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The Secrets of the (Probably Not So Much) Immortal Michael Scott

Yesterday was my 17 year wedding anniversary and, like any good teen services librarian, I ditched my husband, grabbed my tween, and journeyed to a magical place – the bookstore – to meet author Michael Scott.  (Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds, we had dinner together later.  Me and the Mr. that is, not Michael Scott and I.)  It is always fascinating to hear authors talk about their work, their writing process, and to get those little glimpses into who an author is.  So today I bring you a look at the secrets of the (probably not so much) immortal Michael Scott, the author of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.

During his author visit, Mr. Scott shared with us his ten year journey to write the 6 book series The Secrets of the Immortal of Nicholas Flamel.  The most fascinating tidbit: besides the two main characters, Sophie and Josh, every single character and every single place in the story are rooted in real life.  He researched the story to such a degree that, should you choose, you can go and fact check the story.  Whereas most fantasy authors get a fiction book editor, Mr. Scott got a nonfiction book editor who did just that.  And one fan went through and Google mapped the story.

Image from RandomHouse.com where they have reading discussion guides

Mr. Scott began our journey (with an amazing Irish accent I might add) by discussing the root of legends and myth.  At the heart of every legend, Mr. Scott maintain, is a grain of truth.  There is evidence of at least 5 Robin Hood characters in real life.  There is evidence that the city of Troy really existed; and if the city of Troy is real, what about its inhabitants like Achilles.  With this series, Mr. Scott wanted to do folklore and myth, but do it in a different way.

Nicholas Flamel was a real person who had acquired great wealth, and like most wealthy people of his time, it was believed that he had his wealth buried with him.  Yet, when grave robbers went to rob his grave, they found it empty.  Throughout the years following his death people kept reporting that they had seen him at various places.  This is how it came to be believed that Nicholas Flamel had learned the secret to alchemy and immortality.  As Mr. Scott sat in the restaurant that was once Flamel’s home, he knew that Flamel would be the hero of his story.  10 years later, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel is published in 37 countries and in 25 different languages.

The key, says Mr. Scott, to writing a story is to write the ending first.  When you know what the destination is, it’s easier to put the pieces into place to get there.  Ten years later, he has finally put the ending to his story in place and he said it worked almost perfectly, there was very little he had to tweak to make it fit.

Although Flamel may be the hero of this story, Mr. Scott wanted to tell a story about family.  Twin legends exist in every culture, but what happens if you have twins with unbalanced power?  What if one twin was somehow special and the other was not?  Here you have a theme of mirror images and how they relate to one another.  In addition, you have the theme of family and who, in the end, you can trust.  Mr. Scott says he doesn’t necessarily write with a message, but this became the heart of the story he wanted to tell.

The Enchantress is the last book in the series and in writing it, Mr. Scott has put an end to this particular 10 year journey.  Although there are certainly a lot of great characters introduced in the series and there is the possibility for short stories to be written to fill in the gaps.  In the end, Mr. Scott says, “if you don’t weep buckets you have a heart of stone.”  Apparently, very few characters make it out alive in our series – so much for immortal.

One of the audience members asked Mr. Scott who his favorite character was and he said Dr. Dee.  Dr. Dee it turns out was the original 007, a spy for Queen Elizabeth who signed his correspondence to the Queen with two large ovals, representing eyes, and the number seven.  It is Dr. Dee Scott maintains that has the biggest journey and shows the most change. (Note, there is a Dr Dee Tumblr)

Proving that I am a genius, Mr. Scott then talked about how the Internet was changing the face of reading and writing (see The Relational Reading Revolution).  He mentioned that when a new book is released he will have messages at the end of the day from his fans asking him questions because authors are now accessible, the response is immediate.  On top of that, there is now some expectation that he will reply and engage in the conversation.  This, he maintains, challenges him to be a better writer.  I will say that very evening I tweeted that I had skipped my anniversary to go meet him and he did tweet back and send Happy Anniversary wishes, which was very kind indeed.  I was giddy with delight when he was mentioning all this though and like I said, I call trademark on the term!

Mr. Scott did end with some tips for writers:
1.  If you can lie, you can tell a story
2. No more vampires, please
3. Don’t use Wikipedia for your research, it is useless
4. Read a lot, readers make better writers
5. Write the ending first (see above)

And then, because we live in a world where books are made into movies before the book sometimes even hits the shelves, we talked about whether or not the series would be made into a movie.  Mr. Scott is open to the idea, but he is fiercely protective of his baby, as he should be, and wants to make sure it is translated well to the movie screen.  For every The Hunger Games, there are those Eragon and The Golden Compass movies.  A good movie can make a book, and a bad one can break it.

It was such an honor to meet Mr. Scott; he gave such a thoughtful and passionate discussion about his work.  I got a signed copy of The Enchantress, which I could give away on the blog, or give to my teens as a SRC prize, but will probably end up keeping for myself.  Although if I was really smart, I would give it to The Mr. as a 17 year anniversary present.