If you love stories that whisk you away to a fantasy land, then you’ll love The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward (it’s a free read until October 31st so go check it out)! Before she became a successful author, Amy was an avid reader, and it was her love of magical stories that inspired her to write her own. If you’re a reader who has ever considered writing, you will want to know Amy’s journey. Read on to learn how books cast their spell on her and inspired her to create The Potion Diaries and The Royal Tour!

Hands up if you have ever waited by the letterbox for your invitation to Hogwarts? I know I have. I have always believed in magic. Growing up, I dreamed of waving my wand to cast spells and of finding an old cast-iron pot in which to mix potions. And I remember exactly the wizards and witches who inspired me: Chrestomanci, from The World of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones; Pug from Raymond Feist’s Magician; Mildred of Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch; Ged from The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and, of course, Harry, Hermione and Ron from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Even when I (eventually) came to terms with the fact that that I did not have magical powers of my own, books allowed me to escape the real world and indulge my imagination. For a few hours, I could believe their magic was mine. My local bookstore (then the Lion and Unicorn in Richmond-Upon-Thames, UK) and library became gateways to a million different magical worlds – and reading became more than my favourite pastime – it became a way of life.

My love of reading the fantastic led me to become an editor at a large science fiction and fantasy publisher, working with some of the very best authors in the field. I immersed myself in worlds wonderful, diverse and strange – from Robin Hobb’s Riverwilds, to Westeros in A Game of Thrones, to the spaceship of James Smythe’s The Explorer. These authors challenged and stretched my imagination, and I loved having a hand in bringing their books to market.

Yet the most magical books for me have always been children’s books. I wanted to write a book to sit alongside the books that inspired me most – like Howl’s Moving Castle, The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials. Inspiration struck when I learned about a positively ancient word for love potions, philtre, from a thoroughly modern source – Twitter. This intersection between old and new led me to daydream of a world where magic existed alongside our modern technology (so that Muggles like me didn’t have to miss out). A world populated by magical creatures – mermaids, abominable snowmen, unicorns – alongside planes, smartphones and social media.

Out of this daydream came The Potion Diaries. It’s the book that brings my childhood fantasies to life, set in a world where magic and technology intertwine. It’s about a princess (more Kate Middleton than Cinderella) who gets poisoned by a faulty love potion. It’s about an apprentice alchemist who dreams of researching and mixing new cures for a big corporate potions company (think a magical GlaxoSmithKline), but instead is tied down by loyalty to her family’s apothecary. It’s about a seemingly powerless girl struggling to forge her own path in a world that favours those with the ability to use magic.

And so if The Potion Diaries helps you escape, for a while, into a world where magic is real, I’ve done my job. This one is for the believers.