• 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!



The Shadow Knows …

by Kim Falconer

I learned a lot about ‘evil’ in the summer of 1981. My eyes were opened to its purpose at a conference in Berkeley California where a Jungian analyst talked about the Shadow. She said when it comes to storytelling, ‘evil’ is the author’s best friend. It moves the story forward, forces characters to grow, allows for heroic acts and takes readers to the edge of their seats.

Tolkien says it like this . . . things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling . . . The Hobbit.

If we want to have a ‘good deal of telling’ we best know make friends with ‘evil.’

'Lilith as a Shadow figure.' H R Giger from Necronomicon 2 Edition C Zurich, 1985

Jung defines ‘evil’ as an element of our shadow—a part of our unconscious that is hidden from us. The shadow can be very confronting to experience in ourselves so we project it onto others or art/film/ literature. It evokes powerful emotional reactions like loathing and disgust because it contains the unwanted and disowned material of our psyche. Yet like the banished Lilith, getting to know the shadow is an opportunity for wholeness.

We see this process in fairytale like the ones where the miller (or farmer) has lost his fortune. Just when the story stagnates and nothing more can happen, the Shadow appears. He’s often a dwarf or cripple, hideous or distorted in some way. He steps in and offers to make a ‘deal’. He’ll help the hero if only he promises to give him what’s behind the barn, or out by the shed. The hero thinks what could be there but a rake or an old bucket? And so he agrees. Now up go the stakes because behind the barn at that moment is the miller’s son, or out by the shed is his baby daughter.

A similar shadow image is seen when Bilbo Baggins loses his way under the mountain. He doesn’t know what to do until he meets Gollum—a loathsome damaged creature. They play the riddle game (a deadly deal) and Bilbo wins but like the miller, what is given up is irreplaceable—for the miller it’s his true creative worth and in the case of Mr Bilbo Baggins, it’s his integrity.

The shadow appeals to the hero’s lack of self-worth or direction. Once the deal is struck, the story can move forward again because our hero has to figure out how to get his child back, or redeem himself (which the Hobbits never quite do as it is Gollum in the end who finally destroys the ring). As the saying goes, the shadow knows .. .

Part two will look at other personifications of ‘evil’ in storytelling. If you have a favourite villain or shadow figure you love to hate, please share it with us here.

Kim Falconer lives in Byron Bay with two gorgeous black cats. Her latest book is Strange Attractors, the third book in the Quantum Enchantment series, and it is out now in bookshops across Australia and New Zealand. As well as her author website‚ she runs an astrology forum and alternative science site‚ trains with a sword and is completing a Masters Degree. Her novel writing is done early every morning. Currently she’s working on the Quantum Encryption Series.

Evil, vile, bad, awful, mean, wonderful villains! Fiona McIntosh blogs

Royal Exile

Royal Exile

Villains are always fun to write and over the years of producing several adult fantasy trilogies I’ve learned a great deal about characterisation and none give me more pleasure to craft than the baddie. In Royal Exile it’s the barbarian warlord Loethar who grabs this role early on. He’s not powerfully built, in fact he’s lean and not especially tall, so you could almost overlook him.

Almost … because Loethar is not someone you ignore. What he lacks in physical stature he makes up for with his quiet presence that is both sinister and intriguing. I’ve decided he’s my favourite villain across all the books I’ve been involved with and this is because I realise I’ve finally achieved something with my characterisation that I haven’t been able to tap into before. Loethar has arrived complete. What he reveals as we move along is his choice but as weird as this sounds, he seems to know who he is, what is driving him, what his strengths and weaknesses are. I am the one who still has to find it all out.

This pleases me because I don’t plan!

I’m also very happy to note that the role of bad guy doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulder in this story. The ‘evil load’ is spread. I’ve only discovered this as I’m working through volume two, A Tyrant’s Blood. I really believed Loethar would shoulder that burden throughout the story but he’s been joined by a couple of new nasties.

I’m really enjoying juggling those shades of grey in personalities. When I first began writing I used to love the very clear delineation of good v bad and perhaps that speaks a lot about my own character that used to view life in definite contrasts. Either I liked something or someone, or I didn’t, for instance. As age has worn me down and children have given me a new insight, I guess I’m a lot more capable in my 40s of understanding all those shadings that live between the polar opposites of black and white. And this has helped my writing and especially assisted my understanding of writing villains. Things aren’t always what they seem and the old adage of walking in another’s shoes has become increasingly important to me as I craft these present characters from my stories. It began in Percheron where it was obvious I was really enjoying Maliz and for all his darkness I really rather liked him. He was charismatic, intelligent, witty, sharp – all those qualities that are admirable. He was also ruthless, cruel, narrow-minded, etc. It was walking between all those shadings that the intrigue of a character comes out. Heroic characters have less ability to juggle traits, which is why probably most of us enjoy the reluctant hero. I know I certainly do. That way he/she (but for me, it’s usually he) can have plenty of flaws, lots of vulnerability and less ‘heroic’ aspects.

Villains work best, of course, when we can imbue them with very credible reasons for their motivations. We can’t just put it down to poor toilet training. The reader demands an acceptable back story and it doesn’t matter how slowly we discover it, or that we can’t ever forgive them, but it makes a whole pile of difference to the punch of the story if the villain can at least justify in his or her mind why. I felt I began to really understand this with characters like Herezah and Salmeo in Percheron. I don’t condone nor forgive their actions but there were moments where I felt sympathy for what they’d survived and what drove them and by the end it helped to know this in the context of the story.

I actually don’t set out with a set of attributes that I stick to the bad guy and then go with. I usually set out on a series with little more than knowing the villain and what he’s doing. Why he’s doing it and how far he’s prepared to go to strut his evil stuff I tend to discover with the same sense of alarm and wonder as a reader.

That’s what makes crafting him fun.

Fiona McIntosh’s latest book, Royal Exile, Valisar Book One, is now out.

Click here to visit Fiona’s website.