• 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!



Writing the Timestalker series

People always ask me what it’s like writing the Timestalker series. It follows the adventures of a time travelling detective, Kannon Dupree, who solves exotic mysteries set in different times and places. And as the latest book in the series, Coyote, has just come out, I know I’ll need to hone my answer to that question.

But to complicate matters, each book has had its own special challenges. In the first one, Gladiatrix, Kannon journeys to Rome in 8AD and investigates the mysterious rituals performed by an Egyptian Isis-worshipping cult, which in the twenty-first century has become so powerful that it’s challenging Christianity for dominance.

That was a lot of work. I had to set up the foundation for a new series which used time travel, create an alternate present, plus do research on ancient Rome as well as mystical Egyptian cults. Then put it all together in an adventure story.

The next book, Hoodwink, is set in the golden years of Hollywood. After the body of a movie director is found covered in a Mayan occult tattoo and cemented into the floor of his own film set, Kannon Dupree is hired to discover who murdered him. Whilst on the set of Gone With The Wind she stumbles onto a mystery that stretches back to the Civil War.

My research load doubled in Hoodwink. It ranged from 1939 Hollywood, through to the Mayan civilisation via the American Civil War. And, as every good writer knows, you only ever put a fraction of the research you do into your book.

In the latest book, Coyote, Kannon is hired to find the missing diary of a Wild West hero. The chase takes her through the middle of an Indian War, via a mysterious convent of nuns banished to die in the desert and into an ancient pueblo city on a cursed mesa sacred to Coyote, the trickster god.

The photo of me frowning outside the town of Coyote in New Mexico, was taken when I was trying to work out where the hell to locate one of the only truly fictional places in the book – Big Sun Canyon. America’s Southwest is a patchwork of sites sacred to the local Native American nations. (The photo of mesas is from one of these sites – Monument Valley) So I had to work out how to respect their beliefs and still write an adventure story that roamed across their territory. (I’m smiling in the other photo because I’ve just worked out what to do.)

Looking at the series as a whole – all the Timestalker books are basically adventure stories where complex mysteries are solved. It takes a huge amount of planning to tell an exciting story and at the same time unveil clues along the way. Add time travel to that mystery setup and there’s another equally intricate layer of planning. You can’t turn the reader off by making them question why the mystery wasn’t solved in one quick visit to the past rather than a journey that takes around 150,000 words.

So I do the all the planning and research and then I let my imagination take over… You’ve got to love speculative fiction. It’s as exciting to write, as it is to read.

Time Travel, Tattoos & Gone With the Wind

     We’re such an ingenious species that the story of how we spread across the face of this magnificent planet reads more like a cross between science fiction and epic fantasy than real life. For that reason when it came time for me to write my series I knew it had to be based on time travel.

 I wanted to be able to send my intrepid heroine anywhere…to solve any mystery our cunning little human minds could spin! So, of course she had to be a time travelling detective…which opened up adventure in any conceivable time or place. When you throw a slightly alternate past and present into the mix, then the adventure gets really exciting because anything can happen – and frequently does.

 There are so many possibilities! What was Joan of Arc really like? What secrets are encoded in the Voynich manuscript? What were Buddha’s last words? What was written on the Mayan codices destroyed by the Conquistadors?

 So my Timestalker series is about a time travelling detective. The first book, Gladiatrix (2009) was set in ancient Rome, while the second, Hoodwink (out now) is set in Hollywood in 1939. Each book in the series solves a mystery set in a different time and place.

 Hoodwink starts with a body covered in a Mayan occult tattoo being discovered cemented into the floor of a Hollywood film set. It’s the body of a famous film director who went missing in 1939. Kannon is hired to return to 1939 to find out who killed him. While on the set of Gone With The Wind, mixing with the big stars of Hollywood, she stumbles onto a mystery that stretches back to the Civil War…

 ‘Why Gone With The Wind?’ you say. ‘Isn’t that just some old film about a Southern woman’s determination to survive the American Civil War and its aftermath?’

 Good question!

 Well…I wanted to write about a murder on a film set in 1939, the most glamorous period in the Golden Years of Hollywood. So I had to choose a movie that would give me the maximum room to explore the feeling of the 1930s as well as yield some interesting plot points I could play with.

 There was only ever one real choice…

 If you’ve ever seen any of the documentaries on the making of Gone With The Wind you’ll wonder why a murder didn’t actually happen… The producer, David O Selznick, was said to be a slave driver addicted to Benzedrine, who went through multiple directors to make the film – one of whom was supposed to have been driven to the brink of suicide. Most of the cast was hiding outrageous secrets, ranging from simple old adultery through to operating as a British spy in pre-war America.

 And that was just for starters.

 Some claim that Gone With The Wind is ‘the greatest film ever made’, whether that’s true or not it certainly seems to be one of the most watched in history. It’s still playing somewhere even as you read this sentence. Hell, the last time I caught a QANTAS flight to Los Angeles it was one of the choices on my personal viewing module…??? According to Wikipedia (with adjustment to 2010 prices) it is the highest grossing film of all time and stories abound concerning its influence on world culture in all sorts of unexpected ways… The book the film was based upon was banned by the Nazis during WW2 and was reportedly a favourite with the French Resistance who prized it as an example of courage under foreign occupation.

 But make no mistake Gone With The Wind is a paradox because it’s both incredibly inspiring and deeply racist. And such a flawed film is…of course, the perfect setting for a murder.

 A personal reason for the choice is that a key memory of my childhood is when my parents took me to see Gone With The Wind.  I was ten and at the time I wondered why they were so keenly affected by a movie that was about the American Civil War. I saw it again as a teenager and connected with the strong, central female character, Scarlett O’Hara, who out-survives all the macho men around her. But it was only when I became an adult that I realised that my parents’ attachment came from their experiences in WW2. Gone With The Wind was made in 1939 and its central theme is how ordinary people can endure and even triumph over unendurable tragedy.

 And that memory of triumph over tragedy is what my parents re-experienced when they sat there in the dark of that movie theatre.

 Who can not relate to that?

Rhonda Roberts is the author of Gladiatrix & Hoodwink, which is out now!

Rhonda Roberts talks Gladiatrix and news on Hoodwink!

Start Reading Now

Rowena Cory Daniells has posted a fab interview with our own Rhonda Roberts, author of Gladiatrix, where she talks about getting published, gender in fantasy and what’s coming up next for her time travelling heroine Kannon Dupree.

We’re thrilled to announce that Rhonda’s much anticipated next book Hoodwink will hit the shelves in January 2012.

Now we know it’s not close enough for some Gladiatrix fans so here’s a little bit more info to keep you going:

A perfectly preserved body, covered in Mayan occult tattoos, is discovered embedded in the concrete floor beneath the set of a teen werewolf TV series. The police identify the man as Earl Curtis, a famous director who went missing in 1939 while working on Gone with the Wind. Hired to investigate, Kannon returns to old Hollywood. But in the present someone is stalking the remaining witnesses.

Check out the interview here.

Noir Fantasy – how Rhonda Roberts fell for the darker side of the city

blade_runnerI first saw Blade Runner in a dirty old theatre in a seedy little back street in Shinjuku.

I’d stumbled into it in a bid to stave off heatstroke and get away from the cloud of pollution that’d swirled just a few feet above my head all day. To my amazement the big screen reflected Tokyo back to me…the Japanese-English, the noodle shops, the smog, the huge blinking neon signs…all filtered through the nostalgic lens of Vangelis’ music score.

I was confused… I still had a headache from the car fumes after all. How could I have not known I was living in a noir paradise? Then I surrendered to the fantasy.

After that I became a fan of noir fiction and film… Black, ebony, midnight, darkness…the shadow always injects the delight into any tale. Show me a trench coat and I’ll follow you down any dark alley. The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep …Joan Crawford in shoulder-pads holding a smoking gun.

Most of all I loved the Bad Women in noir – they’re so abandoned…wild. Beyond the pale.

Then I saw Alien…and best of all Aliens. This was the ultimate dark alley.

I went with a uni friend on a weekday to the old picture theatre in Glebe. Besides us there was only a father and the two young girls he was reluctantly babysitting. Twenty minutes later, when the alien explodes out of the stomach, we were left totally alone in this huge crumbling theatre.

But Ripley was there…finally the fantasy heroine I always wished for. Okay Ripley doesn’t have a trench coat but like all great Noir heroines it’s the shadows that define her.

I see Kannon Dupree as a very Australian noir heroine. Like Ripley her sad past defines her yet she has a love of life that pulls her into the light.

Are you a fan of the same movies as Rhonda? I know the majority of us at Voyager are!

Rhonda Roberts’ first book, Gladiatrix, is now available across Australia and New Zealand. Rhonda lives in the south of Sydney (as you might gather from this post – she certainly knows the area well!) and is working on the next book in the Time Stalker series, Hoodwink.

Visit Rhonda’s website

A Heroine from the Illawarra – Rhonda Roberts

There was never any doubt in my mind Kannon Dupree had to be a true Australian heroine: down to earth, courageous and generous. Nor that she would grow up in the Illawarra

Kannon was left for dead when she was two years old. Yuki, the half-Japanese woman that found her, became her adopted mother and brought her to live in the northern suburbs of the Illawarra

A view of Sandon Point where Kannon surfs

A view of Sandon Point where Kannon surfs

The steep Escarpment edging so close to the ocean from Stanwell Park to Sandon Point in Bulli provides a spectacular backdrop to Kannon’s childhood. Though her house is only an hour south of Sydney, she’s a typical Wollongong girl – she’d rather be barefoot and outside more anything else. She grew up exploring the sandstone cliffs of the Escarpment and surfing off Sandon Point. This was the perfect place for her to become the adventurous and dynamic young woman who demands to know the answers to her sad past no matter what the cost.

All fantasy novels should be set here!

All fantasy novels should be set here! How beautiful.

The people that populate this dramatic landscape are rich in diverse traditions and history. The local indigenous people have a strong connection to the land, in particular Sandon Point. Because of the coal mining and Port Kembla Steel Works there are diverse immigrant communities who have bought their intriguing traditions with them. There are Wiccans who gather on the cliffs every full moon and fundamentalist Christians who preach on the street corners. There are seedy land developers and corrupt councils with a history of violent murder. Anything can happen here and often does.

It’s a writer’s paradise.

gladiatrixRhonda Roberts’ first book, Gladiatrix, is now available across Australia and New Zealand. Rhonda lives in the south of Sydney (as you might gather from this post – she certainly knows the area well!) and is working on the next book in the Time Stalker series, Hoodwink.

Visit Rhonda’s website

Adventures in Japan – Rhonda Roberts

The castle at Nagoya, where Rhonda lived

The castle at Nagoya, where Rhonda lived

Japan is a floating theme park full of cherry blossoms, samurai castles, ancient temples and the best and worst in us all. I love it. And it’s been a key inspiration for Gladiatrix. Kannon Dupree was raised by Yuki, her half-Japanese foster mother, she is trained in Japanese martial arts and like the Japanese she places a premium on loyalty and honour.

I first lived in the Land of the Rising Sun back in the 1980s. I intended visiting for six months and left two years later… And I certainly got my fill… I probably averaged four hours sleep a night through those years.

I lived in the foothills of Mount Fuji, learnt martial arts and tea ceremony, climbed through Ninja strongholds, woke up screaming in the middle of a midnight earthquake, sweltered through summer and froze in the snow in winter and celebrated a new festival with my neighbours every month. Just the leaves changing colour meant an instant shindig and a new set of kimono.

You’ve got to love the Japanese will to party.

Every person I met and every place I visited turned up riches I still draw on. From the island of the Goddess at Miyajima to Hiroshima Ground Zero, from flower-arranging to sword festivals, from drunken businessman climbing telephone polls in cherry blossom time to bald-headed monks watching baseball under the counter while they served in a magnificent Buddhist temple, I was constantly astonished and intrigued. And I’m writing about them still.

The temple at Kyoto

The temple at Kyoto - a perfect place to travel back in time

Rhonda Roberts is the author Gladiatrix, the first book in the Time Stalker series. She lives in south of Sydney, Australia. She’s currently at work on Hoodwink, the follow up to Gladiatrix. Rhonda was an academic for eleven years. During this time she worked in Australia, the United States and in Japan, where she lived for three years. Visit her website at www.rhondarobertsauthor.com

Download a PDF extract from Gladiatrix