Novelist Fiona McIntosh on Brighton, books and her best investment


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Fiona McIntosh is one of Australia's best-selling authors, whose books sell in more than a dozen countries.

Her most recent novel The Diamond Hunter is set in Africa, and will be followed up in October with a new adventure set around Champagne and the region of Epernay and Reims during WWI.

The next book in her popular Jack Hawksworth crime series that features Bye Bye Baby will be released in 2021..

fiona mcintosh author

What was your first job?

My first job was in Brighton, England. I was a teenager and I lied about my age. I so wanted to work in trendy boutiques and I began as a "Saturday girl" selling clothes. I loved it ... did that for four years in different but fabulous stores. It taught me about cold selling, being perceptive about people and how to engage customers. My first grown up job was in London, aged 19, working in a top public relations consultancy when the potential for a brilliantly conceived PR campaign was only just beginning to enter the consciousness of corporate marketing teams.

What's the best money advice you've received?
Find a way to make money while you sleep.

What's the best investment decision you've made?
Property. My husband and I acquire property, mostly when we can't afford it, but it forces us to save as the investment will only return many years down the track. We've treated it as our superannuation. I personally prefer property to all other investments because I can see where the money sits; it feels solid.
I hate the fickle nature of stocks and shares ...and that it's a computer transaction.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?
Property. It beggars us. Our sons will benefit from decades of sacrifice and holding onto some wonderful property in places that have now become excellent investment areas.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?
It's a tough choice between winter boots and bakeware. I do like to splurge on boots but in the past five years I've realised I'm getting more of a rush from buying a Bundt tin, or replacing ordinary stuff with professional bakeware. It's alarming how much joy it can bring.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?
Right now I would buy top of the range ergonomic furniture to help with the aches and pains of being a full time professional writer ... and of course a new iMac. I upgrade my computer regularly but the present one is about four years old and it's time to move on and up. Every upgrade makes the work go smoother.

What would you do if you had only $50 left in the bank?
I'd buy a lot of high-quality chocolate and drown my sorrows.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?
Yes. Absolutely. I come from a background of leaving one's children in a better position than we found ourselves at the same age. However, I think my husband would rather book back-to-back-to-back world cruises on a six star line and just keep going!

Why do you keep writing books?
Well, setting aside the pleasure it gives me to be a storyteller and instead focusing on the business side of writing books, I have to say I am deliriously happy that I have the talent to be a novelist because I don't like working for someone. I'm a better boss than I am a worker. I am a decision-maker. I am a risk-taker. I prefer autonomy rather than group effort.

All of that suggests that choosing a career that is self-employment and solitary is wise. I've been self-employed since I was 24 when I opened my tiny PR consultancy back in the mid 1980s.

When I joined forces with my husband to open a publishing company, we needed staff and that's when it all started to wear me down. We worked hard for 15 years and enjoyed success professionally and emotionally, but I didn't enjoy having to worry about a team ... so I changed careers at the age of 39. I wanted to take back the reins of my life and go forward alone.

Selfish, yes, and risky but it was the right moment to make the leap and I haven't looked back, and my husband, a very wise man, was generous enough to allow his wife all the rope in the world. I am a very happy hamster in my hamster wheel of producing one to two books per year for the biggest publisher in the world.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...
Me feel independent. It does not buy happiness or health ... that we can all achieve through other means. It does allow me to have finite control over my life though ... it takes years to achieve this, of course, but now, finally as I reach towards turning 60 (ugh), I feel that my husband and I have options and we can see ahead clearly ... whereas a decade ago our choices were limited and life was controlling us.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.