Amazon.com Exclusive: An Interview with Author Michael Scott
Q: What was your inspiration for the series—was it the legend of the Flamels and the Book of Abraham? Did Dee figure in from the start?
Scott: The story really started with Dr. John Dee and, for a long time, he was the hero of the series. I had written about Dee before in my horror novels, Image, (Sphere, UK, 1991), Reflection, (Sphere, UK, 1993) and then The Merchant Prince (Pocket Books, USA, 2000). Dee was a fascinating man, but he was never “right” for the lead character: he was always too dark, too troubled.
I know I started to develop the series on May 18th, 1997, because that is the first time the word “Alchemyst” with the “Y” appears in my notebooks. However, it was really three years later, in late September 2000, when I was in Paris and stumbled across Nicholas Flamel’s house in the Rue de Montmorency that the series really came together. I knew a lot about Flamel and the legendary Book of Abraham and, sitting in Flamel’s home, which is now a wonderful restaurant, I realized that here was the hero for my series.
Nicholas Flamel was one of the most famous alchemists of his day. He was born in 1330 and earned his living as a bookseller (which was the same job I had for many years.) One day he bought a book, the same book mentioned in The Alchemyst: the Book of Abraham. It too, really existed and Nicholas Flamel left us with a very detailed description of the copper-bound book. Although the book itself is lost, the illustrations from the text still exist.
Over the course of his long life, Flamel became extraordinarily wealthy, and used his wealth to found churches, hospitals and schools. Both he and his wife, Perenelle, were very well known in France and across Europe. The streets named after them, the Rue Flamel and the Rue Perenelle, still exist in Paris today.
Q: I was excited to see The Sorceress showing off more of Perenelle. How much does the real Perenelle Flamel influence the character of Perenelle?
Scott: We know little about the historical Perenelle. There are a few solid facts however and I have incorporated them into the story: she was older than Nicholas (there is even the suggestion that she might have been a widow when she married him), and she was also wealthier. It is also abundantly clear that she was the dominant character in the marriage and there is some evidence to suggest that she was an alchemist in her own right.
Q: What's coming up next?
Scott: Coming up next... well, book 4 brings up back to the west coast of America and San Francisco. And then we head south towards LA (but if I tell you any more I’ll reveal a couple of big surprises!) However, I will tell you that I am just back from a weekend in London where I spent most of Saturday wandering around Covent Garden. You’ll find out why in The Necromancer.
Q: The most fun thing about the series, I think, is how you reveal new immortals as you go along (e.g., Machiavelli, Joan of Arc... I won’t spoil your reveals in The Sorceress, but they’re surprising). How do you decide which famous figure from history will be your next immortal?
Scott: Thank you for not revealing some of the surprises!
Once I had plotted the series, I had a rough idea of the type of characters I wanted to include. My settings—the United States, France and England—suggested certain types of characters. I could not write about Paris, for example, and not include Joan. But there were other characters—Scathach is the perfect example—who was there right from the very beginning. Again, she was someone I had written about before in my early collections of Irish folklore and knew that I wanted to use again.
Also, because this series is based upon legend, mythology and history, it put in place certain rules: the only “created” characters in the series are the twins, Sophie and Josh. Everyone else existed.
Q: You’ve written for adults and young adults—and this series certainly seems to have crossed over into an adult readership. Is the experience any different when you’re writing for younger readers? Do you find that younger readers have a stronger connection to the work, for example?
Scott: I have always written for both adults and young adults, but you are right, the Flamel series has crossed over in an extraordinary way. Writing for young adults requires a certain precision in language. Adults have a body of shared knowledge and information that young adults do not. I can make allusions and references in my adult writing that young adults might not get. My young adult writing tends to be much more descriptive and I will take the time to describe people, places and situations to allow the younger readers to become fully involved in the world.
Younger readers are certainly attracted to the adventure and are thrilled to realize what when they go online they can find out all sorts of additional information about all the characters. The older readers tend to ask more specific questions about the mythological characters.
Q: How is this series different from other young adult books that you’ve written?
Scott: This is the most intricate and ambitious work I’ve done. The six books will take place in less than a month so everything has to knit and mesh together. The notes for this series are now bigger than the books themselves. I have said before that there is nothing accidental in the books. What might look like an inconsistency, for example, is often a clue to something that will happen later on. Because I’ve plotted the entire series, it gives me huge freedom to plant seeds and clues to later events.
Q: Of all the forms you write in—novels, scripts, nonfiction—do you have a favorite?
Scott: Novels. It is the only one of the three where you are in complete control. With a script, for example, everyone has a say and what you see on screen only vaguely resembles what you’ve written.
Q: What’s your favorite genre (to write and to read)?
Scott: I love writing fantasy—and it’s what I read most. However, my rule is when I’m writing fantasy, I will read anything but fantasy. So I end up reading a lot of crime—I’ve got the new John Connolly on the desk to read next—and I’m a huge John Sandford fan. The research for this series is huge (but it’s the part I really enjoy), so I do find myself reading some terribly odd non-fiction.
Q: Have all six of the books in the series already been written? If so, what are you working on now? Is it strange to revisit each of the books as they come out?
Scott: They have all been plotted, but not written. I’m close to the end of The Necromancer now and little bits of book 5, The Warlock, and even the end of book 6, The Enchantress, have been written.
I am also writing and researching a new series, not linked to the Flamel series, which I’m having a lot of fun with. All I’ll say is that it also has its roots in myth. The oddest part of revisiting the books is when I tour. Usually I am touring and reading from a book I finished many months previously. I have to be careful not to reveal any of the forthcoming surprises when I take questions.
From School Library Journal
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