Friday, July 16, 2021

The Alchemy Thief - An Interview

I'm pleased to welcome R. A. Denny to Cozy Up With Kathy today. R. A. writes the Pirates and Puritans series. THE ALCHEMY THIEF is the first book in the series and is being released today!

Kathy: In THE ALCHEMY THIEF a young woman travels back in time from 2019 to 1657. Would you like to travel back in time? If so, when would you like to go...and where?

RAD: Since I was a child, I’ve always imagined what it would be like to go back to Martha’s Vineyard in the 17th century when my ancestors settled on the island. That having been said, while I was inside Peri’s head in the 17th century, it was often a frightening experience. I love adventure travel, but like Dorothy when she returns from Oz, there’s no place like home, in place or time.

Kathy: John Winthrop, Jr. is an alchemist in 1657. Alchemy is at once scientific and mysterious. What drew you to the subject of alchemy?

RAD: I absolutely love it when I’m researching a subject and one clue leads to another seemingly unrelated thread, but before I know it everything fits together. I was researching the Mayhew family of 17th century Martha’s Vineyard when I discovered that Governor Winthrop of Connecticut had invited Reverend Mayhew to bring his Native American missions to Connecticut. Curious about Winthrop, I picked up Prospero’s America, by Walter Woodward.

To my surprise, I learned Winthrop was an alchemist. At first, a Puritan alchemist seemed like an oxymoron to me. It made no sense. Wasn’t alchemy part of the forbidden occult? Even more puzzling, whenever Winthrop was in Connecticut no witches hanged, but as soon as he left the witch executions started up again. This led to my unexpected quest to learn more about alchemy. I delved into the writings of Professor Lawrence Principe, who has deciphered many alchemical codes and has even recreated alchemy experiments.

Who doesn’t love puzzles and codes? I know I do. 

But wait until you hear this: I had already chosen palladium as the material involved in time travel because of the connection to modern cold fusion experiments. This presented a problem. Peri goes back in time to 1657, but palladium was not discovered until 1802. You can imagine my delight when I read Principe’s theory that an alchemist associated with Winthrop had discovered palladium before 1657. What? It fit so perfectly! Suddenly it was plausible that Winthrop had obtained palladium. I’d say more, but I don’t want to include Spoilers here. 


Kathy: A found relic engraved with a mysterious symbol is the impetus of the story. Have you ever found something intriguing?

RAD: Absolutely. Although it’s not so much what I found, but what it led to. The scene where Peri finds the palladium relic is based on a real life experience. I was swimming off the coast of Cape Cod and found a $100 bill on the ocean floor! I used my newfound wealth to take the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and trace my roots back in time. It gave new life to my dream of unraveling the mystery about the missing Mayhew.

Kathy: Although you don't write cozy mysteries what first drew you to them?

RAD: I have fond memories of reading the Hardy Boys with my Dad when I was a child. After each book, we would write our own mysteries. I still have some of our stories. My sister and I walked around our neighborhood finding imaginary clues and pretending like we were detectives solving a great mystery. We even created out own codes.

My reintroduction as a teenager came through AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, by Agatha Christie. 

My love for mysteries and puzzles led to a lifelong interest in research and my choice of a career as a criminal prosecutor. But during my career the mysteries I solved were anything but cozy. I saw enough misery for a lifetime. As a result, I steer away from hardboiled crime novels. Thankfully, cozy mysteries are more like puzzles that are fun to solve.

Kathy: What genres do you write?

RAD: My first series, Tales of Tzoladia, was an epic fantasy series. My current series, Pirates and Puritans is a mash-up of many genres. It is part historical fiction, part thriller, part time slip, part science fiction, part romance, and part mystery. In THE ALCHEMY THIEF, Peri must discover why the book was stolen and how it is connected to the mysterious relic.

Kathy: Tell us about your series. 

RAD: In my Pirates and Puritans series, Peri discovers a relic with a mysterious symbol. The same symbol is engraved on the cover of a book stolen by modern terrorists. After she slips through time to 1657, she comes face-to-face with Puritans and pirates who have their own agendas. Can she unravel the mystery of the book and return to the future in time to stop the terrorists?

In my Tales of Tzoladia series, three unlikely heroes from different cultures are chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Against all odds, they must travel to the capital of Tzoladia to prevent the impending doom before the evil emperor can find and kill them.


Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

RAD: In THE ALCHEMY THIEF my favorite character is Daniel, the Wampanoag who is chosen to voyage to London. He has a wonderful ability to adapt to new cultures and situations while never losing his core self. I would like to be more like him.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

RAD: Yes. As a child, I helped my parents to research our family history. I was fascinated by the early Mayhews on Martha’s Vineyard and their strong friendship with the Wampanoag. During King Philip’s (Metacom’s) War, Governor Mayhew armed the Wampanoag rather than taking away their weapons. The plaque at the Place on the Wayside commemorates where the younger Mayhew said goodbye to his Wampanoag friends for the last time. For hundreds of years, as Wampanoag walked by that spot they stacked stones in his memory.

His ship was lost at sea and many people assumed he drowned. But his father hoped he had been captured by pirates. I always wondered, what if?

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

RAD: A challenge from one of my sons. My family has always written for fun. He challenged us to write and publish in a contest to see who could become the most successful author. So far my daughter-in-law is winning with over two million books sold, but the contest’s not over until it’s over, right?

As for my Pirates and Puritans series, the more I researched the disappearance of Thomas Mayhew, Jr, the more fascinating the story became. The trail of clues led me to Morocco, a country with an amazing history that I knew nothing about. Why didn’t I learn these things in school?

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

RAD: Oh wow. Let me think. For a successful party, I’d want to choose some of my favorites who would enjoy interacting with each other but also engage in a lively discussion.

C.S. Lewis. That’s an easy choice. I love all his books.

J.R.R. Tolkien. They were friends after all, and it would be exciting to watch them interact. Their group, the Inklings, inspired my family to form our writers group.

Boethius. I love his book, The Consolation of Philosophy, and it’s on C.S. Lewis’ top ten books list. Boethius was executed in 524 A.D. for defending a friend who was falsely accused of treason.

Homer. Did he write and/or compose the Odyssey and Iliad? Was it real? It’s an age-old mystery. Lewis said Homer “kept the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds,” and Boethius often quotes Homer, so I bet they’d be excited to meet him.

Moses. I’m writing a study guide on Genesis. I could use his help. Can you imagine if Lewis, Tolkien, Boethius and Homer chimed in? Amazing! But we’d need a Hebrew interpreter.

Oh wait, that’s five. Can I please have five? Should we eat sitting up or reclining? And what should I serve? Hmm…roasted lamb, sole cutlets, goat cheese, wafers made with coriander seed and honey, raspberry jam, apple tarts, strawberries and cream, ale, and wine mixed with water. Delicious.

As a side note, I once had dinner with Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts cartoons. I was charmed, but not surprised to witness his knack for appreciating the small things in life.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

RAD: MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson, which was a gift from my son who writes fantasy novels.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

RAD: I love history and adventure travel in addition to enjoying outdoor activities like swimming and kayaking. I play and invent tabletop games. Although I’ve painted in oils for years, I’m just now learning digital art, and a talented friend is teaching me how to create glass artwork. There’s always something new to try.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

RAD: Pomegranates, blueberries, walnuts, and oatmeal. Best way to start the day.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

RAD: Yes. I have written books two and three in my Pirates and Puritans series, THE SULTAN'S COURT, and THE MIND TREE. I hope to have them edited and published by the end of 2021. Watch for them!

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

RAD: The creative process. I also love connecting with readers. 


The First Pirates & Puritan Book

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Golden Age of Piracy.

2019: A young woman finds a relic engraved with a mysterious symbol off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. Terrorists in Morocco steal a 17th-century book engraved with the same symbol. As the woman struggles to unravel the secrets behind the symbol, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined.

1657: Transported back in time, she meets the alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr. who is plotting to lure the greatest scientific minds to the New World. But the more she learns, the more she fears for the lives of the loved ones she left behind.

In a stunning twist of fate, a modern terrorist has traveled into the past, where he has become a Barbary Corsair. He has plans of his own. And he will stop at nothing to succeed.
R.A. Denny Bio

R.A. Denny is the author of two historical fiction and five fantasy novels. Readers have described her books as deep, spirited, and imaginative.

After receiving her Juris Doctor from Duke University, she practiced criminal law for over twenty years. During that time, R.A. developed creative methods to educate the public about the law, presenting dramatic programs to over 300,000 people across the United States. She produced a full-length feature film that screened internationally.

R.A. left the law to pursue her passion for writing. She had promised her mother she would finish the research they had begun in the Library of Congress when R.A. was 11 years old. One mysterious line about her 9th-great-grandfather led to years of research and a trip to Morocco. The result is R.A.’s latest novel, The Alchemy Thief.

An adventurous traveller, R.A. enjoys swimming, kayaking, and horseback riding. She delights in pursuing creative projects with her two adult sons and playing with her two young grandsons.

Here are the links to the book:

Be sure to come back next week to read my review!

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