Anne Lyle is the author of The Alchemist of Souls, a historical fantasy that releases March 27th. Once I was the awesome cover, I knew I had to read the book! I asked Anne to drop in the virtual offices so I could ask her a few questions about her new book, and she graciously took time out of her busy schedule to chat.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Anne Lyle] I’m a zoology graduate & Mac geek with a passion for history & languages. I’ve never been a "girly" girl – I prefer swords to handbags 🙂
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Alchemist of Souls?
[Anne Lyle] It’s an alternate history fantasy, set in Elizabethan London. Explorers have discovered a race of mysterious creatures called skraylings living alongside the natives of the New World – creatures with apparently magical powers. Now the skraylings have sent an ambassador to England, but their purpose remains unclear.
The hero of the story, Mal Catlyn, has been plucked almost literally from the gutter to be the ambassador’s bodyguard, but finds himself a pawn in a dangerous game that could lose him his life – and his soul.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Anne Lyle] I wanted to write something a bit different from the usual medieval fantasy, and I’d always loved Shakespeare, so I decided on an Elizabethan setting and started doing some research. My main inspiration came after reading an account of the murder of playwright Christopher Marlowe and the likely involvement in those events of Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. I loved the idea of writing a cloak’n’dagger fantasy full of spies and actors!
The skraylings came out of my interest in pre-Columbian America and a desire to see history turned on its head, with the Europeans being on the receiving end of visitors they don’t really understand.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?
[Anne Lyle] For me, it was marshalling all my ideas for the way the story might go – I spent a lot of the four years’ writing time messing about with the plot rather than polishing the actual prose. Once I finally had the story pinned down, getting it into shape for submitting to publishers was relatively easy.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Mal?
[Anne Lyle] Honourable, stubborn, protective.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Mal would never have in his pocket?
[Anne Lyle] His pockets are all-too-frequently empty. Is this a trick question?
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Anne Lyle] Ursula Le Guin, both for her fantasy and SF and for her critical essays; Terry Pratchett, whose fictional city of Ankh-Morpork (itself inspired by historical London), probably influenced my choice of London as the setting for my own book; and Ellen Kushner and Lynn Flewelling, for the revelation that great fantasy heroes don’t have to be heterosexual.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Anne Lyle] Not absolutely necessary, but an enormous help: silence, my MacBook and a cup of tea.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Anne Lyle] The first book I really remember reading is Alice in Wonderland – I was probably very young, as I found it hard going even though I was a precocious reader.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Anne Lyle] Writing takes up a lot of my spare time, since I also have a day-job. I read, of course, but in the evenings I mostly just chill out with a DVD, my cats and maybe a glass of wine.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Anne Lyle] I’m on Twitter nearly every day (@AnneLyle), I’m on Goodreads, and I blog regularly on my website, www.annelyle.com. I also have a Facebook page, though I don’t visit it as often as I should.
Readers in the UK can also find me at various SFF conventions, where I do readings and/or participate in panels, and I’m hoping to go to WorldCon in Chicago this year. Check out the calendar on my website!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thanks!
You can pre-order The Alchemist of Souls from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.