Friday, 15 August 2014

Interview by Melissa Haggerty on Reading It All Blog

Following is an interview done by Melissa Haggerty on ReadingItAll Blog in 2012 shortly after 'The Memory of Roses' was released. It's always nice to get a little background.

Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of 'The Memory of Roses' on Goodreads.  Contest ends Aug. 24th!  
I am happy to have had the chance to interview Blair McDowell, and learn a little more about her and her books.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I live between my two homes, one in the Caribbean on an island that is the setting for my novel, Delighting In Your Company, and the other on Canada’s scenic west coast where I run a Bed and Breakfast for six months of the year. I’m a retired university professor. During my previous life I wrote professional books, six of them, all still widely used, but in retirement I returned to my first love, writing fiction.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Swim. Read.Cook. I love all three. It is a life-long ambition to swim in every major body or water that is swimmable. I’m about half way through.

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

My first professional book was sold to a major New York publisher on the basis of an outline and three chapters. I thought it would be like that when I started writing fiction. Was I ever in for a surprise! It took two years to sell The Memory of Roses. Problem was it isn’t genre. It doesn’t fit. Thank God for Elizabeth Carr and Rebel Ink, a Boutique publisher into originality.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

So far I’ve written three novels, each in a different genre. I don’t want my imagination put in braces.

Where do you get your ideas?

Most often it’s a setting that grabs me. Greece, Italy, The Caribbean, Canada’s gorgeous and rugged west coast. The setting always suggests characters, and the characters suggest plot.

How did you come up with your characters?

The characters are figments of my fertile imagination. They suggest themselves. I don’t really “come up with them.”

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Never. What I experience, in common with many other writers, I suspect, is too damn many interruptions.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I choose setting first. Then I do character studies in great detail. Then I write the plot out in synopsis form. At this point the characters may change a bit. Only then do I write the first line of my book.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I shall interpret your word challenges to mean frustration. There was lots of that. The lowest point came when an agent said he really liked my first three chapters, would I please send him the rest. I did and waited on tenterhooks for three months. My parcel was returned unopened with the word “deceased” stamped across it.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?

I turn much more quickly to e-book publishers. They are the future of publishing. Perhaps the future of literacy.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in your book and why?

My favorite section of The Memory of Roses is the love story between Ian McQuaid, my heroine’s father, and the young Italian artist who unexpectedly enters his life on the Greek island of Corfu, Maria Calbrese.  

How did you come up with the title?

Roses are a connective thread from the first pages to the last in The Memory of Roses. The title was a natural.

What project are you working on now?

I’ve just finished the last pages of Sonata, a mystery romance set in Vancouver and on the Sunshine Coast. The story of an improbable love affair between an international concert artist and a Vancouver cop.

Will you have a new book coming out soon?

Delighting In Your Company, a paranormal Romance with time travel, set in the Caribbean, will be released by Rebel Ink in e-book format on April 17th and in paperback on May 30th.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’ve had a house in the tropics for 40 years. In that time I’ve heard endless stories and legends about Jumbies (the walking dead) and Obeah, the religion brought to the Caribbean from Africa by the slaves. What could have been more natural in such a setting than a 21st Century heroine who falls in love with a man who died two hundred years ago?

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Writers write. And then they send out what they’ve written to publishers and agents. They don’t get depressed at rejections. They just go to the next five editors and agents on their list. If what they write is good, it will find the right place eventually. The NY Times bestseller list is full of authors who initially had trouble finding a publisher.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Please buy my books. I’m not sure how much longer Revenue Canada is going to let me claim writing deductions if you don’t!

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

The Once and Future King by Theodore White. The story of King Arthur, Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. Gorgeous writing.

What is the last book you read?

I’m wading my way through Andrea Calmilleri’s series of 19 books, translated from the Italian, featuring Sicilian detective, Salvo Montalbano. The characters are wonderful and the setting can’t be beat.

Who would be in your dream cast for your book?

For the Memory of Roses. Odd you should ask. A film editor friend of mine asked the same question after reading the book.

~ Ian McQuaid, Sean Connery twenty years ago.

~ Andreas Leandros, Maybe Rufas Sewell although he too would need to be younger. And Andreas in the book’s a blue-eyed blond. Do you have any idea how FEW actors are blue-eyed blonds?

~ Brit and Maria, the two female leads? I haven’t come up with anyone well known for either. The lead female in Shadows in the Sun, whose name escapes me comes the closest to Maria. The lead in Under the Tuscan Sun, could do Brit effectively.

Do you have a song picked out that you feel represents your book?

Not really, although I heard a lot of traditional Greek café music when we on the Greek island of Hydra that would be perfect. Unusual stringed instruments, interesting melodies, Unusual rhythms and harmonies.

What is your favorite quote?

Telos Kalo, Ola Kala

Greek for “all’s well that ends well”

Is there an author who you would love to meet?

The poet John Donne. But since he’s dead these several hundred years, I hope not to meet him soon.

Short answer:

Vanilla or Chocolate


favorite color


dogs or cats


tea or coffee

coffee, providing it’s Italian or Greek, and strong

night owl or early bird

Definitely early bird

Coke or Pepsi

Ugh!! wine

Facebook or Twitter


shoes or sandals

Bare feet

Thank you so much for stopping by and answering all of my questions Blair.

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Thank you for taking the time to send a comment. I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

Blair McDowell