The Queen of Fantasy: Sarah J Maas’s Rise to a Best Seller

She’s written not just one but two high fantasy series that soared to the top of the New York Times Best Selling List and the top of every book worm’s all time favorites list. Sarah J Maas has captivated us all with Throne of Glass and a Court of Thorns and Roses, and it’s likely that the best has yet to come. As one of the most influential authors in the YA genre, it’s difficult to imagine Maas as anything but the queen she is today, but like all good success stories, she started off just like everyone else.

Where did it all begin?

At sixteen, after several attempts with fan fiction and novels based off of published works, Maas wrote the first few chapters of Queen of Glass and published them to FictionPress.com. It became one of the most popular stories on the site with nearly 7,000 reviews and encouraged Maas to take the story off FictionPress to pursue traditional publishing.

How did she make the jump between self publishing to traditional publishing?

In 2008, she queried two agents with an early draft of Queen of Glass that was 240k words long. Not so surprisingly, she was rejected. She took a break on QoG to query another series but came to a standstill after receiving no offers on that either. Rededicating herself to the series that she’d already dedicated seven years of her life to, Maas made major revisions to QoG taking the word count down to 140k. She made a list of agents that repped fantasy and were interested in strong heroines and queried about 16 of them. In January of 2009, Tamar Rydzinski offered to represent Maas. Throne of Glass was purchased in March 2010 by Bloomsbury and published in 2012.

What inspires her writing?

As many of us know from her incredible writing playlists, music is a huge part of SJM’s writing process. From classical to musical scores, Sarah credits her scenes, plots, character arcs, and even her connection to the soul of her books to music.As far as influential authors—brace yourself: it’s a long list. Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, Lloyd Alexander, Suzanne Collins, Philip Pullman, J. K. Rowling and Tamora Pierce for YA and for adult fantasy, James Clemens, Peter S. Beagle, Anne Bishop, J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, and Patricia A. McKillip. She also finds inspiration in art (hellooo Pinterest), movies and television, traveling, and history.

Where did Throne of Glass come from?

Throne of Glass was born surprisingly as a fairy tale retelling—Cinderella, to be specific. SJM was listening to the Cinderella score and unsurprisingly with her imagination and taste for the sinister things in life, made the jump from a romantic ball to an assassin. What if Cinderella wasn’t at the ball to meet the prince but to kill him? It was at this moment that our beloved Celaena Sardothien was born.Years of plot twists later, ToG is more of an epic fantasy than a retelling and has only a few nods to Cinderella.

A Court of Thorns and Roses?

A Court of Thorns and Roses was interestingly also a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast—a trend that I am dying to see whether or not will continue in new series. The first book in this trilogy has several very evident nods to the fairy tale classic but Prythian, like Erilea, has grown into its own immersive world that I wish I could live in.Also a note on ACOTAR: the first book was written in 2009 although it wasn’t published until 2015—a true nod to the lengthy, drawn out traditional publishing path.

What’s the most challenging part of writing for her?

Sarah is a chronic over-writer, meaning that she writes looooooooong books by default. However much I wish that I could drown in her ridiculously big books, publishers are sadly not so quick to approve the uncut versions of her novels. She typically has to cut out one or two subplots and characters to hack away at the word count in revisions.”Murder your darlings” is her motto, and I can personally testify that it applies to her word count as well as our precious cinnamon roll characters.

Her Advice to Aspiring Writers

“Write what you love. Plenty of people will tell you that being published is an unrealistic goal, or what you love to write isn’t “real” literature, but ignore them. Write what you love, and never apologize for it. Yes, it’s a long road to publication, but that’s a good thing. You’ll only make it if you have a story that you love with your entire heart and soul, and the only person that can ever make you stop writing is you. So write what you love, and screw the rest.” -SJM

How did she spend her teenage years?

“Dorky. Busy. I wrote every second I could, and devoured books when I wasn’t writing. Learning to balance a social life with my writing life was a struggle, but I had some great friends who were fun to be with, and supported my writing endeavors.” -SJM(PS, this is actually so relatable and I really hope that means I’m on track to be a NY Times Bestseller…??)

What does the J stand for?

Truly the most important question of all, the J in Sarah J Maas stands for Janet.

So there you have it: Sarah J[anet] Maas, queen of fantasy and queen of our hearts (unless she harms our precious characters in Kingdom of Ash).

7 thoughts on “The Queen of Fantasy: Sarah J Maas’s Rise to a Best Seller”

  1. This is such a great post! I knew Throne of Glass got its “start” on Fiction Press but I never knew how long it took to get into our hands. And you had such great timing with today’s SJM news!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Right, it was so interesting learning about the crazy process it took before we got ToG. I got so lucky with that time—complete coincidence but I’ll take it😂 very excited to see Sarah jump into adult fantasy though!!

      Liked by 1 person

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