• 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!



Ten drafts and you have a book: Nicole Murphy on writing

Those of you who read and loved Secret Ones will be delighted to hear that on August 2 I turned in the manuscript for book three of the trilogy to the Queen of the Voyager universe (aka Stephanie Smith). If you haven’t read Secret Ones – go on, you know you want to.

I thought this might be a time to talk a little about how the series came to be, and how I write. It all started way back in 2003, when I had a dream – literally. Dreams by themselves don’t make stories, but the image I had of this girl, indulging in a hot affair while trying to keep secret that she could do magic, wouldn’t let me go.

So I did some planning. I worked out a backstory for how she secretly had magic (the gadda) and because of my background as a teacher (and because I was deep into reading Harry Potter at the time) devised the educational levels that people went through to develop their power.

In the process of doing that, I came up with two follow-up stories – both set in the world of the gadda and modern society, sharing characters but with their own romances. Note – these books were romances that just happened to have a fantasy aspect of the setting.

I was also reading books about revising and editing your work. It was something I was utterly TERRIBLE at and I needed to focus on it. So I came up with a schedule of activities to help me revise and devised my plan – a month for the first draft of each book (then just sixty thousand words each), a month for the first round of edits of each book, a month for the second round of edits. At the end of nine months, I’d have three edited books, ready to send out.
The first stage of the revision process was macro-level. I would write a short description of each scene, what its place in the book was, what it achieved and whether it was worthwhile. I did character outlines to learn more about them. I read the dialogue alone out aloud, to ensure it made sense and then I read the entire book out aloud.

The second stage was micro – it was about sentences, work choice, spelling and punctuation.

However, I was wrong about the books being ready to send out – they weren’t. I learnt to revise, which is an all important skill, but I still didn’t know enough to be able to look at the books critically and make really sound judgements.

For the next four years, I came back to the books on occasion but developed my craft editing and being a journalist. Finally, at the end of 2007 (after having Secret Ones, then called Love in Control, critted) I sat down and with everything I’d learnt turned it into the book that in July 2009 was bought by HarperVoyager.

Over the past twelve months, having to deliver another two books has been a steep learning curve. The schedule I originally devised to help me revise has become an organic part of me. I now use forms such as colour charts to help me take an objective look at narrative flow and ensure that the plot is satisfactory and the story balanced.

All of this happens with very little initial planning. Instead, I write – a lot. Secret Ones went through ten drafts before I submitted it. Power Unbound had eight drafts, Rogue Gadda seven (see, I am getting better). At a rough estimate, I think that I’ve written somewhere in the vicinity of 500,000 words since July last year. That’s a whole lotta time and effort.

My method of writing – getting a general idea of beginning, middle and ending and then blasting your way through and working out the details later – is known in the business as pantsing (as in ‘writing by the seat of your pants’). I don’t like the idea of being a pantser – see the above 500,000 words in thirteen months.

It seems to be that I’d have to write much less words if I planned more. That the schedule I originally developed to help me revise would, at the beginning of the project, be a brilliant way to plan a novel before it’s written.

Except – what if I can only write well if I do pants it? What if planning kills the excitement and makes me stilted?

Maybe I just have to accept the fact that I’m going to spend the rest of my life writing at least three times the amount of words I need to, in order to write the words that count.

I will try planning for the next project I want to pursue, but I’m ready to ditch it if I find it doesn’t work. Even thought the idea of doing all that writing makes me very, very tired.

Good thing I love it.

Nicole Murphy has been a teacher and journalist, but is now concentrating on the other two books in the Dreams of Asarlai trilogy. She has had many short stories published, and has edited speculative fiction magazines. She lives in Queanbeyan with her husband Tim.