Friday, February 23, 2018

Authors To Watch: Historical Fantasy Author Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel The Apothecary’s Curse  (Pyr Books), an imprint of Prometheus Books. She is also Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine (, an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, for which she has also contributed nearly 1,000 essays, reviews, and interviews over the past decade. She published in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers, including Jane Espenson, Katie Jacobs, Doris Egan, David Goodman, Jesse Spencer, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parilla, David Strathairn, Russel Friend, Garrett Lerner, Elie Atie, Wesley Snipes, and many, many more.

Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show.
Always a pop-culture and sci-fi geek, Barbara was raised on a steady diet of TV (and TV dinners), but she always found her way to the tragic antiheroes and misunderstood champions, whether on TV, in the movies or in literature. (In other words, Spock, not Kirk; Han Solo, not Luke Skywalker!) It was inevitable that she would have to someday create one of her own.

She is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA’s HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as “The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture,” “The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Hidden History of Science Fiction,” and “Our Passion for Disaster (Movies).” Most recently, she gave a lecture at MENSA “The Conan Doyle Conundrum,” which explored the famous author’s life-long belief in fairies.

Barbara is available for signings and other author appearances as well as radio, print and television interviews. She also loves to speak at writers and other conferences! Feel free to contact her directly!
She is represented by Katharine Sands at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency in New York City. You can reach Katharine at



Author: Barbara Barnett
Publisher: Pyr Books
Pages: 345
Genre: Historical Fiction/Gaslamp Fantasy/Urban Fantasy


Between magic and science, medicine and alchemy, history and mythology lies the Apothecary's Curse…
A 2017 finalist for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award and winner of the Reader’s Choice award at this year’s Killer Nashville, The Apothecary’s Curse is a complex tale of love and survival set in a very different Victorian era where science and the supernatural co-exist. The Apothecary’s Curse transports readers between Victorian London and contemporary Chicago, where two men conceal their immortality….

In early Victorian London, the fates of gentleman physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune become irrevocably bound when Simon gives his dying wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her of cancer, instead, it kills her. Now suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder – to no apparent effect. Five years of suicide attempts later, Simon realizes he cannot die. When he hears rumors of a Bedlam inmate—star attraction of a grisly freak show with astounding regenerative powers like his own—Simon is shocked to discover it is Gaelan.

When Machiavellian pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths 19th Century diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, Gaelan and Simon's lives are upended, especially when the company's scientists begin to see a link between Gaelan and one of the unnamed inmates. But Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe find themselves powerfully, almost irresistibly, drawn to each other, and her family connection to his remarkable manuscript leads to a stunning revelation.

Will it bring ruin or redemption?

Meticulous historical detail infuses the narrative with authenticity, providing a rich, complex canvas. And playing off Simon’s connection to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Apothecary’s Curse draws on both the Sherlock Holmes canon and Sir Arthur's spirituality, as well as Celtic mythology, the art of alchemy, and the latest advances in genetics research.


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We welcome you to My Bookish Pleasures! Can you tell us how you got started writing fiction?

Thank you for inviting me! I’ve been writing fiction so long, I can’t even remember. I think my first “real” short story was something called the Ruby Necklace, and I wrote it for Freshman English in High School. My teacher loved it, and it really stoked me. I’ve been a journalist for years, and have a couple non-fiction books to my name, but it was fantastic to make the crossover to my first love, fiction.

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

I write every day. I’m sort of a hybrid writer. I have a good general idea of the story’s arc and then I storyboard scenes. I write in three acts (like a play or movie) so that keeps me organized. But I’m not really a hard and fast outliner. I have a fantastic easy chair—a Laz-E-Boy, which serves along with my MacBook as my desk. Coffee and my dog are always close by!

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

2017 Bram Stoker Award finalist and recipient of the 2017 Best Adult Fantasy/SF at Killer Nashville, The Apothecary's Curse is an alchemist’s brew of historical fantasy and medical thriller as a physician and an apothecary race against time to recover the ancient book that made them immortal centuries ago.

The Apothecary’s Curse is part medical drama, part thriller as it explores the dark side of one of humanity’s oldest obsessions–the quest for immortality–and tells a great story about greed, unintended consequences, and ultimately love…

A mysterious, ancient illuminated book of healing has already led to one death and the curse of immortality on another, for as medieval alchemist Paracelsus has said: The dose makes the poison. What could possibly go wrong when gentleman physician Simon Bell consults gifted apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune in a desperate attempt to treat his dying wife?

Reluctantly, Erceldoune agrees, but when Bell gives his wife the medicine it kills her immediately. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die.  Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When a modern-day pharmaceutical company unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and company geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

How did you get the idea for the book?

 I’ve always been intrigued with the idea that magic is really science we do not yet understand, and have wanted to play (write) in that space for a very long time. I’ve always been drawn to the tragic antiheroes and misunderstood champions, whether on TV, in the movies or in literature. (In other words, Spock, not Kirk; Han Solo, not Luke Skywalker!) How to combine the two? So was born Gaelan Erceldoune, a man made immortal through tinkering with an ancient medical book he does not entirely understand. So that’s where the book started. But I also love a good old fashioned romance, so at its core, The Apothecary’s Curse is a timeless love story.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

I adore Gaelan. He’s brilliant, he’s wounded, bearing the internal and external scars of a difficult, though immortal life for nearly half a millennium! But despite that, he’s an essentially optimistic character. He’s an extraordinary human being sees the wonder in the everyday: the a sunrise, a new invention, the true magic of the real world. It helps that he looks a lot like my favorite actor (not a coincidence!) Should I tell? (Okay, it’s Scottish film and TV actor Robert Carlyle.) 

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

The story moves back and forth between 19th Century London and present day Chicago, and there are three Point-of-View characters. The narratives are braided together, so that was the biggest technical challenge—making the two narratives cohesive. The other challenge was in keeping my two 19th Century characters who live through to the 21st Century the same, yet changed by time and experience, in their perspectives and even in the way they speak, their mannerisms, etc. They’ve lived a long time and are affected by the times as the world changes around them.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am putting the finishing touches on a new book—a sequel to The Apothecary’s Curse. The working title is The Alchemy of Glass

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring fiction authors?

Write, write, write! I tend to write by the seat of my pants as so many do, but I also know where I’m going at all times. I don’t outline, so much as sketch out the story arc in broad strokes. If you want to get to the finish line (especially for new writers) it’s important have an idea of the entire story. Otherwise, it’s far too easy to get stuck in the middle and wonder…now what? I’ve been victim to that as well, and have six unfinished novels on my hard drive for that exact reason. I’ve finished two novels now, but only because I’m kept on track by having a direction and an endpoint (at least!).

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