Book Spotlight: The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1) by Michael Scott

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on September 17th, 2012.***

Book Spotlight: The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1) by Michael Scott

GOOD Evening, Beardies,

Back in May, we did an Author Spotlight and giveaway with Michael Scott, author of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series. The contest, and his subsequent interview, were very successful, so it didn’t take us long to decide to do a collaborative series of Book Spotlights featuring each of the Michael Scott, author of the Flamel books. Unfortunately, finding time to collaboratively write the posts took much longer, but we finally did, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring you the first in this series of Book Spotlights.



FAMOUS alchemist Nicholas Flamel died in 1418—at least that’s what the records say. There’s only one problem: his tomb lies empty, a suspicious coincidence for someone who supposedly discovered the secrets of immortality.

While their parents are on an archaeology dig in Utah, twins Josh and Sophie Newman are forced to stay in San Francisco with their Aunt Agnes for the summer. Both quickly find jobs in order to save up money for a car. Josh’s boss, Nick Fleming, seems like a great person, but a strange turn of events reveals that “Nick Fleming” isn’t who he seems, and Josh and Sophie find themselves on a journey in which they discover that they may have legendary powers of their own.



AS we were reading this book, we were astounded by how many of the world’s mythologies were seamlessly united in the story, but in his interview, Mr. Scott enlightened us about his inspiration for this:

"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."

THE premise of a unified world of mythology, wherein the truths of one legend are retold in each of the others, is masterfully set in The Alchemyst. We are intrigued by this premise, eager to continue our joined efforts, and curious what Mr. Scott has in store with the other five books of the series.


MICHAEL SCOTT seamlessly weaves many real historical figures into his story, and manages to preserve their integrity while using them in creative, yet believable ways. This blurs the line between fantasy and reality, making it even easier for the reader to slip into the fictional world. It would take ages to list the whole cast of historical characters in this book, but here are a few:

  • Nicholas Flamel (1330-1418) worked as a bookseller and scrivener in Paris. After his death, he developed a reputation as an alchemist because of his work on the philosopher’s stone and his quest to understand an alchemical tome called The Book of Abramelin the Mage. Flamel’s wife, Perenelle (1320-1412) served as his assistant and became known as a sorceress and alchemist in her own right. The Flamels were known as great philanthropists in their lifetime and both have streets in Paris that bear their names. They were buried in Paris, but their grave is empty, paving the way for further speculation about their immortality—and for Michael Scott to set them down in a twenty-first century bookstore under the assumed names of Nick and Perry Fleming.
  • Dr. John Dee (1527-1609) was a noted mathematician, occultist, astrologer, and served as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He developed a plan for the British Navy, determined the coronation date of Elizabeth I through an astrological reading, was imprisoned for treason for reading the horoscopes of Elizabeth I and her sister Mary, and is rumored to have hexed the Spanish Armada. He is also said to have been the inspiration for the Shakespearean characters of Prospero and King Lear. He is the villain-in-chief of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series and has been chasing the Flamels for centuries. According to Scott, Dee’s relentless pursuit of the Flamels is to blame for many disasters, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was the daughter of an anarchist and an acclaimed feminist. At the age of eighteen, she conceived the idea for her best-known novel, Frankenstein, on a dare while staying in a summer home in Switzerland with her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her husband’s friend Lord Byron. The trio had been reading ghost stories and had a contest to see who could write the scariest story. In The Alchemyst, Shelley is said to have based her novel on a story she heard from Dr. John Dee.


WITH the above-mentioned use of actual Historical figures and integration of Mythology from several different cultures, Elizabeth and I agreed that Michael Scott‘s pile of notes must have been extensive. He is, indeed, nothing short of a master when it comes to world-building. His blending of ancient and modern, of legend and truth, and—most amazingly—of fantasy layered within an urban reality are all done seamlessly and with delicate precision. Specifically, within the area of world-building, the following areas need spotlighting.

  • Magic. Scott’s system of magic is one of the most unique we’ve encountered. His use of Auras is a blend of the existing belief that auras can be perceived as colors, and the introduction of his own creation—that they also have an aroma unique to their owner.
  • Shadowrealms. In The Alchemyst, we are only privy to view one Shadowrealm—a separate dimension created by an Elder upon banishment from the Earthly realm—but we are told that there are many. By introducing us to Hekate‘s Shadowrealm, Scott is able to set aside his Earthly setting for one that doesn’t conform to its limitations. Within this Shadowrealm we are introduced to several fantastical creatures—both of legend or otherwise—and we are also reminded of Scott’s love affair with mythology with his inclusion of Yggdrasil.
  • Landmarks. We know from reading other reviews that Mr. Scott uses several landmarks around the world within the Flamel series, but it’s his exceptional ability to describe said landmarks—such as Alcatraz—with great detail that blows our minds. Again, just thinking about the size of his research notes humbles us. Given the size of the research notes for our own respective writing endeavors, we can only imagine!



The Alchemyst pulled us in with its stellar world-building, creating a unique magical system and using real historical figures and pinpoint descriptions of real-world landmarks to make a solid, believable world. On top of being an exceptional writer, Mr. Scott was gracious enough to allow us to pick his brain about his inspirations and creative process in a fantastic interview. We are, and will continue to be, huge fans of Michael Scott and the Flamel series; stay tuned for our collaborative Spotlights on the next five books.

Happy Reading & Happy Scribing,

***The Alchemyst (2007) by Michael Scott is published by and copyright Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.

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!)

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