Author Blair McDowell has graciously agreed to share her insights into her research. I hope you enjoy reading her post as much as I did.
There is always a significant body of research involved in the writing of any of my books. There is on-site research on settings, historical research through books, museum visits, interviews where possible, and yes, Google, although I always double check the latter. Sometimes and in some areas there is as much misinformation as information on Google. It’s a valuable resource as long as the information on it is checked in other ways.
Research on people and their jobs or professions I do by interviewing people in those positions. The Vancouver Police were wonderfully forthcoming with information when I was writing Sonata. Much of the research needed for the island culture in Delighting In Your Company came directly from people in that small island community.
If possible, I research locales first hand. A friend who sings with the Vienna Opera gave me a backstage tour for the setting of a scene I wanted in Romantic Road. Friends in Hungary gave me a tour of their Lake Balaton vineyard for another scene in the same book.
I realize not everyone can visit book settings first hand. I am fortunate. I’m a retired university professor. I’ve traveled all my life as a part of my job, and the travel habit is still with me. Now, when I visit a place, as often as not, it’s because I am setting a book or a part of a book in that locale.
People are wonderfully forthcoming about the places in which they live, about their work, about even their political, religious, and philosophic views. On the small Greek island of Hydra I sat on a stone wall next to a musician who was playing on a beautiful old stringed folk instrument. When he tired of playing I was delighted to learn he spoke fluent English. (Greeks and Italians often do. The French, almost never do.) We talked for an hour, and some of the opinions and philosophy in The Memory of Roses came directly from that Greek musician.
This kind of experience is happenstance. It isn’t something I planned. But it was very important to the book I was working on at the time.
My trip, two years ago, though Germany Austria and Hungary was specifically to trace the path my heroine, Lacy Telchev, was fleeing down, in Romantic Road.
Last Fall I visited the Amalfi Coast specifically to make sure of my facts when writing Where Lemons Bloom, (to be released later this year).
Of course place is only one aspect of writing. History is a necessary component background to me, even when writing a contemporary work, because history impacts on characters. Someone who lived through the Russian occupation in Hungary would likely have very different views than someone born two generations later in the U.S.
Hungarian Dr. Zsuzsa Szilard’s views of history vastly differ with those of my young American heroine’s in Romantic Road. Zuszsa’s are almost verbatim from a conversation I had with an elderly woman in the Matra Mountains of Hungary some time ago. I have a good memory, aided by a collection of notebooks that go back many years.
It is a wonderful gift given to authors that we can express opposing viewpoints through different characters.
Research. It takes time and patience. But I believe solid research always makes a more believable book.
When Lacy Telchev buries her husband she finds herself in treacherous waters. Igor, much older than Lacy, had secrets. Suddenly Lacy is being chased across Europe by men who believe she can lead them to those secrets. Evading her pursuers with the aid of a chance acquaintance, the handsome and mysterious Max Petersen, Lacy travels across Germany, Austria and Hungary, to a shattering discovery in Budapest.
Along the way, she meets three women from Igor's past. As Igor's story unfolds through them, Lacy is less and less certain who her husband really was. Who can Lacy trust? Will she survive to find out?
Her head was pounding. Aspirin. Surely she must have some aspirin in her purse. She rummaged through it to no avail. Maybe Max had some.
When she opened her room door, he was leaning against the wall. In one hand he had a small glass filled with a clear liquid. He handed it to her. “Drink,” he said. “Think of it as medicine.”
She looked from Max to the shot glass, back to Max.
“You have a headache?” he asked.
Numbly Lacy nodded, the very action hurting. “Drink.”
She took the proffered glass and swallowed the fiery alcohol in one gulp that left her gasping for breath.
When she stopped sputtering, she asked, “What on earth was that?”
“Schnapps. Just sit down for a moment and let it do its work.” He led her to an ancient carved wooden bench placed along the wall of the large center room. “You had quite a bit to drink at lunch time.”
As she revived, it began to come back. Lunch. Apple fritters and mulled wine. And after lunch…
“What happened after lunch?” she asked, afraid of the answer.
“You mean you don’t remember?” He sounded hurt, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “How could you not remember?” He leaned into her and kissed her insinuatingly.
Lacy pushed him away and put her head in her hands. “No. Oh, no.”
Max took her hands away from her face and looked into her eyes, dead serious. “Nothing happened between us after lunch, Lacy. There are rules about that sort of thing. I promise you when…that is…if we make love, it will not be when you’ve had too much to drink.”
“You beast.” Lacy pummeled him with her fists. “You let me think …”
“Feeling better now?” he asked, laughing, catching her hands in his and holding them.
Lacy realized indeed she did feel better. She felt fine.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Blair McDowell wrote her first short story when she was eleven and has never ceased writing since, although only recently has she been able to return to her first love, writing fiction. During her early years, she taught in universities in the United States, Canada and Australia, and wrote several highly successful books in her field.
Her research has taken her to many interesting places. She has lived in Europe, Australia, the United States and the Caribbean and Canada, and spent considerable time in still other places, Iceland, the Far East, and the Torres Strait Islands off the coast of New Guinea. Now she travels for pleasure. Portugal, Greece and Italy are favorite haunts.
Her books are set in places she knows and loves and are peopled with characters drawn from her experiences of those places. The Memory of Roses takes readers to the Greek Island of Corfu, where a young woman finds her future while searching for her father's past. In Delighting in Your Company, the reader is transported to a small island in the Caribbean, with a heroine who finds herself in the unenviable position of falling in love with a ghost. The setting for Sonata is the city of Vancouver, with its vibrant multicultural population and its rich musical life, and the heroine is a musician who finds herself in unexpected danger.
In her most recent release, Romantic Road, Lacy Telchev, is pursued along Germany’s famous Romantische Strausse as she follows clues left by her late husband in order to solve a mystery that she doesn’t understand, while being chased by dangerous and cunning adversaries.
She hopes her readers will enjoy reading these books as much as she enjoyed writing them.
Blair is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of America (Greater Vancouver Chapter), the Romance Writers of America (Women's Fiction), and The Writers’ Union of Canada.
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My Latest News
My books go through four rounds of edits
Fire Storm is on the third round
and I am currently plotting Michael's story, Wind Storm