Disgraced alchemist Albern Goddard has just discovered flamula vitae–a dangerous element with deadly potential–and intends to win back his favor with King Henry VIII. However, before he can act on his intentions, the element is stolen. Albern seeks his estranged daughter, Bianca–now pregnant with her first child–for help, fearing the substance could fall into dangerous hands.
When a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn emitting an eerie green glow from her mouth, rumors circulate about how she died. Bianca traces the element to a dead-end believing it is lost and no longer a threat. But when John is conscripted and the element turns up again, Bianca risks her own life and that of her unborn child to prevent it from being used against the king’s army.
The Big Thrill met with author Mary Lawrence to discuss her latest historical thriller, THE ALCHEMIST OF LOST SOULS:
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
In this book it was the character. I knew I had to bring Bianca’s estranged father, Albern, back for a reckoning. I’d always alluded to their prickly relationship and it was time to let the readers experience it firsthand. It seemed natural that he would have to come to her. I wanted him to acknowledge that he needed her more than the other way around.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I love learning about the Tudor era. It’s colorful, dangerous, and the era stood on the brink of modern society but superstition still played heavily into their mindset. It gives me the chance to mix the two and see what I come up with.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I was surprised to learn that if a woman committed adultery it was her husband who was punished. Since women were wanton by nature (harkening back to the original sin), a man was blamed for not being able to control her. He was publicly shamed, forced to ride backward on a donkey through the streets of London while people jeered and pelted him with rotten fruit.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Hillary Mantel and C J Sansom for their deft rendering of the Tudor era. The works of Shakespeare for his colorful language. The works of Jeanette Winterson for her untamed imagination.
What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?
How would you describe your readers?
My readers are intelligent and open-minded. They enjoy a visceral time travel experience and don’t mind that I stretch the boundaries between reality and the imagination. They may or may not have an interest in Tudor London, but they enjoy a fast and fun read.
Mary Lawrence lives in Maine. Her debut mystery, The Alchemist’s Daughter (Kensington) was named by Suspense Magazine as a “Best Book of 2015” in the historical mystery category. Her articles have appeared in several publications most notably the national news blog, The Daily Beast. Other titles in The Bianca Goddard Mystery series include Death of an Alchemist, and Death at St. Vedast.
To learn more about Mary and her work, please visit her website.