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An interview with Michael Scott

An authority on mythology and folklore, Michael Scott is one of Ireland's most successful authors. A master of fantasy, science fiction, horror and folklore, he has been hailed by the Irish Times as 'the King of Fantasy in these isles'. He lives and writes in Dublin.

Q: Where did the idea for THE ALCHEMYST and THE MAGICIAN come from?

My earliest notes for the series which ultimately grew into the Immortal Nicholas Flamel date back to May 1997. Unusually (because, like most writers, I've no idea where the ideas comes from), I can pinpoint, almost to the day when the idea solidified into The Alchemyst. It was late September 2000, in Paris, and I had stumbled – entirely by accident – across Nicholas Flamel's own house in the narrow Rue du Montmorency: the Auberge Nicolas Flamel.

It is interesting, looking back, to see how much of the original idea still remains. I wanted to write a contemporary fantasy, one set very firmly in the present, with modern teenagers as my heroes, characters who used computers and cell phones, who sent emails and text messages.

I then decided that I wanted the heroes and villains of the story to be drawn from history, myth and legend. It allowed me to introduce characters like Nicholas Flamel and John Dee, real men who had an extraordinary influence on their time. Just everything I write about them in The Alchemyst is drawn from the historical records.

All-in-all, it would have been easier to make it up – though not half as much fun!

Q: Can you tell us how you became familiar with the legend of Nicolas Flamel?

I was introduced to the character of Flamel through Doctor John Dee.

I had written a couple of novels which featured Dee as a secondary character before I finally decided that he needed a book to himself (The Merchant Prince.)

Dee was exceptional man: he was a mathematician and geographer, astronomer and astrologer and also part of the Queen's network of spies. Shakespeare is reputed to have modelled the character of Prospero in The Tempest on Dee. Dee was also an alchemist and included in his enormous library were the writings of one of the most influential alchemists of the previous century: Nicholas Flamel.

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 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 and his tomb was found empty. 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, an empty grave and, even more excitingly, had a basis in fact?

Q: How does the writing process for your adult books differ from the way you approach the writing of your children's titles?

The plotting process is identical. I plot everything in great detail so I know exactly where I'm going. It also allows me to put in place all the research I need well in advance. I've been to all the places mentioned in the Nicholas Flamel series, photographed them endlessly. And if you think that sounds like visiting exotic locations using “research” as an excuse, then you're right!

Once the research is complete, I can then write without interruption.

The main difference I've found with writing for young adults is language. It requires greater precision in expression. Young adults are also a much more attentive audience. Doing a Q&A with a teenage audience can be quite terrifying: more like being interrogated as stories, characters, scenes and situations are dissected.

Q: What would you like young readers to take away from the reading of THE ALCHEMYST and THE MAGICIAN?

I would be thrilled if it encouraged people to check out some of the amazing stories which exist in the world's mythologies and legends.

The response to The Alchemyst has been astonishing. I've had countless emails from readers who went online (as Josh in the book does) and checked out the characters and creatures, and discovered that they once existed. Readers can then discover a back story to just about all the characters, a story that was written hundreds of years before I borrowed that character for my books.

Our Michael Scott reviews

The Necromancer by Michael Scott

I was really pleased to get a chance to read this fourth book in Michael Scott's Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel series as I had the pleasure of reading the first three last year. When I picked the book up I did wonder if I should have had another look at the previous books to re-acquaint myself with the story and characters. I needn't have worried. As soon as I began to read it all came flooding back and it was as if I had just put the other books down. The book has sixty-six short sharp chapters but every one of them moves the story along and there isn' t a wasted word [...]

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Sorceress by Michael Scott

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8.8/10

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The Magician by Michael Scott

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8.7/10

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The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

He holds the secret that can end the worldThe truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.The records show that he died in 1418.But his tomb is empty.The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects – the book of Abraham the [...]

7.8/10

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The Warlock by Michael Scott

I have read and enjoyed all four of the previous books in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott so I was certain that the fifth book would not disappoint. Unfortunately, for reasons I can't really define, I found that I didn't enjoy this volume as much as the others. I didn't dislike it but the little buzz of excitement (the feeling of wanting to keep reading but not wanting to reach the end of the book) just wasn't there for me.This book continues immediately from the end of the fourth book The Necromancer. The twins, Sophie and Josh New [...]

7.0/10

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The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott

I have long been a fan of Michael Scott's Young Adult series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel so I was pleased when I was offered a chance to read and review his new book The Thirteen Hallows which he co-wrote with Colette Freedman.I want to start by saying that this book is NOT for children. There are many scenes of violent torture and murder, mostly toward elderly men and women. Put this together with an evil sorcerer and his “nubile” accomplice who both find it difficult to wear any clothes, and seem only able to access their magic through sex and this i [...]

6.5/10

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