May 20, 2009 / 11:10 AM / 8 years ago

Book Talk: Fantasy author Fiona McIntosh gets into crime

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - After almost a decade of writing fantasy novels, Fiona McIntosh decided it was time to branch out into crime.

The Australian-based author, known for trilogies such as "Percheron," "The Quickening" and "Trinity," has just released her second crime book, "Beautiful Death," under the pen name Lauren Crow, which follows on from her 2007 book "Bye Bye Baby."

In "Beautiful Death," Detective Jack Hawksworth of New Scotland Yard returns to catch a killer harvesting the organs of his victims.

For the novel the British-born McIntosh, 48, spent weeks in London to ensure her settings were exactly right. She also spent time with David David, a leading cranio-facial surgeon in South Australia, as she researched facial transplants.

McIntosh spoke to Reuters about her writing, and crime: Q: From fantasy to crime. That's quite a shift

A: "It is almost diametrically opposed. Fantasy is a world of imagination in your own mind. You create worlds yourself and you are answerable to no one as to what occurs there. But when you write crime you have to keep the world very real and you are answerable to your reader."

Q: Why did you shift across?

A: "Fantasy is very much a comfort zone for me. It is something I have loved since childhood. Maybe I never climbed back out of the wardrobe. But crime is what I choose to read. I really enjoy reading crime, particularly British crime, not American crime as it tends to be overloaded with guns and forensics. British crime tends to be about the characters and police procedurals."

Q: Why move out of the comfort zone?

A: "It was more a product of circumstance in that HarperCollins wanted me to do one book a year. When you get to a certain level, they don't want to be bringing out two books a year by the same author. But I got so used to two books a year that I did not want to let go of that, so HarperCollins said to try something else. I had a go at crime and it really worked for me."

Q: Did your fantasy readers not feel betrayed?

A: "No. I think the crime has fed the fantasy. My fantasy fans have been established for a number of years now and I was honest with them and said I am trying crime and most of them have given it a go. But also people who have found my crime books then discover that there are 17 other books out there that I have written and they find the fantasy. Most crime readers do not want to know about fantasy because they think it is about goblins and magic but my fantasy is not like that at all."

Q: But aren't crime books a lot more gory?

A: "My fantasy books are quite brutal, set in a medieval setting where life is cheap. From that point of view, crime was an easy transition for me."

Q: How do you approach your writing?

A: "I only went into fulltime writing about two years ago. I was juggling fulltime work and writing late at night but it just became impossible. My husband has turned our shed into my writing room at the bottom of the garden and I sit there from 8 in the morning and do three to four hours of quality writing. You can only do a certain number of hours of real writing where the story gets pushed forward. The rest of the day I am answering emails and doing website stuff. I run a lot of workshops and clubs. The writing is the tip of the iceberg when you are actually selling."

Q: Do you still get time to read much?

A: "No, I don't. I could tell you a tower of books that I have lined up to read but they are mainly reference books. I find if I put the time into research it pays me back multifold."

Q: What is your best advice to aspiring writers?

A: "The thing I always come back to, and the point of difference between successful writers and the people who talk about writing, is discipline. If you are going to make it as a writer you have to be really disciplined about how you approach your work. Sit down and write the story."

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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