• 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!



Stacia Kane gives us the downlow on Downspeech

Stacia Kane talks about the creation of ‘Downspeech’ in the Downside Ghosts trilogy (which begins with Unholy Ghosts – out now!)

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!

I Like Them Vulnerable – Stacia Kane on Chess Putnam

So my heroine, Chess Putnam, is a drug addict. And I know that may be difficult for some people. I know there are people who have moral objections to it, or who find it distasteful, or triggering, or whatever. And that’s fine.

I realize I probably won’t change your mind and I’m not trying to, but I did want to talk about it and how it came about.

One of the things I researched before I started writing the book was functional addicts, and the idea of functional addiction. I’d wanted to write about a drug addict heroine for a while, simply because of the vulnerabilities it created and the limitations it caused.

To be perfectly honest, flaws and vulnerabilities are what attract me to a character, that make me identify with a character and want to write him or her. I can’t understand characters who are happy and cheerful, who don’t ever feel angry or confused, who don’t feel weak and hurt sometimes. I really have no experience on which to base such a character, so how could I write one?

I think most people, when thinking of addiction and addicts, think of the stereotypical junkie: skin and bones, shivering and sick, begging for the next fix, covered in track marks. Or nodding out in a dirty semi-lit room, with food rotting on the floor and the stench of urine in the air. You think of someone whose entire life is given over to a drug, someone who is barely coherent, who is hardly capable of moving, much less thinking clearly.

But actually, a very large percentage of addicts—especially those like Chess, who are addicted to prescription drugs—are perfectly functional. They have steady jobs, they live productive lives. You could spend time with them, talk to them, and have absolutely no idea that you’ve just talked to an addict. They’ve found a way to balance their lives, as much as possible. In fact, there’s a theory supported by some very credible people that the real trouble with addiction is that the drugs are illegal–which makes getting them take a lot of time and trouble (not to mention dangerous, both buying and the adulteration of the drugs themselves), to the exclusion of normal activities—and that if they were legal, and easily obtained, most addicts would lead essentially normal lives.

That’s not to say that because drugs are easily obtainable for Chess her addiction doesn’t cause problems. Of course it does. The entire plot of UNHOLY GHOSTS springs from the fact that she’s in debt to her dealer and has no money with which to pay him. Then there’s the fact that she has to hide it from people at her work. Or that she occasionally takes a little too much and does things she regrets later. Or that occasionally she doesn’t take enough and gets sick. Or the way she has to regiment her life (and she has a touch of OCD and germophobia as well) to make sure she doesn’t forget things or lose them. Continue reading

Stacia Kane: Boy Books and Girl Books?

Out in June!

Stacia Kane, author of Unholy Ghosts, talks about why urban fantasy has been pigeonholed as a girly genre … 

So something I’ve been thinking about for a while, as you guys know, is what urban fantasy truly is as a genre, and where it’s going, and how my books fit into it. (Remember the The Books Are Out There post? 

And of course we’re now exactly one week away from the official release date of UNHOLY GHOSTS. And I’m wondering how people will respond to it, whether they’ll love it or hate it, whether the darkness will be too much for them, whether they’ll accept a drug addict as a heroine, all of those things that I worried and wondered about even as I wrote it. 

But here’s the thing. I feel like urban fantasy has, as a genre, been somehow relegated to the “Girl” section. It’s been dismissed as “Girl books.” And many guys really do seem to think this way. I’ve seen a lot of them in various places referring to UF as “just paranormal romance with a little more action,” or “hot girl in leather solves mystery, sleeps with paranormal creatures.” 

And honestly? I think to some extent that’s true. No, hear me out. Other worlds and paranormal creatures do tend to be a big part of urban fantasy. The heroines often have sex (mine certainly do) and it’s often with paranormal creatures (Megan sleeps with a demon, for example, but in Chess’s world the only paranormal creatures are ghosts, and they don’t really make good bed partners, what with the trying to kill you and all). 

But I don’t see where that’s necessarily a problem. Why is it that as soon as romance and/or sex become genre tropes, that genre is automatically consigned to the Girl Ghetto, and judged to be “not real,” (as in “not real fantasy”) or “not as good.” Why is it that just saying it’s “for girls” automatically has such a negative connotation? Go to Stacia’s website to read the rest of this post and weigh in on the comments! 

UNHOLY GHOSTS (click for an excerpt) by Stacia Kane will be out in just one week’s time, followed by the other two books in the Downside Ghosts trilogy: UNHOLY MAGIC (July) and CITY OF GHOSTS (August)!

By all that’s unholy ….

We’ve raved about this book for months and now it’s time to start sharing …

Read chapter one of Unholy Ghosts (click below)  and if you want to read more tell us why!

Click here to read Chapter One!