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Salon du Livre 2009 : interview de Fiona McIntosh

Par Aléthia, le mercredi 8 avril 2009 à 16:48:07

Interview en anglais

You have been invited by Bragelonne, your French editor, at Le Salon du Livre. What do you think of this book fair and do you see a difference between this one and the ones you’re used to go to?
With Bragelonne there is a real, wonderful sense of fun. I think they, individually and collectively, love what they are doing and it shows. I love being a part of them, and I’m not just saying that. Every time I come to Paris, there is a sense of joy to be with them. It’s a young team, a very ambitious team with very good heads on their shoulders, led by Alain (Névant) who does the business side so well and Stéphane (Marsan) who picks so cleverly which authors to bring on board. I admire them hugely. I’ve been to many conventions but not a full on book fair and of course I had a wonderful time. French readers are generous and enthusiastic… and so patient, queuing quietly for so long ! I have to learn French so that I can talk to each of those patient readers and tell them how much I appreciate them coming along to meet me and trying my books.
What do you think of the welcome you received from your French fans ? How is your relation with them?
I find them extraordinary. I communicate with them via email and they have a wonderful website and message board which is extremely active and I just wish I could speak in French well enough to be part of that board. I visit and I stay in touch with one of the girls, Ophidia, and she keeps my news rolling through to the rest of the gang that goes to the board and we all met yesterday. We met in a lovely coffee shop for a wonderful couple of hours together. Some of them are shy but that’s because we’re strangers. Our relationships are though the books and the characters we all love. So I was thrilled to meet them and we’re going to meet again I think next year. I think we will be quite good friends from now on. And the group that came today to the book fair are so generous … and so patient! I was privileged to meet them and to be here. I know that sounds like rhetoric but I have to keep pinching myself. I’m having a good time.
How would you define The Royal Exile in relation to your other works. What does this trilogy mean to you?
This trilogy was a return to a very familiar stomping ground for me. I really like medieval fantasy and I quite like it set in Europe. The previsous series I set it in a sort of Middle-Eastern style Constantinople and that was great fun. It gave me a lot of scopes to do different landscapes. But to come back into Europe felt comfortable, secure, and very familiar.
How does it defer?
It’s a much darker story I think. In book one, you tend to know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. But in book two, the boundaries begin to blur and readers may begin to change their mind about whose side they might be on. That keeps it interesting, very challenging and quite a surprise. All the way through book one I really liked the villain. I didn’t want to and I didn’t mean to but I really liked him. And I liked him even more in book two, because I think for all his ruthlessness and the cruelty that lies within him, there is a fragility that is only just coming through now. I like that about him. So it is a very different sort of read but it is full of the usual trademarks. I think I just get worse and worse with some of the brutality that comes through in these books. I must stop !
Before the Valisar Trilogy, you wrote the Percheron trilogy. Do you know why this trilogy has not been released in France before Valisar? Do you have any release date for this material?
The reason that happened is my fault. Because Bragelonne had already agreed to publish Percheron, had already started to translate it but I suggested that if Exile is coming out in Britain, in America and in Australia why don’t we bring it out in France at the same time. I didn’t want French readers to always be playing catch up on the latest series so I thought let’s try to do it all at once. I’m always careful about readers and how they feel. Let me assure readers that we are definitely publishing Percheron in France. It will probably come straight after book three – King’s Wrath – of Valisar.
A lot of Australian writers are now published outside Australia, especially in Fantasy writing. Some, like Robin Hobb, said that there was something undeniably Australian that attracted people. In our last interview, you disagreed with this view of a typically Australian Fantasy writing. So how could you explain the success of Australian writers abroad now?
I think Australians happened to be gathering steam and writing Fantasy at about the same time that publishers were looking for something fresh. Speaking for myself, my stories tend to have certain trademarks – such as the brutality for instance or the somewhat relentless pace (although I am learning to slow things down). There is always a love story. My books tend to be a little twisty-turny and unpredictable but that’s because I don’t plan anything… I just write freestyle. So for me, my success has been based on being just a little bit quirky and different from what you were getting with the Brits and the Americans. And I think that’s why I had some success.
Why the rest of the Australians are doing well ? I think after a handful of Aussie fantasy writers enjoyed some success internationally, a few more of us began to bang loudly on some doors and some publishers decided to open those doors and see if other Australian writers could achieve similarly high results. I think perhaps what Robin referred to in her ‘undeniably Australian’ remark is that Aussie writers are prepared to take risks in their writing.
Last year, you published a crime novel, Bye Bye Baby, under the pseudonym of Lauren Crow. A second book, Beautiful Death, is due in April. 2009 will also see the release of the second volume of Valisar, A Tyrant’s Blood. How do you deal with these two aspects of your career? And towards which of these genre will you turn to for your future projects?
I write crime, I write adult fantasy I write children’s fantasy and I write historical sagas for the mainstream audience so I am juggling various styles and genres. I compartmentalise quite easily and this makes it less difficult for me to slide between genres without fear. I don’t analyse it too hard and I don’t permit myself to feel daunted. I always try to leap in with enthusiasm.
How do I deal with these aspects? I only work on one story at a time in terms of creation but I may be editing a Crime or proofreading another novel and producing maps for a fantasy simultanesouly as well. But I’m only ever crafting one story at one time. That’s how I can keep it quite disciplined and not allow the creative part of the work to blur. I also write fast and this means I can usually produce a new novel in a maximum of 16 weeks.
Which way will I go? I refuse to make a choice at this stage because I want to write all sorts of things. I love Fantasy and I hope to always write Fantasy but I really like Crime. Crime is an addictive genre and is actually a very good balance to Fantasy. Many who read Fantasy find it quite easy to read Crime because you go from other worlds to very real life. I find that quite a good balance. I would love to produce a Cookery book, I’d like to do radio and I’d love to do the screenplay of one of my novels. I will probably frustrate some people by writing lots of different things but it keeps me fresh for each genre. Incidentally I should tell you that Bye Bye Baby is being published in French translation by Pygmalion.
You also wrote children’s fiction. Why do you decide to write for younger readers? Did you want to recreate the stories you liked as a child or did you want to create something new?
With the adult fantasy people expect a certain type of story from me which is absolutely fine, I will keep giving them that type of story. But, being a mother, and enjoying children’s books I also wanted to write something that had a simplistic quality, but was a big story where the characters are larger than life and I didn’t need to give them a big back story. Children just want to go straight into the action so I wanted to write a story like that with big characters, fast paced, plenty happening.
What were the books you liked as a child? What kind of books did you read?
I read Fantasy, I read only Fairy stories for a long, long time but once I read CS Lewis I was lost in Narnia and found it very hard to make the transition back from Fantasy to other styles of reading. So I’ve never really grown up I think!
While writing for younger readers, do you work differently than when you’re writing for adults? Do you think that readers should draw a line between adult novels and novels for younger readers as it is now the case?
I don’t work any differently. My head space and the way I think and approach the work is exactly the same, I don’t include any torture in my children’s books but there is always a threat of brutality. I think children shouldn’t be treated quite so innocently particularly the readers of the age group I’m writing for (10 to 12). They are capable of reading adult books and distinguishing between what is real in life and what is make believe in novels.
Do I think there should be a line drawn? Yes I do. I’m a mother and I didn’t permit my sons to read my books until they were slightly older, around 14. There is a line to be drawn and I think parents have to do it. I don’t think school should do it, I don’t think an authority should censor what the child is reading but I think parents should take a look and make a conscious decision along the lines of : maybe this is not an appropriate read, we’ll hold on to this and you could read it a little bit later but try this. Which is why I write younger reader’s books. So that they still get the same kind of adventures, excitement, the same kind of writing, the same kind of story there is just not a lot of slitting of throats ! No cannibalism, no crucifixion, no stoning ! (laugh)
Among your passions listed on your website, we can see that besides hot chocolate you’re addicted to Colin Firth. During our last interview you wished for the new year to be able to meet him. Have you been able to fulfil this wish?
No ! I think he deliberately evades me ! But I met somebody whose husband knows his brother. So that is a very loose connection I can perhaps follow and ultimately meet him ! But I hear he’s married to a beautiful Italian so what’s the point ? I’ll just go on watching his movies and enjoy him. But I have a new obsession : Hugh Jackman ! I love Hugh Jackman. He can replace Colin and I’m a bit closer to Hugh because he’s Australian but he too has a beautiful wife and they are very happy so …. (laugh) Ps : I have a lovely husband and I too am very happy. But it’s nice to daydream !
  1. Interview en français
  2. Interview en anglais

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