We asked the lovely Fiona McIntosh to answer some questions for us about her writing, recipes and thoughts. Here is what she had to say!
What inspires you to write?
I’m inspired in my writing by emotions, particularly the most dramatic ones i.e. rage, revenge, betrayal, love and loss.
In terms of why I’m inspired to write it’s probably because I’m a control freak who loves the escape of stories and by writing I can create the sort of tales that I want to get lost in. I’m a daydreamer and storyteller…I guess that’s a very natural – in fact, genetic - combination that is inherent for a writer of fiction.
Why do you think that you have succeeded in crossing the genres when many other authors have failed?
Oh that’s a tough one. No one really fails if they finish their manuscript. I really believe anyone who does complete their novel is a winner. You are asking me - I think - how come I’ve been able to sell novels across several genres, which perhaps other people find challenging. This is a really tricky question because so many aspects of publishing come into play here. It’s a lot to do with crafting and delivering the right story at the right time. It’s a lot to do with luck of choosing to shift into the right genre at the right time too and coming together with an editor who loves the story. And then it’s about writing exactly what the legion of fans of that genre expect and want from their books. I’m wired very commercially. I’m never trying to write award winners or magnificent prose that make people weep. I am a nuts and bolts storyteller who will guarantee her reader a fast paced, absorbing escape into a story that I try to make very hard to put down. If you read my fantasy, my crime, my historical adventure/romances…even my children’s books – they have identical hallmarks. I tend to write tense, action-packed, strongly character driven pieces. So I never really change my style across genres. What’s happening, I suspect, is that people who read my fantasy for instance, are prepared to read me in other genres simply because they enjoy my storytelling and trust me that I’ll give them that escape whether the book is set in an imaginary world or our own, whether it’s contemporary or historical. I feel very privileged that readers do trust me and I do love being able to shift across such a variety of genres.
Is it strange to cross genres?
Not at all. I welcome it and relish it because it keeps me sharp. After reading a huge fantasy trilogy the last thing I feel like is reading another huge fantasy series. I’m often not ready to let go of the world, the story and especially the characters. I need to let it all settle. So, as a reader after a big fantasy series I’ll often switch over to crime or historical. It’s no different with my writing. After writing a huge half million word trilogy set in a world of my own imagination, I have no desire to leap into another one immediately but I don’t mind the change over to a crime thriller set in contemporary London for instance or a WWll adventure romance.
In Fields of Gold, it is known that the story is loosely based on your family history. What fascinated you about those characters to make you want to write about them?
Everything about them fascinated me. The setting of India. The era of the 1920s. The inter-racial marriages that created the Anglo Indian community and how they straddled both nations, believing themselves British while remaining entirely sentimental about India, its people, its culture. I was fascinated by both my grandfathers being such adventurers and the backdrops of the goldfields and the dangerous pursuit of mining in those times felt irresistible to write about. And now that I’ve cut my teeth on historical fiction I want to write so much more!
What do you like writing more - Crime, Fantasy, General Fiction?
I am increasingly pursuing more mainstream fiction because it provides me with so much scope to take my writing wherever I please but I honestly don’t love one genre more than the other. Fantasy is a comfort zone – I love it and I won’t let it go. Crime is what I like to read a lot of and so it’s fun to write my own. General fiction gives me the whole world to play in and because I’m a great traveller from childhood days, I tend to make these stories move across nations and exotic settings. I’ve always enjoyed learning about history and so setting my general fiction in decades past makes it fun and enriching because I enjoy the research for these tales. And I actually don’t entirely subscribe to the whole genre thing. When I’m writing fantasy I’m writing general fiction with magic in it. When I’m writing crime I’m writing general fiction with a villain and a detective. When I’m writing general fiction I’m probably writing magic realism because I often introduce ethereal aspects to my stories and there’s always death and mystery in my general fiction so the crime creeps in…as does romance. I prefer to say I write fiction that everyone can enjoy and I ignore that whole boxing up of genres. I firmly believe that if someone loves The Lavender Keeper for instance, they’re going to love Beautiful Death or the Valisar Trilogy.
What was the spark that made you want to write Lavender Keeper, your new book?
The spark was a publisher asking me to give him my next idea for an historical action adventure. I was on my way to France – sitting in Melbourne international terminal. I had just returned from Tasmania, where I’d learned about its amazing lavender farm. I just threw the two together and came up with the idea for The Lavender Keeper, which I scribbled down in two paragraphs of an email and my publisher at Penguin loved it, bought it.
Are you going to be basing any more of your fantasy works in the world of the Trinity series.
I never say never. I’ve returned to the lands of Morgravia and Briavel for the next adult fantasy coming out later this year and while I have no immediate plans to go back to Tallinor, I mention it freely in other series and I see absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t return sometime and see how they’re all getting on. I like the idea of all my fantasy lands being part of one world anyway.
How much research goes into one book?
Loads! Months of my time! Thousands of dollars worth of travel and hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of research books. It’s easy to get lost in the research because it’s a bottomless abyss, especially for something like The Lavender Keeper that is set in wartorn Europe of WWll. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve read, watched, listened to, travelled to..just in order to set the scenes right in my mind. But it’s worth it – as you’ll see when you read the new novel
Can you describe The Lavender Keeper and what it means to you?
This is essentially the story of three people set against the enormous and traumatic landscape of WWll – particularly Occupied Paris - and how their lives connect. It’s action packed, full of tension and heartbreak. It’s about survival, enduring love and loyalty.
It is my favourite story that I’ve written. I loved everything about crafting this tale – the era is perfect for me, the setting of Provence and Paris is delicious, the characters are each so strong that they made the challenge of writing them a lot of fun. The emotions run very high in this story and that really appealed. The heartbreak and helplessness of the war made me cry, not only while I researched but even as I put together scenes. That’s powerful stuff. I feel energised through this book and definitely enriched for all that I’ve learned about World War ll in order to understand what I was writing.
If I’ve ever dreamed of a movie being made about one of my novels, it’s this one!
If you were to have a cuppa with any person from history, who would it be and why?
Right now that would be Adolf Hitler. I want to ask him what the hell was in his head?
What is your favourite recipe?
Oh Tarran. So many! I think it has to be the coffee ice cream I’ve perfected (very hard to get a rich and real coffee flavour into anything) which I’d serve with my favourite hot chocolate fondants, collapsing beneath my fork into a volcano of dark chocolate lava.
Thank you Fiona!! I must say that coffee ice cream sounds delicious!! I have been experimenting with ice creams lately myself and really enjoyed making them.
Fiona's new book The Lavender Keeper will be on shelves 28/03/2012 and I for one am looking forward to reading it!!
If you want to find out more about Fiona, then go to her webiste here and start reading all the books this wonderful author has written for us.