If you haven’t read The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward, you should. It’s kind of amazing (it’s also a free read until June 19th so you should get on it ASAP). The first time I read it I couldn’t stop talking about it! It reads like a fairy tale that’s fun, magical, and full of adventure, which makes it a perfect read for The Summer of LoveBetween the potions, love, and competition, I got sucked in so intensely that I HAD to finish it in one sitting. It became a favorite that I have since shoved into the hands of as many passersby as humanly possible (now you, dear reader, are one of those people! If you’ve already read it, please talk about it with me in the comments!).

So, now that you’ve definitely gone, read the book, and come back *wink*, you’ve realized that The Potion Diaries is fantastic, right?! Now read on below to hear about the inspiration behind the book from author Amy Alward hersef! And if you STILL haven’t read it, I bet her inside scoop will convince you to give it a try!

Janine Perez

Probably the question that authors get asked the most is: where do your ideas come from?

I’m pretty lucky because I can remember the exact moment when the idea for The Potion Diaries popped into my head. It was back in February 2010, and I was procrastinating from writing by logging on to Twitter. Someone I follow tweeted about a special word of the day: PHILTRE (n) a love potion.

I’d never seen that word before and so, intrigued, did what any good student of the internet does: I Googled it. I found out that ‘philtre’ is derived from an Old English word – and Old English was what I studied at university. It seemed like fate. I loved the fact that I had found out about an old word in such a modern way.

I’ve always been fascinated by potions; I find them wonderful and evocative. The idea of combining different magical ingredients to form a powerful mixture is open to so many different interpretations. There have been some great potions throughout children’s literature: from Polyjuice potion in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the amazing medicine in George’s Marvelous Medicine and the ‘Drink Me’ potion in Alice in Wonderland, just to name a few.

But in researching ‘philtres’, one tale really stuck with me: the story of Tristan and Isolde, in which involves a love potion causing havoc. Like many good medieval love stories it mixed tragedy and comedy to great effect, and I knew more than ever that I wanted to write a book with a love potion at its heart. I imagined a Princess (more Kate Middleton than Cinderella) who is forced to use desperate measures – a love potion – to avoid marrying someone that she hates. But in the process of using the potion she ends up falling deeply in love… with herself.

A story began to grow around the idea, as if the word was a wall and the story the ivy that crept up and around it. Since Twitter had lit the first spark of the idea, I wanted to create a fantasy world where modern technology and magic mixed together – mobile phones, airplanes and social media existing alongside unicorns, abominable snowmen and love potions.

And then came Samantha: a smart, resourceful but confused girl at a crossroads: follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and train in the dying art of alchemy, or study how to make synthetic potions in one of the shiny new labs. Her character was very much inspired by my own experiences growing up within a family business. Like many family businesses, it was quite often all hands on deck for my sister and I – helping out in the store on weekends and watching my parents navigate the often-tumultuous (but rewarding) waters of entrepreneurship.

Throughout the book, Sam faces the same questions that I had struggled with: when do you make the decision to step away from the family business – or to keep it going?

Sam is also like me, in that she is a massive bookworm. Adventure isn’t something that comes naturally to her and she would prefer to stay at home than to launch herself headfirst into danger. And yet, when the princess poisons herself with the faulty love potion, Sam is thrown into a quest between modern synths and traditional alchemists to find the cure. Part Hermione Granger, part Indiana Jones and part Katniss Everdeen, Samantha has to draw on all her intelligence, courage and friendships in order to save the Princess. Plus, keep her social media updated along the way.

I always think back to that moment in 2010, when I happened to look on Twitter. Would I have come across the idea another way? Who knows, but all I can say is… don’t let anyone say that nothing good can come from procrastinating on social media!

Here are the songs that either inspired the idea behind The Potion Diaries or helped me while I was writing it! These songs are near and dear to my heart— ‘Black Magic,’ especially, because it was released by Little Mix about the same time that The Potion Diaries launched. It seemed like serendipity! I mean, just look at the lyrics: “Take a sip of my secret potion, it’ll make you fall in love.”

The Potion Diaries is available as a featured free read until June 19th. Listen to the soundtrack below while you’re reading to bring your experience to a whole new level!

There were still a few more metres to go to reach the top of the Villaricca volcano in Pucon, Chile, but I was done. Four hours of climbing straight up over loose rock, snow and glacier ice had knackered my muscles; altitude and sulphurous air made it hard to breathe; and I was carrying a heavy backpack laden with crampons, ice picks and lunch.

I had nothing left to give.

But a thought crept into my mind: what would Samantha do?

She wouldn’t quit. Despite everything, my main character – gutsy, brave, fearless Samantha Kemi – would see this journey through to the end. So even if it went against every fibre of my being, I gritted my teeth and kept on walking, putting one foot in front of the other. At the top, I was rewarded with the most amazing sight on earth: red hot lava bubbling and boiling up from the centre of the mountain. It took my breath away to feel the sheer power of the earth beneath my feet, to see mother nature at her most tumultuous and terrifying.

And it also meant I had an even bigger reward: a scene that could be written *straight* into The Potion Diaries: book three.

Samantha had been there. And because of her, so had I.


Travelling has always been key to inspiring (and improving) my writing, adding authenticity to my stories. I’m not a strict believer in “writing what you know” because I know that imagination can be a powerful tool. But some experiences cannot be lived only by dreaming them.

The first novel I tried to get published was about an epic fantasy story of a young boy who is exiled into the desert. Unfortunately, like a lot of writers, I received lots of rejections from publishers and agents. The experience hurt so much, I stopped writing for a while – and instead planned a post-university gap year, visiting several countries in Africa, then on to Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia. That trip opened my eyes to the world, and I came back a changed person. Most importantly for my writing, during the trip I actually visited a desert, spending a night under the stars in Sossusvlei, Namibia, and so I came back inspired and re-wrote that first novel… which went on to become my first published book, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow.

The first book in Amy Alward’s The Potion Diaries series is currently a featured free read on Riveted, available until June 19! Start reading it today here!


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.

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