Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness Giveaway!

 Who else is excited that these books exist? I love books like this; the gothic, the romance, the mystery, the paranormal. It's completely up my alley. I was so thrilled to be a part of this promotion for the paperback release of the Book of Life, the third and final book in this series. I was even more thrilled when I received all three books. 
 The publisher is doing some amazing promotional giveaways with lots of added perks and I'm sure you will see them all out there in the blogosphere. I decided to share with you all a Q& A with the author, Deborah Harkness and also the giveaway. 
To sign up for the giveaway, please leave your name and email. Winner will be chosen June 2. 

Enjoy getting to know the author and a little bit more about these books!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by! 

red headed book child 

A CONVERSATION WITH DEBORAH HARKNESS

Q: In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and 

have focused on alchemy in your research.  What aspects of this intersection between science and magic 

do you hope readers will pick up on while reading THE BOOK OF LIFE? There’s quite a bit more lab 

work in this book!

A. There is. Welcome back to the present! What I hope readers come to appreciate is that science—past or 

present—is nothing more than a method for asking and answering questions about the world and our place in it. 

Once, some of those questions were answered alchemically. Today, they might be answered biochemically and 

genetically. In the future? Who knows. But Matthew is right in suggesting that there are really remarkably few 

scientific questions and we have been posing them for a very long time. Two of them are: who am I? why am I here? 

Q: Much of the conflict in the book seems to mirror issues of race and sexuality in our society, and there 

seems to be a definite moral conclusion to THE BOOK OF LIFE. Could you discuss this? Do you find 

that a strength of fantasy novels is their ability to not only to allow readers to escape, but to also challenge 

them to fact important moral issues?

A. Human beings like to sort and categorize. We have done this since the beginnings of recorded history, and 

probably well back beyond that point. One of the most common ways to do that is to group things that are “alike” 

and things that are “different.” Often, we fear what is not like us. Many of the world’s ills have stemmed from 

someone (or a group of someones) deciding what is different is also dangerous. Witches, women, people of color, 

people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations—all have been targets of this process of singling 

others out and labeling them different and therefore undesirable. Like my interest in exploring what a family is, the 

issue of difference and respect for difference (rather than fear) informed every page of the All Souls Trilogy. And 

yes, I do think that dealing with fantastic creatures like daemons, vampires, and witches rather than confronting 

issues of race or sexuality directly can enable readers to think through these issues in a useful way and perhaps come 

to different conclusions about members of their own families and communities. As I often say when people ask me 

why supernatural creatures are so popular these days: witches and vampires are monsters to think with.

Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves 

back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be 

an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your 

own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In 

the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and 

their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a 

previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and 

times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore 

from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family:  unqualified love and mutual responsibility. 

That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.

Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – 

a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped 

you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became 

intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. 

Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted 

without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to 

any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably 

contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I 

used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became 

the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study 

knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and 

mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus. 

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted 

at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising 

how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central 

characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero 

should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like 

Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. 

Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. 

That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.

Q: Diana and Matthew, once again, move around to quite a number of locations in THE BOOK OF LIFE, 

including New Haven, New Orleans, and a few of our favorite old haunts like Oxford, Madison, and Sept-

Tours. What inspired you to place your characters in these locations? Have you visited them yourself?  

A. As a writer, I really need to experience the places I write about in my books. I want to know what it smells like, 

how the air feels when it changes direction, the way the sunlight strikes the windowsill in the morning, the sound of 

birds and insects. Not every writer may require this, but I do. So I spent time not only in New Haven but 

undertaking research at the Beinecke Library so that I could understand the rhythms of Diana’s day there. I visited 

New Orleans several times to imagine my vampires into them. All of the locations I pick are steeped in history and 

stories about past inhabitants—perfect fuel for any writer’s creative fire.

Q: Did you know back when you wrote A Discovery of Witches how the story would conclude in THE 

BOOK OF LIFE? Did the direction change once you began the writing process?

A. I knew how the trilogy would end, but I didn’t know exactly how we would get there. The story was well thought 

out through the beginning of what became The Book of Life, but the chunk between that beginning and the ending 

(which is as I envisioned it) did change. In part that was because what I had sketched out was too ambitious and 

complicated—the perils of being not only a first-time trilogy writer but also a first time author. It was very important 

to me that I resolve and tie up all the threads already in the story so readers had a satisfying conclusion. Early in the 

writing of The Book of Life it became clear that this wasn’t going to give me much time to introduce new characters or 

plot twists. I now understand why so many trilogies have four, five, six—or more—books in them. Finishing the 

trilogy as a trilogy required a lot of determination and a very thick pair of blinders as I left behind characters and 

story lines that would take me too far from the central story of Diana, Matthew, and the Book of Life.

Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called 

Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the secrets contained in the manuscript are at long last 

revealed in THE BOOK OF LIFE. You had a similar experience while you were completing your 

dissertation.  What was the story behind your discovery?  And how did it inspire the creation of these 

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by 

Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became 

interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his 

life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and 

Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of 

Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in 

libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my 

doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and 

my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” 

manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper 

corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up 

anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare 

Books, I located another copy in the British Library.

Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world? 

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and 

Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply 

misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown 

manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when 

someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal 

Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever. 

Q: Shadow of Night and A Discovery of Witches have often been compared to young adult fantasy like 

Twilight, with the caveat that this series is for adults interested in history, science, and academics. Unlike 

Bella and Edward, Matthew and Diana are card-carrying members of academia who meet in the library of 

one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Are these characters based on something you found 

missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young 

adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. 

In writing A Discovery of Witches, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and 

delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and 

witches.

6 comments:

Renee G said...

This is a fantastic series. I've read the first two books in the series and have been looking forward to reading the third.
Renee g
rsgrandinetti (at) yahoo (DOT) com

petite said...

Thanks for this great giveaway. A fascinating novel which interests me and would be memorable.elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

holdenj said...

I look forward to finishing this series, have only the first one read, so far! Thanks so much!
JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

Gina R said...

Oooh! Yes this series has always intrigued me yet it's still on my wish list. One day, one day. Oh and when I was reading the interview and got to the part about her finding a magical manuscript, yeah, I misread that. Wish it WAS magical. ^-^ Thanks for the share!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Congrats JHolden! You are the winner!

Lisa said...

These books always intrigue me until I get to the paranormal description and then I remember why I've never picked them up. I've just never had any luck with paranormal in my reading (with the exception years ago of a couple of Anne Rice's vampire books). I wish I did - they always seem like fun!