"Do you want me to be dangerous?" he asked, his voice husky and low.
I gulped, and for a moment I was incapable of speech. But he was quiet, waiting. "No. I don't."
"Then I'm not dangerous at all," he murmured. His gaze moved from my eyes to my mouth. "You've never been safer than you are at this moment." I shivered as his breath tickled my skin. Our lips were mere millimeters apart when the sky shattered in a kaleidoscope of colored light.
We didn’t know how much we had to lose until we were infected with magic. Sam was in love, Juliette was the main caretaker for her siblings, and Ana and her dad planned the best parties in New York. But we lost it all when we were shipped to Chebeague, an exclusive school for newly infected mages.
Everyone knows about the mages, those who survive the infection and end up with magical abilities. We’ve seen the power of magic, the high-paying jobs, and the world fame. But we never saw the cost. We didn’t know we’d be forced to give up everything: sanity, family, even the right to talk on the phone.
We didn’t know mage was just another word for prisoner.
How three authors must be to write together? And how an exercise in flexibility can be transform in a (published) book?
Sabrina West: I think the most important things for a collaboration are great respect and love for your fellow writers, and putting the quality of the story first rather than your own favorite storyline. As for the second question, writing in a group is fantastic fun. Writing can be such an isolating exercise, and with this series, we always have each other to share our ideas, our fears, and our moments of genius. There’s a constant support network that’s absent from solitary writing, no matter how many friends you have.
Melanie Crouse: When we decided to try out this “exercise in flexibility” we each picked a character to write from. Sabrina chose Juliette, Sheena chose Sam, and Melanie chose Ana. We spent a long time coming up with the rules and setting for our magical world. And then we started writing. There is a fine balance between giving each other complete sway over the actions of our characters and being completely united in where the story is going. Sometimes it can get frustrating when Sheena and Sabrina’s characters won’t do what I want them to. But inevitably that ends up making the story even better, so I am learning to trust them. We were naive to imagine that our personalities, capabilities and values would mesh well enough to create anything worth reading. But they did! That is the magic of it.
Sheena Boekweg: It took a lot of work. Simple as that. We’re all opinionated, but we all love each other, and love this story. It helps though that these ladies are the best writers I know. Usually the right idea just feels right, and we all agree without much fuss. It’s the discussion involved to finding the right idea, which has taught me so much. Generally speaking, if it involves the rules of the world we all have to agree, but if it involves a character then there’s more leeway. And when we don’t all agree, then our different opinions come out in the text, and adds a layer of complexity and honesty that makes this story addicting.
Is the approach of magic as a disease new? What do you think about the “evolution” of the fantasy literature?
Sabrina West: There’s a saying in fantasy that there are no new ideas, and I think that’s very true. The mix of magic and disease has been done many times before, like in Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic series. That whole concept of no new ideas used to worry me, but most stories are a mix of ideas, and that mix and the interpretation can make a familiar idea or trope fresh again.
Melanie Crouse: I’m sure it isn’t new, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any other books that use it, and that’s saying something, right? Well, there’s Dracula. You can’t get much older than that.
Sheena Boekweg: Writers are readers first, and when you read a ton, the books make their way inside you, and change who you are, and the way you think. The three of us all read a lot, and we have slightly different tastes in books, and that influence comes out in Alchemy. I started reading fantasy because of my dad’s library. It seems to me that magic has entered our world more and more. It’s not so much about Orcs and quests anymore, it’s more about using the unbelievable to see truth in our own world.
How hard it is to choose the right title, cover and blurb? What is the title significance, without spoilers and having in view what alchemy is?
Sheena Boekweg: Alchemy means change. Back in the day, Alchemists were scientists and chemists, but to everyone else, what they were doing looked like magic. We thought Alchemy fit our story, because the story is really about how magic changes the characters, and we’ve approached magic from a logical and almost scientific way. It’s about walking the line between wonder and explanation, mystery and finding answers.
Sabrina West: The cover was admittedly a bit of a challenge, because we all had different ideas. And our poor cover designer had to try to estimate not what one, but three opinionated women wanted to see. I’m pretty sure he was ready to strangle us by the end. Luckily, we got a gorgeous cover in the end!
Melanie Crouse: As writers, we all bring different strengths to the table. Sabrina loves world building and making sure our magical rules makes sense. Sheena loves twisting things--making sure our story is unexpected and exciting. And as long as the characters fall in love, I’m good with just about anything. Mixing those three things made for a great story, but it made the book cover was tricky. The three of us read different types of books, and so we are each drawn to a certain type of book cover. To say that Darren Boekweg is a genius for managing to make up all happy is a huge understatement.
Sheena Boekweg: Writing a blurb together actually made it a lot easier. How do people write blurbs alone?
Some readers and even some authors say that entertainment is all they want/offer. What do you think about the opinion that a good book, regardless its genre, must send a message?
Sabrina West: I think there’s no shame in a book being purely for entertainment. I read a really fascinating article from the New Yorker about guilty pleasures, and the main point of it was, do what makes you happy, without letting the judgment of others worry you. Who are other people to dictate what makes you happy? So I think a good book can be anything that gives a reader joy, that makes them feel, that sticks with them for years to come. Sometimes a message is part of that, sometimes not.
Melanie Crouse: I think all books send a message, even if we don’t actively try to add one in. For example, I just finished reading The Way of Kings by Patrick Rothfuss. Although it was a great story, I didn’t necessarily see a message in it. But then I read a blog post where Patrick Rothfuss explains why he gives so much of his money to charity, and encourages his fans to do the same. As I read, my mind flashed back to a thousand tiny scenes in The Way of Kings where his characters helped out other characters. The message I subconsciously got out of his story was that good people sacrifice for other people. It is a little scary to think about what message people get out of my writing, but I don’t doubt that one is there.
Sheena Boekweg: Well, I think a book should be interesting, that’s the point. Bore me and die, books. But to say books should only entertain is oversimplifying the power of books. Some of my best friends are fictional characters. Some of the best examples of heroes started as someone’s idea. There’s something sacred about that. Books reach into your mind and live there. Of course it leaves a message. A good book leaves its words carved into you. It’s not about morality, or messages, it’s about a pathway to a different world, and we all need a way to get out of this one occasionally. A good book makes you come back to this world slightly better.
From the blurb, I can see a dust of dystopia. Without spoilers, please, tell us something more about Alchemy.
Sabrina West: We really wanted to show the downside of magic. It would seem, on its face, that being a mage would be a great thing, with all the prestige and power that comes with it. But in the alternate U.S.A of Alchemy, magic has a significant downside - namely, near-complete ostracization from society. Isolation is one of the big themes of the book - when our characters are completely cut off from their families, who can they trust, especially when it begins to seem that the people entrusted with their care don’t have their best interests at heart?
Melanie Crouse: I wonder if we could create a whole new subgenre. Young adult dystopian paranormal romance...I would read that book.
Sheena Boekweg: I don’t think it’s actually dystopian, I think it’s more truthtopian. We tried to approach what would actually happen if people had magical powers. They couldn’t stay hidden, and while some people wouldn’t trust them, the government would need them. Magic would spread around the world, and the country with the strongest mages would have the strongest economy, military, etc. So there would be power in that, while under strict control. Mages would be separate, but privileged. They’d be used, and feared. They’d be powerful, and there would be people whose job is to make sure they don’t get too powerful. Alchemy is about a couple of wealthy privileged kids who get the disease, and find each other while at an exclusive school to train. It’s about finding a place to belong once you’ve been ripped away from your entire life. It’s about changing, and growing, and belonging, and falling in love. Yes there are bad guys,and a stark and dangerous consequences, but the world of Alchemy is a great place to be. I think that’s why we’re all so addicted to it.
Alchemy has the right amount of suspense, humor, and downright impudence that I just couldn't put it down. The sweet, yet, tangled up relationships were just an added bonus. - Katie (Goodreads)
Alchemy is a joint venture between three different authors, who each tackle one point of view throughout the story. I’ll admit to being a bit worried when I saw the three names at the top of the cover. I rarely read books with more than one author because I can usually tell when one person’s work ends and the other’s begins…in the case of Alchemy it turned out to be a plus. [...] Alchemy turned out to be a great start to a series, from the fun and detailed characters to the intriguing magic system. - Michelle (Goodreads)
About the authors:
Sabrina West, Sheena Boekweg and Melanie Crouse never dreamed they would actually create a book worth publishing when they started writing together. Alchemy was merely supposed to be an exercise in flexibility. And it has been that, but it is so much more. Friendships that span the American continent have been forged, and unforgettable characters have been created.
Writing this first book in the Prophecy Breakers was a fun-filled adventure, and we hope that reading it is just as fun for you.
Event organized by Mark My Words Book Publicity