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The Sorceress (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 26, 2009
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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.
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More About the Author
By one of those wonderful coincidences with which life is filled, I find that the first time the word alchemyst--with a Y--appears in my notes is in May 1997. Ten years later, almost to the day, The Alchemyst, the first book in the Nicholas Flamel series, will be published in May.
Every writer I know keeps a notebook full of those ideas, which might, one day, turn into a story. Most writers know they will probably never write the vast majority of those ideas. Most stories wait their turn to be told, but there are a few which tap you on the shoulder and insist on being told. These are the stories which simply will not go away until you get them down on paper, where you find yourself coming across precisely the research you need, or discovering the perfect character or, in my case, actually stumbling across Nicholas Flamel's house in Paris.
Discovering Flamel's house was the final piece I needed to put the book together. It also gave me the character of Nicholas Flamel because, up to that point, the book was without a hero.
And Nicholas Flamel brought so much to the story.
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, by another of those wonderful coincidences, 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.
Accompanied by his wife Perenelle, Nicholas spent more than 20 years trying to translate book. He must have succeeded. He became extraordinarily wealthy and used some of his great wealth to found hospitals, churches, and orphanages. Perhaps he had discovered the secret of the Philosopher's Stone: how to turn base metal into gold.
Of course the greatest mystery linked to Nicholas Flamel is the story of what happened after he died. When his tomb was opened by thieves looking for some of his great wealth, it was found to be empty. Had Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel been buried in secret graves, or had they never died in the first place? In the months and years to follow, sightings of the Flamels were reported all over Europe. Had Nicholas also discovered that other great mystery of alchemy: the secret of immortality?
What writer couldn't resist a story that combined magical books, an immortal magician and grave robbing and, even more excitingly, that had a basis in fact? It begged the questions: if he was still alive today, where would he be and what would he be doing? Obvious really--he would be running a bookshop in San Francisco.
The Alchemyst was a tough book to write, probably the toughest of all the books I've done so far. It is the first in a series, and because the story told across all six books is so tightly integrated, keeping track of the characters and events means that I have to keep extensive and detailed notes. A minor change in book one could impact dramatically book three. There are tiny clues seeded into the first book that pay off in later books. The time frame for the entire series is very tight--The Alchemyst, for example, takes place over two days--so I too need to keep an hour-by-hour breakdown of events.
For people who like to know the practicalities, I write every day and sometimes all day and often long into the night. Nights really are the best time for writing. It's that time the conscious side of the brain is starting to shut down and the unconscious takes over. The following day I'll read what I've written the previous day, then edit and rewrite. I work on two computer screens; the story on one screen, notes and research on the second screen.
And now let me answer the question you are about to ask me because, sooner or later, everyone asks, "What is the secret of writing?"
A comfortable chair. A really comfortable chair--because if you're a writer, you're going to spend a lot of time sitting in it.
Top Customer Reviews
Don't get me wrong, I really do love these books, but I have a lot of general qualms with them. I want more magic, and I want to know how the magic is being created. When we all were transported to Hogwarts, there was an explanation of how the magic worked throughout the world, which had very particular rules about what one can do when and how long it takes to acquire that knowledge.
So, ok, I know that Scott is not trying to recreate the Potter world, but it would be nice to know what rules the magic of this world operates from. The best explanation that we get at any point from either of the twins is, "I don't know, somehow you just know how to do it." I think this is a travesty and is missing out on a crucial element of drawing us into the story. How are they developing these abilities? How do they feel as they're creating the magic?
Every once in a while we get a peek into the whole thing, but it's not nearly often enough. Even the other immortals have cool spells that I'd like to get a little more depth on. Most of the time, they simply say, a shaman taught me this, or I learned this from Circe. You learned what from Circe? Is it a spell that you say? How are you creating the magic?
Anyway, past all that, it's a fun read and, in my opinion, more engaging than the first two. Josh and Sophie have generally become less whiney and are starting to jump into this whole being special and having magical abilities thing. Also, not to spoil it, but there's an interesting plot twist that happens right at the end of the book.
-Lindsey Miller, lindseyslibrary
I am absolutely flabbergasted. i never put it down. Have just put in an order for the rest of the books in the series.
hope he writes a sequel in time for my birthday next year!
All in all, the best of the three. The first two were pure action adventure fantasy. This one begins to build a fantasy world that breathes and lives. Great book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was excited to feed my Harry Potter book worm with a spin-off of the series. 'The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel' series is based on J. Read morePublished 21 days ago by cakewalkingmother
Michael Scott YOU ARE THE MAN. I keep coming back to this series because there is nothing like it. I wont give away any spoilers.. so thats all you get..Published 1 month ago by underlyingshadow
Son read the whole series - great for road trips and easy school days.Published 2 months ago by G. Shirley
This is a fun read and great escape reading for this boomer.Published 2 months ago by Kathryn Farwell
I love this series! The book came is great condition, no bent or torn pages. It came in a timely manner as well:) Would highly recommend:)Published 2 months ago by Ashley
I cannot believe how much my kids fight over these books trying to be the next one to read it. My kids fighting over reading and not a remote control, now that is magic!!!Published 2 months ago by T. Totland
Loved it couldn't read it fast enough!! As soon as I finished start the next book of series. Great book, definitely suggest in reading the series!!Published 3 months ago by susan aquino