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Kids' Q&A

Michael Scott

Describe your new book.
The Alchemyst is the first book in a series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. It is the story of two all-American teens, Sophie and Josh, who discover that the bookshop owner Josh works for in San Francisco is in fact, the legendary and immortal alchemist, Nicholas Flamel.

Nicholas and his wife Perenelle have survived for almost seven hundred years by using a formula contained in an ancient book the Flamels protect, The Codex. But when the book is stolen by Doctor John Dee, Sophie and Josh are swept along in the adventure to recover the book. They discover that, in modern day San Francisco, magic exists, that immortal magicians and alchemysts have been engaged in a secret battle to control the world. It is a battle fought by ancient gods and creatures from long forgotten mythologies in this world of cell phones and laptops.

Flamel decides that he must awaken the Sophie and Josh's latent magical powers. It's a dangerous and risky procedure, but if the teens are to have any chance of survival, they must be able to protect themselves.

The Alchemyst introduces us to the world of Nicholas Flamel, a world that is populated by characters from history, by the gods of mythology and creatures from legend. Just about everyone in the series is drawn from the mythology of a dozen nations and all the heroes and villains are drawn from history.

Flamel's bodyguard, the warrior Scathach, is the woman known as Shadow from Celtic myth. Doctor John Dee, for example, was one of the most brilliant men of his age and all the factual details about his life in The Alchemyst are true: he was an alchemist, a mathematician, a geographer, an astronomer and an astrologer. When Shakespeare created the character of Prospero for The Tempest, there is evidence to suggest that he modelled him on Dee.

Nicholas Flamel was one of the most famous alchemists of his day. He was born in 1330 and earned his living as a bookseller. (As an aside, I'll mention that I worked as a bookseller for 25 years, so that completely endeared him to me.) One day he bought a book, the same book mentioned in The Alchemyst: The Codex, 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 twenty years trying to translate the 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 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?

  1. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
    $8.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

  2. Irish Folk Tales
    $9.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Irish Folk Tales

    Michael Scott

Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
The Chronicles of Faerie by O. R. Melling. She's a Canadian author who writes about magic in the real world. Her use of language and imagery is extraordinary and beautiful.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
There is a great Picasso quote I love, which goes, "Everything you can imagine is real." It reminds me of the two lines from William Blake, "This world of imagination, is the world of Eternity."

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
I was a bookseller for many years, and I was also a book reviewer, with a weekly TV slot reviewing books, but even though I was never short of books, I always ended up buying them. I read just about everything. Most recently I find myself reading on personal recommendation. If I'm online and find some people reading books I've read and recommending someone new, I'll try that author. And I've rarely been disappointed!

In the last couple of weeks, I've finished the latest in Simon Green's Nightside series, which I liked very much; the new John Connolly, The Unquiet; and Kim Newman's Anno Dracula, which I've read a couple of times now and is such fun. The book sitting on the edge of my desk is Libba Bray's Rebel Angels, the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty. And just under that is China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, which I bought today in fact. It's his first YA novel, and I'm looking forward to it.

What was your favorite story as a child?
I don't have any one single favorite story. I was a voracious reader as a child and still have many of those books. Some stand out very clearly in my memory: The Borrowers by Mary Norton: the series of absolutely wonderful books about tiny people who live alongside humans. Susan Cooper's amazing Under Sea Over Stone series, Alan Garner's extraordinary series (especially Elidor), and of course Ursula K Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy.

What do you do for relaxation?
I live in a seaside town. So, no matter what the weather, I walk the beach. Nothing is more relaxing. I cycle a lot — so much so that I've wrecked yet another bike!

What is your idea of bliss?
Really good sushi or blueberry ice cream. Or both. But not necessarily together! And chocolate. I'm a really big chocolate fan. In fact, sushi, blueberry ice cream, and 70% pure cocoa chocolate is a fairly blissful thought.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A librarian. Honestly. But I ended up working in a bookshop for the summer. I simply never left. I spent twenty-five years as a bookseller, eventually ending up running a major wholesaler/retailer. It was a job I loved and I think every writer should spend a little time in that world — really open their eyes!

Tell us about your pets.
Well, as far as I can see, lazy writers tend to end up with cats, energetic writers have dogs. There are two cats in the house: Lorcan and Laela. Lorcan is a very old long-hair, and Laela is a new tortoise-shell kitten. They're not really mine, until they need to be fed, when they become mine (but only for five minutes, until they're fed!).

Name the best Simpsons episode of all time, and explain why it's the best.
Well, there has been a lot of discussion in our house about this one. However, "Homer goes to Clown College" and "Supercalifragilistic" (which I bet I've spelled incorrectly) have come out on top.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Actually, all my favorite characters in history are going to turn up sooner or later in the Nicholas Flamel series! Flamel was the most extraordinary man and most of the stories I tell about him in the book are true — including the legend that he and Perenelle are immortal. Doctor John Dee turned up time and again in my work, too. They are both men who would have been exceptional in any age. One of the great joys in creating this series has been to pick through history and highlight those men or women — known and unknown — who have led exceptional lives.

If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why?
It would have to be the extraordinary, the brilliant, the amazing Brian Froud. He did the covers for some of my folklore collections — and they are just astonishing. I have all his books — and indeed most of my covers appear in his Good Fairies/Bad Fairies collection. spacer

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