Being housemates with someone in college, you really get to know them. You share music, clothes, and noodles topped with butter and Parmesan cheese when you’re already stretched-too-thin, part-time, minimum wage pay check barely covers rent, books, tuition. You stay up all night sharing stories, songs, study notes, and heart to hearts. You may drift in and out of touch after you graduate, but even if your contact is limited, there’s an intimacy that never really goes away when you’ve lived with someone- especially if you were on the threshold of adulthood. Now, imagine my surprise and excitement when I learned that my old friend and college housemate- someone I KNOW- Avery Williams was writing a book for teens! I love the idea that a person who was so personally influential in my late teens and young adult years is now influencing more teens and young adults through her writing. Avery was kind enough to let me pick her brain with a few questions and share them with you here:
What inspired your book Alchemy of Forever?
The Alchemy of Forever, for me, is fundamentally about the struggle between magic and science. There are so many books about paranormal creatures for whom magic is a given, but what if there was a coven of immortals who thought of themselves as creations of science? They’ve lived for hundreds of years but don’t know any more than you or me about ghosts or the afterlife. What if, for them, humans almost seem magical? Seraphina has lived an amazing life—has witnessed the Renaissance and lived on every continent. But to her, Kailey’s life is far more captivating. After all, Sera never had the chance to grow up. She never got to be normal.
What interested you in writing for a teen audience?
I’ll speak for myself when I say that my teen years were emotionally intense. Everything felt so monumental. I love the idea of writing for an audience that’s passionate and imaginative. When I was fifteen, I believed that vampires were real. And ghosts and fairies and other dimensions. Okay, I kinda still do, or at least I want to. But it’s the combination of ardent emotions and a willingness to believe in the fantastical that makes teens the perfect audience. Look at popular adult novels—tedious stories about middle-aged couples in Connecticut getting divorced and tending a garden. I just made that up, but you know what I mean. Bo-ring!
Did any real life teens inspire the story or characters?
I will admit to stalking some Facebook profiles of friends of mine who are still in high school for characters’ names and descriptions of their outfits. But no, the characters in Alchemy are plucked from my brain. Kailey’s mom was based on my own, however.
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid—mostly poems, a few short stories here and there. Alchemy was my first novel.
What’s the coolest thing about being the author of a published book?
The best thing is having people actually read what I wrote! I do have pages and pages (hundreds) of poems that have probably been read by fifty people, tops. And although I would keep writing whether or not I was ever published, it’s so gratifying to know that the book has completed its journey and ended up in the hands of readers. I love going online and seeing the reviews people have posted—even the negative ones.
What were your teen years like?
When I was a teenager I dyed my hair purple, wore galoshes to school, and carried my books around in a basket. I also wore several dresses at once. I thought it was quirky and adorable, but I probably looked like a bag lady. I spent a lot of time reading books and writing dreadful poems and hiking in the woods with boys I developed severe crushes on. I believed in magic and tried to cast spells in my bedroom. I was probably impossibly pretentious. I was briefly a theater dork but had no acting skills (to say nothing of singing or dancing—I can barely carry a tune and I’ve never been coordinated). I went to punk shows. I tried to get my friends to act out Bram Stoker’s Dracula—my favorite movie of all time—and they did!
What was your favorite book/author when you were a teen?
I’m going to list a few. Christopher Pike was huge for me. I think I’ve read every one of his books. Excellent, fast-paced, noir-ish thrillers with heart. Also Douglas Coupland. My copy of Shampoo Planet nearly fell apart from re-reading it too much. And Anne Rice—she’s the one I blame for my staunch belief that I would find real vampires at goth clubs. Much to my dismay, I did not. Finally, Francesca Lia Block. I didn’t read Weetzie Bat till college, so not till I was 18 or 19. I have you to thank for that, Abby! Now I give her books to every teen girl I know.
Will you share some secrets from the follow up to Alchemy of Forever?
Word on the street (okay, actually from my publisher), is that the first few chapters of the sequel will be included with the paperback release this summer, as well as some chapters about the first few days of Seraphina’s life after she was made immortal, in plague-ravaged 14th century London. So look out for that! I can’t say too much about the sequel, but I will tell you this: we’ll get to find out some of Kailey’s secrets and why she was in Jack London Square the night she died. We’ll learn the truth about the newest body Cyrus jumped into. And we’ll see way more about the rest of the coven.
If your book was made into a movie, what actors and actresses would you like to see playing the characters in your story?
My dream cast would require a time machine… I kept picturing Cyrus as Eric Northman from True Blood, but Alexander Skarsgård is probably a few years too old (no offense, Alexander!). And for the original Seraphina I saw Olivia Hussey, circa 1968 when she played Juliet. Kailey was a young Michelle Williams, and Noah is Jared Leto from his My So-Called Life days. A fan actually posted her fantasy cast, and I think it’s pretty good! Here it is:
What is your favorite memory from when we were teens in college together?
The most hilarballs thing was how people were always getting us mixed up, just because we both had blonde bobs and glasses (“the interchangeable blonde units”). Although I think everyone who lived in our house ended up using the same DIY home hair highlighting kit—that might have had something to do with it. Should I tell your patrons about the party we threw in honor of the Hale-Bopp comet’s return (I believe we pasted aluminum foil all over our walls)? Or the other party that culminated in a lit candle being smashed through a window, aimed by a jerky dude at our lovely friend who resembled Marilyn Manson? Come to think of it, those could have happened the same night. But I can’t say more—I’m sworn to secrecy on all counts!
Learn more about Avery Williams and the Incarnation Series:
Watch the Alchemy of Forever book trailer: