Y’all know I love Gwenda Bond AND the Roanoke Island mystery, right? So it’s not surprising that I LOVED Strange Alchemy. Woo!
At the start colonial America, a whole colony of people just disappeared. Some speculate the colony died of illness, others say they just left the area, and the really creative look toward alien abduction. If you’re a Supernatural fan, you know they became zombies. Gwenda gives us another theory of the more paranormal variety.
Miranda and Grant both have longstanding history (ahem, legacy) on Roanoke Island, both descendants from the historical colonists. Miranda’s family are the town outcasts thanks to some unfair shaming and Grant hears the voices from the past. As you can imagine, this puts them square in the middle of trying to solve a mystery when the same number of current day residents goes missing as their ancestors did many years ago.
To say it doesn’t happen easily is an understatement. Together they work as the mystery deepens and more lives, including their own, are at stake.
I enjoyed Gwenda’s take on the mystery and how she linked it to the modern day world. I mean, if aliens are on the table, why not alchemy? I won’t say more but I enjoyed the paranormal and fantasy elements of the story as much as I enjoyed the characters.
PS Gwenda really likes writing kissing scenes…and she’s pretty dang good at it. Check out our interview below because she is the best!
Interview with Gwenda Bond
Strange Alchemy, originally titled Blackwood, was your debut and is now being re-released. What was it like to revisit the story after so many years and so many books?
Odd, to be sure! There was part of me that truly worried looking at it again would lead to a “my eyes! my eyes!” reaction, despite all the people I know who read and enjoyed it (writer brains = not always logical). It was a great relief when I found I still had a lot of affection for this book, and while I did make changes with the help of a new set of editorial eyes, I was happy to find that I still felt like I told the right story and loved the characters.
What was your research process like in writing within an event that actually took place? Which of the current theories about what happened to the colonists piqued your interest most? Are there other pop culture references to Roanoke that you have enjoyed?
I’ve always been obsessed with the Roanoke legend, and I very much wanted to include details that aren’t usually — while, at the same time, I’m obviously taking history and running with it. I feel like part of what this book is about is small towns and the intense pressure being defined in the context of your family by other people can take on there. Which, if you think about it, matches up thematically with what we can suspect about people who’d have been willing to cross the sea and abandon all they knew to start a new community. It’s so funny, because right after the book was first published there was evidence uncovered that John White actually did use drawings to hide a possible clue to the colonist’s location, the same kind of steganography I posited because it was in use at that time. So who knows? 😉 Anyway, I always geek out over Roanoke references, and certainly the Croatoan virus on Supernatural delighted me. (You know what I mean!) (Side note – YES OMG CROATOAN IS THE BEST)
Which of the characters is your favorite and what do you enjoy about them?
I love Miranda and Grant both. But…Sidekick the dog. He was based on our wonderful, late, lamented golden retriever George the Dog and then we lost our half-golden, half-basset Emma the Dog during my revisiting the book for this new edition. So I think of Sidekick as both of them living on forever in fiction.
by Gwenda Bond
Published: August 1st 2017
Publisher: Switch Press
Gwenda Bond’s first book Blackwood has been reimagined and brought back to life with new vision. On Roanoke Island, the legend of the Lost Colony—and the 114 colonists who vanished without a trace more than four hundred years ago—still haunts the town. But that’s just a story told for the tourists.
When 114 people suddenly disappear from the island in present day, it seems history is repeating itself—and an unlikely pair of seventeen-year-olds might be the only hope of bringing the missing back. Miranda Blackwood, a member of one of island’s most infamous families, and Grant Rawling, the sherrif’s son, who has demons and secrets of his own, find themselves at the center of the mystery.
As the unlikely pair works to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony, they must dodge everyone from the authorities to long-dead alchemists as they race against time to save their family and friends before they too are gone for good.