• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

Subtext, suffering and sacrifice: Fiona McIntosh blogs

The author may insist that she writes purely for these thrills, but serious underlying themes are still embedded throughout Percheron. The main subtext focuses on the harsh consequences of doing “the right thing”: how actions that seem detrimental will actually produce huge positive kickbacks; and how the suffering and sacrifice you personally experience right now will achieve long term goals for the good of the many. — Sandy Auden, SFX Magazine

In a recent review Sandy Auden made this observation, which set me thinking. I honestly believe that when I write my fantasy stories – or indeed my crime or children’s books – I have no agenda. My creed for novels is that story is king. Everything else pays homage to that, and an addictive, unpredictable, engaging story is what I set out to deliver. It has never entered my thoughts that I might try and underpin a tale with a subtle message, so this was an intriguing observation. Do I have a subtext? I still say absolutely not … but perhaps Sandy’s point is well made that even if I don’t set out to present themes, they emerge all the same.

Royal Exile

In Royal Exile there is suffering and there is sacrifice – no doubt about it. And if I consider one of the aspects of life that always humbles me it is how some individuals during the history of the world have found the courage to make remarkable sacrifices in order for so many others to benefit.

Paul Cartledge’s book Thermopylae is one of those utterly compelling accounts of ancient times where a very few made a difference and changed the course of history. Whether the Persians ruling the world – because they’d crushed Greece and essentially the west – would have been a bad thing, is another debate. But 300 Spartans held off the might of the Persian Empire and their unflinching courage gave Greece the time to rally its forces to ultimately send Emperor Xerxes packing. All but two of the spartans perished. This is made all the more poignant because the 300 men knew they were sacrificing their lives before they even marched to that tiny pass to engage the enemy. But they were prepared to die in battle for the greater good.

As I was reading this fabulously addictive book, I couldn’t help but think about their wives, mothers, sisters. I think over the centuries a lot of the greatest grief, deepest courage and most intense sacrifices have been made by mothers. Until you are a mother, it’s really very hard to understand why your own mum worries so much about you. It always seems like she’s just fussing; then you become one and you begin to understand the essence of fear. I could be wrong but I believe it’s the defining moment for adults – when you become a parent, life is no longer selfish and suddenly someone far more important than you or your lover actually matters.

I think it’s only when you can feel anxiety on behalf of others that humanity shows its true colours and nowhere is this more openly displayed than how a mother feels about her child. In general, there is nothing she would not do to ensure that child’s wellbeing. Nothing. (I’m sure the same could be said for fathers. I’m using mothers as my example)

I am not a ‘natural’ mum. I don’t go gooey over other people’s babies, I don’t have an instinctive nurturing instinct and I am far from the clingy mother. Along came a pair of sons – at the same time – and I have never in my life felt like I did the moment I clapped eyes on my children. There was this deep and immense swell of something. I don’t want to call it love – because that’s too simple and you can fall out of love as easily as you fall into love. No, this was so much more because it seemed to occur deep in my soul. In fact no one else at that moment could experience what I was experiencing in that delivery theatre because I was undergoing a life-altering event. From the second I held those two bundles, my life had changed. Suddenly nothing….and I seriously mean nothing could ever matter to me so much as they did. It was chemical as much as physical. I had no control over it. Now that sounds obvious, I suppose, but you need to go through it, and most of us girls will, to understand the implications and repercussions of what this all means. If you’re a mum, you already know.

And in considering this aspect of being a woman, I guess I always knew what motivated Herezah in Percheron for instance. Yes, she was conniving, controlling, cruel, but I did understand her. She could have been a better woman but I certainly understood what was driving her. At the very core of Herezah was a mother doing whatever it took to protect her son, firstly from death and then from exterior forces/control. And she was doing this from the smothering prison of a harem. I rather admired her, despite all of her terrible actions. And in Royal Exile we see a similar situation of the suffering of parents – a mother in particular – in order to protect her young. Queen Iselda is extremely brave despite extraordinary pressures and cruelty. And the only reason she can rise above that despair is her need to ensure her children survive her. Whatever it takes.

This notion of ‘for the better good’ that Sandy refers to is probably best captivated, however, in a single character in Royal Exile. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I won’t name that character yet but this person has to deal with considerable heartache, constant fear and personal loathing as much as everyone else’s hate, because he/she knows that what he/she is doing may kill a few along the way but ultimately will save thousands and thousands of innocents. There is one particularly shocking scene where the despair of sacrifice of one is so hideous to contemplate but as a reader you can see why that one death is so necessary. It was ghastly to write. I don’t like to use the word ‘device’ because I don’t plan my books at all so I’m not that well prepared to have a device that might get me over a hurdle or adroitly move the readership from one part of the story to the next. I’m just not that organised! My books are bit like life – what happens, happens. Yes, I get a chance to go over and re-write parts but my editor will tell you, we haven’t actually changed a plot twist in any book other than Bridge of Souls. I don’t actually set out to punish any character. It happens. And I guess in this regard it is a lot like life and although I have never thought about having underlying themes in my tales, Sandy has pinpointed that no writer – even those of us crafting popular fiction – can escape the fact that our stories do still reflect life….even though it’s often somewhat larger than life.

Writers constantly draw on their own experiences. And the deeper a writer plumbs their own emotions and subconscious, the richer the experience is for the reader. I am a mother. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect my children. And on a wider perspective, I suspect there are very few sacrifices I wouldn’t be prepared to make to protect anyone I loved. I think we all share this trait because we’re human.

And really … that’s essentially what all of my books are about. Being human, with all of the frailties but also the strengths that make stories of human struggle so compelling. Royal Exile is human struggle from start to finish and no doubt echoes stories from the history of civilisation. Perhaps after all, there is a subtext.

Hope you enjoy it. F

For the full review by Sandy Auden, please click here.

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