S J Maas interview: 'Reading still plays a huge part in my writing process'

Published on: 21 November 2016 Author: Katie Webber

In 2012, BookTrust interviewed up and coming YA star Sarah J Maas. Four years later, she's an international bestselling author.

We caught up with her to find out what has changed between then and now, why she thinks reading is important, and which books inspire her.

SJ Maas

When we spoke to you last time you told us how important it is to read as often as you can as a writer. Do you still get as much time to read as you would like?

'I try to set aside as much time as I can to read, not just because I think it is important for my writing, but because I love it so much and I still think of myself as a reader first and writer second. I realised I wanted to write because wonderful fantasy novels kindled something inside of me.

'Every time I pick up a book that kindles that spark of inspiration, it always re-inspires me for my writing. And when I see an author doing something really well, I think how do they do this, and what can I learn from this? Reading still plays a huge part in my writing process.'

E-books or hard copies?

'Both! My e-reader is great for when I'm travelling but if I read a book on my e-reader and I love it, I'll buy the physical copy because I like to see it on my shelf.'

What advice would you give to a young person who isn't that into reading?

'I had been a big reader as a younger child, but then in 7th grade, I stopped reading. One, because I didn't like what I had to read at school. And two, I was at a pivotal age where I felt like I was being told to pick between these two parts of myself, the "girly girl" side who liked makeup and the "nerdy side" who liked to read.

'I decided that reading wasn't "cool" enough and that the "girly girl" version of me couldn't like reading, because those were the messages I was getting and internalizing. But luckily I had an amazing teacher that year, who noticed that I had stopped reading and he called my parents for a conference and suggested that they take me to a bookstore or library, and let me find something that interested me.

'So my parents took me to a bookstore, and I wandered right into the fantasy section. I had been a huge fan of fairy tales and folklore my entire life, but I didn't know that there were fairy tales for older readers. And on this fateful day in the bookshop, I stumbled across Garth Nix's Sabriel and Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown.

'I went home and I read them and they completely changed my life, they made me realise I wanted to read more stories like this, and that I wanted to write stories like that. On another level, those books made me realize I didn't need to choose between the two parts of myself; they made me realize I could like fashion and make-up and still love Star Wars and fantasy novels.

Every person can be a reader, they just need to find the book that sings to them.

'And you should never be ashamed of what interests you, and if anyone talks down to you about the kind of books you like, that is their problem, not yours. Read what makes you excited to pick up a book.'

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