• 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!



Roger Kupelian talks about keeping it real in Hollywood, illustrating Tymon’s Flight

Roger Kupelian's amazing illustration of Tymon's Flight (click to see in full glory on Mary's website)

Mary: Roger, you’ve worked for huge names, on huge film productions – ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Flags of Our Fathers’, ‘Cloverfield’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and many more – but also on very personal art house projects, like your latest collaboration with Serj Tankian,‘Glaring Through Oblivion,’ a book of illustrated poetry due out this month. Which persona do you prefer – the highly sought-after vfx worker, or the independent artist? Do you think there’s any tension between the two, or do you manage to deftly dance on that Hollywood tightrope?

Roger: You feed the beast so you can ride the beast. In other words the two worlds compliment each other due to the tension that exists between them. One is art for commerce in all its variants and the other being the personal expression of something deeply meaningful. The lucrative lure and associate notoriety of “big name projects” is all well and good in the beginning but one realizes how much creative control you give up to basically plug up gaps in a megalithic endeavor. With the poetry book I was free once again to explore the medium. It’s really the same path, a slider-scale. One’s the side road and one is the expressway. But I hold no Illusions that both share the same ingredients.

Mary: I admire the way you manage that balancing act. When we first discussed the possibility of illustrating a scene from ‘Tymon’s Flight’, I confess part of me was thinking, “Why is he bothering with me, a debut novelist? This guy has worked for Jackson, Burton, Eastwood, helping to bring multi-million dollar projects to life…” But as soon as I began talking to you about the scene you were thinking of illustrating, those anxieties disappeared. I knew you didn’t care a bit if the project was large or small – so long as the world was vivid, the story engaging and you felt excited about the art you were creating. You told me afterwards: “When I was doing the painting, and I always do this with successful work, I get into the emotion of it.”

Moving on from that thought, I’d love to know – when you’re planning to paint a scene, how do you get yourself into that emotional space? What steps do you follow to conjure up, for example, the urgency and desperation of a battle, that palpable sense of danger?

Roger: Oddly enough I add a soundtrack to it to get started. Lately I’ve been getting into Serj Tankian’s instrumental CD, part of a special edition release of ‘Imperfect Harmonies’. It sets the stage. Very grand and operatic. Those moments that attract me to a project, any project, have to do with the instance of high drama– Mythos and Pathos and all the ‘thos’es. All set to a soundtrack of the imagination.

I mean don’t get me wrong. If I sit down to do something other than some one-a-day digital painting, there’s a lot of stage fright there. So you procrastinate for a while, then BAM. You’re doing it.

Mary: I find music a good kick-starter, too. In fact, many of the action sequences in COT were written to the tune of the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ soundtrack… which is fairly epic and operatic in parts. So far, I haven’t experienced stage fright in writing scenes – if I start to doubt my ability to write something, all I need to remember is that if I don’t write the book, no one will. So I might as well get on with it. (That seems to work a charm for loosening things up.)

Sometimes – blessedly – I don’t have to do anything to summon the muse. She’s just there, driving me to write a scene, because I must. Everything is simple – emotion, direction, intensity. I find that happens when I feel very clearly what a particular character is going through, and identify strongly with his or her struggles.

Are there particular subjects – trigger issues, perhaps, or a desire to address particular themes – that drive your best creative moments?

Roger: If we’re talking Galactica I have to give a shout out to the composer Bear McReary who pulled upon, among other things, his Armenian roots for his work for the show. Past albums that inspired the same reaction were Peter Gabriel’s ‘Last Temptation’ soundtrack and the one from ‘Gladiator’. That plays into the trigger issues you mentioned. One factor is the meeting of worlds and the other is the conflict. Usually it is a struggle between the passionate few against an overwhelming power. The question is how far will you go to stand your ground? I’ve always felt like the underdog in any fight so I identify with that aspect.

Mary: I love both the soundtracks from ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Last Temptation’. Good music for writing! And the Nurian freeholders in ‘Tymon’s Flight’ are certainly the passionate few vs. the overwhelming power. I can see why you chose that particular scene… 😉

I am very interested in the meeting of worlds idea. Though there are a great many things that render the Argosians in the world of ‘Tymon’s Flight’ unsympathetic – their colonialism, their bigotry, their religious fanaticism – I’ve been at pains to show the richness of their culture, and the fact that there are many individuals who strongly disagree with the prevailing status quo. My trigger issues are tolerance and understanding between cultures, or lack thereof. I’ve tried to explore some of those themes in COT.

This brings me around to the question of art vs. Other Things again. How do you make sure, given both our admitted trigger issues, that your art is above all about impact, emotion and story, and not some soapbox from which to spout dry philosophical/political views? Do you worry that even as the artist in you can be sucked into those huge Hollywood moneymaking machines, you could be sucked into another, politically-motivated machine, and risk being pigeonholed as “that artist who always talks about X”?

Roger: That’s always a fear and it is the same kind of fear that deals with being pigeonholed . Yet, I know that at some point there is going to be one, maybe two, works or so that you are known for, and there is no getting around that. So if it is going to be the one thing that will be that mix of torture and wonder for however long it takes, then may as well be something you care about.

Am I doing this for others or myself? A combo? At the end of the day we’ve got to answer that question and answer it well: One step closer to the answer. We’ve all conformed to one thing or another, whether we want to admit it or not.

It’s no longer the image of that tortured, chain smoking artist brooding greatness into being in some stained concrete corner. We’re part of something bigger than ourselves. If you look at the work I’ve done, you see an increasing distance from soapbox and towards a universal truth. Part of that comes from no longer believing your own shtick.

…In other words, Who the hell am I to tell you X? But also, Who the hell am I not to tell you X? If X has to be said, and you know it, then say it.

Mary: I’ve been following the developments on your historical epic, ‘East of Byzantium’, with interest over the past few years. I’ve seen a wonderful proof of concept trailer for the film, as well as pages from the graphic novel. Could you tell us here at Voyager Online a bit more about the project, and the form in which you see it coming to fruition?

Roger: Before we go on with the rest of the answer, I am curious as to what YOUR impression is of the project and its meaning?

Mary: My impressions – correct me if I’m wrong – were that it was a tale based on Armenian history, but having universal ramifications of the kind we discussed, ie. the importance of standing up for one’s heritage and beliefs, no matter what the odds. And I saw it as a damn good story!

Roger: You hit the nail on the head. That’s why I am working on the graphic novel version first. I realized it was important to lay out my vision for the story in a way that showed off what was crucial about that point in history for those people, caught between great forces. In a way my videos for Serj, both ‘Honking Antelopes’ and ‘Reconstructive Demonstrations’, are along the same lines. These are stories that come from a small kid from a small race, growing up in remote places. The story begins with my small tribe, then branches out.

Mary: I like the way your preoccupations branch out (hurrah! a Tree metaphor) from personal to tribal, tribal to national, national to universal. Those are the best stories, in my very humble opinion – stories that can be appreciated for their specific historical or cultural content, but also, stepping back, for their wider human implications.

Well, we’ve managed to go in the space of one short interview from illustrating a fantasy book to sweeping philosophical issues. Roger, thank you so much for popping by and having the patience to answer my questions. And most of all… thank you for bringing your unique vision to ‘Chronicles of the Tree’. The film in my head of that battle for the Freehold will always be the Kupelian one, from now on!

See the original post with Roger’s image at Mary’s website.

Mary Victoria is the author of Tymon’s Flight, Samiha’s Song and the upcoming final book in the Chronicles of the Tree trilogy, Oracle’s Fire, to be released in September 2011.

4 Responses

  1. […] Freehold in ‘Tymon’s Flight’? Well, he has kindly accepted to be interviewed by  yours truly over on the Voyager website. Topics of conversation include working in Hollywood, creativity for hire, social engagement vs. […]

  2. Intriguing conversation, Mary and Roger. I love the illustration of the Freehold battle scene and will look forward to both the graphic novel and film versions of East of Byzantium.

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