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Wednesday 21 October 2015

ℚ Mercury Retrograde: Dark Alchemy [2] - Laura Bickle

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Mercury Retrograde (, Harper Voyager Impulse, 384 pages) a Dark Urban Fantasy, book two of the Dark Alchemy series.

Bickle has a knack for creating atmosphere, and she fills the fast-paced narrative with vivid scenes of wonder and a poignant story of death and rebirth. [N]ew readers will easily fall into the quirky, dusty land that Petra and her unusual friends inhabit.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review) on MERCURY RETROGRADE

Petra’s adventures in a magic-choked version of Yellowstone continue to balance nicely with a sense of fun, well-done and subtle worldbuilding and characterization, plus some serious stakes. Our protagonist is competent, resourceful and tough without becoming unrealistically formidable. The series feels like it’s building splendidly.” — RT Book Reviews on MERCURY RETROGRADE

Author Q&A | Synopsis | Teaser | The Series | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

Hello Laura, welcome to BooksChatter and thank you for joining us today.

What was the inspiration for Mercury Retrograde?
"I love writing about creatures.  I’ve been fascinated by basilisks for a long time.  The basilisk is a recurring image in alchemical texts, and I worked with the idea of its deadly venom.  Said to be descended from the blood of Medusa, the blood of the basilisk can kill or grant eternal life.   I wondered what would happen if a basilisk was awoken in the Yellowstone Park, and what the motivations of such a creature might be.

Classical alchemy describes seven stages in transformation: calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation, and coagulation.  MERCURY RETROGRADE is inspired by the second phase, dissolution, in which parts of the soul are dissolved in what’s been denied or buried.  That’s an interesting type of psychological pressure to apply to my characters – I enjoy putting them in tough spots."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"My protagonist, Petra Dee, is a geologist and the daughter of an alchemist.  She’s very left-brained, and believes in what she can see and measure scientifically.  I enjoy watching her build MacGyver-like contraptions to get herself out of trouble, like a potato cannon that fires beer bottles full of lye.

I’m reasonably handy, like Petra is.  And I adore animals.  Where Petra has a coyote sidekick, I have a house full of cats.  But I’m definitely more right-brained than she is.  She’d be Scully to my Mulder."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Mercury Retrograde - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"The cover was produced by the wonderful folks at Harper Voyager Impulse.  The motorcycle belongs to the leader of a biker gang, the Sisters of Serpens, who are searching for a spiritual connection to the basilisk.  I really wanted a cover with Sig, Petra’s coyote, featured on it, and I got my wish.

I love seeing the characters come to life in a cover – it’s the best surprise in the world!"
Why should we read Mercury Retrograde and what sets it apart from the rest?   What makes your book unique?
"The DARK ALCHEMY series has been described as “Stephen King’s THE GUNSLINGER meets BREAKING BAD.”  It’s a weird west mashup of alchemy and contemporary dark fantasy.  In the small town of Temperance, undead cowboys do battle with drug-dealing alchemists.  The remnants of centuries-old alchemical experiments lurk in the backcountry, and the alchemical Tree of Life blooms in secret.

Both DARK ALCHEMY and the sequel, MERCURY RETROGRADE, have received Publishers Weekly starred reviews, and I’m thrilled that they’re both out in the wild."
Can you tell us something quirky about Mercury Retrograde, its story and characters?
"Many of my characters were named after obscure or famous alchemists.  Petra Dee was named for John Dee, the alchemyst to Queen Elizabeth I.  Names in novels are my private Easter Egg hunt.

There’s also been some discussion about whether or not Sig the coyote is The Coyote from legend.  And…yeah, he might well be.  At least, he believes that he is!"
Who would you recommend Mercury Retrograde to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I’d recommend my books to fans of dark fantasy, horror, and urban fantasy…especially animal lovers.  Animals always play a big role in my books, and they often become my most-loved characters.  I think there’s something special about the bond between a protagonist and an animal sidekick, and I just can’t resist having that in a story."
Dean M. Chriss Photography
If you could / wished to turn Mercury Retrograde and the Dark Alchemy series into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"I’m a big fan of unknown actors, and I never base characters on existing people.  I’d love for it to be shot using a lot of the film conventions of westerns – the standoffs at high noon in the streets, gunfights in the desert, etc.  I’d love for it to be shot in the fall out west, with all that lovely molten sunset light."
What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I love writing about the monsters under the stairs . I’ve written urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and YA horror.  I really like the idea of magical realism, of putting something extraordinary in an ordinary setting.

Having grown up in a rural area, I especially love writing rural fantasy.  There’s something incredibly creepy about what might be at the end of a gravel road on a moonless night.  There’s no light except the stars, and no help coming.  I love throwing characters in those situations…and I like seeing what comes out to chase them."
What is your writing process?
"I’m a dyed-in-the-wool plotter.  Nothing scares me more than the blank page, so I create a roadmap for where I’m going.  It’s my security blanket.  I often veer off course and go exploring in the weeds, but I like to have some idea of the shape of the story before I start wrestling with it."
What is in store next?
"The third book in the DARK ALCHEMY series is in the works, and will be released by Harper Voyager Impulse on April 12, 2016.  The plot is secret for now, but there are some things happening that I guarantee nobody will see coming!

And I’ll have a story in A FANTASY MEDLEY 3, coming December 31, 2015, from Subterranean Press.  In “Ashes,” I get to revisit my Anya Kalinczyk series with the finale I’ve always wanted for Anya and her fire salamander, Sparky."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"Attached is a picture of our latest cat acquisition, Gibby! He turned up on our doorstep and has achieved his fondest wish in life – he’s now a housecat."

Gorgeous - Gibby, you are a very lucky boy!

Mercury Retrograde
Out 27 October 2015!

UK: purchase from purchase from Nook UK purchase from Kobo UK purchase from iTunes UK purchase from Google Books find on Goodreads
US: purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble purchase from Kobo purchase from iTunes US


Laura Bickle said...

Thanks so much for interviewing me today! Gibby and I really appreciate it! :-)

BooksChatter said...

Thank you for being with us!
BTW we also have a house full of cats :-D

Laura Bickle said...

I have one on my lap and one on my desk as I type! No house is complete without a herd of cats! :-)

BooksChatter said...

Yep! Three right next to me... amazingly none on the table or keyboard... uhm... maybe the others are up to no good... LOL

BTW which coyote legend were you referring to?

Laura Bickle said...

Hee - we have five, and I'm working on convincing #6 that he needs to come indoors! He's a suspicious feral dude, though, so we'll see.

I love all of Coyote's North American incarnations. Love him as the Trickster - there's just something incredibly charming about the fellow.

BooksChatter said...

That's the spirit! We have 8 - the oldest is 20 yrs old (she is the last of 13...) and the youngest are 7 months old - they came as part of a save-mamma-get-two-free deal...

I am going to have to read up on those!

Laura Bickle said...

Ours are ex-ferals, except for one, who was found at a truck stop with her kittens. The name she came withe was Truck Stop Momma, which we changed to Luna. :-)

The ex-ferals are funny. Most of our gang are FIV-positive, so they all stay indoors. It's a big adjustment for the ones who are used to fending for themselves, but they figure it out. It took our Sydney the longest - it was a year before he purred. It was the tiniest, rustiest purr ever. But when he did, I sat on the floor and cried like a little girl.

BooksChatter said...

Aww, babies!!! Good on you!

All of ours are also indoor kitties. Most of them from the streets but still too young to become properly feral, no FIV positives by coincidence. One is from Greece (I spent my last holiday there making arrangements to take her back home with us - she did NOT want to be caught!)

Three joined us as their owner passed away; one of them was very timid as she had been abused as a kitten, but she is really starting to come out of her shell. So sweet. Another one of them unfortunately has a spinal tumour - she had surgery but it came back very quickly, nevertheless she is the happiest most affectionate little girl (although she can hardly walk and is incontinent...) Her brother is just a bit moody with other cats... he's still afraid of being attacked... little steps...

We love them all to bits :-)

BooksChatter said...

BTW it's great that animals feature prominently in your writing :-)

Laura Bickle said...

Oh, wow! You have quite a group of sweet cats! :-)

I just got done feeding the outside feral. He chats and rolls around and shows his belly but WILL NOT be touched. I hope he changes his mind before winter. I nabbed him and got him neutered in the spring and his shots, but I want him to be inside where he's safe.

I guess that since animals are such a huge part of my life, I can't imagine a protagonist who doesn't have an animal sidekick. My animals have always been there for me, through thick and thin, and I think that bond is just as important a relationship as any other...and I want to show that when I write! :-)

Laura Bickle said...

Our oldest cats are a pair of siblings - they're 16 now, and we joke that they're old enough to drive! Our youngest (Gibby) is five, and he's got all the insecurities of a tiny cat, though he's a whopping twenty pounds!

BooksChatter said...

I can completely understand that! ... and I am going to have to make space on my TBR list... LOL

Fingers crossed with your feral!


Laura Bickle said...

Thanks, Flora! He just came by this morning, as charming as ever! ;-)