I’m pleased to have author Mary Lawrence from Limington, Maine here to chat about her writing and her cozy mystery, The Alchemist of Lost Souls, a Bianca Goddard Mystery, that’s on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.
Nice to have you here, Mary How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher: Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
The Alchemist’s Daughter came out in 2015. Kensington publishes the Bianca Goddard Mysteries. There are 4 books in the series with a 5th to come in 2020. Death of an Alchemist (2016), Death at St.Vedast (2017), The Alchemist of Lost Souls (2019).
Some interesting titles. Tell us a bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.
The Bianca Goddard Mysteries are set during the final years of King Henry VIII’s reign. Bianca is the daughter of an infamous alchemist and a neighborhood white witch who combines her knowledge of plants and rudimentary chemistry to make medicines and also to solve murders. Instead of a historical series set in the Tudor court, I concentrate on the stories and struggles of commoners. My forthcoming book, The Alchemist of Lost Souls released on April 30. I’m currently finishing work on the fifth and final book in the series, The Lost Boys of London.
Sounds like you are quite productive. Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
I have a few ideas for new books, but haven’t decided which to do first. Probably, I will concentrate on writing a standalone novel set in Tudor London, since I’ve created a niche for myself and people familiar with my writing are expecting more Tudor stories. Basically, I will just sit down and keep writing.
That’s a great plan. What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
Readers who like my series have an interest in historical fiction and are open to me mixing in a little superstition and creepiness. My work is often described as ‘atmospheric’ and that folks feel immersed in the time, like they have been dumped on the streets right alongside Bianca. I hope to stretch people’s imagination and entertain at the same time.
Very nice.What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Learn to deal with rejection. Enter contests and learn to sift through critiques to figure out what is helpful, then ignore the rest. Never think you are a special flower.
I’m sure that’s good advice. What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
I wrote for over 25 years before I got picked up by a traditional publisher. I was rejected by 86 literary agents before I found one who believed in me. He sold the book to the second publisher who saw it. I thought after all this time and struggle, finally I had arrived. You know what? A writer never arrives. A writer must always try to improve.
Wow! That sure is inspiring especially to writers like me who are still trying to find an agent and large publisher, and I agree that writers must always strive to improve the quality of their books.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I don’t belong to any writing circles, but I do belong to several organizations that have been great resources for me. Namely, the Historical Novel Society, The Author’s Guild, Mystery Writers of America, and the International Association of Thriller Writers. I would also give a shout out to the Romance Writers of America. They have wonderful chapters throughout the US and sponsor contests and workshops.
Those are great groups. I’m a member of International Thriller Writers and a few other groups including Sisters-in-Crime which you didn’t mention but is also a terrific group for female mystery authors.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
I run a berry farm with my husband and we make specialty jams from our own fruit. It’s a business, but I love being outside and taking care of my ‘children’—180 blueberry bushes, raspberries, plums, etc. I also took up piano a few years ago, and I listen to political podcasts.
The berry farm sounds delightful. I love berries and just attended a strawberry festival. I’ve also played some piano but sadly haven’t done so for many years.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
What I like most, is that rare moment when I feel really happy with what I’ve written. When I’m finished with a manuscript and can say, ‘Yup, that’s pretty damn good.’ I’m very critical of my writing so, like I said, it’s pretty special when I feel that.
What I hate the most is writing under a deadline. I put a lot of pressure on myself anyway, so a deadline feels like I’m sitting in a pressure box trying to be creative. I’m not a fast writer.
I think the toughest challenge is reminding myself that I can do this. Everyday I have to give myself a pep talk.
I also get a rush when I finish a book I’m particularly happy with such as my latest release, Sea Scope, which really came together very well in my opinion. I can understand why you hate deadlines and have to give yourself a pep talk. I think most authors feel that way.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
I don’t think of my series as a cozy series per se. There are cozy elements to it, like having an amateur sleuth and a returning cast of characters. I do enjoy working out the cast of characters and involving them in the unfolding plot.
I feel that way about my books. I didn’t feel the first one in my series was a cozy. I thought of it more like romantic suspense but, as I continued the series, it’s become cozier. I consider Sea Scope a psychological mystery. It definitely isn’t a cozy because of the themes it contains, but it has a few cozy elements.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title?
Meddybemps tried cajoling her out of silence. “What are you making?” the girl had a generous helping of black bile coursing through her veins at any given time, and the best way to squelch its influence was to get her to talk about her latest experiment.
“This isn’t for market. It is for me.”
“You? I daresay you rarely need your remedies.”
“I do now.”
Meddybemps tipped his head. “What secret do you keep? Prithee, what ails?”
With the blade of her knife, Bianca swept the herbs into a pan. “It is no illness, but a condition. One that shall pass in time.”
Her hint fed his curiosity and the iris of his errant eye appeared to skip. Taking a moment to study her, he asked, “Are you with child?”
Bianca checked the firebox of her stove and craped out the ashes.
“Go to!” said Meddybemps. He danced a little jig, his bony elbows and knees jutting all akimbo like a skeleton. He took hold of Bianca’s hands and danced her around the room, twirling her once and making her smile. He looked so foolish, how could she not?
Great excerpt. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
I think if folks are open to a fast, fun, read with a bit of history and creep thrown in, then they will enjoy the series. I touch a few nerves with these stories and reactions run the gamut. There is some mild explicit language and a little bit of squish.
Thanks, Mary. That concludes our interview, and I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. I’m including more information about your blog tour below. Best wishes on your new release.
The Alchemist of Lost Souls
(A Bianca Goddard Mystery)
by Mary Lawrence
About the Book
The Alchemist of Lost Souls (A Bianca Goddard Mystery)
4th in Series
Kensington (April 30, 2019)
Digital ASIN: B07G6R99SR
A dangerous element discovered by Bianca Goddard’s father falls into the wrong hands . . . leading to a chain of multiple murders.
Spring 1544: Now that she is with child, Bianca is more determined than ever to distance herself from her unstable father. Desperate to win back the favor of King Henry VIII, disgraced alchemist Albern Goddard plans to reveal a powerful new element he’s discovered–one with deadly potential. But when the substance is stolen, he is panicked and expects his daughter to help.
Soon after, a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn, an eerie green vapor rising from her breathless mouth. To her grave concern, Bianca has reason to suspect her own mother may be involved in the theft and the murder. As her husband John is conscripted into King Henry’s army to subdue Scottish resistance, Bianca must navigate a twisted and treacherous path among alchemists, apothecaries, chandlers, and scoundrels–to find out who among them is willing to kill to possess the element known as lapis mortem, the stone of death . . .
About the Author
Mary Lawrence lives and farms in Maine and worked in the medical field for over twenty-five years before publishing her debut mystery, The Alchemist’s Daughter (Kensington, 2015). The book 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. The Bianca Goddard Mystery series also includes Death of an Alchemist, Death at St. Vedast, The Alchemist of Lost Souls, and the fifth title for 2020.
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