• 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!

     

     

Kim Falconer: Dark Night of the Soul Part 1

Cortesa Lemur and her raven Pi, Aaron Briggs l

Cortesa Lemur and her raven Pi, Aaron Briggs

With Road to the Soul’s release, I’ve taken time to reread some of the emails and letters I’ve received since Path of the Stray came out last year. Mostly they are notes of support and thrill in the new series and well wishes (and ‘write faster!’) but a few stand out because of their deeper enquiry. One in particular interested me, so I thought I would share it here.

The question was on the intensity and drama in Path of the Stray, particularly the vivid imagery and violence. Was it necessary to go there?

I think it helps to remember that stories, meaningful ones, reflect archetypal motifs in the human condition like birth, death, service, accomplishment, relationship, challenge, choice, arrival and departure. Speculative fiction is notorious for ‘going there’ and exploring extreme experiences. My novels build on these themes and also contemporary confrontations like geo-engineering, extinction, gender biases, sentience and speciesism. Sometimes the violence and imagery (and sex) is heavy-duty, perhaps even more so in book 2, Road to the Soul.

I find balancing intense and subtle imagery an essential part of storytelling if for no other reason than experiencing contrast. Too much action and we become numb; too little and we fall asleep. But if the reader immerses in the tale, what happens to the character is happening to them too. They are in the thick of it, frightened, thrilled, devastated and hopeful right alongside the heroes and villains. What an amazing thing! It opens doors to expanded ways of thinking and being. For example, on Gaela, the genders are equal. On a contrasting Earth, they are not. When readers are on Gaela, they experience that reality and like they say, if you can go there in the mind, you can go there in the body. In other words, speculative fiction can open the mind to new horizons because the brain can’t tell the difference between something imagined and something ‘real’. That kind of immersion can help move us along towards the next cultural paradigm shift.

Road to the Soul

Path of the Stray and Road to the Soul

But can it be argued the other way? Is immersion in intense and violent imagery reinforcing it in our lives? In Road to the Soul I explore ‘good’ and ‘evil’ from the inside out, influenced by James Hillman’s view that there is no ‘pathology’. Nothing needs fixing. Everything is an expression of energy, just as it is. Can this be true? On the surface I think Kay needs help and his parents are complete psychopaths. Don’t they need fixing? They do terrible things. The rogue Lupins and Serko, ASSIST and the second JARROD, they all seem horribly unconscious and not coming from a place of love. Is this ‘mad’ or ‘evil’ or simply another expression of being? The big question Road to the Soul asks is where in the darkness is love? That’s what I’m looking for, and I had to turn out a lot of lights to find it.

What do you think about levels of violence and explicit imagery in storytelling? Are you into the power struggle and knife edge intensity or keen for a buffer from it all? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comments welcome!

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6 Responses

  1. Nothing wrong with violence; most readers I know like it, probably because it’s exciting! I’ve made darkness and gore my trademarks, so people just expect it now.

    I imagine “write faster!” is right up there with “where do you get your ideas?” where annoying remarks from readers are concerned.. Right?

    (I wouldn’t know; nobody’s ever asked me to write faster).

    • It is exciting, the risk and unknown elements of violence. Who will survive? What will happen next? How did I get into this mess? How will I get out.

      Visceral can make it more ‘real’ and contrast the lighter elements of the story.

      Ha! ‘Write faster!’ usually follows, ‘I read your book in a day!’ It’s thrilling and daunting all in one. I mean, YOU know how long it takes to write these puppies! A day . . . my life for a day . . .

      In a way, it’s the greatest reward 🙂

      • It’s almost insulting when someone reads something in a day after you spent months on it – or even years for some. I guess we tend to assume that something should take as long to read as it did to write.

        But we should really be flattered, since if someone reads your book that fast, it means that a) It was easy to read, and b) They couldn’t put it down.

        I don’t know how fast you put things out, but my books generally take a few months each depending on whether I have anything else to do at the same time (right now I have three assignments to worry about). Honestly, actually publishing the things is the slow part.

  2. It is both confronting and encouraging when readers can go through a book in such a short time. It certainly spurs me on!

    I think you write faster than me. I get a story down at the rate of 3000 words a day (so about 2 months) but there is a LOT of re-visioning, editing and rewriting to do after that. I’ve completed 6 books in 3 years. The first, The Spell of Rosette, was more like a ten year part-time project!

    And then there is the juggling–putting down the current manuscript to do copy edits on the precious one and keeping track of all the hundreds of plot threads in each. Good brain gym!

    When is your next in the Griffin saga coming out? Is that ready to go?

    • Ah, well, there’s something that’s different – I write faster mostly because I don’t do multiple drafts. I might go back and change some things, but I never do another version.

      Book four comes out in November, and books five and six will follow at six monthly intervals after that, as with the first three.

      I’m glad to hear you’ve been enjoying them!

      • I meant ‘previous’ one…. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally used the word ‘precious’ in a sentence, unless quoting Smeagol. 🙂

        I do many drafts, sometimes eight or ten, and I revise earlier sections as I expand the story arcs. There are many ways to write a novel, that’s for sure! I think Mary Victoria does only one draft as well but not me. I might be working on a first draft of book 3, a structural edit of book 2 and final proofs of book 1 all in the same month. Crazy, but it works!

        November isn’t long off! exciting.

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