An interview with Barbara Barnett about Alchemy of Glass

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Risingshadow has had an opportunity to interview Barbara Barnett about her new novel, Alchemy of Glass, which will be published by PYR in April 2020.

Barbara Barnett
Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel The Apothecary’s Curse. 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 in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers over the past decade.

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.

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Alchemy of Glass (The Apothecary's Curse #2) by Barbara Barnett
Alchemy of Glass
The Apothecary's Curse #2
by Barbara Barnett

The Alchemy of Glass weaves a tale magical as spun glass and terrifying as a shattered mirror, drawing upon cutting edge science and the most ancient of Celtic mythology, intertwining the magic of fairy lore and the harsh reality of difficult choices, returning us to the world of immortal apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune, as his past, present and future collide, in an attempt to prevent a catastrophic future.


- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?

I have had quite an eclectic life. My academic training was in biology and chemistry (with a healthy dose of English) as an undergrad and my graduate studies were in environmental policy. I'm a professional singer and educator along with my first passion: writing.

I've been an SFF geek my whole life, from the time I saw my first Twilight Zone episode when I was about six years old (my mom was also quite the SFF fan). I've also been a writer since before I can remember. I've always had a novel brewing. I think I started my first dystopic, post-apocalyptic novel when I was in graduate school. It's still on my hard drive!

I live along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline about 100 feet above the lake, actually quite nearby where some of my novels take place (though I only moved to this area a few months ago!!) I have a wonderful 110 year old victorian coach house, where I live with my and my Australian Shepherd-Border Collie Semra.

- Your new novel, Alchemy of Glass, which is a sequel to The Apothecary's Curse, will be published by PYR (April 2020). Could you tell us something about it without spoilers?

The new novel continues the story I began in Apothecary's Curse in some ways, following Anne's journey as she grapples with the presumed loss of Gaelan and a new ethical dilemma presented to her. In the meantime, Gaelan's story also picks up from the end of Apothecary's Curse, finding him on the seacoast of Scotland. But for much of his story, neither Gaelan, nor the reader—I hope—quite knows whether the entire thing is in Gaelan's mind or is real. (You will know by the end.). I also go back in time eleven years (to 1826)  in the historical narrative to explore the origin story of Gaelan's friendship with Simon Bell as they, quite at odds, deal with what appears to be an emerging epidemic in London. I also present Gaelan with a second problem when a young lady, in dire straits falls across his threshold bleeding.

- Because I loved The Apothecary's Curse and found it fascinating, I have to ask: What can fans of The Apothecary's Curse expect from this novel?

Fans of Apothecary will (I hope) enjoy the exploration of beginnings of Simon and Gaelan's frenemies relationship. We learn a lot about Gaelan's background and see him in quite a romantic pickle. I've also given Anne a much larger role (and her own narrative thread). As well, I've plucked the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thread and we'll see Conan Doyle's well-known perspective on fairies explored.

- How did you come up with the idea of writing Alchemy of Glass?

I personally have an abiding fascination with glass and its physical/chemical properties. I've also read at length about Conan Doyle's enduring belief in fairies, despite the fact that he was not only a physician and journalist, but the creator of the most annoyingly rational fictional character ever conceived! I tried to posit a "why." I also felt there was more to Gaelan's story I wanted to explore, so...Alchemy of Glass!

- Is there anything you could you tell us about the characters?

We meet a much younger Simon Bell (the historical narrative thread takes place 11 years before Apothecary's Curse begins. We also meet Gaelan just as he's moving into his apothecary in Smithfield—he's a far less tormented man at this point. We also see Gaelan as he was as a very young man (if only in flashback).

Anne is also back, with much more to do as both a scientist and physician, presented with a very difficult situation while she's also trying to understand some very strange things she's learned about Gaelan.

- Can Alchemy of Glass be read as a standalone novel?

I think it can, but much better if you read Apothecary first. I try to give a new reader anchors into the first novel without overloading fans with too much information. It's a difficult balance to strike, but I do think that a new reader can appreciate Alchemy on its own (and then go back, of course, to read the first one!!)

- When you were writing Alchemy of Glass, what was the most rewarding part of the writing process and what was the most challenging part?

The most rewarding part of the writing process was finally bringing the three separate spiraling narrative threads to a satisfying coming together at the end. I knew what I wanted to do, and where the story needed to go, but it was incredibly challenging to make everything come together without it feeling contrived. It had to be organic. And I think I managed that, but I'll leave it for readers to make that assessment.

- How would you advertise The Apothecary's Curse and Alchemy of Glass to new readers?

In the catacombs of an ancient ruined monastery, hidden away in the Eildon Hills of Scotland, a land of myth and mystery--the place where immortal apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune found sanctuary as a lad-- Gaelan discovers a journal, apparently written by his old friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, chronicling an adventure into the Otherworld, a land of fairy castles and filigree trees hung with Spanish moss.

Falling from the journal's pages, a small piece of glass, which Gaelan recognizes as a fragment long missing from a stained glass panel he'd created a century earlier. When the opalescent glass seems to come alive in his hand, Gaelan is suddenly thrust into strange world far from the fantastical dreamscape Conan Doyle describes.

Alchemy of Glass weaves a tale magical as spun glass and terrifying as a shattered mirror, drawing upon cutting edge science and the most ancient of Celtic mythology, intertwining the magic of fairy lore and the harsh reality of difficult choices, returning us to the world of Gaelan Erceldoune as his past, present and future collide.

- Is there anything you'd like to add?

Alchemy of Glass is a very cross-genre novel: historical, medical, fantasy AND science fiction. You can find more about my books (and me) at Or follow me on Twitter @B_Barnett. I'm available to visit your book club or speak at your event via Zoom (aren't we all Zoom experts these days?) I hope you'll enjoy Alchemy! And thank you so much for letting me spend a few minutes with Rising Shadow readers!!