urban fantasy

Books I Love: The Alchemist's Flame by Becca Andre

As I shared last month, I have halted my monthly book reviews post in favor of a highlighting a book I've read lately. For February, this book is The Alchemist's Flame by Becca Andre. 

Now that the local hospital is using her burn salve, master alchemist Addie Daulton has become a celebrity. The positive press will go a long way in helping her redeem alchemy’s reputation, but Addie wishes the media would stop calling her the Flame Lord’s alchemist. She doesn’t need his sanction to validate her skills. Besides, having the name of the city’s premier Element tied to hers makes it hard to carry out her clandestine activities—like spying on the leader of the necromancer community. If she’s not careful, she could kick off a war between Old Magic and New. 

The risk proves worth it when she discovers that her former colleague and current nemesis, Neil Dunstan, is working with the Deacon himself. If that wasn’t bad enough, she learns that Neil has resurrected a grim and made it his own. A grim that once destroyed a family of Elements. And this month, every Element in the world is gathering right here in Cincinnati. 

With the date of the gathering fast approaching, Addie must figure out what Neil plans to do and stop him, or Old Magic will win the war before it even begins. 

The Alchemist's Flame is the third full-length novel in Andre's Final Formula series. I'm not normally a big urban fantasy reader, but I love this series. The cast of characters is quirky and diverse with snappy dialogue. I especially love the dynamic of the two strong female characters of Addie and Elysia in this third installment of the book. Besides the fun cast of characters, the novels are page turners. I never want to put these twisty, action-packed books down. 

If you are looking for a new series or author to read in the urban fantasy genre, check out The Final Formula. The first book in the series is free!

What are you reading this winter? 

Author Interview with the Addled Alchemist

I really enjoyed this month's author interview. Becca Andre is the author of The Final Formula. After reading and reviewing The Final Formula in January, I knew she would be a  great author to interview. I was right! I love her honesty and transparency. The-Final-Formula 800 Cover reveal and Promotional

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born and raised in southern Ohio, married my high school sweetheart, and have two cool kids who keep life interesting.  I’m a fellow dog lover, though of the Jack Russell variety.  We used to spend a lot of time at Jack Russell Terrier trials around the country.  But my dog will be sixteen this month, so those days are behind us.  Now I spend my free time focused on writing.

I’ve always been a writer, even before I started to write my stories down.  In grade school, I often got into trouble for daydreaming.  It was annoying.  Just when I got to the good part of my imaginary tale, the teacher would interrupt and make me pay attention.  Eventually, I learned to stare at the chalkboard instead of the window.  The teacher didn’t interrupt nearly as much then.

I started writing down my stories when I was in high school, and though I enjoyed it immensely, I didn’t even consider pursing a career as a writer.  Instead, I followed my interest in science and became a chemist.  It wasn’t until four years ago that I decided to do something with my writing hobby.  I independently published my first novel at the end of September last year.  It’ been a positive experience so far, and I’m looking forward to getting more of my work out there.

As a chemist, do you have a fun story of blowing something up accidentally (or on purpose)?

The exploding crucible in the opening scene of The Final Formula is based on a real event.  It wasn’t quite as dramatic, nor did it happen to me (I just witnessed it), but I’m pretty sure the stain is still on the ceiling.

On a personal note, I blew up a water sample once.  Blasted the bottom right out of the beaker.  I was rather proud of that one—until I had to clean up the mess.  Explosions are a lot more fun on paper.

What is your favorite part about writing a novel? And the toughest?

I love when a character takes me somewhere I hadn’t planned on going.  That moment when they seem to take on a life of their own and suddenly, I’m just there to record what happens.  Some of my favorite scenes arise from those moments.  In the process, I stumble across aspects of the story I didn’t even know were there.

The toughest part is when I bump up against a scene that isn’t working and I have no clue why.  This seems to happen in the middle.  I’ve got the beginning, I know the end, but I just can’t seem to find my way.  Eventually, it’ll hit me and it’s often the simplest thing.  I’m left feeling like an idiot for wasting so much time.

The subconscious mind is a crazy place.  Or at least, mine is.

The Final Formula is set in an urban fantasy world with magic, alchemy, necromancers, grims, and more. If you could have any magical power similar to a character in your book, what would it be and why?

A necromancer.  Ha!  Just kidding.  Hmm.  There are a lot of cool powers, but what fascinates me most is the alchemy.  How awesome would it be to take some mundane ingredients, and with the right attitude and skill, bottle magic?

I based my alchemy more on modern chemistry than the bubbling cauldrons of old, keeping the story rooted in our world and making alchemy accessible to people without magic.  That’s one of my favorite aspects of this series: Addie, my alchemist, can go toe-to-toe with the magical heavy hitters even though she has no inborn ability herself.

One of my favorite aspects of the Final Formula was the character development and interaction. The characters were playful and smart. Did you create this characters with anybody specifically in mind? 

Not really.  Everyone in my story is a figment of my imagination, with one exception: Addie is a lot like me.  Of course, she’s smarter, and wittier, but the inspiration for her character hit close to home.  The idea for this series came from a writing prompt to write what you know with a fantasy twist.  I took it literally.  I added magic to my modern world and went from chemist to alchemist.

The rest of the characters rose organically from that idea.  In the past, alchemists worked with the elements (fire, water, earth and air), so I made the elements into actual people.  Although in my modern world, the elemental powers stem from the states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.  The Elements are the top dogs in Addie’s magical world and are often an obstacle to her plans.  Addie’s greatest asset—and flaw—is her confidence.  So Rowan, my Fire Element, had to have an arrogance to match.  Writing their dialogue is a blast.

Then there is the alchemist’s age old quest for the Elixir of Life.  That brought out the themes of life and death, and immortality.  Enter the necromancers and all the fun they add to a story (zombies!).  And, of course, James.  I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the story, but James was one of those surprises I didn’t see coming.  He’s a wonderfully conflicted character who is so much fun to write.

Finally, what is on the horizon for your fans? What books are next to be released?  

My novella, The Element of Death, should be out in February.  It’s a short work from James’s point of view that adds to the events of The Final Formula.

Then Addie is back in the driver’s seat for the second novel in the series (no title yet).  I hope to release it later this spring.

Thanks again to Becca for taking the time to answer these questions. You can find Becca at her website, twitter, or facebook. You can buy her novel The Final Formula at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. I definitely recommend it!