• 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!

     

     

Tansy Rayner Roberts: Craft, Magic and “women’s work”

There's a lot of hard work behind the glamour ...

I have been asked many times since the release of Power and Majesty whether I sew myself – in particular, if I can make dresses like Velody can.  If only!  Dressmaking is one of those astounding skills that I romanticise in my head, but am incapable of actually doing myself.  It’s not that I don’t love to sew, I’m just not very good at measuring.  Or straight lines.  When it comes to actually measuring straight lines, my head goes out the window.

You know how they say ‘measure twice, cut once?’  Well, my sewing technique is more along the lines of ‘think about measuring, remind self that measuring is really important, then throw measuring tape out the window and just APPLY SCISSORS’.

My pet craft, luckily enough, is quilting.  Where cutting fabric into tiny pieces and sewing it back together again is a feature, not a bug!  I love to hand piece (folding fabric over paper templates is the one way I am capable of sewing a straight line) because sewing machines freak me out, just a little.  I love to machine quilt because it’s all about wavy lines, and it looks good even if you get a little madly creative, and who doesn’t love a machine with a laser pointer?

The owner of the quilting machine, who is something of a mentor to me, despairs of my ragged hems and a style that can only be describes as ‘slapdash,’ but admits I’m quite good with colour.

Crazy quilts are my favourite – you can throw in every half-baked sewing technique you’ve ever learned, blag the rest, and if you use enough velvet and kimono silk scraps, somehow it ends up looking like art.  I’m currently working on a crazy quilt about The Creature Court – piecing a square for each character, like a jumbled scrapbook of who they are and what is most important to them.  At the rate I’m going, the quilt will take me far longer than the books did!

I love to read about women who craft, too.  Just about the only mainstream fiction I read these days involves women and quilting circles, or knitting yarn.  Sometimes they fight crime, as well!  You don’t find a lot of it in fantasy – though it is there, at times, around the edges.  Most fantasy worlds are pre-industrial, and so clothes are hand-made and woven, food is cooked from scratch (even if, as the late great Diana Wynne Jones pointed out, it’s mostly stew) and every tool is clanged out from a real forge, by a blacksmith.

It always drives me crazy when the only person you see pick up a needle in a fantasy novel is the motherly type (cough, Polgara, cough) who does everyone’s mending, or a soppy damsel whose embroidery is a symbol of how useless she is.  Before we had factories, sewing a straight line was an essential life skill, and while women have always taken on the majority of the domestic craft (it was often the only way to earn money from home, so you could mind the children at the same time) there’s no reason why we shouldn’t also see men fixing their own tunics or darning socks. 

I also love it when crafting techniques are used in descriptions of magic.  Sure, people call magic a ‘craft’ all the time, but I like it best when that is taken a step further, giving a realism to magical technique.  One of my favourite books of 2010, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, placed magic as an important lady’s accomplishment in the Regency period, along with playing the piano, drawing, and dancing prettily.  Her descriptions of ‘glamour’ make it feel like a real, tangible thing, and I thought it was particularly clever the way she showed that the few men who excelled at glamour were accorded professional status, while the women were expected to use it only to catch husbands

In Power and Majesty, I introduced three characters: Velody, Rhian and Delphine, who were each practicing craftswomen.  This gave them jobs and a grounding in the world I was trying to convey, and also tied closely to the importance of religious festivals in their city of Aufleur.  It also meant that I was able to write what I knew – about the pleasures and practicalities of making something, even if I did have to run the dressmaking scenes past someone who has actually done it.  Having a dressmaker heroine also gave me the metaphors and descriptive defaults to reach for when she is trying to explain magic to herself for the first time. 

In that first book of the trilogy, Velody’s craft and her fellow workers belonged to the daylight – they represented the part of her life she loved most, and what she wanted to protect from the darkness and magic of the new world she had been introduced to.  But in the second book, The Shattered City, Velody’s two worlds are going to collide with a vengeance.  Something as simple as a needle and thread could get people killed…

The Shattered City is out now and continues the story of Velody and the Creature Court. You can follow Tansy on Twitter, visit her website AND visit the official Creature Court website (don’t turn your back on anyone …)

And catch Tansy talking about her writing career and the Creature Court on Galactichat!

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7 Responses

  1. Hey Tansy, have you read Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic books?

    Most of the magic’s in that series are craft based. Sandry uses Thread magic, Briar uses plant magic. It’s very good 😀

  2. Agreed Tarran! Though the forge-magic would have to be my favourite.

    I really should read this blog less. So many interesting authors brought to my attention and my ‘to read’ pile keeps growing.

  3. Tarran! What a wonderful example. I knew there were more, and of course couldn’t think of any when writing this. I adore that series, especially Sandry & Daja’s talents (though Briar is my favourite)

  4. Yep I really like Tris and Briar. Those two are my favourites.

    I thought Tamora Pierce did really well in her portrayal of craft magic.

    @Tamsyn I know your pain hahaha

  5. I sew as a hobby too, and I made a quilt! Just a simple one, but I’ve got it on my bed right now. Mostly I make weird stuffed toys. Siamese twin rabbits, a double-bodied cat, a giant slug, an evil teddy bear – you name it and I’ve tried to sew it! I guess it comes of being a Taylor.

    *rimshot*

    Hm. Now I think about it, I realised that I’ve never written a female character who sews. Then again, I’ve never really written much in the way of cozy domestic scenes and most of my women characters are the tough and unemotional sort. Not intentionally; it just turned out that way.

    I don’t call magic “craft”, but that’s because my characters don’t have magic. There are no mages or witches in my world at all, and therefore no spells. Ah well.

  6. I’m a firm believer that sewing shouldn’t be confined to cozy domestic scenes. Even tough, unemotional characters need to mend their own trousers from time to time!

    • That’s true.

      I’m wrong anyway – there’s a scene in The Griffin’s Flight where Arenadd patches up his robe. He’s a man of many skills, you know.

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