Patricia Leslie AuthorPatricia Leslie
Mar 18th, 2018

Let's welcome Patricia Leslie to the blog today.

Patricia is an Australian speculative fiction writer blending history, magic, and fantasy in novels that explore hidden and untold stories, giving a voice, through fiction, to those in our past who have until now been rendered voiceless (in the history books anyway). Patricia hails from southern Sydney where she fills her fast emptying nest with books, writing projects, and two chickens named, Edna and Valerie.

What genre do you write and why did you pick this genre?
I read just about anything, but history and fantasy has always been my favourite and all my stories tend to favour the Urban fantasy genre. I'm interested in stories from the past and how they connect to each other and to us today; how myths and legends affect our cultures, how what we call magic shapes our experience and belief. Humanity has such an ability for creativity. I refuse to believe that what we can see and touch and hear is all there is to life - surely, that is the tip of the iceberg. I imagine a story and find the magic. It's a bit like a Van Gogh painting with colour swirling around the canvas. Magic is like air, wavering, swirling, and exploding all around us.

Does your particular genre require research? If so, how do you do it?
All writing requires some kind of research. I delve into real stories and histories to expose little known aspects and show how easily magic slips into our reality. I research by reading books, searching the internet for other people's experiences, and rambling around locations. My upcoming novel, Crossing the Line, is historical - I like to share the facts from the point of view of ordinary people living their ordinary lives with liberal dashes of the extraordinary thrown into the mix. The magic in this one is closely researched as well. I wanted an everyday kind of magic; household magic with spells and concoctions available with a quick shake of a salt-pot or a stirring-in of herbs; women's magic as old as time easily hidden among the cooking pots.
One of my favorite tools for historical "current"affairs is Trove, a database of newspapers, journals, books, and photos. I've used newspaper stories from 1882 to add historical depth by checking weather, browse illustrations, go over advertising, and look for reports on restaurants, clubs, hotels, and maritime news. I've found some great story ideas there too. For instance, have you heard of an aphengescope before? I came across an advertisement for a talk a Mr F Bevill was giving with his aphengescope. Naturally, I needed to know right away what on earth this device was so I spent the next few hours looking for more information on Mr Bevill and his aphengescope. The Bevill family turned out to be quite interesting and you can expect to see them turn up in Crossing the Line book 2 in some shape or form. In Book one, there is a ball, which was taken directly from newspaper accounts I found on Trove. It is a very distracting database!

Tell us about your current release. What inspired you to write it?
Crossing the Line Book 1 is the first in a, hopefully, a three-book story. It's set in Sydney 1882 and uses incidences from that period, in particular the Great Fire in September of that year, as outcomes of a clash in supernatural powers and human greed. To protect and hide family relics, Rosalie McKinnon fled the Isle of Skye and emmigrated to Australia. The past finally catches up with her and there is a contest of magic and wills that embroils family, friends and the city at large.
I chose Sydney - or rather it chose me - because 1. This is where I live, so it's easy for me to hop a train and explore the locations; and, 2. A lot was happening here in the 1880s, a lot of which has been forgotten (for instance until recently the Garden Palace and the fire that destroyed it) and I do love making "discoveries"and connections.

How do you develop your characters? Are they drawn from people you know?
In Crossing the Line, I've drawn on my family history to populate the story with realistic characters. In 1852, my great great great etc grandmother, did emigrate to Port Jackson (Sydney) from the Isle of Skye. Her name was Flora McKinnon. She appears in the story as a cousin to Rosalie McKinnon. Anastasia Ponsonby, Rosalie's daughter, and her husband, John Bray, are also from my genealogy. Unfortunately, the real Anastasia died in her early 20s not long after the birth of her second child. Part of including my own ancestors came from the desire to give Anastasia a better life than the short one she had.
Other characters are shaped by heritage, name, and occupation. I find that once I get the name right, the personality follows.
Historical figures from the period also make appearances and because I concentrate on the women of the time, often not that much has been recorded, so there's a little leeway to develop them as well. I haven't been able to find out a lot about Lizzie Harris, Lady Mayoress, so I was able to incorporate her into the story in a way that suggests there is more to her than her position and her husband. I would love to find out more about her, so if any of your readers have an inside edge to Australian women in history, please get in touch.

What are you reading right now?
A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson. I picked it up because the cover is copies of maps and I have an increasing love for maps. I've used them extensively in my research, one of the characters comes directly from a marking I found on the Dove Plans of Sydney for the Shadler Bakery. Opening a map and laying it out is the first step in an adventure, planning a road trip, looking for places to visit, discovering rivers and lakes - love it all! Back to the book, it's set in future Melbourne and a planet where climate change caught up with humanity, and it's about maps and travelling through time and space. Quirky, interesting, and it has time travel!

If you could give advice to a new writer starting out, what would that be?
Don't get caught up on the editing and aiming for perfection - just write your story, get that first draft out, and then think about editing and reworking and polishing. Nothing comes out perfect the first time!
Also, be patient and be aware of balances in your life. Write when and where you can, but don't stress if it doesn't flow easily all the time or if you have a lot of interruptions. You'll get there. If something is stopping you from actual writing then read, make notes, be observant, and ponder life. These all feed into your storytelling.

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