I’m very pleased to welcome Blair McDowell back to Reading Reality. Blair is the author of two of my favorite books from last year, Delighting In Your Company and The Memory of Roses. Those marvelous stories explored exotic places that Blair has lived. Sonata (reviewed here) is a fascinating look into Blair’s other love, classical music.
On Character Studies by Blair McDowell
We all use different approaches in writing. What works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another. For me it is vitally important to know the people about whom I’m writing before I put the first lines of any story to paper.
That’s not to say that characters never change during the course of a story. Often the story is about the change in a particular character from the beginning of the novel to the end. But it’s important to make the need for this change evident to the reader. It’s necessary to establish firmly who the character is at the beginning before showing the gradual changes to that character.
Having said that, the hero in Sonata, Michael Donovan, is not a character who changes much in the course on the book. He starts out a decent, intelligent, lovable guy, and he ends up a decent, intelligent, lovable guy. But through those absolutely consistent character traits, he causes change to those around him.
Here is the character study I wrote on my hero, Michael Donovan, in my new novel, Sonata.
Michael Donovan—hero. Thirty-one. A detective with the Vancouver police. Father and grandfather were policemen. Good looking in a hard tough way. Lots of muscles. Tall, capable, all business. Serious about his work. Appearance—think the young Clint Eastwood. Muscles like iron. Broad shoulders, slim waist, taut abdomen. Sandy hair that defies taming even though kept short, sharp green eyes, rugged face. Not handsome, but certainly attractive and very masculine. Off duty dresses very casually. Jeans, running shoes, etc. Former hockey-jock.
Michael’s hobby is cooking. He worked his way through university in restaurant kitchens, and took courses at the Vancouver Culinary Arts School. Michael’s cooking ability plays an important part in his seduction of Sayuri McAlister’s (my Japanese-Canadian heroine, a professional cellist).
He was Sayuri’s sweetheart in high school, where she was two years below him. Their relationship ended badly when his adolescent hormones too obviously reacted to the twelfth grade femme fatal. They haven’t seen each other since– (twelve years ago). They reconnect when he is assigned to investigate a break-in at Sayuri’s father’s house just as Sayuri returns home from Paris.
On his off-work hours Michael works on a sailboat that he keeps moored at Secret Cove. He whistles melodiously as he works. Picks up melodies he hears Sayuri practicing. He has a huge dog named Buttercup, a Malamute, St. Bernard, wolf cross, who is afraid of her own shadow. He rescued her, a shivering, malnourished puppy, in the course of a drug bust.
Michael has an efficiency apartment in Vancouver on Sixth and Granville, and a small house in Secret Cove on the Sunshine Coast that he inherited from his grandparents, while Sayuri, the woman he loves, comes from a different world. Her father owns a major tech company (think Blackberry) and she lives in a mansion in Point Grey. The difference in their financial and social status looms large in Michael’s eyes. He sees it as an insurmountable problem. Furthermore everyone in the McAllister household, including Sayuri’s father and his new fiancé and the couple who have worked for them for years and raised Sayuri after her mother’s death, must be considered a suspect in a multi-million dollar jewelry robbery that appears to have been an inside job.
How can Michael hope to win Sayuri in the face of these obstacles?
Below is a short excerpt. Michael has just persuaded Sayuri to have dinner with him.
“Where are we? I thought you were taking me to dinner.”
“I am. I’m taking you to dinner at my place.”
“I see. I suppose that’s all right, as long as you don’t think that I’m on the menu.”
Michael burst out laughing. “I wouldn’t presume…”
Sayuri laughed with him. “You can’t have changed that much Michael. Of course you’d presume if you thought you could get away with it. And I hope you can cook, because I certainly can’t.”
“Cooking is among my many and varied talents. You’ll never have to cook if you just stick with me.”
“That’s a very good thing, because if our survival depended on my cooking we’d starve. When other girls…”
“And boys,” Michael interjected.
“When other girls and boys were learning how to cook, I was practicing cello.”
Michael pulled his car into a numbered parking space and came around to Sayuri’s side of the car to open the door for her.
“Mmm. A man who can cook and who helps his dinner companion out of the car. Are you sure you’re for real, Michael Donavan?”
I started to write soon after I found my first pencil. But I began to write for publication about 30 years ago — professional books. I wrote six of them, all still in print and still in use. Only lately have I turned to fiction. I’d have done it a lot sooner if I’d had any idea how much fun it was!
I’ve lived in many different places. The US — Certain cities call to me. I love San Francisco and Seattle and the wonderful Oregon Coast. Australia — among the most open welcoming people in the world, and a wide open young country with incredible land and sea scapes, with amazing animal and bird life right out of science fiction. Canada — HOME. The place where I belong.
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 spoken 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!
Win one of five PDF copies of Sonata!