• 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!



Food for Thought (in Fantasy Fiction)

I have this theory about food in fantasy fiction.  Possibly brought on by listening to too many Discworld audio books in quick succession.  But my brain is the kind that likes to make lists, and catalogue things, and organise them in my head.  So here is my theory:

There are three kinds of food in fantasy fiction: stew, lark’s tongues, and sausages in buns.

Sydney restaurant Gastro Park’s recent sell out Game of Thrones menu

Don’t believe me?

When I say ‘Stew’ I mean camping food generally, though of course Stew itself is the star of any fantasy hero’s menu – a nourishing substance which travellers eat every single night while questing.  I was first made aware of this tradition when reading The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings, in which Polgara the sorceress took great pride in feeding brown sludge to everyone for dinner (and its breakfast counterpart, gruel).  As an adult, I wonder whether Polgara had a magical crockpot bubbling away in her saddlebags throughout the day?

The late, great Diana Wynne Jones, who left a marvellous legacy to fantasy readers and writers everywhere with The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, had this to say about stew:

You may be shortly longing passionately for omelette, steak, or baked beans, but none of these will be forthcoming, indoors or out.  Stew will be what you are served to eat every single time.  Given the disturbed nature of life in this land, where in camp you are likely to be attacked without warning, and in an inn prone to be the centre of a tavern brawl, Stew seems to be an odd choice as a staple food since, on a rough calculation, it takes forty times as long to prepare as steak… Do not expect a salad on the side.”

Other staples of travel food involve some variation between Tolkien’s elf-made lembas, the magical crackers which give you the ability to move forward with your plot without stopping for a sandwich, and Pratchett’s dwarf-bread, which is made with gravel and kitty litter and exists solely to make you feel very creative about the art of roadside foraging.

Next there’s the lark’s tongues – which is to say that most aristocrats and/or villains of fantasy fiction tend to eat like characters in the Roman Satires.  Never mind the hearty meat-on-meat dishes that kings like Henry VIII actually feasted upon – while medieval is the order of the day in a great deal of fantasyworld building, the posh menus are more likely to borrow from The Feast of Trimalchio: decadent, outrageously expensive and often tiny portions of food, eaten delicately and with great ritual.  You can’t help wondering if sometimes they’d like a plain old bowl of stew instead of poached peacock slivers in aspic!

It also has the side effect that you begin to question whether anyone eating quail’s eggs is in fact a villain. I got served them unexpectedly in a caesar salad the other day, and I could feel myself turning into a grand vizier as I ate…

Mostly when I think about food in fantasy it’s those first two categories that spring to mind, but as I said at the beginning, I’ve been revisiting a lot of Discworld lately, and musing upon the repeated use of the sausage as plot hub and convenience food.  One of the most consistent supporting characters (never a protagonist) in the long run of Discworld novels is CMOT Dibbler, or “Throat” for short, named after his catchphrase “and that’s cutting my own throat” when he offers discount prices.  While he’s a seller of many things through the series, his core product is sausageinnabun, and it’s this foodstuff that he returns to whenever his other moneymaking scams have run dry.
As with all true junk food, Dibbler’s sausages are both appealing and appalling, sometimes in the same mouthful.  The appeal is often their cheapness and the fact that they are there, but those who do eat them often regret it.

“And then you bit into them, and learned once again that Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler could find a use for bits of an animal that the animal didn’t know it had got. Dibbler had worked out that with enough fried onions and mustard people would eat anything.
— Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

While Dibbler’s sausages are probably the most epic example, there must be more convenience food in fantasy, right?  I’d love to hear some examples from readers – as well as their favourite instances of Stew or Lark’s Tongue Cuisine in fantasy fiction.

This post was written by Tansy Rayner Roberts for her Flappers with Swords Blog Tour.

Tansy’s award-winning Creature Court trilogy: Power and Majesty, The Shattered City and Reign of Beasts, featuring flappers with swords, shape changers, half-naked men and bloodthirsty court politics, have been released worldwide on the Kindle, and on Kobo &  iTunes in Australia & New Zealand.  If you prefer your books solid and papery, they can also be found in all good Australian and New Zealand bookshops.

You can also check out Tansy’s work through the Hugo-nominated & Aurealis-winning crunchy feminist science fiction podcast Galactic Suburbia.  You can find her on the internet at her blog, or on Twitter as @tansyrr.

Tansy’s pretties: (AKA inspiration for Aufleur)

I love to hear about what other writers are using to inspire them visually (and aurally) in particular projects. Jennifer Crusie always creates a collage of inspirations for each book in progress which struck me as a great visual aid to keep you on point. I’ve never been organised enough to do that, and yet I always get the urge to make a quilt inspired by each book… heh, maybe someday.

I did enjoy Rowena’s post on the visual images she used to inspire King Rolen’s kin, though. My current project, the Creature Court trilogy I am writing for HarperCollins Voyager, is bursting with visual influences and inspirations, to the point where I am closer than I have ever been to making fabric art using some of the pictures.

The city of Rome is one of my biggest inspirations – it’s one of the few genuinely old cities I’ve ever spent any time in, and having spent a month tramping around it looking at temples and statues for my doctoral thesis, it lodged itself firmly enough in my mind that I was able to transform it into a fantasy city that has weight to it in my head – with a few fairly recognisable landmarks and far too many liberties, using a real place to centre it made me believe in the city of Aufleur far more than any imaginary location I have devised before.

Woodcut in grey and back - M C Escher

Woodcut in grey and back - M C Escher

(also setting my books in a single city means I get to indulge in horseless fantasy, my favourite type)

The fashions of the 1920’s are one of the most powerful influences – not only because of the look of many of the characters, but also because my heroine is a dressmaker and pretty much sees the world through clothes. The style of the city of Aufleur does not correspond exactly to any aspect of 1920’s Europe, America or Australia, but I have tried to use as many evocative elements as I can to create a world that at least indulges in some of the lesser-used historical iconography. I’ve been using bits and pieces from the 1930’s and 40’s, Victoriana and Ancient Rome as well, but it’s the 1920’s that seals the ‘look’ of the characters to me and I have great hope that the publishers will agree when it comes to cover art time.

'Where there's smoke, there's fire' by Russell Patterson

'Where there's smoke, there's fire' by Russell Patterson


Then there are the creatures – I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic animal lover (my daughter’s daycare recently took the kids to a pet shop on an excursion and I freaked out she might want a pet, luckily she’s robust and held out because um NO) but this whole story was sparked off by a little brown mouse I came upon unexpectedly in my writing room one day (halfway up the printer table leg, looking guilty as hell) and given that the story revolves around oh, shapechangers then it’s kind of important that I get to grips with the animalistic side of my characters. I have been collecting old fashioned illustrations of the various animals featured in the books (woodcuts of werewolves are my favourite) and once spent an entire day looking at pictures of, yes, mice. It counts as work, okay!

W. W. Denslow.  Mice pulling lion, 1899.  Pen-and-ink drawing.

W. W. Denslow. 'Mice pulling lion' (from illusration for The Wizard of Oz), 1899. Pen-and-ink drawing.

I don’t just use images to spark off inspiration and keep my head firmly in the city of Aufleur, though. I’ve been using music pretty heavily, collecting a writing soundtrack over the last several years which includes musicals (Moulin Rouge, Cabaret, Chicago), Berlin cabaret music, World War II songs (anything that makes me think of the Blitz is relevant!), and a lot of modern music which just conveys the right feel for characters or scenes.

My play list includes songs ranging from Cody Chestnutt’s “Look Good in Leather” and Pony Up’s “Dance For Me” to Grace Jones singing “Storm” and the amazing Ute Lemper singing anything she wants to. And um yes, it’s getting so every single character has their own individual playlist…

The best benefit for me of using music is I can put on the earbuds and instantly be in the right mindset for my characters. While I love to collect images suitable for Aufleur, it’s the music I reach for when I need an inspiration top-up. A year ago, I would have laughed at myself.

This post was originally published at the ROR (Ripping Ozzie Reads) blog. Reproduced by permission of author.

Tansy Rayner Roberts lives in Tasmania with her partner and daughter (with a new baby rather imminent). She has a PhD in Classics and runs a small family business from home, selling the Deepings Dolls. Power and Majesty, the first book of Tansy’s Creature Court fantasy trilogy featuring flappers, shapechangers and bloodthirsty court politics, will be released from HarperCollins Voyager in July 2010. Tansy blogs at http://cassiphone.livejournal.com and with a group of other wonderful Australian writers at http://ripping-ozzie-reads.blogspot.com. She can be found on Twitter and Facebook as tansyrr.