are fascinating to me. These intelligent and bored men have devised all sorts of ingenious things.
Shanks, of course, but shanks made from Styrofoam by melting the foam. Shanks made from toilet paper, which can be flushed away. The COs had a whole display board of shanks found in the prison. One inmate made a ladder out of plastic toothbrush holders. They make stingers, which they rig to the electrical outlet so they can heat water. Then there’s the yucky stuff—the glass shards from shattered light bulbs mixed with their own feces and used as a weapon, the bombs made from sulfur scraped off the tips of matches. The spit fights, and how a strip search is really done (not the way I portrayed it in SPY GLASS – it’s completely hands-off. The inmate is in a clear booth and he has to show the COs that he’s not hiding anything on or in his body. I.e. opening his mouth.)
And here’s the crazy thing, Kathy loves her job. She says something new happens daily and even though she sees the worst of the worst, she’s not down about the human race.
Many people like to know how writers come up with ideas—well here’s an example. I had no plans to send Opal undercover in a prison in SPY GLASS. I had a vague idea that she would bribe a CO or her friends Nic and Eve would find the information she needed. However as I was writing, Opal decided she needed to be more proactive. I called Kathy right away to see if she could get me a tour of the prison. She could, although I had to promise the administrator Brad Pitt would play him in the movie 🙂
The tour was quite educational. I went into the cell blocks and walked among the inmates. I talked to COs (not prison guards – guards, I was firmly told, work at the mall). I met the Black Sergeant who made a cameo appearance in SPY GLASS. Much of what I used for my prison scenes in SPY GLASS was learned during my tour.
And in case you’re wondering where the name of my prison came from… I named it Wirral after the Wirral schools in England (near Liverpool). The Wirral students had voted POISON STUDY their favorite book for 2009, and invited me to visit. When I asked the 200 students who had gathered for my talk if it was okay to name my maximum security prison Wirral, they cheered 🙂
Writing may be a lonely occupation, but, as I’m working on a new novel, in the back of my mind are all those who I’ve made a connection with. And my focus is no longer on seeing the book in print, but hearing from all my readers what they thought of the new story!
And if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be tempted to be a criminal profiler or psychologist. People just fascinate me and the world is full of characters!
I’m curious…If you could have any job in the world, what would you do?