If you haven’t read The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward, you should. It’s kind of amazing (it’s also a free read until October 31st so you should get on it ASAP). The first time I read it I couldn’t stop talking about it! It reads like a fairy tale that’s fun, magical, and full of adventure! Between the potions, love, and competition, I got sucked in so intensely that I HAD to finish it in one sitting. It became a favorite that I have since shoved into the hands of as many passersby as humanly possible (now you, dear reader, are one of those people! If you’ve already read it, please talk about it with me in the comments!).
So, now that you’ve definitely gone, read the book, and come back *wink*, you’ve realized that The Potion Diaries is fantastic, right?! Now read on below to hear about the inspiration behind the book from author Amy Alward hersef! And if you STILL haven’t read it, I bet her inside scoop will convince you to give it a try!
Probably the question that authors get asked the most is: where do your ideas come from?
I’m pretty lucky because I can remember the exact moment when the idea for The Potion Diaries popped into my head. It was back in February 2010, and I was procrastinating from writing by logging on to Twitter. Someone I follow tweeted about a special word of the day: PHILTRE (n) a love potion.
I’d never seen that word before and so, intrigued, did what any good student of the internet does: I Googled it. I found out that ‘philtre’ is derived from an Old English word – and Old English was what I studied at university. It seemed like fate. I loved the fact that I had found out about an old word in such a modern way.
I’ve always been fascinated by potions; I find them wonderful and evocative. The idea of combining different magical ingredients to form a powerful mixture is open to so many different interpretations. There have been some great potions throughout children’s literature: from Polyjuice potion in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the amazing medicine in George’s Marvelous Medicine and the ‘Drink Me’ potion in Alice in Wonderland, just to name a few.
But in researching ‘philtres’, one tale really stuck with me: the story of Tristan and Isolde, in which involves a love potion causing havoc. Like many good medieval love stories it mixed tragedy and comedy to great effect, and I knew more than ever that I wanted to write a book with a love potion at its heart. I imagined a Princess (more Kate Middleton than Cinderella) who is forced to use desperate measures – a love potion – to avoid marrying someone that she hates. But in the process of using the potion she ends up falling deeply in love… with herself.
A story began to grow around the idea, as if the word was a wall and the story the ivy that crept up and around it. Since Twitter had lit the first spark of the idea, I wanted to create a fantasy world where modern technology and magic mixed together – mobile phones, airplanes and social media existing alongside unicorns, abominable snowmen and love potions.
And then came Samantha: a smart, resourceful but confused girl at a crossroads: follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and train in the dying art of alchemy, or study how to make synthetic potions in one of the shiny new labs. Her character was very much inspired by my own experiences growing up within a family business. Like many family businesses, it was quite often all hands on deck for my sister and I – helping out in the store on weekends and watching my parents navigate the often-tumultuous (but rewarding) waters of entrepreneurship.
Throughout the book, Sam faces the same questions that I had struggled with: when do you make the decision to step away from the family business – or to keep it going?
Sam is also like me, in that she is a massive bookworm. Adventure isn’t something that comes naturally to her and she would prefer to stay at home than to launch herself headfirst into danger. And yet, when the princess poisons herself with the faulty love potion, Sam is thrown into a quest between modern synths and traditional alchemists to find the cure. Part Hermione Granger, part Indiana Jones and part Katniss Everdeen, Samantha has to draw on all her intelligence, courage and friendships in order to save the Princess. Plus, keep her social media updated along the way.
I always think back to that moment in 2010, when I happened to look on Twitter. Would I have come across the idea another way? Who knows, but all I can say is… don’t let anyone say that nothing good can come from procrastinating on social media!