• 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.

Advertisements

Writing Coyote’s Sacred Landscape

I always try to visit the landscape that my characters explore if I can. There’s nothing like filling your senses with its unique essence. What does it sound like? Is the light the same as at home? And so it goes…

So far I’ve written three of the adventures of Kannon Dupree, the time travelling detective. In Gladiatrix, Kannon paced the streets of ancient Rome investigating a shadowy Egyptian cult. In Hoodwink she lurked around glamorous Hollywood in 1939, to find out who murdered a famous movie director and why he died with a Mayan occult tattoo engraved on his chest. And in Coyote, which came out this month, 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.

Without a doubt, the fieldwork I did for Coyote will always be one of my greatest adventures. Coyote is set in New Mexico, one of the states that make up the USA’s famous Southwest. It’s an arid, sparsely populated state with natural wonders around every bend, sprinkled with the mysterious ruins of ancient pueblo cities, criss-crossed by the trails of gold-hungry conquistadors and home to some of America’s largest reservations including those of the Apache and the Navaho. It’s also a landscape marked by the roughest edges of the Wild West, holding the remains of besieged forts, the tracks of dashing stagecoaches and frontier towns once ruled by the gunslinger.

Travelling the Southwest filled every sense. The rough touch of the ancient pueblo walls at Bandelier and Aztec Ruins, the gritty taste of the sandstorm that over took me near Farmington, the sight of the incredible red pinnacles of Monument Valley, the smell from the bunches of chillis hung to dry over old Spanish balconies in Santa Fe and the chillingly sweet sound of a Native American’s flute in Mesa Verde.

However… As every writer will tell you, each book presents its own special difficulties. As I wandered around the Southwest, gasping in awe at the landscape and interviewing every different kind of inhabitant that would talk to me, I came to realise that I had a problem.

I could really feel just how sacred this land was.

The Southwest is sacred to many different Native American nations, some of whom have lived there since the last Ice Age, and every natural monument is part of a wealth of mythologies and religious beliefs. The more I was included in this world, the bigger the problem became. How to put an adventure story into a sacred landscape without being disrespectful of those who hold it in such reverence?

Now I’m certainly not saying that my solution is the only one, nor that it works perfectly. Just that it was right for me when I wrote Coyote. My resolution was to make the sacred location I wrote about in Coyote – Big Sun Canyon and everything in it – a fictional composite of impressions taken from different places across the Southwest.

But when I explain this to people, I’m always struck by the paradox in what I’m saying.

The nations of the Southwest hold their land as sacred, but in the end what place on our gorgeous planet shouldn’t be? I guess it all comes down to what each culture decides to hold as precious. I’d love to hear what place or landscape is sacred to each of you.

Where can a time-travelling detective go? Rhonda Roberts tells us

Gladiatrix is set in an alternate present and in this version Union Square in San Francisco, holds both the National Time Administration’s time portal as well as a giant pyramid Iseum used by the worshippers of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

I chose Union Square because of its rich history, which covers everything from war to earthquakes to flower children to crime and horrific murders. It’s a writer’s paradise, particularly if you specialise in time travel.

Union Square, where the NTA is located

Union Square, where the NTA is located

Union Square is roughly two and a half acres of concrete and gardens bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets. It sits in the heart of old San Francisco once considered the most dangerous city in America. There are good reasons why many US detective novels and films are set in the steep hills of this fog-ridden city.

At the time when San Francisco was considered the most lawless city in the nation, Morton Street, just off Union Square, was the roughest part of all. Women and children naked to the waist sold themselves through the open windows of the pitiful one-room cribs, which lined the street. Men strolled through the area surveying what was available. The local police through corruption or fear refused to patrol the area and Morton Street’s homicide rate made it infamous.

The elegant St Francis Hotel on Powell Street survived the 1906 earthquake and fire only to become infamous in 1921 when the movie star Fatty Arbuckle held a wild party there. Three days later the party was still raging but Virginia Rappe an actress was dead. Hospital staff claimed she said Arbuckle had attacked her. Arbuckle was tried three times and eventually cleared of the charges but lost his career.

St Francis Hotel

In an interesting twist, Dashiell Hammett was one of the detectives hired to investigate the Arbuckle case. He became a famous detective fiction writer and in his novel the Maltese Falcon the St Mark Hotel is based upon the St Francis.

I can’t think of a better pedigree for inclusion in a time travelling detective series.

Neither can we. Where else would you like to see Kannon Dupree travel? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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

Kannon – about my main character – by Rhonda Roberts

gladiatrix

My main character, Kannon Dupree, is named after the Japanese Bodhisattva of Compassion. The Japanese words for Kannon actually mean ‘the one who hears all cries for help’ and a Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has chosen to stay on Earth to help liberate all sentient life forms from suffering. She can be traced back to an earlier Indian Bodhisattva called Avalokitesvara and is known in China as Guan Yin.

Kannon Dupree was two years old when she was left for dead in a cave in the Kanangra-Boyd National Park and suffered extreme post traumatic stress syndrome. To help the little girl sleep at night Yuki, Kannon’s adopted mother, used to hold her and call on the Bodhisattva to heal her. Eventually the little girl thought that it was her own name.

I first came across Kannon, the Buddhist icon, when I was living in Nagoya, Japan. I’m not a Buddhist but I found her serenely smiling statues very attractive. She’s a very popular religious figure in Japan and there are temples to her everywhere. There’s a big temple to the Bodhisattva in Nagoya near Osu Kannon train station. When I was living there it was right in the middle of an old part of the city, full of little temples and tiny old markets selling antiques and kimonos. So whenever I’d visit the temple it would seem as though I’d travelled back in time.

It seemed natural to use the name for my main character.

Rhonda Roberts lives in the Illawarra just south of Sydney. She’s currently at work on Hoodwink, the follow up to Gladiatrix. Rhonda has a PhD in Science, Technology and Society and 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

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

Rhonda Roberts on time travel

Time travel became a passion for me when I was a kid growing up in Western Australia. In my school holidays we used to visit these old towns left over from the Gold Rush, full of huge ornate marble pubs and grand post offices.

Talk about ghost towns… You could almost hear the rowdy miners laden down with gold dust and nuggets bellying up to the bar for a beer on a Saturday night. But when I saw them the towns were deserted and choked with dust and weeds.

A decade or so later I spent nine months living with a family in a quaint little Bavarian village in the shadow of a ruined castle. They told me about the great battle that had been fought there two hundred years before that was so brutal a river of blood had flowed. The village observed the seasons, holding beer fests in summer and dances in winter; there were deer and other game in the local forests… It felt like I’d gone back to an older, agrarian time.

I love travel and every different culture I’ve visited has presented me with glimpses of a past world and past way of life. It was this passion with different histories and different cultures that led me to become an academic specializing in cross-cultural analysis of knowledge systems. And time travel just had to be a key part of the Time Stalker series too.

Rhonda Roberts lives in the Illawarra just south of Sydney. She’s currently at work on Hoodwink, the follow up to Gladiatrix. Rhonda has a PhD in Science, Technology and Society and 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