TRAVEL AND THE ART OF WRITING........................
Blair McDowell's blog includes in-depth travel articles, details about her writing, backgrounds for her romantic suspense novels, and reviews of novels she has read. The places she visits often provide inspiration and motivation for her novels, so as you read through her travel blogs you may recognize the locales for some of her past novels, or understand where she gets ideas for her future stories.
I’ve had a home on the small Dutch
island of St. Eustatius (Statia) for forty years. It is the setting for my
novel, Delighting In Your Company.
When my husband and I built our house
here, there was no power and no water on or even near the property. We had to
build a working cistern to have water for construction and we used a small
generator on those few occasions when
electricity was needed. This was not often since the local workers were accustomed
to building without power. Electricity was available in the town only from 6 pm
to 10 pm and wasn’t anyplace else on the island except in the town. We were building “way out in de bush.”
Blair's house on Statia
I built my house in the style of old
Caribbean houses, with no glass anyplace. We have walls of seven foot windows,
all framed in wood louvers that let the trade winds enter my house year round. And
there are louvered doors to the veranda from every room.
But my favorite room is the kitchen.
It isn’t in the main house at all. It’s a separate building across the veranda
from the rest of the house, as it was in Caribbean houses of the eighteenth
Last year we realized that we needed
to replace the kitchen roof. My nephew
Dan and niece Amy were deeply involved in the project since after my husband’s
death some years ago I made them co-owners of the property with me. This was a
piece of marvelous luck or foresight on my part. Dan’s a civil engineer who
knows EVERYTHING about cement construction and Amy’s an architect.
Blair in her tropical kitchen
What was to have been a simple roof
replacement suffered almost immediately from the “MAHSWELLS”. Of course all new plumbing and wiring were an
obvious necessity. But the rest was a
case of the mahswells. “While we’re putting on a new roof we ‘mahswell’ raise
the ceiling 10 feet or so and put on and old fashioned Caribbean hip roof. We ‘mahswell’
move the utility room around to the back of the house and thereby enlarge the
kitchen. We ‘mahswell’ get some beautiful custom-made cherry cabinets and a
marble topped pastry table. And an old fashioned cast iron porcelain sink with
beautiful pewter fixtures. And maybe we could fix up Amy’s father’s old gun
cabinet with the pressed tin front as a broom closet. And wouldn’t it be nice
to have a ceiling fan in there? And
special lighting fixtures? Italian ceramic tile floors and counters are
a must, of course. And windows. With all
the extra wall space we “mahswell” put in some more. Where there were once two,
there are now four, all with wooden shutters custom made and exact copies of
ones on old Caribbean houses, right down to their custom made wrought-iron
The realization of all these flights
of fancy was left to our wonderful Dutch builder, Wim and his long-time partner
in construction, Statian, Rusty. What they came up with working with engineer,
Dan, and architect, Amy, wasn’t a building, it was a work of art.
Amy and I often joke about the
difference in our tastes. Hers, while
impeccable, is definitely of the twenty-first century, while mine, in both
architecture and music is firmly rooted in the eighteenth. Somehow, in our kitchen, this works. Things
look old fashioned, but they work with twenty-first century efficiency.
It’s no accident that in all my books,
kitchens and food preparation play a large part. In The Memory of Roses, Brit thinks the kitchen in the house on Corfu
is the most beautiful she’s ever seen. In Delighting
in your Company, Elvirna, Josephina’s cook, whips up Caribbean specialties,
and in Sonata, my police detective,
Michael Donovan, is a master chef who delights in cooking unusual dishes for
his sweetheart, Sayuri, in the unusual kitchen he himself
For my part, there is nothing like
the pleasure of whipping up a guava pie, using fruit off our own trees, in our
glorious new kitchen.
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