• 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!

     

     

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Demoiselles and Beamish Boys

Natalie Costa Bir is guest-posting over at David McDonald’s blog on the topic of vocabulary, and how exactly the right word can help convey a magical (or SFnal) world to the reader.  I was chuffed to see her mention my Creature Court series and some of the word choices I made, because I put a lot of thought into the use of vocab in those books.  My biggest nightmare (ha) was the decision I made early on that I would use the word ‘nox’ instead of ‘night,’ as one of the carefully chosen differences in the way my characters spoke, and because the night was so important to the story.

But the number of times I had to check AGAIN with search and replace, only to then discover I had to think about how to represent ‘nightgowns’ and ‘nightmares’, not to mention fortnights and knights on white chargers, and so on…  I stuck to my guns, but it was trickier than I had imagined.

Mary Robinette Kowal, who writes gorgeous Regency fantasies set in the era of Jane Austen, embarked upon a project to ONLY use words in the entire text of her novels that existed at that historical time.  Which is… rather more committed than I think I would ever be to authenticity.  On the other hand, I’m the first one to wince when I think I’ve spotted an anachronism.  One of my bugbears is ‘okay’ or worse, ‘OK’ in invented worlds.

It’s hard for fantasy authors who are also word nerds because they tend to know the origins in OUR world of so many words that then feel out of place when used in Magical Universe. So it makes sense a lot of the time to replace those with made up words – but you have to make that choice judiciously or you end up with a writing technique that’s a little too close to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (a marvellous poem, but would you want to read it as a novel?).

Names are another tricky issue.  I love naming characters and go to a lot of trouble to find the ‘right’ name for characters (that is, I get stuck on the writing until I find the right one).  But the ‘right’ name isn’t just about their character or their personality, it’s about their family, history and the world they belong to.  Why is it that we feel more relaxed about Victorian, Medieval or Ancient Roman names in fantasy worlds, but would tilt our heads at more ‘modern’ names?  You rarely find Jasons and Kylies in imaginary worlds (though Jason at least is a very old mythological name).  Can you have a fantasy queen called Wendy if you know that J.M. Barrie invented the name after a cute child lisped ‘my friend’ as ‘my fwendy?’

Then there’s the names that are ‘taken’ – you can’t write a story about an Alice without evoking Wonderland, Frodo without Lord of the Rings fans leaping for your throat, or Conan without tagging on ‘the Barbarian,’ and so on.

One of the first fantasy authors I loved was David Eddings,who we later discovered co-wrote his books with Leigh Eddings, his wife, and I liked very much the way that the names of those characters told you a lot about who they were and where they were from.  The depiction of the various countries in that world were problematic from the point of view of racial essentialism (looking back on it, I do wince a bit about how you have one country of drug addicts, one of farmers, one of thieves, one of slaves who feel empowered about being slaves, one of downtrodden slaves, one of Bad Guys, etc.) but I loved the way that you got hints of the various languages and vocabulary styles of those countries through the naming of characters.  Ce’Nedra, for instance (that’s not one you’re likely to see anyone re-using in a hurry) – as a princess, her name had been chosen in honour of their country’s god, and even the apostrophe was a common linguistic choice.  Likewise, the family of sorcerers all chose names that connected to each other with the prefix ‘Bel’ except the female Polgara – we were told ‘Pol’ was an honorific like ‘Bel’ but it was hard to tell as she didn’t share it with any one.

One of my favourite namers in all of fantasy writing is the legendary Terry Pratchett – the names he chooses come from a complex and clever cauldron of historical knowledge, metatextuality, and a tangled, inventive vocabulary.  From Rincewind the wizard to Conina the barbarian’s daughter, from Mort the apprentice of Death to Granny Weatherwax the witch, from Agnes-and-her-inner-Perdita to Magrat who was so traumatised by her own name that she ended up accidentally giving her daughter the middle names ‘Note Spelling,’ Pratchett’s names always sound absolutely right.  You can tell that Vetinari is evil and imposing, that Nanny Ogg is a salt-of-the-earth type, that there’s something very odd indeed about Moist Von Lipwig.  Pratchett’s Discworld is full of characters who not only live up to their names, but sometimes fail to live them down, or struggle to change them, or feel set on a particular destiny purely because of the syllables laid down for them at birth.  Names are important in all fantasy, but the Discworld makes them so much more!

Of all of his names, though, perhaps ‘Susan’ is the cleverest.  Death’s grand-daughter, destined for great and terrible things – but as Death himself noted when he first set eyes on her, the name ‘Susan’ (in a world where people are generally called things like Mustrum and Esmeralda) tells us that her parents wanted something normal and safe and ordinary for her.  Funnily enough, though, when you have ‘Death’ as a surname, no one’s ever going to think you’re ordinary!

Tansy Rayner Roberts is the Voyager author of the Creature Court series. Check out her blog here!

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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!

David Eddings passes away

As I am sure many of you will have heard by now, David Eddings, author of numerous books including The Belgariad series, died on June 2. He’ll be sorely missed by the fantasy community.

Jane Johnson, Publishing Director atf HarperCollins UK says:

“The Voyager team and I were immensely sad to hear the news. The arrival of a new Eddings novel used to be a grand event for the whole division. In the 90s, each one was guaranteed a Number One position on the Sunday Times hardback bestseller list, selling 100,000 copies apiece.

“But his huge worldwide success and fame did not change Dave at all. In his dealings with me, and with Joy Chamberlain, his long-time editor, he was unfailingly self-effacing on the subject of his success, once saying: ‘I’m never going to be in danger of getting a Nobel Prize for literature, I’m a storyteller, not a prophet. I’m just interested in a good story’.

“He was a towering force of modern commercial fiction, a master of the epic, and a delight to work with. We’ll miss him tremendously.”

The Guardian obituary for David Eddings

Soul Influence by Kim Falconer

Oscar Wilde once said that to influence a person was to give them a piece of your own soul. He wasn’t too keen on the idea, though he was inspired by many intellectuals of his time. One in particular was the mysterious Madame Blavatsky—the Russian aristocrat who ushered in the New Age with her theosophical spiritualism. From her sprung writers such as Rudolf Steiner, Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti, W. B. Yeats, Dion Fortune, Katherine Mansfield and Aldous Huxley. All of these authors had an effect on me, Oscar Wilde none the least. His stories, ranging from the horror classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray, to the seemingly trivial fantasy, The Importance of Being Earnest, made a lasting impression.

Author Kim Falconer

Author Kim Falconer

I agree with Peter V. Brett when he says writers are like psychic sponges. We mop up the brilliance of each other’s minds, reserving the insights for a rainy day, or perhaps our next novel. Wilde thought it was something to guard against but C. G. Jung (another hero of mine) said, we don’t create in a vacuum but through our relationship to others, and let’s face it, reading someone’s words is an intimacy, a relationship, a window into their soul.

I carry a lot of those souls around with me: Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, C S Lewis, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin—she’s a favourite, the woman who brought feminist theory to SF /F. Ann Rice—who always describes light and colour in such sensual ways, and Anne McCaffrey, who successfully merged SF and Fantasy, not an easy task.

I’ve read all of David Eddings too. He, like Wilde, tries to avoid influence. ‘I have a sub-conscious burglar lurking in my mind, he says. If I read a good fantasy it’s likely to show up in my next book.Stephen King is the opposite. He says that reading in your genre is necessary for understanding the market, to know editorial likes and dislikes. I love Brett’s take on this—‘Like all writers, I steal my ideas. . .

The Spell of Rosette

The Spell of Rosette - out now!

Whether we call it theft, awareness or influence, there wouldn’t be a fantasy author alive who hasn’t been touched by JRR Tolkien and I doubt any of us mind sharing a piece of his soul. I was inspired by LOTR to the point where I spent my teens and early twenties writing reams of epic poetry. These works were so extensive they made Homer’s Odyssey look like Haiku. Tolkien’s academic paper, On Fairy Stories, opened my mind to notions of immersion as well, but more on that topic in another blog! I’d like to hear your most influential authors. What bits of soul do you carry around with you? Comments welcome!

Kim Falconer’s first novel The Spell of Rosette is available at all good bookshops throughout Australia! Kim lives in Byron Bay with two gorgeous black cats. As well as her author website, Quantum Enchantment‚ she runs an astrology forum and alternative science sitetrains with a sword and is completing a Masters Degree. Her novel writing is done early every morning. Currently she’s working on additional volumes in the Quantum Enchantment Series.

Read other posts by Kim Falconer