Getting to know Annmarie Banks #author #alchemy #historical #fiction #medieval #fantasy #magical #realism

Please help me welcome to the interview hot seat author Annmarie Banks! Let’s take a quick peek at her bio and then we’ll find out more about her writing inspiration and stories.

Annmarie Banks spent the first twenty years of her professional life as a bookseller specializing in out-of-print and antiquarian books. She currently resides in the state of Arizona.

Since then she has studied many books about the history of the quest for knowledge. Early Western scientists were alchemists and philosophers who were forced to learn about the secrets of Nature by hiding in locked rooms poring over encrypted documents. Their struggle was so fascinating to her that she wrote the book she had always hoped to find on the shelves of the bookstore, but never did.

Website * Goodreads

Betty: When did you become a writer? 

Annmarie: I wrote and illustrated my first book in kindergarten.  It was called “The Kitty Cat Got Lost” and was inspired by “Are You My Mother?”  which really was a terrifying book for a 5-year-old.  My mother kept the stapled booklet, and I still have it 50 years later.  More recently, I finished my first novel in 2001 and found a publisher for it ten years later.

Betty: How long did you work on your writing skills before you became published? 

Annmarie: I have been a reader from Dr. Seuss on.  I have a bachelor’s in English, and so as part of my coursework wrote thousands of words.

Betty: What authors or stories do you feel influenced your writing style?

Annmarie: The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley), Outlander (Diana Gabaldon), The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)

Betty: What prompted you to start writing? 

Annmarie: I became increasingly dissatisfied with the novels I was reading.  They were predictable in plot, and clichéd in content.  I worked in a bookstore, so had access to an amazing diversity of titles, but could not find what I was looking for, so I wrote it myself.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with? 

Annmarie: I have always been interested in characters who stepped up to go beyond the roles society placed on them.  This type of development crosses all genres, but I found it more often in science fiction.  The wonders of discovery and the delight in learning something I did not know before as a reader always excited me. 

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?   

Annmarie: I truly enjoy spending time in my mind with the characters I create.

They become like friends and family, and while it might seem like I am their god, and with a click of the keyboard have them live or die, in reality they take on lives of their own, and often surprise me with what they have to say.

Betty: How did you learn to write? A mentor, classes, conferences, craft books, or something else? 

Annmarie: As a ravenous reader of a variety of fiction and non-fiction, as well as my course work in college made it easier to transition to writing professionally.  Currently I am a technical writer, so I have that experience as well.

Betty: What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Annmarie: I came from the bookselling world, so was familiar with the publishing industry.  I knew that distributing my work would be a challenge, but the internet made it both easier and more difficult.  Easier because I can set up a website with links to my books, more difficult because there must be a million similar websites!

Betty: What other authors inspired you (either directly or through their writing) to try your hand at writing?

Annmarie: Bradbury, Tolkien, Bradley, Gabaldon, Heinlein, Lackey, McCaffrey.

Betty: What inspired you to write the book you’re sharing with us today? 

Annmarie: I read the history of printing and manuscripts as part of my job buying and pricing antiquarian books. The stories of the earliest writers and the struggles they faced trying to get the message of science and philosophy and magic out to other seekers was fascinating.  The risks they took to preserve and find these forbidden manuscripts was compelling!  The powers that be worked tirelessly to suppress new ideas and to destroy any writing that did not align with the Church’s teachings.  This sounded like the beginning of an adventure, and what if what was written in those manuscripts was true?  What a great ride!

1494 Barcelona. Thousands of books and manuscripts are lost to the flames as the Black Friars attempt to purge Europe of the ancient secrets of the gods and the bold new ideas that are ushering in the Renaissance. Words are Nadira’s life. She is pursued as passionately for her rare skill as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew, which makes her valuable to men who pursue the Hermetica to exploit its magic. Kidnapped by Baron Montrose, she is forced to read from the Hermetica. Within its pages are the words that incite the Dominicans to religious fervor, give the Templars their power, and reveal the lost mysteries of Elysium. As Nadira begins her transformation from servant to sorceress, will she escape the fires of the Inquisition, the clutches of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI and the French king, Charles VIII?


A strange look passed over the nobleman’s face. “When my brother spoke to you, what language did you hear?”

“He spoke to me in Greek, sir, and in what you call Moorish.”

Montrose exchanged a glance with his friend. “Do you read and write these languages as well?”

“Yes, my lord.” Nadira answered, puzzled.

“Do you read and write any others?”

“Latin and English. Some French. Hebrew.”

Montrose frowned at Sofir. “Where did you get this girl? Hebrew? Jews do not educate their women.”

The old man’s left eye twitched and Nadira felt him stiffen. “Surely you have made an error, my lord. I am a Christian. I attend mass twice a week. Ask my neighbors if you doubt me.” Sofir’s voice quavered. “And she is no Jew either. She was sold to me years ago with her mother, both of them Barbary moors.”

Montrose cocked his head, suspicion in his eyes. In two long strides he was upon her and had her right arm in a painful grip. He twisted her wrist with one hand while opening her palm with the other.  Her fingers had been ink-stained for years; she could not remember a time when they were not.  He was not exactly hurting her, though the grip was uncomfortable.

Montrose released her hand, but shifted his grasp to her upper arm. “We want to take the girl with us.”

Buy links: Amazon

The history of alchemy and natural philosophy are indeed fascinating! I’m intrigued by the concepts behind this story, Annmarie. Thanks for sharing!

I touched on alchemy in Haunted Melody (Secrets of Roseville Book 2) with Max as a modern day chemist dabbling in the use of it to try to save his brother’s eyesight. I had done some research into the history of alchemy in college which provided a fair understanding of how it evolved into chemistry. That story is set around Halloween, so this time of year is a good time to read it.

Happy reading!


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