Fiona McIntosh, author of The Valisar Trilogy, answers Five Facetious Questions

by |February 21, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona McIntosh

author of The Valisar Trilogy: Royal Exile, Tyrant’s Blood and King’s Wrath, and many, many more…

Five Facetious Questions


1. Every writer spends at least one afternoon going from bookshop to bookshop making sure his or her latest book is facing out and neatly arranged. How far have you gone to draw attention to your own books in a shop?

Agreeing to work in a busy bookshop in a huge shopping centre over the Christmas period and ruthlessly spruiking my titles – along with some other very good fantasy authors I might add. Even so, sales for my titles soared that week. Far more effective than covering up Twilight on the shelves with a pile of my own books!

2. So you’re a published author, almost a minor celebrity and for some reason you’ve been let into a party full of ‘A-listers’ – what do you do?

Zero in on Colin Firth and then faint. He’s English with very good manners and will have to catch me or at the very least attend to me. And as I gradually recover I’ll find a way to drop into the conversation that I am a novelist and I think I have the most fabulous part for him as one of the characters in my books that – oh blimey, how incredible, just extraordinary – it’s tailormade for him…

Whatever I did, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to make something happen.

3. Some write because they feel compelled to, some are Artists and do it for the Muse, some do it for the cash (one buck twenty a book) and some do it because they think it makes them more attractive to the opposite sex – why do you do write? (NB: don’t say -‘cause I can’t sing, tap or paint!)

Because I can. Some others can’t. Some are envious of my ability to throw together a story in the same way that I am envious of Angelina Jolie’s ability to grow that body or someone else’s ability to draw… or write beautiful songs, or make incredible music. That old adage that we all have our particular gifts (is that an adage?)… anyway, ahem, we’re all good at different things. The trick in life is finding out what we’re good at and then ruthlessly exploiting it.

I was good at sales and marketing for 16 years and made a nice living as a result. There was absolutely no reason for me to change career – in fact it was financially crippling for five years. But I wanted to do this other thing that I thought I could be good at. I had no idea whether I would be but I was daring enough to stop dreaming it and try. Once I found out that a publisher liked what I wrote I preferred the notion of making a living out of being a writer than selling and marketing a product. Curious how it’s all rolling into one now because I’ve discovered that to be successful as a writer you also have to be an all singing, all dancing entertainer and you have to be a canny marketer. But! And I think I’m getting to a point here, I write because stories come to me.

I have always been a storyteller. In the days before games consoles, before television even, when children were thrown out into a back garden in England and told not to make a noise we had to make our own fun. We had to use our imaginations and so sticks became weapons and trees became homes and someone had to build a story and various scenarios within that story for us to imagine ourselves in and characters that we had to become. I was always the dreamer who came up with the plotlines.

So now I earn a living by making use of a childhood trait. Okay here’s my point – I’ve got to it at last. I write novels because I have the imagination to weave an entertaining story with a lively cast of characters.

4. Have you ever come to the end of writing a particularly fine paragraph, paused momentarily, chuffed with your own genius, only to find you’ve been sitting at the computer nude or with your dress half-way over your head or shaving cream on your face or toilet paper sticking out the back of your undies or paused to find that you’re singing We are the Champions at the top of your voice, having exchanged the words ‘we are’ for ‘I am’ and dropping an ‘s’?

No? Well, what’s your most embarrassing writing moment?

I ate an entire box of chocolates – a special box… a gift I’d bought for a friend to give her later that day. I’d made a special trip to a chocolatier for it, paid handsomely for it and I had it sitting on my desk ready with its card. But I became so lost in the moment, or rather the moments of crafting a very tense chapter that I must have reached for the box, opened it and without any self awareness inadvertently crammed all of them down my gullet, with a vacant look, totally trapped in my fantasy world.

Hello, I’m Fiona …and I’m a chocoholic.

I was shocked when I came out of my stupor to guiltily survey the detritus of the near empty box, spilling its tissue paper and its ravaged paper cups and half-eaten, oozing chocs.

Very embarrassing. I had to dash out and buy her a gift voucher instead!

5. Rodin placed his thinker on the loo – where and/or when do you seem to get your best ideas?

When I’m baking. I love cooking but I love baking best of all – making pastry, mixing up a cake, pouring a batter or pulling out a tray of hot scones. It transports to me to different place and my mind empties of all the day to day noise and I think I become very receptive to story ideas. I can achieve a similar but far more transient effect when I’m eating chocolate. All those lovely endorphins charging around chase away life’s stresses and suddenly and briefly I’m in utopia and ideas feel much closer to the surface of my mind.

Fiona, thank you for playing.

(Fiona recently answered my Ten Terrifying Questions – you can read those answers here)


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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, was published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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