The two things I enjoy most in life are traveling and writing. I think I’ve been writing stories since the day I was first given a pencil and paper. I had a vivid imagination as a child…a characteristic that has gotten me into trouble more than once, and that has only increased with age. I’ve never been able to recount any event without embellishing it. So it was natural that I should turn to writing fiction. And even more natural to choose to write romantic suspense, where I could let my imagination run wild.
In my earlier days, my work took me to some fascinating places; the Torres Strait islands, off the north coast of Australia, the Caribbean before it became a tourist haven, Hungary when the Russian soldiers were still patrolling the streets. I spent time in Australia, Austria, and Germany. And later in Italy and Greece. These locales became the settings for my books, Greece, The Memory of Roses, Italy, Where Lemons Bloom, Germany, Austria and Hungary, Romantic Road.
I built a house on a small still un-touristic island in the Caribbean –on a plot of land with no electricity or running water. Friends there told me stories and legends about their island and Delighting In Your Company was born. In a word, I have lived a rather unorthodox life…And loved every minute of it.
Today I am more settled. I operate a Bed & Breakfast with a friend on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast in the spring and summer. When fall comes we head for Europe. This summer we’ll be traveling to Paris and Brittany, researching the locale for my next book Fatal Charm. It involves a theft from the Louvre. I hope I don’t end up in a Paris jail in the process.
A recent reviewer referred to my “vivid and clear descriptions of places” that that made her feel “as if she were there.” She queried whether I had used Google or had actually been to all those places. My answer to all such questions is: Been there, done that!
I love Italy, and I particularly love the Amalfi Coast and I wanted to place a story in this spectacular setting. The rest just followed naturally. The dark mysterious Italian hero, the heroine just released from years as a caregiver, the inn on a cliff side overlooking the sea, and the pervasive danger threatening their lives—they just all seemed to flow from the location.
Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?
Just driving on the Amalfi Coast was an interesting, not to say terrorizing, experience. It’s an unbelievably narrow, winding road, with steep cliffs on one side dropping to the Mediterranean Sea far below, and high coastal mountains rising sharply on the other side. The buses that travel this route can only go one way – south — because there isn’t room for them to pass each other. It’s considered to be one of the most challenging drives in Italy. But the vistas are unbelievable, and the little towns that cling to the cliffs are charming. They seem to invite mystery and romance.
Do you have a favorite writing place or writing rituals?
I need to be able to look up from my laptop to a vista when I’m writing. I could never write in an office facing a blank wall. I run a B&B with a friend in a small fishing village on the west coast of Canada. During the summer, after we’ve finished serving breakfast, I write where I can look up and see deer grazing their way across our lawn, and beyond them a seascape busy with fishing boats, log booms and ferries.
In October, we close for the season and head out for a month in Europe (to spend all the money we’ve made over the summer). Greece and Italy are my favorite destinations. There, I write in outdoor cafes, hotel bars, trattorias, wherever I can sit outside and look up at something beautiful or interesting.
In the winter we head for my little house perched on a hillside in the Caribbean. There, my writing space is the veranda, with a panoramic view of the sea and other islands.
What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
Why do you write? My answer, God only knows. Certainly it isn’t for the money. I think writing for me is a compulsion. I just have to write. There are stories brimming over in my brain. Characters just waiting to be brought to life. I write because I must.
What’s next for you?
In three weeks we close the B&B for the season. Then we head to France, the setting of my work in progress, Fatal Charm. The settings for this romantic suspense are Paris and Brittany, and while I’ve been there before, I need to check them out again now that my story, involving murder and a theft at the Louvre, is well under way. I find I look at Blair McDowell Interview continued places differently when I’m in the middle of setting a story in them.
Excerpt from Where Lemons Bloom:
It was six-thirty on a bright sunny morning. Ruffio was placing still warm rolls and cornetti into bags for the albergo. Adamo took a deep breath, inhaling the mouth-watering aroma of fresh baked bread. He munched on a sweet roll right out of the oven as the baker put together his order. It was a side benefit to being the one who picked up the breads. It made being up at six o’clock every morning almost worthwhile. “Two dozen of each,” Ruffio said handing the bags to Adamo. “That will be twenty-four euros.” Adamo counted out the bills. “Thanks, Ruff. See you tomorrow morning. Ciao.” He placed the bags in the box on the back of the Vespa, climbed on, and headed back up the hill, not hurrying. The sun was still low in the sky, but it bathed the houses and shops in a warm amber light. It promised to be a hot day. He had a sudden vision of Eve as she looked when he got up, her hair sleep tousled, her face buried in her pillow. A surge of sheer happiness shot through him. A year ago he would not have believed how drastically his life could change. He was content. More than content. He was approaching the top of the hill when a car coming from the other direction roared around a steep curve at high speed and, tires squealing, headed straight for him. “What the hell…?” Adrenalin pumped into his veins. No place to go. A drop off to the sea on his left, the steep mountainside on his right. Instinctively he headed his bike sharply to the right. It skidded on gravel and hit a concrete abutment. He flew instantly air-borne over the handlebars onto a bed of rocks, and heard, as from a great distance, the crumple of steel against rock as the car smashed into his Vespa. Heart pounding, he unconsciously brushed blood away from his left eye with a shaking hand. His head was throbbing, his shoulder hurt and blood seemed to be running down his left leg and into his shoe, but he was alive. He tried to push himself up. His vision clouded for a moment as a sharp pain shot through his head. What was the car doing? Backing up to try again? Adamo stared in disbelief. He shook his head. He must move quickly. The only escape from the murderous car was by climbing the cliff face. Safety lay in climbing up. He knew how to do that. He stood, weaving, uncertain on his feet. No time to lose. Hands in the crevices. Good. Now get a foothold. Climb! His toes slipped and lost their grip. He collapsed once again on the side of the road. He raised his head to watch the car that would be the instrument of his death. With a squealing of tires a second car rounded the bend. Black and white. The police. Thank God. His world went black.
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