THE journey from elite athlete to ‘normal person’ is notoriously tricky. 

Stories of athletes struggling to make the transition from sport into the wider world are not hard to find and it is not uncommon for ex-athletes to take years to find contentment having retired from elite sport, if they manage it at all. 

Jen McIntosh is, then, a rare discovery. She is someone who excelled at sport but who has, in retirement, found something she is equally, if not even more passionate about. 

Having been born into a family of shooters – both her parents were internationalists - McIntosh followed in their footsteps, becoming a two-time Olympian and European champion, as well as Scotland’s most successful female Commonwealth Games athlete, taking the accolade from her mother. 

However, throughout her days as an athlete, McIntosh always harboured another dream; to become a writer.  

A keen reader throughout her childhood, McIntosh began writing while still at school, admitting she made up for any lack of quality with sheer enthusiasm. 

But then, sport took over. As she travelled the world as part of the GB shooting team, bursting onto the scene with two golds and a bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, her dream of becoming an author was put on the back-burner, although she always used writing as a distraction tool. 

“I used writing as a way to get away from all the pressure in sport,” the 29-year-old says.  

“I find writing really therapeutic and so after competing, I’d go back to the hotel and write. Often, what I wrote was depressing and dark but it was a way to get my emotions out.” 

Around the time of the London Olympics, McIntosh started forming the idea of her first book. A long-time fan of fantasy novels, she began developing one of her own and slowly but surely, started writing. 

It was, in the early days, a labour of love and by 2017, McIntosh had completed the first draft, but it was then put aside. 

McIntosh retired from shooting towards the end of 2018 and decided to take her book to the next stage, going through multiple edits and rewrites which did, she admits, elicit much blood, sweat and tears. 

It was, however, worth it, because McIntosh is now celebrating her debut novel being published. 

Today, ‘Blood of Ravens’ will be released; it is an adult fantasy novel which is set a hundred years after the Shade King orchestrated the Fall of the Graced and follows the journeys of five different characters as they fight to survive. 

McIntosh, who also did the cover art for the book, admits she still cannot quite believe she has reached this point. 

“Getting the final copy in my hands was amazing,” she says. 

“How it’s ended up is totally different from how it started because it’s been a long time in the making. It’s incredible to see it released though.” 

Writing a book is a goal many people set but one few fulfill. However, McIntosh believes it is the skills she developed as an athlete that equipped her to make it to this stage, which so many aspiring authors fail to reach. 

“There’s so many skills I took from being an athlete into this. Particularly pushing through the times when it’s not very enjoyable or you don’t have much motivation,” she says. 

“Also, being not only receptive to constructive criticism but actively searching for it. I think that side of it can be quite challenging for people who haven’t come from that kind of environment.  

“My sport was a lot about mental skills so understanding psychology really helped me write better characters. To make the characters believable I drew a lot on the knowledge I gained from shooting; knowing how the brain works and how people react under pressure.” 

For McIntosh, her days as an elite athlete are in the past but she is still heavily immersed in shooting.  

Her day job as Performance and Pathways manager for Scottish Target Shooting sees her nurture the next generation of the sport, while her younger sister, Seonaid, is world number one and heads into the Tokyo Olympics as one of Team GB’s best medal hopes.  

For McIntosh, watching her sister hit heights she never quite managed has not, she admits, always been easy, but over time she has come to terms with her own shooting career and realises that everything she has been through has led her to this point. 

“When I retired from shooting, I hadn’t achieved everything I’d wanted to - I wanted to win an Olympic medal and I never quite made it,” she says. 

“Seonaid started doing really well not long after I retired and I still had a lot of emotional baggage so seeing her doing so well was hard. 

“But now, I’m at a point where I’m happy with my decision to stop and so I’m now really pleased for her. I wouldn’t change anything with where I am now.” 

Already, McIntosh has her sights set on releasing a second book, and she insists this one will not take almost a decade to finish.  

She hopes for the next book in the series to be released within two years, with many more to come after that. 

Her life now couldn’t be more different from just a few years ago and despite her many accolades in the world of sport, she is in no doubt as to what her proudest achievement is. 

“It’s hard to compare the sport and writing but I think I’m prouder of this book than anything else,” she says.  

“It’s been about creating something rather than achieving something and, for me, that’s what I value. 

“It’s very exciting to think I have so many years of this to look forward to. I love writing and think I’ll do it for the rest of my life. I can see myself being a wee old lady still writing books.”