Thursday, August 23, 2012

Interview with Blair McDowell

What inspired you to become an author?

I love to write. As a child, before I began writing professionally, I wrote very long letters to everybody I knew. Then I started writing short stories for my own amusement. Later I wrote professional books and articles in my field. Only a few years ago did I go back to my first love, writing fiction. And of course, like most writers, I read incessantly. Everything I can get my hands on, in every genre.

Do you write in different genres?

Absolutely. I would find it incredibly boring to be stuck in one genre. The Memory of Roses tells the stories of two generations of the McQuaid family, father and daughter. Their loves and losses and how one life impacts on another. And there’s a family mystery to uncover—all on a spectacular Greek island. It’s a novel with strong romantic elements. My three other books are each different genres. Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance with time travel. Sonata is a mystery-romance, and the one I’m working on now, Romantic Road, is a “woman in peril” romance, a chase story.

If yes which is your favorite genre to write?

My favorite is always the one I’m presently writing in. I get completely caught up in my stories. My characters become real to me, and their plights become my plights. If I were to be restricted to one genre however, it would be mainstream women’s fiction. There is more leeway there than in most other genres.

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

 From the first pages to the last of The Memory of Roses, the scent of roses is omni-present. Brit scatters roses on her father’s grave. Roses clamber around the doorway of the villa on Corfu. Maria cuts a bouquet of roses for Ian’s desk, and the memory of them stays with him forever. Brit carries roses on her wedding day. The title, The Memory of Roses, simply suggested itself about half way through writing the book. I always have a working title, in this case it was “The Villa on Corfu”, but my working title rarely is the title I choose for publication. The right title always seems to come to me about half way through the book.

Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

I’m sure all writers inevitably draw on their life experience when writing. Yes, as a former university professor I have seen male professors who preyed on their young female graduate students. Yes I have known handsome, charming Greek men. Yes, I love the subject of archaeology and have been in the digs in Greece I describe, and discussed them with knowledgeable people. Yes, I talked with many local people on the Greek Island of Corfu before setting my book there. But what I wrote is wholly a work of fiction. No character in it is based on any single person I know. I create my characters out of whole cloth. But I was a teacher for many years and believe I know quite a bit about human nature.

What books/authors have influenced your life?

This one is so difficult to answer. There are so many. I read “Gone With The Wind” when I was just eleven. It was in the bookcase in a beach house my parents had rented for the summer. I was half way through it before they realized what I was reading. I never read another YP story after that, I loved romantic novels. Not Harlequin, but the big hefty books—often historicals. I read biographies as well, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, Mozart. And anything set in a locale I had never been to but wanted to see someday. If the book was set in Paris or Venice or in the jungles of Africa, I read it. I was and am a voracious reader with eclectic tastes.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The biggest challenge is just to find enough time to write. I try to set aside 4 hours a day just for writing—not answering emails, not looking at Facebook or Google+—just writing. But life intervenes as it does for everyone. One way I’ve resolved this is by not looking at my mail or at social media until I’m through writing for the day. If I start with mail I find I get stuck on it.

Do you have to travel much to do research for your books?

I’m not sure I “have to” but I do. I spent considerable time on Corfu, in Venice, at the famous archaeological site of Knossos on Crete, at the temple to Poseidon at Sunio and in Athens before writing The Memory of Roses. All those places are in the book. Corfu and Venice are the two principal settings but the story involves them all.
Other books I’ve written are set in the Caribbean, in Vancouver and on the famous “Romantische Strasse” the Romantic Road in Germany. I traveled to and know well all the sites in which my stories are set.

I don’t travel to write, however. I travel because I love travel. The stories seem to emerge from the places.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

First, WRITE. Just sit at your computer every day and get on with it. Then once you have a finished book, start sending it out to publishers. And don’t be too upset about rejection. Every author on the NY Times best seller list has probably experienced rejection. Just keep sending it out. That’s not to say if you get advice along the way you shouldn’t follow it. The first draft of a book is rarely the best draft. But have faith in your work. Someday you’ll hit the right editor or agent.

Do you have a song or playlist (book soundtrack) that you think represents this book?
I hear the sound of the Greek Tavernas as the right background music for The Memory of Roses. Bazookies and tambouras, triangles and voices singing. Fingers snapping and hands clapping as dancers move. If you’ve ever seen the very old movie, Zorba, the Greek, that’s the music of Greece, even today. I experienced it recently on the island of Hydra. There was a conference of Greek folk musicians. They were playing and singing and dancing in the tavernas every night. It was wonderful to be a part of it.

August 20 Guest blog
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

August 21 Interview and review
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August 22 Promo
Lisa’s World of Books

August 22 review
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August 23 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

August 24 Interview
The Seraphine Muse

August 25 Interview and review
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August 26 Interview
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August 27 Interview
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August 28 Guest blog
Read 2 Review 


From the author of ‘Delighting In Your Company’ comes the enduring love story of two generations of the McQuaid family on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu. It is a tale complete with ravishing women, ruggedly handsome men, and an intriguing mystery. The picturesque settings of San Francisco, Venice and the magnificent island of Corfu add the crowning touch to this captivating story. 

Brit McQuaid has had a very bad year.  First, her heart is broken when her relationship with her professor ends because of his lies and infidelity. Then her father dies and leaves her a villa on the Greek Island of Corfu, and a deep mystery to solve; in his last letter to her, he asks Brit to find the woman he profoundly loved on Corfu many years ago, shocking Brit with the realization that her adored father  had cheated on her mother.

How could her father have owned a house that Brit knew nothing about? Why was he unfaithful to her mother? Who is this woman named Maria? And what is in the mysterious package?

To find answers, Brit must travel to Corfu, open a villa that has been closed for many years, and locate Maria Calbrese, the great love of her father’s life.

In the course of her voyage of discovery, Brit meets the man she could lose her heart to and begins to understand that, while passion can rule one’s actions, real love can neither be dictated by propriety nor measured by moments of passion. Real love may involve sacrifice, or at least the willingness to give up one’s own hope of happiness for the good of another’s.  Her father knew this truth.

Then in her search for Maria she stumbles upon a dark secret. A secret of sacrifice that lies at the heart of her father’s decisions all those many years ago. 

Brit faces a dilemma.   She has it in her power to destroy the life of the woman her father so cherished. What should she do with the information she has unearthed? And how will this new knowledge affect her relationship with the man she has come to love?

"Blair McDowell is the next popular woman's novelist. Memory of Roses is a spellbinding, well written story from the first page to the surprise ending. I couldn't put it down”
Review from 'HLMJH' on
5 Stars

“Highly recommended for those who like a touch of history and growth in their stories. A strong 4 of 5 for Memory of Roses."
Review from Poison Rose on ‘’
4 Stars

"This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, well written with interesting and engaging characters. Enjoyed reading/learning about Corfu and Venice which were accurately portrayed. Loved the surprise ending."
Review from 'Book lover' on
5 Stars

About the Author:

I travel a lot. I usually spend the month of October in Europe, Greece or Italy, and the winter in a little house I built many years ago on a small non-touristy Caribbean Island. I have worked and studied in many places -- Hungary, Australia the US and Canada, and have lectured in most of the States and Provinces as well as Taiwan and various cities in Europe. I enjoy being surrounded by cultures other than my own. I enjoy my own as well -- but variety is indeed the spice of my life.

I keep busy -- and I love my life.  I love meeting the people who come here to the west coast of Canada and stay in my B&B. I love traveling after the tourist season is over. And I love writing.  My interests?  Music, especially opera, reading everything in print, and Writing. And walking on the beach and swimming.  At one point I had hoped to swim in every major sea and ocean.  I've realized that may not be possible in one lifetime -- but trying has been fun!

Blair is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of America (Greater Vancouver Chapter), and the Romance Writers of America (Women's Fiction) and the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association.