I’ve just finished a new children’s fantasy and an epic new historical saga for mainstream readers, so now I’m back into adult fantasy and crafting a new standalone story that will take readers back to the land of The Quickening. It is not a sequel. This is a whole new tale but set in Morgravia. Hope you enjoy…it’s out for October 2012.

In my opinion….that’s presently on offer at Les Deux Magos in Paris for breakfast. However, I am road testing hot chocolates around the planet and reserve the right to keep the Best Hot Choc Award as a roving privilege to be reviewed annually.

I realise when I think about this question that I have always been writing. I was not one of those children who ever attempted a book but all my working life, my tasks have revolved around the written word. I'm sure that has been the silent but ideal training over 30 years. I think writers who succeed in fiction do have a knack for storytelling - that's the real key that unlocks the secret to why one book might be picked up by a publisher and another might be rejected. Both authors might write really well but one is a natural born storyteller. So although learning to write is something that can be acquired, I feel in my heart that storytelling is something that a writer is blessed with. I could be wrong of course...

Click HERE to see The Tome, where I talk more about getting started.

Inspiration comes from the most unexpected sources... a piece of music, a personal experience or someone else's, a clipping from the newspaper. The difference now, as to years ago, is that I'm paying attention to all sorts of information that crowds into my life.

When I wrote my first series I found that I needed a face to begin with. And so I tended to pick an actor/actress . Once I had that face in mind then the personality, voice, etc was built from my own imagination. These days I don't need that prop anymore. I guess confidence builds over the years and now I can just build a character from the ground up so to speak. I know very little about my characters when I set out - I'm definitely not one of those people who puts together a life history for them before I begin their tale. I trust myself enough now to let the character emerge over the three books. If they're young then they'll usually make mistakes and hopefully become more canny as the story moves along. It's the decisions by the characters and how their personality develops that drives the story for me. Often characters arrive out of thin air - I've learned not to panic, this is not unusual and simply the creative process hitting its stride. I don't believe in working too hard on characters or knowing them too deeply. I do believe in them being well drawn, however, and I'd far rather put my efforts into defining my characters than world building for instance. And this is probably because years after a book is finished I feel characters remain with readers as a stronger memory than the world itself or the clever dialogue or the amazing magic...etc.

My suggestion would be to get it professionally assessed because it's unlikely to be reconsidered by a publisher once rejected so don't burn bridges without ensuring your ms is as good as it can be. First stop could be a reputable freelance editor - there are several who specialise in fantasy. Check with the ASA or your local Writers Centre (there's one in each state) for a listing. It's worth becoming a member of your State Writers Centre too - apart from the fact that they need this support to lobby on your behalf on various items, it keeps you very informed of what's happening in the literary scene for grants, festivals, events, opportunities, etc.

The publishing industry is changing and we’re yet to see its new shape with the e-tailing market becoming so strong that it my well drive the books market in the future…we shall see. That will, of course, change how we all do business in terms of publishing. So stay abreast of developments. That does not mean that self publishing is the answer, of course. Publishers are still specialists and vital to your success.
The other option before sending off to the publisher is hunting down an agent who likes your work and wants to represent you. You do not pay for this service. If your manuscript sells, the agent will take between a 10-15% commission on all earnings resulting from that ms i.e. advance and royalties but it's worth every cent if you get yourself a top agent. It means they will read your work, give comments, present your work to the right editors and market it properly at the right time in the right place. Most importantly they will handle all the ugly negotiations that are the 'other' side of the business and as a writer you shouldn't really be getting your hands dirty with this side of things if you can help it.
An agent is one of the most important decisions you’ll make – remember, it’s a marriage and mostly for keeps. Whatever you sign up for with an agent, means that agency will in general always own the rights to you books. So make sure you sign up with an agency who will grow with you or has loads of experience to nurture your growth, and who truly loves your work and will work really hard for you.

1. Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay and anything by Guy Gavriel Kay including his shopping lists
2. Anything by Robin Hobb but especially Farseer Trilogy
3. Here Be Dragons, by Sharon Penman and indeed anything by Sharon Penman (historical fiction but include here because of nice medieval tie in)
4. Game of Kings by George R R Martin
5. Memory, Sorrow & Thorn by Tad Williams
6. Wheel of Time (first three books only) by Robert Jordan
7. Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
8. Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen Donaldson
9. The Eight, by Katharine Neville
10. Enders Game, Orson Scott Card

Fiona McIntosh