• 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!

     

     

Videos for Chronicles of the Tree book 3: Oracle’s Fire

Have a look at the amazing trailer for Mary Victoria’s upcoming book Oracle’s Fire! It showcases the fantastic cover art for Tymon’s Flight by her husband Frank:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_vPvoJDH0w&feature=autoplay&list=ULwUf8SbOgafM&index=1&playnext=7

Also, here’s a video of Helen Lowe reading from Book 2 in the series Samiha’s Song at the recent ConText convention in Auckland:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8agXQNpc5Y

Keep em’ coming Mary! Oracle’s Fire is the third book in a the Chronicles of the Tree trilogy and is due out in October.

Roger Kupelian talks about keeping it real in Hollywood, illustrating Tymon’s Flight

Roger Kupelian's amazing illustration of Tymon's Flight (click to see in full glory on Mary's website)

Mary: Roger, you’ve worked for huge names, on huge film productions – ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Flags of Our Fathers’, ‘Cloverfield’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and many more – but also on very personal art house projects, like your latest collaboration with Serj Tankian,‘Glaring Through Oblivion,’ a book of illustrated poetry due out this month. Which persona do you prefer – the highly sought-after vfx worker, or the independent artist? Do you think there’s any tension between the two, or do you manage to deftly dance on that Hollywood tightrope?

Roger: You feed the beast so you can ride the beast. In other words the two worlds compliment each other due to the tension that exists between them. One is art for commerce in all its variants and the other being the personal expression of something deeply meaningful. The lucrative lure and associate notoriety of “big name projects” is all well and good in the beginning but one realizes how much creative control you give up to basically plug up gaps in a megalithic endeavor. With the poetry book I was free once again to explore the medium. It’s really the same path, a slider-scale. One’s the side road and one is the expressway. But I hold no Illusions that both share the same ingredients.

Mary: I admire the way you manage that balancing act. When we first discussed the possibility of illustrating a scene from ‘Tymon’s Flight’, I confess part of me was thinking, “Why is he bothering with me, a debut novelist? This guy has worked for Jackson, Burton, Eastwood, helping to bring multi-million dollar projects to life…” But as soon as I began talking to you about the scene you were thinking of illustrating, those anxieties disappeared. I knew you didn’t care a bit if the project was large or small – so long as the world was vivid, the story engaging and you felt excited about the art you were creating. You told me afterwards: “When I was doing the painting, and I always do this with successful work, I get into the emotion of it.”

Moving on from that thought, I’d love to know – when you’re planning to paint a scene, how do you get yourself into that emotional space? What steps do you follow to conjure up, for example, the urgency and desperation of a battle, that palpable sense of danger? Continue reading

Roger Kupelian illustrates ‘Tymon’s Flight’

One of the peculiar side-effects of having lived in several, very different parts of the globe is the likelihood of running into people who have also lived in those places, wherever one happens to be. I have gone to school with someone in Cyprus, only to find her again years later as a student in England – crossed paths on several occasions with people who once lived in the same town as I did, sometimes in the same suburb, though we are both now on the other side of the world. That tendency for me was further exacerbated by working in special effects, a career pursued by a relatively small number of people who often freelance in different countries.

By the time I came to work at Weta Digital, I was regularly meeting people I’d lived down the road from or gone to school with, whether in Toronto, London, Washington D.C. or Paris. (I began to have nightmares of them all turning to me at once and saying, “you can’t possibly have lived near every single one of us. You didn’t go to those places. We don’t believe you.”)
Up till then, one country had been conspicuously absent from the list. I had not yet found any special effects workers from Sierra Leone, where my family lived from 1984 to 1986. But at Weta, I finally met a talented digital matte painter who had grown up in Freetown. Roger Kupelian’s background is Armenian and he was born in Lebanon, but his whole childhood was pure Sierra Leone. In him, I felt I’d found a long lost brother – after all, how many other people did I know whose parents had left their ancestral homes to wander to the same countries mine had, and who greeted me with the Freetown “how di body” and “kusheh” when I came to work in the morning? Here was a kindred soul.

Roger and I have kept in touch since we both left Weta Digital. He has moved back to California with his family, where he set up an effects and filmmaking facility, Fugitive Studios. I have watched his career develop with great interest over the years: a versatile artist, he is equally at home in VFX, design, graphic novels and film production. He has made videos for Serj Tankian and produced proof of concept reels for his own historical epic, ‘East of Byzantium.’ A graphic novel for ‘East of Byzantium’ is also in the works, and Roger’s collaboration with Serj Tankian on a book of poetry and illustration, ‘Glaring Through Oblivion’, is due out in March.

One of the great perks of being a fantasy writer is to see one’s creations brought to life by artists, whether on book covers or in other formats. There’s something very special about a creative person taking the time to conjure up marvelous images of your own, invented worlds – a sort of ultimate vote of confidence from one kind of artist to another. Imagine my joy when Roger indicated he would be interested in illustrating a scene from ‘ Tymon’s Flight’. (I’ll give you a hint: my reaction involved a fangirl squeal of excitement.)

Last week, when I received the finished piece, I sat for a few moments just looking at it, imagining the scene of the battle for the Freehold as he had depicted it – the smell of smoke and burning tree gum, the desperate Freeholders, the vast, menacing majesty of the Argosian airships. I did not post the image on the blog at once because of the Christchurch earthquake. But now, I feel I can give it its due. Without further ado, I would like to share Roger Kupelian’s vision of the epic battle that closes ‘Tymon’s Flight’ with you. I hope you enjoy discovering the Chronicles of the Tree through his eyes, as much as I did…

Click for a larger view
Roger Kupelian’s amazing illustration of Tymon’s Flight (click to enlarge)

Also have a look at the original artwork of Tymon’s Flight done by Mary Victoria’s partner, Frank Victoria.

Mary and Frank live in Wellington on the North Island of New Zealand. Mary is currently working on the third book in the Chronicles of the Tree, Oracle’s Fire. The other two books in the series, Tymon’s Flight and Samiha’s Song are available from all good bookshops across Australia and NZ, and as e-books from Amazon, Apple and Kobo.

 

Mary Victoria on: Introducing a new character

Samiha's Song

Before picking up the second installment in a fantasy series, I often find myself wondering whether I’ll be reunited with the protagonists I loved in the first book, or whether the author will introduce me to a different cast of characters altogether. There is no one right way to write a trilogy, after all, and options range from J.R.R. Tolkien’s direct continuation of the same tale through several volumes to authors who shift their main protagonists between each book, or set their subsequent stories years after the first.

Samiha’s Song takes an approach closer to the Tolkien end of the spectrum, continuing Tymon and Samiha’s story almost where it left off in the first book, though the action begins two weeks after the events concluding Tymon’s Flight. As such, it is not a stand-alone novel, but part of an ongoing tale begun in book one and ending in book three. That said, there are several new and important characters introduced in this second book, characters who have an enormous impact on the overall arc of the story and who make Samiha’s Song very much their own.

The World Tree rises up ...

The first is Jedda, Tymon’s fellow student, who like him is leaving the Freehold and traveling to distant city to begin her Grafter training. Both Tymon and Jedda are about to meet their new teacher, the Oracle of Nur – but more about her in moment.

Jedda is quite different to Tymon in both her personality type and general outlook on life. On the surface, she is a survivor, a pragmatist, shunning idealism in her quest for power and knowledge. That is how she wishes others to see her. But like all of us, Jedda’s character contains internal contradictions. Underneath the hardened shell there is a young girl with a great capacity for empathy and loyalty – qualities she is at pains to hide, because she fears they will make her seem weak.

I enjoyed writing Jedda tremendously. I liked her contradictions and her rebellious streak. She is a complex character in a complex world, and a good foil for Tymon, who tends to make rather stiff moral judgments about people and situations first, and ask questions later. Jedda always asks the questions first.

Just as Tymon’s Flight was in essence a coming of age tale, Samiha’s Song is about what happens afterwards, in adulthood. It is about learning to be true to yourself, to know yourself thoroughly. The three main characters – Tymon, Samiha, and Jedda – are all on a voyage of self-discovery, finding out who they truly are and what they are capable of. That process can be enlightening or shocking as the case may be.

The Oracle of Nur is the catalyst setting Tymon and Jedda’s development in motion. She is a challenging personality herself, hard to define in terms of simplistic moral judgments, and the two young students do not know to begin with whether she is good or evil, friend or foe. She sees the future continually, a capacity that makes her quite difficult to understand and get along with in a traditional sense. She does not simply meet a person in the everyday way; she meets that person’s past, present and possible future all at the same time. Her first task as Tymon and Jedda’s teacher is to bring her students face-to-face with themselves: in that mirror they will begin to see how far they have to go.

There are several other major characters making inaugural appearances in Samiha’s Song, but to describe them here would be a spoiler… Suffice to say that wherever Tymon goes on his journey, there will be new faces and fresh surprises, and that nothing is what it seems to be, at first glance…

Mary Victoria lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She’s working on the final book in the Chronicles of the Tree trilogy, Oracle’s Fire.  Her most recent book is Samiha’s Song. Visit Mary at her website and read some of the posts by other fantasy authors on the theme of Writing Strong Women.strong>

An interview with Mary Victoria

 

Samiha's Song

Tymon’s Flight author, Mary Victoria, is interviewed on Helen Lowe’s … on Anything, Really blog about the newly released Samiha’s Song, the second in her Chronicles of the Tree trilogy—and discusses the characters, the expansion in focus, and the ideas driving this new book and the series.

To celebrate the release of Samiha’s Song, Mary will be giving away a signed book set of both Tymon’s Flight and Samiha’s Song, to be drawn from those who comment on the interview.

To read the interview, click here.

Writing Strong Women: the inspiration for Samiha

The cover of Samiha's Song, illustrated by Frank Victoria

Eighty years ago, a Jewish businessman from Baghdad wooed and married a Persian lady of good family in Teheran, taking her to live in Kampala, Uganda in what would become the first in a series of globetrotting moves that eventually scattered their descendants as far as Canada, South Africa and the US, passing by Germany, England, France and New Zealand for good measure.

That Persian lady was my great-grandmother and her husband, the enterprising Baghdadi businessman, my great-grandfather. She went on to have six children, to live in Uganda, the Canary Islands and finally Canada, and to become the beloved matriarch of a family that still somehow manages to maintain contact over four continents. He is buried in Uganda and remembered to this day by the community he lived in for 30 years.

My great-grandmother’s name was Samiheh, an Iranian version of the Arabic, Samiha. She was proud of the name, and of the Siyyid ancestor somewhere in the family background – a pinch of unverifiable lore, to go with her magnificent cooking. We called her Mamajan, of course, meaning “dear mother”. She was a rock of faith, a pivot of news, views and salty truths, and a queen in every sense of the word for us. With such a matriarch in the family, then, it was little wonder that I grew up, a baby playing at her feet, with the firm conviction that there was no greater accomplishment on this earth than to be a mother. For a long time I pitied the poor, weak boy-creatures who could never aspire to such heights.

Later on, when I began developing the invented language spoken by some of the inhabitants of the World Tree, the Nurians, I chose Persian and Arabic words as templates. And although I did not base the character, Samiha, directly on my great-grandmother, I did borrow her name, her strength of mind and a certain aroma of spicy aristocracy, a pinch of queenliness. For true royalty is above all an outlook, the certainty that one is fulfilling the highest of destinies, even if that destiny involves apparent suffering or humiliation.

‘Samiha’s Song’ is in part about strong women and how they often pay dearly for their refusal to toe the line. And so I wanted to mark the occasion of its publication with this homage to strong women everywhere, whether in fact or fiction, history or present reality. Over the next few weeks I hope to share with you the thoughts of my wonderful guest posters on the subject. We will talk about the process of creating memorable female characters in fantasy fiction and the real-life people who inspire us, the actual Samihas of this world. I have chosen of course to ask male authors as well as female ones to give me their insights, as I am no longer quite as fierce an Amazon princess was I was at the age of two. I suspect we will have a great deal of fun exploring the subject together.

Were she here, I believe my great-grandmother would be amused to see the odd use I have made of her venerable family name…

Samiha’s Song by Mary Victoria is now out. You can follow the guest blog party over at Mary’s website, where she has invited other writers such as Nicole R Murphy and Kim Falconer to blog about Writing Strong Women.

A poetic request by Mary Victoria

If you’re celebrating festive seasons,
Looking for sufficient reason
To pick up presents, searching through
The knick-knack section at the Warehouse do
Consider something different this year, something better
Than a plastic toy or knitted sweater
Buy a world, a whole new world
Hours of fun and wonder curled
Between the pages, just like magic:
It’s called a Book, the latest gadget.

As Mary says on her LiveJournal, where this poem was originally posted, support NZ writers this Christmas – including Mary herself.

We’d add to that: support Australian writers too! And Australian and NZ bookshops!

And good luck with your gift-buying over the next two weeks.