Q&A with Mary Lawrence
Author of The Alchemist’s Daughter
1. What is your story about?
The Alchemist’s Daughter takes place in the final years of King Henry VIII’s reign. Bianca, the daughter of an infamous alchemist, must prove her innocence in the poisoning of her best friend and uncover its connection to a threatening pestilence before she is arrested and London succumbs to the plague. It’s a mystery featuring a young woman who concocts medicines using what she has learned from her father and mother. She is not an active sleuth but instead, finds herself in situations where the outcome affects her life or the life of someone she loves.
2. Who is your sleuth and what makes her different?
Bianca combines her knowledge of alchemy (learned from her father) with plants (learned from her mother), to make medicines. She has a mind for science and order, but that disciplined approach doesn’t spill over into her personal life and physical appearance. She is quite aware of the mores and conventions of her time, and follows her heart regardless of consequences, but she isn’t a 21st century woman transplanted into Tudor London. She pursues her science unobtrusively and is a bit of a hermit. Often these murders directly affect her life and she solves them because, ultimately, she is compassionate and a student of the human condition.
3. Why didn’t you self-publish?
Frankly, I wanted the satisfaction to know that my writing was good enough to be traditionally published. It’s a huge ego boost. I now have a vote of confidence in my writing that I never would have gotten if I’d self- published. It’s hard enough trying to be heard among all the noise. Traditional publishing still has the publicity advantage. And odds are, that if you buy a book from a traditional publisher you probably won’t be disappointed.
4. What is the hardest thing about writing?
Rejection. It eats away at you.
5. Any tips on dealing with rejection?
Do whatever you must to keep going. The self-doubt can be immobilizing. Before Matt Groening found fame with The Simpsons he had a series of little cartoon books featuring a character named Binky. Often he’d show Binky lying in the middle of his living room floor just staring up at the ceiling. I’ve done a lot of Binky in my life.
6. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Enter contests where your writing gets critiqued. It’s important to hear how people respond to your story. Don’t write in a vacuum and think everything you produce is brilliant. It isn’t. But even critiques can be biased or full of unhelpful advice. Hemingway said to develop a built-in bullshit detector. Unfortunately, bullshit detectors don’t happen overnight.
7. What do you hope readers take away from your work?
I hope it offers them an enjoyable escape into another time. I want them to have fun reading and if I can make them smile, then I’ve done my job.
8. What were three works of art, music and literature that had a great effect on you?
Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, Beethoven’s 7th symphony, and Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion. I remember each of them vividly. The colors and dreaminess of Monet’s gardens. Every movement of Beethoven’s 7th is remarkably different and yet they work together to perfection. The music reduces me to tears every time I hear it. I’d never read anything like Jeanette Winterson’s book when it came out, the mix of humor, sarcasm and truth in a love story was brilliant.
“A realistic evocation of 16th century London’s underside. The various strands of the plot are so skillfully plaited together.” —Fiona Buckley
In the year 1543 of King Henry VIII’s turbulent reign, the daughter of a notorious alchemist finds herself suspected of cold-blooded murder…
Bianca Goddard employs her knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants to concoct remedies for the disease-riddled poor in London’s squalid Southwark slum. But when her friend Jolyn comes to her complaining of severe stomach pains, Bianca’s prescription seems to kill her on the spot. Recovering from her shock, Bianca suspects Jolyn may have been poisoned before coming to her—but the local constable is not so easily convinced.
To clear her name and keep her neck free of the gallows, Bianca must apply her knowledge of the healing arts to deduce exactly how her friend was murdered and by whom—before she herself falls victim to a similar fate…
“Unique characters, a twisty plot and a bold, bright heroine add up to a great debut for Mary Lawrence’s The Alchemist’s Daughter. Mystery and Tudor fans alike will raise a glass to this new series.”
—Karen Harper, author of The Poyson Garden
Average Customer Review
Based on 2 reviews
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(Tuesday, June 30, 2015)
The Alchemist's Daughter by Mary Lawrence
Wanted to read this book to find out exactly what her career is all about. Starts out near the city of London 1549's and Bianca is a person who mixes herbs and spices and creates concuctions to help cure people and to rid others of pests-rats. Loved hearing how and why she mixed things, She learned a lot from her parents when it came to the mixing.
Her best friend shows up one day as she's mixing things and is complaining about pains in her stomach. Their friend John is also there-he's a journeyman to become a silversmith. Jocylyn ends up dying but not before she tells of her suitor.
At the service they are able to figoue out who she was referring to. Probleem is she died at Bianca's and the cops think she is to blame. She avoids being arrested but is tailing another as the clues pile up pointing in the direction of a high power person.
She also is running low on time to figure out what posions killed her friend-she tries some on herself and lucky John and Meddlyt is there to help her. Devastation as she is dragged to jail and with her friends they are able to continue her clues and find new leads.
Rats feasting on piles of bodies sent shivers through me but I really enjoyed the story, plot and characters. Seems this is a series of Bianca's days but this read as a stand alone book. Look forward to reading more.
I received this book from The Kennsington Books in exchange for my honest review
“Potions, Passions, and Poverty Abound”
(Thursday, June 4, 2015)
Reviewer: Nancy Narma
Set in the middle of King Henry VIII’s reign, we are introduced to the talented young chemist, Bianca Goddard, who is very well known for two reasons—(1.) Bianca risked her own life to prove her Father, Albern Goddard’s innocence when he was wrongly accused of trying to poison the King, and (2.) for her knowledge of herbs and spices with which she creates remedies for the ill and poor who live in the slums of Southwark. She works tirelessly on her “medicines”, much to her on and off beau, John’s dismay. When Bianca’s friend, Jolyn Carmichael stops by with a stomach ailment, Bianca hurries to concoct a remedy—only to have her friend writh and die in front of her! Straight away, the police believe Jolyn was poisoned and lots of fingers are pointing in Bianca’s direction. Was she so much in a dither and hurry that she made a mistake in the concoction? Did she mistakenly add a tincture of something she shouldn’t have? Or had the poor woman been previously poisoned—perhaps by something foul she had eaten? Or by another’s hand? Bianca sets out to prove her own innocence, but she must do it stealthily, for soon quite a number of suspects rear their ugly heads. Despite her beauty, Jolyn may have had some enemies, some powerful, and some who would slit a throat for a farthing and even some who would kill under the guise of love. This is the first of a series of Bianca Goddard mysteries. It is clear to see that Ms. Lawrence did a lot of research in writing this book, but I think this intriguing story could have been told in 35 chapters, not 45. Also, if you are disgusted and repelled by the thoughts of rats, this is not the book for you, as there are many references to their looks, behavior, and demise within the pages. It made me cringe and shiver more than once. However, if you like a good whodunit with a background of 16th century London’s underbelly, encompassing the time of King Henry VIII and the Black Plague, this will be a book for your shelf.