We are super excited to have author, game designer, playwright and TV Writer Kira Snyder here today to discuss her new YA urban fantasy book series The Parish Mail. Some of her work you may be familiar with include TV Shows Moonlight, Eureka, Alphas and the upcoming CW series The 100 on top of the Electronic Arts online game Majestic. So let’s get right to it!
Thanks for joining us, Kira! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing background?
Thanks so much for having me on the blog! I live in Los Angeles, California, a terrific city except for the traffic which really is as bad as its reputation, especially when it rains. I have a background in playwriting and computer game design, but my current day job is as a writer for TV. I’m a huge fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and the paranormal, and am very fortunate to have gotten to write in those genres, currently on “The 100” for the CW. I’m married with a relatively new house, and enjoy exploring our awesome neighborhood with my husband when we’re not playing the ukulele or videogames.
Your Parish Mail Series has two books out already and a third on the way. Can you tell us about it for those who are unfamiliar with the series?
Parish Mail is an urban Young Adult mystery series with a Southern Gothic setting: imagine Veronica Mars meets The Originals or a YA version of American Horror Story: Coven. In Dead Letter Office, the first book, the heroine Celia has just moved to New Orleans with her mother. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences shock the city and Celia discovers a letter, over a hundred years old, that describes a murder with eerie similarities to a modern-day killing. With her friend Tilly, a very cool witch — and several hot guys, including one who’s a ghost — Celia races to catch the killer using the letter’s supernatural clues. At the end of the book, Celia learns that the letter was just the first of many. The story continues in Book 2, Post Mortem, with an extremely creepy crime that hits close to home for Celia. She also meets new characters that expand the world of the book and make her life even more complicated. What do you do when the guy you’re crushing on has a gorgeous, powerful witch for an ex?
One of the many things we love about your series is that the books are interactive and Celia gets to make different choices based on the reader’s choices. Where did this interactive idea come from and what was the process like writing a book that can take various paths?
I’ve always been interested in interactive fiction, from Choose Your Own Adventure books I read as a kid to my professional work in game design. I had been thinking about developing Parish Mail as a movie or TV show when a friend introduced me to Lisa Rutherford at Coliloquy. Once I heard about the amazing interactive technology they were building, I was convinced that this was the way I wanted to tell these stories, giving the reader the ability to play detective along with Celia and making emotional choices for her as well.
When I write a Parish Mail book, I start by creating a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline but also a flowchart which tracks the various choices, paths, and unlockable clues, just as I would when designing a game. It’s challenging but fun, coming up with all the puzzle pieces that need to add up to not just one but multiple satisfying stories.
Let’s talk about Celia for a minute. What we love about her is her investigative mind. If you could describe Celia in one sentence, what would it be?
I think of Celia as brave, resourceful, curious, and kind, who rolls with the punches of family and romantic drama and the challenges of being a modern teenager better than I ever did!
Any writers influence your work?
As readers probably have noticed, Celia’s got the DNA of both Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TV shows I love. I’m definitely inspired by Veronica’s and Buffy’s creators, Rob Thomas and Joss Whedon, and their fantastic writing staffs. I also think Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books show her genius at world-building and at crafting an end to a chapter that tantalizes you to keep reading.
What appeals to you about Young Adult Literature?
The issues teens deal with are universal and so big — they provide such a rich, emotional sandbox. Who am I? What’s my place in the world? Who do I love? Who loves me? YA lets you dig into all of that… and without being hemmed into a single genre. Parish Mail has elements of romance, mystery, paranormal, horror, even flashes of comedy.
You write for both literature and television, what do you think are the biggest differences between these two mediums? We definitely noticed a Television Genre influence in Parish Mail since they have an episodic feeling to them but there is still a linking mythology between the first two books.
Well spotted! Yes, as I explained above, I originally thought of Parish Mail as a TV show or movie franchise, an approach which does inform the series, from the episodic “engine” — the letters — to the supporting characters’ side stories, to the overarching mythology. Apart from the interactive aspect, one major difference is that fiction lets you get inside characters’ heads, delving more directly into their emotions, dreams, and memories. Apart from monologues like on Dexter and the occasional dream sequence, you don’t really get to see TV characters’ interior lives that way. Also, happily, there’s no budget limitation in fiction. I can write book scenes that in TV would get me very anxious phone calls from the producers.
We have to ask. You co-wrote what turned out to be the series finale of Moonlight (no secret this is one of our favorite shows here and we miss it). Can you talk a little about your experience on Moonlight and also that final scene between Mick and Beth? What do you think would have happened next?
I’m always so thrilled and touched to hear how much people love Moonlight — I do too. It was my first TV writing job, and holds a special place in my heart. I’m still friends with people I worked with on the show. It was such a gift, getting to be in a writers’ room for the first time, and then head across the Warner Brothers lot to where the show filmed and see the stories come to life. (inside scoop for fans: scenes from Moonlight were shot not just on our sets but also the sets of Cold Case, Pushing Daisies, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles.)
Ah, what happened after Beth’s apartment door closed at the end of the finale… feel free to use your imagination! We certainly did. We always figured that at some point Mick would turn Beth, but there would have been many escapades before and after that. For example, the list of names that Benjamin Talbot receives was from an ancient society of vampire hunters who want to recruit him. Trouble for Mick!
Ethan Erwin, my co-writer on the finale, and I always liked one particular sequence for the very end of the series if it had gone on longer: Mick and Beth are having one of their sweet, bantery scenes at sunset on his rooftop, when suddenly a hovercar races by in midair, chased by a cop-hovercar, sirens wailing… We realize that we’re in the far future, and that Beth’s now a vampire too. The immortal pair leap off the building into nighttime Los Angeles, off to save (or drain) lives, on an endless adventure together.
You also have written for some fantastic science fiction TV shows: Eureka, Alphas, and up next The 100. The Parish Mail is more a paranormal mystery series of books: do you find it more or less difficult to write science fiction versus the paranormal? Can you tell us anything about The 100?
Thank you for the kind words! Subject-wise, I think they’re different from one another but not necessarily in difficulty. The sci-fi shows you mention are all anchored in real science, which means a lot of research. Happily, this is one of the things I love about being a writer: an excuse to learn about all kinds of cool stuff. For Parish Mail, I am doing research into subjects like New Orleans history and the supernatural, but I also invent things out of whole cloth, such as Tilly’s spells and the “rules” for the ghosts.
Having worked on TV shows where there’s a whole writing staff helping to put together episodes, I will say it can be more difficult to be off at the keyboard figuring out the Parish Mail stories all by myself. Two brains — or ten — can often be better than one! On the flip side, Parish Mail is wholly my world and vision, as opposed to TV, where it’s the writing staff’s job to bring the show creator’s vision to life.
I’m really excited about “The 100.” The show is about a hundred juvenile delinquents who are shipped off to a post-apocalyptic Earth from their dying space station, sent down to see if the ground is survivable and humanity can come home. The Earth scenes are like “Lost” meets “Lord of the Flies,” and the space station scenes are full of intrigue and drama like “Battlestar Galactica.” The characters find purpose and romance in worlds that are very dangerous — imagine coming of age in a place where one wrong step or making the wrong friend can kill you. I hope you and your readers will check out “The 100” when we air, on the CW in early 2014. You won’t be sorry, I promise.
What can we expect for the third installment of Parish Mail?
I’m trying something new with the third book: it’s a Christmas story, full of holiday cheer along with the magic and mystery. It’s a novella, more compact than the other books — think of it as a stocking stuffer. And, as befits the season, it’s lighter in tone and content, very warm and sweet, not to mention romantic. Celia gets sparky moments with Luc, Donovan, AND Sloan… the reader gets to choose which. Or, I hope, read them all! The book will be out in time for the holidays, the perfect thing to curl up with in front of a fire and some hot chocolate.
Also, stay tuned and make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the cover reveal for Parish Mail Series #3, our review of the book, as well as Kira Snyder taking our really fun pop culture Petticoat Personality Test (where she reveals her favorite books, shows and even what character turns her on)!
ABOUT DEAD LETTER OFFICE (PARISH MAIL SERIES #1)
“When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, apparently addressed to her.
The paranormal repercussions of that night continue when Celia learns that Luc is in fact the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.
With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder using the letter and both magical and forensic clues.
A vengeful spirit appears to be haunting Celia, Luc’s murderer may have returned from the dead, and many more letters have appeared, all asking for Celia’s help.”
What’s Cool from Coliloquy: “Kira has written Parish Mail like a TV series–there are over-arching mystery and romantic story arcs that extend between the episodes, while each episode has a smaller case that is presented and solved. Along the way, she asks you, the reader, to make several small decisions as you read. These choices do not impact the overarching storyline, but certain combinations “unlock” clues to the series’ mystery, which are embedded in the text.”
“Kira also asks you to cast a vote at the end of the episode, to get additional feedback from her fans about their preferred love interests in future episodes.”
Read Amber’s Review of Kira Snyder’s Dead Letter Office (Parish Mail Series #1)
ABOUT POST MORTEM (PARISH MAIL SERIES #2)
“Autumn in New Orleans means Homecoming, romance and murder. When a friend vanishes, Celia believes a letter about an unsolved Civil War-era murder holds the key to unraveling the mystery.
As she searches for answers, Celia enlists the help of quirky witch Tilly, and either all-American boy Donovan or, enigmatic Luc? You get to choose.
As the gang follows the missing girl’s trail, danger turns up on all fronts. A stranger threatens Celia’s family. Celia’s nightmares about a shadowy, ominous villain get worse. And a new ghost has appeared: beautiful Angelica, who shares a past with Luc.
It will take all of Celia’s will and wit, and the faith of her friends, to solve an unspeakable crime. No matter which path Celia takes, she will discover that sometimes the past can come back to haunt you.
In Post Mortem, readers decide which clues to follow to solve the mystery. But remember: Choose carefully, or else the killer might just get away.”
Read Autumn’s Book Review of Kira Snyder’s Post Mortem (Parish Mail Series #2)