Author Spotlight: Michael Scott

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on June 16th, 2012.***

Author Spotlight: Michael Scott

GOOD EVENING, Beardies! 🙂

Many of you have probably began to wonder if my interview with Michael Scott was ever going to appear. Some of you have even contacted me in query. But fear not; the wait is over!

Organizing the contest, as well as seriously contemplating what questions to ask Michael, have both been a blast for me, and I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity and assistance with arranging and promoting the contest. Because of his busy schedule with The Enchantress book-signing tour–not to mention out of sheer gratitude and respect–I wanted to give him ample time to chew on the questions a bit before answering.

The wait was well worth it! The answers are phenomenal, and I know all of you are going to enjoy them as much as I did. But you’re going to have to wait just a bit longer, as I want to introduce Michael to all of you first…


(Biography taken directly from Michael‘s website; Mr. Scott owns alll copyrights.)

IRISH-born Michael Scott began writing over twenty-five years ago, and is one of Ireland’s most successful and prolific authors, with one hundred titles to his credit, spanning a variety of genres, including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Folklore. He writes for both adults and young adults and is published in thirty-eight countries, in over twenty languages.

He is considered one of the authorities on the folklore of the Celtic lands and is credited with the resurgence of interest in the subject in the mid-1980s. His collections, Irish Folk & Fairy Tales, Irish Myths & Legends and Irish Ghosts & Hauntings have remained continuously in print for the past twenty years and are now included amongst the definitive and most-quoted works on the subject.


Joshua A. Mercier: At what age did you begin writing?

Michael Scott: I was probably around 18 or 19 when I started doing it seriously. I never set out to be a writer, but I was a great reader, and if you are a reader, then one day you will say, “I think I can do this.” That’s how every writer I know started. The trick is to stick at it.

Joshua A. Mercier: I read somewhere that mythology is one of your first loves; would you say that it was mythology that inspired you to start writing?

Michael Scott: Absolutely. I grew up in Ireland where myth and legend is still very close and very real. When I started my first collection of Irish folklore, back in 1982, there were very few books on Irish folklore in print and most of those were much older books, written in the style and language of the 19th century. I decided that I would do a collection of the classic Irish folktales, written in a modern accessible style. My first three collections, Irish Folk and Fairy Tales, are still in print to this day. Collecting and writing those first stories were my first ventures into print.

Joshua A. Mercier: Would you say that growing up in Ireland—with its culture deeply seeded with folklore, mythology, and mysticism—influenced your incorporation of magical elements into your novels?

Michael Scott: I grew up with these magical stories, where the dividing line between this world and the faery realms (which appear as the Shadowrealms in the Flamel series – indeed some of the Shadowrealms, like Tir na nOg are named in honor of the Irish otherworlds) overlap.

Joshua A. Mercier: Which Irish myth/story stands out amongst the others as a favorite?

Michael Scott: There are so many, but my all time favorite is The Children of Lir, one of the Sorrows of Irish Storytelling. It is the story of four children, changed into swans by an evil step-mother and doomed to spend nine hundred years as swans before returning to their human form. It was my first young adult novel and remains one of my favorites.

Joshua A. Mercier: What is your favorite book? Your favorite fantasy/speculative fiction book?

Michael Scott: Too hard a question. There are so many. I love Huckleberry Finn (the original version, not the new edited version), and I’ve read it a dozen times at least and find something new in it every time. Growing up I was greatly influenced by people like Andre Norton, Mary Norton, Susan Cooper, H.P. Lovecraft, Talbot Mundy and Robert E Howard.

Joshua A. Mercier: For me it was Bridge to Terabithia… was there a particular book that hooked you into the fantasy genre?

Michael Scott: That’s an easier questions: Tros of Samothrace by Talbot Mundy, a wonderful semi-historical historical novel, woven throughout with fantasy. It was first published in the 1930’s and I read the paperback reprints in the late 1970’s. Inasmuch as Flamel is a sort of historical fantasy … well, here are its roots.

Joshua A. Mercier: Could you describe your writing process for the readers of The Bearded Scribe?

Michael Scott: For me plotting is everything. Once I have an overall idea for a story, I will then work through it, plotting it down to chapter by chapter level. Once I have that outline, I then write the ending. Once I have my ending i know I can write the story. The practical process involves sitting in a chair about ten hours a day. I work on two screens, with the novel open in one screen (in Word), and my research notes (in Mindmanager and TheBrain) on the second screen.

Joshua A. Mercier: As an aspiring fantasy author trying to shop his first manuscript, could you tell me how many agents you sent query letters to before you received a “yes” from one of them? Also, how long did the process take?

Michael Scott: I’m afraid to say that this will depress you. I’ve published a lot of books, and did not get an agent until I’d sold about 25 or 30 by myself. I sold my very first book by simply contacting a publisher directly. However, the business has changed a lot now and having an agent is almost necessary just to get in the door with a publisher. (If it is consolation, when I went looking for a new agent for the Flamel series, very few were interested. But all it takes is one. And the writing business is all about persistence.)

Joshua A. Mercier: Could you tell the readers of The Bearded Scribe more about The Thirteen Hallows, your literary collaboration with Collette Freedman?

Michael Scott: The Thirteen Hallows is based on a novel I wrote many years ago called The Hallows and now long out of print. This is a story based, like so much of my work, on mythology, but a very specific Arthurian legend and the great English hymn—Jerusalem. Collette and I worked to bring the story up to date, tighten the storyline and improve on the original. We met briefly in LA to discuss the original idea and then worked with Skype and Google docs over the next several months on the story. I then returned to LA for the final work on the manuscript. It sold very quickly and I was thrilled to be published by Tor. They’d published some earlier fantasies of mine a long time ago. We’re working on a sequel, called The Hallowed Keepers.

Joshua A. Mercier: What about your pen name, Anna Dillon? What is the story behind where and how it came about?

Michael Scott: I had been working on a big historical novel set in Dublin before the first World War. My publishers loved it, but felt that the readers might have difficult accepting that it had been written by a fantasy writer. Also, it featured strong female characters and was seen as a “female” books. (I should add that this was a long time ago, and attitudes have changed.) I choose Anna Dillon, which is a combination of family names. Seasons, the first book, was an immediate success and I went on to write several more books under the Anna Dillon name. For a long time “she” was more popular than I was!

Joshua A. Mercier: When you visited Flamel’s residence in Paris, was it sort of a writer’s “love at first sight” for you? What went through your thoughts upon entering?

Michael Scott: As an historian I’d always known about Nicholas Flamel—he weaves in an out of various aspects of European history and Doctor John Dee (whom I had written about before) was a collector of his work. It was, initially, a curiosity to be sitting in his house, drinking tea and looking around. At that stage, Dee was the hero of the series (it was the Secrets of Doctor Dee), but I knew instinctively that Dee was not right for the hero—he was just a little too dark. I think it was when I remembered that Flamel had been a bookseller (and I was working as a bookseller at that time), that the pieces began to come together. But once the decision was made, everything slotted together so neatly.

Joshua A. Mercier: Being a direct descendant of Jeanne D’Arc’s brother, Jacquemin D’Arc, as well as my birthday being exactly 550 years to the day of when she was wrongfully burned at the stake, I feel an unprecedented connection to her. (Dare I mention that she and I are both lefties?) I am curious… other than for the obvious reasons, what inspired you to use Jeanne as a part of the Flamel series, especially the way in which you did?

Michael Scott: Ok, that now is very impressive! And I do have a short story plotted which includes all the d’Arc siblings, Pierre, Jean and Jacquemin, and, of course, Joan—I’ll tell that story some day soon, I promise. I included Joan because, in the plotting process, I knew I wanted to send the Flamels back to Paris to retrieve the sword. I also wanted to include the wonderful catacombs beneath the city in the story. So, if I have everyone in Paris, then they will need to be protected by the ultimate French warrior: Joan of Arc.

Joshua A. Mercier: This question was also asked by my Assistant Editor, Elizabeth Norton… are you currently working on any new projects now that the Flamel series is finished?

Michael Scott: Yes, I am writing The Earthlords series right now. It is related, but only vaguely, to the Flamel series. It is a mythic fantasy, a trilogy … with no cliffhanger endings, I promise.

Joshua A. Mercier: I’m not sure of the topic or in what capacity, but would you consider writing a guest post on The Bearded Scribe at some point?

Michael Scott: Yes, of course. Just ask.

Joshua A. Mercier: Rumors of a film adaptation of the Flamel series have circulated across the internet… are the rumors true, and are there any current status updates?

Michael Scott: The rumors have always been true. Several huge companies have looked at Flamel and tried to make it work. For various reasons, often to do with the script, it simply has not happened – also the really compressed time frame of the series makes it tricky to shoot. However, now that the series is finished, there is renewed interest and, fingers crossed, we should know very soon. And this time, I’ll write the script, so at least it will vaguely resemble the books.

Joshua A. Mercier: As you know, I hosted a contest on my blog and asked the participants to submit questions for this interview… here are some of them that came my way…

Court Elllyn: How did the initial idea for The Enchantress come about?

Michael Scott: The original idea was to create a series that unified all the world’s mythology, based on the simple premise that at the heart of every story is a grain of truth. As I research folklore all over the world, it has become clear to me that so many of the world’s myths and legends are incredibly similar, and some are almost identical. So I came up with the idea that I would feature as many of the world’s folklore and myths in one story, and populate my world with immortal human characters. The only created characters in the series are Sophie and Josh.

Joshua Hernandez: I’ve always wondered where you concocted the idea for auras to have smells? Also, if you had an aura, what would you make your fragrance?

Michael Scott: Auras or versions of auras turn up in myth across the globe. I added in the element of smell because I wanted to make the characters memorable, and scents are one of the most distinctive and evocative of all the senses. We can all remember smells from our childhood for example. Someone suggested that all the good characters smell “good” and all the villains smell “bad.” This is not actually true. All of the characters have taken odors appropriate to their time. I have been told that my aura is green and smells of spearmint.

Francis Ramos: Now that the Flamel series is done, is there any possibility that you’ll make another series related to it? Or maybe a series with one of the characters from the Flamel series as the main character?

Michael Scott: I am working on a new series now called The Earthlords. It is vaguely related to the Flamel series, but none of the characters from the six books will appear in the new series. However, I am not entirely done with Flamel yet. I have plans for another linked series and some short stories set in the same world.

Booklover 31 (Name Undisclosed): Did you have a favorite character to write for, and if so, did it change throughout the Flamel series?

Michael Scott: Dee has always been my favorite. Villains are always so much fun to write. However, as the series progressed, Billy and Machiavelli and Scathach, of course, were great fun to write. I always knew how he would “end,” so that did not change. I’ve not been entirely fair to him however. He was a fascinating man, with one of the largest libraries in private hands and probably the basis of Shakespeare’s Prospero.

Miranda Harrison: What was the most challenging part of the series to write? And also, for which character did you have the most difficulty writing?

Michael Scott: Keeping all six books straight in my head and ensuring the continuity of the series. The notes for this series are huge—bigger than the books themselves. All of the characters presented their own difficulties, but some, like Scathach, for example, tended to take over. So I had to be careful not to give her too much time on the page. I’ll give the Shadow her own series eventually.

Oscar Montepeque: If a film adaptation of the series does come about, how do imagine the script writers and directors will incorporate all the different view points of the characters? What about the “flashbacks” and “memory” sequences experienced by the characters?

Out of the hundreds of historical figures out there, what made you decide on the ones you did choose? What made them more special than the rest?

Michael Scott: That is always going to be an issue. The movie is not the book and the book will always be better than the movie. It is now looking like I will do a first pass on the script myself, so I will try and keep it as close to the books as possible, but obviously, something will have to go. (And I am not a fan of flashbacks in movies!)

As I plotted the series, sometimes the locations would suggest the characters (Joan in Paris, for example, or Shakespeare in London). But this really was a great opportunity for me to include all of my favorite characrers from history. There are so many who simply did not make the final books, (but who may make the short stories!).

Lynn Volovic Rosin: I was just curious… did you travel to all the wonderful places in the series (i.e., Alcatraz and Notre Dame) in order to mimic them so perfectly within the books?

Michael Scott: Yes, I have visited, stayed in or lived in all of the places in the books. That was part of the deal I make with you, the reader. Also, by setting it so firmly in the real world, using very real locations, it make the magic and fantasy all the more real.

Vivian Mah: Growing up, had you always wanted to become a writer? Any advice for young writers?

Michael Scott: No, I never really wanted to become a writer; it sort of happened. However, I was a great reader, and if you are a reader, then sooner or later you decide that you have your own stories to tell. My best advice for young writers is, obviously, to read, read, read and then read some more. But also to learn how to type properly. Do a keyboarding skills course. It will make your writing life so much easier. And get a really comfortable chair, because you will spent a lot of time sitting in it.

Carlos Escribano: Were the characters of Josh and Sophie inspired by real people?

Michael Scott: No, they are the only two created characters. However, they are twins, and twin mythology is universal. I generally make it a rule never to base anyone on people I know. I may take elements of people’s personalities and incorporate them into the story, but it is never a good idea to write your friends into your work.

Joshua A. Mercier: Is there anything else that you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe‘s readers that I did not ask you (and you wished I had)?

Michael Scott: I think this is a really exciting time both for writers and readers. This generation of readers have an opportunity (like here) to talk directly with writers. And, writers have an opportunity to listen to their readers and hear what they are saying. I think this dialogue is incredibly positive. And finally, of course, let me thank you for reading the books. Without readers, books are just dead words on a page: it is the readers who bring them alive.


THANK YOU, Michael, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and share your answers with me and the readers of The Bearded Scribe. It has been an honor and a privilege talking with you over the past few weeks, one that I won’t soon forget.

Stay tuned for an upcoming, collaborative review of Michael Scott’s The Alchemyst written by Elizabeth and myself. Also, stay tuned for a potential guest post by Michael Scott himself!


FOR more information about Michael Scott, please visit his website. You can also follow him on any of the following social media links:

TO check out Michael’s other titles, visit here, there, over here, and don’t forget about over there, too! (Yes. There are that many!)

To purchase any of the books within The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, simply select your preferred reading format from the drop down menus below and click the “PURCHASE” button to be redirected to one of our affiliate links.







Author Spotlight: Cidney Swanson

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on June 13th, 2012.***

Author Spotlight: Cidney Swanson

HELLO Beardies,

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth emailed me with the name of an author whom she knew through her work at the library. Without knowing it, Elizabeth had already corresponded with the author to see if she would be open to an interview for the blog… to which the author graciously agreed.

In conjunction with this upcoming Author Spotlight, Elizabeth wrote a wonderful review of The Ripple Trilogy, authored by our guest today, Cidney Swanson. (For those of you who do not remember Elizabeth’s Book Spotlight on The Ripple Trilogy, please check it out as soon as you get a chance.)


(Biography taken from Cidney‘s Author Page on Amazon and originally provided by Cidney or a representative.)

CIDNEY SWANSON grew up within spitting distance of the central California foothills and learned to drive on the crazy highways linking gold rush ghost towns. She began her first novel at age eight; it started with “Ouch,” and she’s enjoyed creating painful situations for her characters ever since. Cidney worked as a costume designer, clothing designer, and kitchen gadget salesperson prior to giving it all up for literature. Cidney lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with her husband, three kids, a dog and two cats, and entirely too much rain.


Joshua A. Mercier: You have two blogs—your personal blog and one titled The Writer’s Voice—could you tell the readers at The Bearded Scribe a little more about each of them?

Cidney Swanson: I’m a contributor over at The Writer’s Voice, a blog where several young adult authors post. On my own blog, I tend to write a couple of posts a month on something that moves me. Wow. That sounded vague. Here’s another try: when I find myself getting shivers from an experience that has to do with reading or writing, I usually end up blogging about it.

Joshua A. Mercier: Would you consider writing a guest post on The Bearded Scribe at some point?

Cidney Swanson: Of course! In addition, you can always request to re-post an earlier post of mine if you think your readers would find it interesting.

Joshua A. Mercier: At what age did you begin writing?

Cidney Swanson: I began writing fiction as soon as I learned to write words, right around age seven. I have no idea why. No one in particular encouraged it, but I loved reading and I’m guessing that inspired me.

Joshua A. Mercier: What is your favorite book? Your favorite fantasy/speculative fiction book?

Cidney Swanson: Really? Favorite, like, favorite??? I’m totally cheating and answering with more than one title. *grins evilly*

If I could only have one book for the rest of my life, I would pick Lord of the Rings. My favorite books that I’ve read more recently would be Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races.

Joshua A. Mercier: For me, it was Bridge to Terabithia… was there a particular book that hooked you into the fantasy genre?

Cidney Swanson: It was actually Star Trek (the original series) that hooked me into speculative fiction. I read science fiction looking for something similar, but I was often disappointed. Interestingly, when I discovered The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings within twelve months of each other, it felt like “coming home” for me. Those books converted me into a fantasy reader.

Joshua A. Mercier: It’s funny that you mention The Chronicles of Narnia, actually. It was what made me realize that there were other great fantasies out there. Shortly after reading Bridge to Terabithia, a professional acting group visited my elementary school and performed a dramatic adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. After that, I think I was not only hooked, but also the subconscious decision to become a writer had manifested in my head, even at that young of an age.

Do you only write in the fantasy genre?

Cidney Swanson: So far, all of the novels I have completed have had fantastical elements to them. I enjoy reading contemporary young adult fiction, but I don’t seem to be driven to write it myself. Unless there is something speculative involved in the writing, I don’t tend to stick with it. That probably won’t change any time soon, given the number of books clamoring (from inside my brain) to be written.

Joshua A. Mercier: As an aspiring fantasy author trying to shop his first manuscript, could you tell me how many agents you sent query letters to before you received a “yes” from one of them? Also, how long did the process take?

Cidney Swanson: I am currently un-agented and self-published. But I was looking for an agent once upon a time. Here’s how my process went: I chose two dozen agents that I thought I might work well with. I only received a handful of outright rejections. Most said, “What else have you got?” or “It’s good, but I think this would be tough to market.” That process took about two years. Meanwhile, I wanted to quit my day job and write full time. So, I set aside querying in favor of publishing The Ripple Trilogy myself. That was one year ago. I’m making a living as a writer at this time.

I certainly wouldn’t be in this position if I had continued to query without taking a break to polish and publish. I’ve owned a couple of businesses, so I looked at this very much from a business standpoint asking: how can I achieve my goal of writing for a living? Self-publishing was a very good option for meeting that goal. Now I am about to jump back on the query-go-round with a couple of new manuscripts in hand.

The main problem with the query process is that it moves at the pace of a banana slug. On a very hot day. On an abrasive surface. Agents are under tremendous pressures now with the flux in the publishing industry. Their first responsibility must be to existing clients. They read queries and manuscripts in their free time! (Meaning, when the rest of us would be sipping sweet tea or going to the movies.)

The query process is a very lengthy one made even longer by the fact that it is accomplished during someone’s “non-work” hours. I’d say it is typical to get a first response after 3-6 months. If an agent asks for a couple of chapters, you’ll probably hear back on those in 2-4 months. If they ask for a complete manuscript, allow another month or two. They may request revisions before deciding. This should take you a couple of months. Then they will need a couple of months to get back to you. Are you starting to see a pattern? We’re well over 15 months at this point from when you first sent something off. Of course, everyone’s journey is different, but 15 months before a final answer is probably fairly typical. Unless it is a no, in which case, only 3-6 months would be normal.

Joshua A. Mercier: What was your inspiration for The Ripple Trilogy?

Cidney Swanson: I had an image in my mind of a teen girl sitting beside the Merced River (by Yosemite.) As I “gazed” at her, she disappeared. She didn’t notice she had turned invisible. I had to know why (1) she turned invisible and (2) she didn’t even notice it had happened.

I mean, wouldn’t you notice if you turned invisible?

Joshua A. Mercier: I would like to think that I would notice, but who’s to say for sure. Then again, we all feel a bit invisible at times, don’t we?

Have you received any optioning rights for film adaptations for the Trilogy?

Cidney Swanson: No. But whenever my daughter asks for an iPhone or other expensive item, I tell her, “Okay, as soon as I get my movie optioned.”

Joshua A. Mercier: Are you currently working on any new projects?

Cidney Swanson: Yes. Several. (How coy of me!) But seriously, I have a sci-fi trilogy and a stand-alone about ballet and goblins. I have a couple of other things in the works as well, but they don’t have complete first drafts yet.

Joshua A. Mercier: Elizabeth just did a Book Spotlight on The Ripple Trilogy and she focuses on the techniques (or gems) that other writers can take away from reading the specific titles she reviews. Are there any other tips or techniques you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe‘s readers—especially fellow writers—which they can use in their own writings?

Cidney Swanson: Read, read, read. Put sticky-note flags next to sentences or paragraphs that move you as you are reading. Later, go back and analyze what the writer did. Do exercises where you try to recreate that in your own style. I did an MFA many years ago where my art profs had me copy the masters in drawing and painting. I think writers can do the same thing to great benefit.

Joshua A. Mercier: Could you describe your writing process for the readers of The Bearded Scribe?

Cidney Swanson: Sure! I write six days a week, in the mornings when my inner editor is groggy. That way the creative stuff is flowing pretty well. When I approach a new project, I will generally create a loose outline with a very definite “this is what happens at the end” in mind. I find that I need to know which direction I am driving, as it were.

I write out my first drafts at a pace of right around 2,000 words/day. Sometimes I’ll hit a 4,000- to 5,000-word day, and those are great, but many days I struggle to get those 2,000 out. I write anyway. Even when it feels like pulling teeth. I’ve found the muse only shows up if I do.

After I’ve completed a first draft, I set it aside for one to two weeks. Then I clean it up a bit and let my editor have a look. My editor does a “big picture” pass over it, suggesting where I need to pick up the pace or describe things more clearly. This is more of the “story development editing” that you may have heard of.

Afterwards, I go into a revisions phase where I am still focused on the big picture: what scenes need to go buh-byes, what additional scenes I need to write. Then I set it aside for another two weeks or so and look it over again, cleaning up obvious errors. If I am still feeling uncertain about the overall story arc, I may ask that same editor to look it over again.

Once I have a storyline that feels nice and solid, I get to do my two favorite passes through the manuscript! I do one pass looking at each page as a separate unit in completely random order. When I read the single page, I am looking for one bright sparkling bit of something: a moving description or something humorous or a really lovely metaphor or a sentence that I could just dive into and live off for the next six months. Well, those are my goals, anyway. If the page doesn’t have any of the above, I work it and tweak it, asking myself where it needs something really yummy, where that bright bit might fit in. Ah. There. I feel happier just talking about that process.

Lastly, I do a line edit searching for word repetition, misspellings, weak verbs, any adverbs I can get rid of, and so on. That is also deeply fun, for me. After this, it goes to a line editor, and after I fix the line edits, it goes to a copy editor.

You’ll notice I have several weeks of “down-time” when a manuscript is either out of my hands or when I choose not to look at it so that I can come back to it with fresher eyes. During these periods, I work on another manuscript.

Joshua A. Mercier: Wow! Thank you for that! I am sure my readers are going to love that you were so detailed when describing your process!

Is there anything else that you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe‘s readers that I did not ask you?

Cidney Swanson: Um. Hmm. If you haven’t read Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you should totally run to your library or bookseller and get a copy. Did I mention that I loved that book? Oh. I already said that?

Seriously, though, thanks so much for spending some time with me. I feel so fortunate to be doing what I love for a living, and that wouldn’t be possible without readers. ¡Gracias!


THANK YOU, Cidney, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and share your answers with me and the readers of The Bearded Scribe. It has been a pleasure conversing with you over the past few weeks, and yours is a talent that deserves spotlighting.


FOR more information about Cidney, or to read her delightful musings, you can visit her website. You can also follow her on any of the following social media links:




TO purchase any of The Ripple Trilogy titles, simply choose your desired format from the dropdown menus and hit “PURCHASE” button to be redirected. We promise that you won’t regret the purchase!

UPDATE: Since the original posting on the inaugural site, there have been FOUR additional books released within the series: Visible, Immutable, Knavery, and Perilous.