Author Interview with Blair McDowell

Today is a very special day for author Blair McDowell. June 7 is the Release Day Blitz for her delightful (sorry, couldn’t resist) time-travel ghost romance, Delighting in Your Company (review here). Blair is popping up all over the blogosphere today, but I managed to sit her down (virtually, at least) to answer a few questions about her writing and this haunting story.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Blair McDowell when she isn’t writing about ghosts?

I run a B&B in the small fishing village of Gibsons Landing on Canada’s spectacular west coast. After the tourist season ends I go traveling—usually to Italy or Greece for a month. Then down to the Caribbean to a small island where I’ve had a house for 40 years. Then back to Gibsons to start the whole cycle again. Through all of this I try to write at least 4 hours a day. I’m retired from my day job so all of this is now possible.

Delighting In Your Company takes place on the island of St. Clement’s in the Carribean. Is there a real St. Clement’s? Or was there a particular place that served as the inspiration for the setting?

There is indeed a real island on which St. Clement’s is based. It’s St. Eustatius, and I built a house there some forty years ago. The legends and stories I heard there over the years were the inspiration for Delighting In Your Company.

It feels like a lot of research went into Delighting, about the legends of the West Indies, and about the “Triangle Trade” of rum, molasses and slaves. Would you like to share some of the interesting things that you found while you were researching the book?

I think some of the facts I discovered about the slave trade were the most interesting—and the most appalling. I made my hero, Jonathan, anti-slavery. I think one of the facts that struck me deeply was that although the slave trade was outlawed by Parliament in 1807, the actual ownership of slaves—the abolition of slavery in the British Isles — didn’t happen until some thirty years later. All the outlawing of transport did was result in a flourishing business for ships that could outrun the law.

Delighting is both a ghost-romance, and a time-travel romance. How did you decide to mix the two?

I couldn’t have done one without the other in this case. The story seemed to come from out of nowhere except my knowledge of the islands and their folk tales. It just arrived in my head, quite complete.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Odd. I can’t even remember learning to read. I’ve always loved reading and read in every spare moment. When other children were playing ball, I was off in a corner reading.

Who or what most influenced your decision to become a writer?

Again, no one. It was as natural a choice as breathing. I’ve written since I was a child. Long letters to friends, short stories just for myself, then professional books in my field when I was a university professor, and now (my favorite) novels. I love writing.

And are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot everything out in advance, or do you just let the story flow?

I plot carefully. First I choose the setting I want to work in, then I start thinking about possible characters in that setting, then I start developing plot. The plot may change as I work on the book, but I start with a very complete story idea.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

Indeed. In Sonata, my book that will be coming out in the fall, one character completely turned the tables on me. I don’t know how it happened.

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

There just isn’t ONE book. No two of us are alike in what we bring to the books we read. What one person enjoys another may cordially detest. My advice is to read widely and in many genres. Only in that way can we be broad enough as readers or as authors.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?

Sonata is the story of a world class concert artist who falls in love with a Vancouver cop. There is a jewel heist, attempted murder and general mayhem before our hero and heroine finally get together.

What about your off-writing time? Any special hobbies or interests you’d like to share?

Travel. I love to travel. I enjoy being surrounded by cultures and languages other than my own.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee—the kind the Italians call “cappuccino oscuro” Dark Cappuccino. A Cappuccino made with a double espresso and topped with the foam of milk—not actual milk, just the foam.

Blair, thanks so much for letting us have a glimpse into your writing world!

(Photo credits: Photo of St. Eustacius: Walter Hellebrand from Wikimedia Commons, Diagram of the slave ship is from the Archives of the Library of Congress and is in the Public Domain.)

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