• 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!

     

     

What’s in a Name? by Stacia Kane

Coming up with names for characters—especially main characters—has always been either extremely difficult or extremely easy for me. Which, yeah, sounds a bit like saying “Either I like something, or I don’t.” Most things are either easy or difficult, after all, and with most things we either like them or dislike them.

But it really is the case. With some characters a name just pops into my head. With others I have to think and think, and sometimes even try dozens of names before I find one that fits. Sometimes I have a name but no character, and every time I try it, it simply doesn’t work. I’ve been wanting to name a female character “Doriel” for two years now, but every time I start a book using that name it just doesn’t feel right.

But I’ve never had as much fun naming characters as I did in the Downside books. Using character names as sort of in-jokes wasn’t new, but creating names like these was, and I had a blast.

Let’s take the main character, Cesaria “Chess” Putnam, as an example. When I first scribbled down the opening paragraphs of the book—which ended up not being in the book at all, but was just to get the idea down—she had no name at all. I figured one would come up.

But it didn’t. And several weeks went by, during which I was finishing another novel in a different series, and getting closer and closer to them time when I could finally start UNHOLY GHOSTS, and I still had no name for the main character. I could hardly start the book without a name. Especially since I believe that the name “becomes” the character, to a large degree; it informs and helps create them.

So one day, as I sat around scribbling down names, and flipping around the internet looking for names, I saw something—I don’t recall what—that reminded me of a man I used to work for, who had a son named Cesare. I’d always loved that name. And it sort of hit me: why not use a feminized version of that? And she could have “Chessie” or “Chess” as a nickname, which was even better, because I like names that can become one-syllable nicknames that still sound cool. (My friends call me “Stace,” and I like it, but you have to admit it’s not as cool as “Chess” or “Jax” or “Nik” or any number of slick-sounding one-syllable nicknames.)

So Cesaria she was, and I was very happy with it.

Her last name came easily. Since the look of the Church officials, the Elders and the Goodys, was based on the Puritans (as is, of course, the fact that “Goody” is a specifically female position), and since the origins of the Church began at around that time, I wanted to make some sort of reference to magic in that period, which of course brought to mind the Salem Witch Trials. Hence Chess’s last name: Putnam. (A young girl named Ann Putnam was one of the first accusers—and a major player—in the Trials.) In fact, the names of people associated with the Trials show up in later books as well, because when the Church took over, it gave those names to the many parentless children it fostered out.

I also faced a bit of difficulty, though, when deciding on names for other characters in the Church. See, so many names come from Christianity; they’re names of saints, or of apostles, or of angels. Even more unusual names are often the names of saints. But in a world where Christianity—as well as all other religions—are outlawed, would people still name their children after saints? Would it even be allowed?

I decided it would, but with one caveat. Church officials and employees generally are encouraged to take other names when they enter the Church, unless they carry a non-religious name to begin with. Thus, Paul might become Atticus, or Mary might choose to become Laurel; it’s not always easy to find names, of course, but at least switching to a lesser-known saint will often suffice. It’s not an absolute necessity for employees to do so, but it’s definitely something the Church likes to see.

But of course, that’s all Church and government. The people with education and power. Yes, there’s a strong middle class in the world of the books, with all the subsets; upper middle, middle middle, lower upper middle, upper lower middle, lower, etc. But what about the names of those in Downside?

One day, just before I started writing UNHOLY GHOSTS, I was on a train to London’s King’s Cross station. And I happened to see some graffiti on the wall there; pretty typical graffiti, tags in big fat letters. But I loved the idea of people actually having names like that, so that’s where a lot of the Downside names came from.

I wanted to make it very clear that Downside was a different world, and I wanted the names to reflect that just as much as the speech (which is a whole ‘nother topic!) Regular nouns (Slipknot, Ratchet) are often names in Downside. Nonsense syllables that just sound interesting. Adjective-noun combinations (Big Shog, Red Berta) are also popular.

Which of course brings me to Terrible. Now, his name just popped right into my head. I had his character in mind; I knew I wanted to write a big, ugly thug who was nonetheless smart and (hopefully) appealing. And given what he does for a living, and how tough he is, what better name could there be? Of course that’s what people would call him, in a world where names are more like descriptions.

I realize that leaves Lex out a bit, because his name is fairly normal. But remember he’s from a different side of Downside, and a different culture. Besides, we don’t yet know what “Lex” is short for, or if it’s even his actual name! Heh heh.

I love playing with names, and imagining what kinds of people might go with what names; it amuses me (I have simple tastes, I guess.) So having a world like Downside is a real gift; I can make anything be a name, I can create any sort of character, I can go completely wild, and then as contrast I have the very buttoned-up and proper Church. Writing these books is just about the most fun I think it’s possible for me to have, and I certainly hope you think reading them is just as enjoyable!

 Stacia Kane is the author of UNHOLY GHOSTS, UNHOLY MAGIC and CITY OF GHOSTS, the three books that make up the Downside trilogy. UNHOLY GHOSTS is now available in bookshops throughout Australia and New Zealand, and the sequels will be out in July and August. Fans of Charlaine Harris, prepare to have a new favourite author!
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