Sequels, Prequels and Interquels

Be careful, the note said, for I had found a phantom. Albert Price had been known across Europe for the past fifty years, although if he were real or a legend, no one knew. – The Alchemist of Rome

When your main character has lived for centuries, are your books sequels, prequels or interquels?

The Alchemist of Paris and The Alchemist of Rome – plus some coffee rings on the table, evidence of the many cups of coffee consumed during writing!

The Alchemist of Paris is set in 1820, and centres around a mysterious scientist called Albert Price. In one scene, he tells the heroine, Elise, that he had lived in Rome many years before. After I finished the Paris story, I began to wonder. What had happened to Price in Rome? Who had he met? Was there a villain who had pursued him – a bad alchemist, the opposite of Price?

Sequel – a story continuing or expanding from an earlier work but complete in itself (Lord of the Rings Trilogy; Twilight Series)

Prequel – a story describing events prior to the story

Interquel – a story describing events that takes place in a period between two other books

The Alchemist of Rome is therefore the sequel and the prequel to The Alchemist of Paris. It tells the story of Albert Price’s time in Rome in the 1760s – the era of the Grand Tour when European aristocrats were re-discovering the ancient world, and the elixir of life seemed entirely believable.

Being immortal, maybe some of Price’s acquaintances survived until this day. Perhaps a modern-day tourist would meet one of these immortals, and cross paths with some other characters from The Alchemist of Paris.

I hope readers can read the books in any order, as they are both complete stories.

Now I’ve finished, I realized three of my characters, Albert Price, Elise and Antonio, lived in England in the 19th century. Another sequel (or prequel or interquel) is forming in my mind – a gas-lamp mystery called The Alchemist of London perhaps?

*  *  *  *  *

The ebook of The Alchemist of Paris is on sale for 99 cents until early next week.

Advertisements

Quiet Rome – 5 Special Places in the Eternal City

Rome has been a destination for visitors for centuries, but in the midst of all the glamour and bustle, it is possible to find quiet spots where the mind can wander.

Palazzo Spada

Palazzo Spada – a game with false perspective

Palazzo Spada
While many tourists visit the colourful Campo del Fiori fresh food markets, just around the corner is the Palazzo Spada. Stepping into the grand rooms is like being in your own Rococo apartment (the Palazzo was once the home of “two wonderfully eccentric 17th century cardinals” according to the DK Guide). The gallery has paintings by Rubens and Durer. In the courtyard is a colonnade which seems much longer than it really is, due to false perspective.

Spanish Steps in Rome

Early morning on the Spanish Steps in Rome

Keats-Shelley Memorial House
In the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Grand Tour became the thing to do, the streets of Rome were full of aristocratic and arty travelers from Northern Europe. The English favoured the area around the Spanish Steps. The house where the romantic poet, John Keats, lived (and tragically died) is next to the steps, and is now a house museum open to the public, where you can indulge your overwrought literary side and learn more about Keats’ time in Rome.

Photo

Goethe goes Pop

Casa di Goethe
Germans on the Grand Tour stayed further along Rome’s main street close to the Piazza del Popolo. Writer and all-round Renaissance man Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived in an apartment above the Corso during his Grand Tour of Italy in 1786-1788. Wandering through the rooms, you can imagine life as an aristocratic traveler in the 1700s*. Also on display is Andy Warhol’s Goethe portrait, establishing Goethe’s reputation as an unexpected pop culture icon.

Gran Salone in Palazzo Barberini

Hidden Treat – the Gran Salone in the Palazzo Barberini

Palazzo Barberini
The tranquillity of the grounds of the Palazzo Barberini is a welcome respite from the crowds on the busy Via delle Quattro Fontane. Crossing the wide courtyard, you will find the entrance to the galleries up a staircase designed by the famous sculptor Bernini (of Piazza Navona fame). Look out for the breathtaking Caravaggio painting and the ornate ceiling of the Gran Salone. After taking in the art, the gardens behind the Palazzo are a pleasant place to stroll.**

The walls of the Non-Catholic Cemetery Rome

The walls of the Non-Catholic Cemetery Rome

Non-Catholic Cemetery and Piramide
Even in a city where two-thousand-year-old ruins stand in busy streets, the sight of a pyramid in the middle of a suburb still surprises. Rome’s only pyramid is the tomb of a wealthy Roman magistrate who died in 12BC. Alongside the pyramid is the Protestant (and Non-Catholic) Cemetery (established in 1738) where many famous visitors to Rome are buried, including Keats and Shelley. Do check the opening hours – I arrived too late and had to wander beneath the walls, proving that the journey is not always the destination! You can reach Piramide on the Blue Metro Line.

* * * * *

*Casa di Goethe is the basis for Albert Price’s apartments in “The Alchemist of Rome”

**There is one painting you won’t find in the Palazzo Barberini, although it plays a major part in the sequel to “The Alchemist of Paris”. Read “The Alchemist of Rome” to find out which one!

Map Monday – Ancient Egypt

 

Map Monday

Map Monday, Ancient Egypt

 

“In Egypt, I met a man who called himself Albert Price. And that man has intrigued me ever since.”
– Jean-Louis Champillon reflects on past journeys in ‘The Alchemist of Paris’

The book in the picture above was published in 1888. It was found in a book sale in a barn many years ago. It is beautifully typeset and illustrated, although the prim Victorian-era interpretation of Ancient Egyptian history is now quite out-of-date!

Maps can set out fictional lands or historical places, or even give real places an amusing twist. Do you enjoy tracing the characters’ footsteps when you are reading? And if you write, have you ever sketched out your own map, so that you know where your characters are going?

Cover Reveal: The Alchemist of Rome

The Alchemist of Rome

Cover Design by Adriana Hanganu, adipixdesign.com

Beware when magic crosses your path. You may live, but you will live to regret it.

Almost one year ago, on 31 March 2017, I first set pen to paper on The Alchemist of Rome, the sequel to The Alchemist of Paris.

There’s some familiar characters and some new ones. The mystery begins in Rome, and then moves to the Amalfi Coast and Malta – I always love a book where the characters travel.

This wonderfully atmospheric cover was designed by Adriana at adipixdesign.com

The Surprising Difficulties of Photographing #Booksandmacarons

The Alchemist of Paris

Coffee, macarons and The Alchemist of Paris

#Bookstagramming on Instagram combines three of my favourite things – taking pictures,  microblogging and discovering new books. With hashtags such as #booksandnature, #booksanddogs #booksandcafes #booksinthewild etc etc, it all looks so chic and simple.

However all those artful pictures are not as easy as they look, as I discovered when I decided to photograph ‘The Alchemist of Paris’ (which is finally a real, “hold in your hands”, “put in the bookcase”, “throw on the backseat of the car” book!) and a box of macarons (a popular hashtag being #Booksandmacarons).

I set aside Saturday morning for this task, which progressed as follows:

9.30 a.m. Consider taking the book to the patisserie to colour coordinate with the macarons. True, I have never seen anyone else do this, but how else do you select the right colours?

9.42 a.m. Trusting my judgment, I visit the patisserie and make my selection by eye.

(In case you are a macaron enthusiast, my selection was: red velvet, strawberry, chocolate, cookies and cream, salted caramel and nutella).

9.50 a.m. Returning to the “studio”, aka my apartment, I get the props ready.

The Alchemist of Paris

The props are ready

10.05 a.m. I realise macarons need to be photographed on their side. Otherwise, they look – kind of round.

10.10 a.m. Line macarons up in the box, then try to get them to artfully stack on top of each other.

The Alchemist of Paris

The macarons aren’t lining up straight

10.16 a.m. Consider the merits of the book cover v. open book page shot.

10.21 a.m. Worry about the colour combination – is the bright pink strawberry too jarring?

10.22 a.m. If the strawberry macaron is too bright, should I eat it?

The Alchemist of Paris

The macarons are becoming distracting…

10.26 a.m. Salted caramel is melting. The top has slid sideways. Get some filling on my finger and seriously tempted to eat entire macaron.

10.30 a.m. Wonder if the white table or wooden tabletop looks better.

10.45 a.m. Very tempted to eat the props.

10.50 a.m. Should I stand on a chair to get a better shot? The chair is kind of wobbly.

10.51 a.m. How will I explain to people if I am injured falling off a chair while photographing a box of macarons?

10.52 a.m. It’s getting hotter. Salted caramel is sliding sideways again and not going to make it.

10.53 a.m. I’m feeling very hungry.

The Alchemist of Paris

Okay, that’s it – I’m hungry

11.00 a.m. Find a few pictures I am happy with – casual and relaxed, like I spend my days in a cafe reading books.

11.09 a.m Can’t believe I’ve spent over an hour and a half doing this.

11.10 a.m. Impressed at the skill of bookstagrammers.

Leaving home

At twilight I slipped out of the convent and into the herb garden. Unlocking the gate, I strolled under the old stone arch to the fields beyond. The sky was blue violet, and a golden moon was rising over the hills. The air was sweet with the scent of the rustling grasses. Wildflowers, some blooming only for a day, shivered in the evening breeze. I walked through the fields, until the monastery and convent were only a dim silhouette behind me. I breathed in over and over, wanting to savour the scent and the taste of the countryside. The forest on the hillside was dim and silent and the tree branches were like lace against the setting sun. The meadows rolled out to the horizon, where the river glittered through banks of poplar trees. I tried to capture each part of the landscape in my mind, so that I could imagine it, wherever I might go.

– Story Excerpt “The Alchemist of Paris”

 

Like the character Elise, I grew up in the country before moving to the city. (Strange fact – I grew up next door to a convent!)

Are there places that you have left behind in your life? Do you think of them often? If you are a writer, do you incorporate those memories into your writing?

Plotting my Way across the City (from a Writer’s Perspective)

One of the most evocative books I have ever read is “The Vampire Lestat”. Anne Rice made me want to run down the Paris boulevards with Lestat and Nicholas, sit in the smoky theatres and opera houses, and descend into the catacombs with Armand. Frankly, it even made me want to be a vampire, had the occasion presented itself.

The Conciergerie today

The Conciergerie today

The lush late eighteenth-century Paris described in “The Vampire Lestat” is before the modernisation plans of Haussmann, when many of the landmarks of modern Paris were built. The Paris of today is not quite the same Paris that Lestat and Armand roamed, but through Anne Rice’s brilliant descriptions and emotional writing, the city came alive.

Creating historical fiction is always a feat of imagination, with some research thrown in. The settings must fit the plot and be filled out from the imagination of the author. Sometimes an understanding of the lives and times of people of the era is enough. Other times, more detailed knowledge of geography is needed.

When my character Elise arrives in Paris in 1820 to work as a maid for the secretive Albert Price, in “The Alchemist of Paris”, she soon finds herself being sent all over Paris on mysterious errands to obtain items for Price’s experiments.

Price’s house is in Le Marais. As the plot progressed, I began to wonder, was it actually possible for Elise to go to all the places I wanted her to go?

The beginnings of my research

The beginnings of my research

I soon learned that people did not often travel between districts in Paris in the past, as we are accustomed to now. But as Elise is a servant, she would have been one of the many maids and workers walking unnoticed through the streets. As I planned out the story, Elise’s errands took her to:

  • A strange shop on the Île de la Cité
  • The house of a scientist and collector of Egyptian antiquities in Saint-Germain des Prés
  • A fancy store near the Pont au Change.
  • The side streets of Le Marais.
  • A forge by the river.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Paris. I began to build up Elise’s world, making sure she could go on foot to the places she was meant to be.

I started each day from Le Marais walking: through the Place des Vosges toward the Seine; then across the Île St-Louis and the Île de la Cité; then on to Saint-Germain des Prés. Looping back to Le Marais each time, the geography of the story became possible.

Each walk revealed more locations and inspired more ideas. The older buildings could be included in the descriptions. The house in Saint-Germain des Prés was soon based on the Delacroix Museum.

When the plot took the characters further afield to the Tulieries Gardens or a cemetery on the edge of the city, I made sure they had a carriage at their disposal.

She might have been tired, but Elise could do what I made her do. After all, working for an alchemist isn’t easy.

*  *  *  *  *

Do you use maps when you plot your stories? Have you ever placed your characters in an impossible location?

“The Alchemist of Paris” is released on July 14, 2016. There are some Advanced Review Copies (PDF or .mobi) available through Choosy Bookworm along with some other great historical fiction reads!