Today it’s my pleasure to interview Blair McDowell, author of Sonata, a romantic mystery. Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter after this post for a chance to win an eCopy of Sonata. Five winners drawn!
Publisher: Rebel Ink Press
Number of pages: 258
Word Count: 56,500
Word Count: 56,500
Purchase Sonata HERE
When renowned concert artist, Sayuri McAllister, returns to the west coast of Canada after an absence of five years, she discovers her family home has been a broken into and jewelry worth two million dollars is missing. Michael Donovan, Sayuri’s old high school flame, now a detective with the Vancouver Police Department, is the officer in charge of the case.
What chance can he have…
Michael takes one look at Sayuri and falls in love with her all over again. But they parted in anger years ago and Sayuri is no longer the innocent girl he once knew. What chance can there be for a Vancouver cop with someone as famous as Sayuri McAllister? Especially when that cop is investigating her family and friends?
An unexpected marriage…
Then Sayuri’s widowed father, Sean, marries Alyssa James, a woman Sayuri has never even met. The three live uneasily together in the Point Grey mansion until the unexpected arrival of Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, a devastatingly handsome, charming Irishman who immediately begins a campaign to bed and wed the delicious and wealthy Sayuri.
Things take a dangerous turn…
Accidents begin to happen. Or are they accidents? Nothing is as it seems. Michael distrusts Hugh James and fears that Sayuri’s life may be in danger.
SKY: How did you come up with the title?
BLAIR: My heroine is a world class concert artist, a cellist and her repertory is classical music. She plays among other things, a particular SONATA that the hero loves. At one point in the story he refers to that Sonata and tells her that she needs to work on other areas of her life as seriously as she works on preparing a sonata. I looked at other musical forms before choosing SONATA, but you can’t imagine how many musical terms have already been used as titles for books! I always do a title search before giving my books their title. No one wants to compete with another book of the same name. For example, my original title for my earlier novel, The Memory of Roses, was The Scent of Roses. Someone beat me to print with that one by about two months. My puv5blisher suggested The Memory of Roses. As it turned out, Memory was a better fit for that book than “Scent”.
SKY: What made you choose the main setting for your book?
BLAIR: I live on the west coast of Canada, in the small fishing village of Gibson’s Landing, on the Sunshine Coast. I look out my windows at the sea, and from the road on the other side of my house I can see the snowcapped peaks of the coastal range. We are surrounded by majestic cedars, pines and firs, some of them hundreds of years old.
Vancouver, the third largest city in Canada is a forty minute ferry ride away. Our area (the Sunshine Coast) is not accessible by land—only by boat— and yet we are less than an hour from a beautiful, vibrant multicultural city. We have the best of both worlds.
I’ve always wanted to place a book in this setting, but until SONATA, I just hadn’t found the right characters and story. I believe SONATA could only happen in this setting.
SKY: If you could spend an hour in real life with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
BLAIR: Sean McAllister, the father of my heroine, Sayuri McAllister (think Sean Connery a couple of decades younger). I’ve always had a weakness for older men. He’s sensitive, experienced and worldly. He’s comfortable in his own skin, never uncertain in the way younger men so often are. At fifty-five or so and a widower for some eighteen years, he’s ripe for the plucking. And that he’s incredibly rich and good-looking doesn’t hurt.
SKY: Tell us a little bit about the conflict in your story.
BLAIR: Sayuri McAllister is a concert artist. From the age of five she’s known nothing but lessons and classes and endless hours of practice daily. At twenty-eight she has won major competitions and is in demand by orchestras all over the world. She has it made, professionally. But her personal life is non-existent. She had a boy-friend, Michael Donovan, briefly in high school, but there has been no one of any importance since.
She’s tired of the constant stresses of a concert career and has come home to Vancouver to rethink her life as the story opens.
SKY: What sort of personality does your hero have?
BLAIR: Sayuri describes Michael Donovan to her father as “solid and reliable.” He is, but that’s not even half the story. A Police Detective in the Assault, Arson, Robbery Division of the Vancouver Police, Michael is intelligent, resourceful and quietly powerful. But he has some hang-ups concerning Sayuri. First, how can a mere cop hope to compete in the milieu of a world-class concert artist, especially when that concert artist comes from a wealthy family? And second, how can he approach Sayuri while investigating her family for a robbery that has all the appearance of an inside job?
SKY: What sort of personality does your heroine have?
BLAIR: Sayuri McAllister is driven to excel. She’s hardworking, compulsive and career-driven. She’s also the product of two very different cultures. Her mother was Japanese, her father, Canadian. She has spent time with her Japanese grandparents and is as comfortable in that environment as in her Canadian home. But there are contradictions and clashes between the two cultures and these play a part in her conflict as she approaches her thirtieth birthday. She has had essentially no life beyond music. Is this what she wants for the rest of her life?
SKY: Did you enjoy writing one scene above all the rest? If so, share.
BLAIR: I thoroughly enjoyed writing the scene in which Michael, after finally successfully getting Sayuri as far as his apartment, takes his dog, Buttercup (a huge malamute-wolf cross) out for a quick pee before returning to Sayuri and what he hopes will be an eventful evening. It’s just a short scene, but I think it says something about both the man and his dog.
As they went down in the elevator and across to the park, Michael spoke to the dog, “So far so good. We’ve got her in my apartment. I expect your full cooperation tonight. Whatever happens you are not to climb on the bed, should I get so lucky, or slobber all over Sayuri. If there’s any slobbering to be done, I’ll do it. Got it, buddy?”
Buttercup wagged her tail furiously, nearly knocking over a passing pedestrian.
Michael thought about how Sayuri had looked when she answered the door. So cool and composed. Delectable. Good enough to eat. Down boy, he reminded himself. Don’t blow it now. You’ve got her this far.
Taking a deep breath he muttered, “Keep it cool.” Then he looked at his dog. “Okay, Buttercup, do your thing so we can get back up there.”
SKY: What sources do you use for research?
BLAIR: SONATA involved a real and active police force, the Vancouver Police Department. It was imperative that I have my facts right; that I not write anything that might reflect less than accurately about this very real corps of dedicated men and women. I was in frequent communication with their public relations officer regarding such things as which branch handled what, how men and women proceed through the ranks, who is able to make “detective”, and how a case might unfold. I needed to know what happened when both the Vancouver Police and the RCMP, (the national police force) were involved, and under what circumstances international cooperation might be sought. I could not have written this book without the cooperation and assistance of the VPD.
Beyond that, I always research the settings of my books first hand. I know Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast well because I live there. But for my other books I spent significant time in the settings. Google is fine, but it’s no substitute for visiting Corfu and Venice and the Caribbean, and talking with the local people as I did for The Memory of Roses and Delighting In Your Company.
SKY: Are you currently working on another story? If so, we’d love some details.
BLAIR: I’m working on the third and (I hope) final draft of ROMANTIC ROAD, a novel of intrigue and romance, set in Europe. It begins on Germany’s Romantische Strasse, the winding country road south of Frankfurt that connects several medieval walled towns. My heroine, a young widow, Lacy Telchev, is pursued through these, then south to Austria and finally to Hungary and a shattering climax at Lake Balaton in Hungary. Along the way she is saved more than once by the handsome and mysterious Max Petersen.
SKY: How long have you been writing? How long have you been published?6
BLAIR: I think I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been able to hold a pencil. If an article in a national professional journal counts, I’ve been published for forty years. I have six professional books in print, all published by one of the biggest publishers in the field, all still selling well. They help support my fiction habit. SONATA is my third published novel.
SKY: Thanks for joining me today, Blaire. Wishing you much success!
Short Excerpt: The following excerpt takes place the first time that Sayuri goes to Michael’s apartment.
She heard the key in the lock and a moment later man and dog were back in the room. Buttercup trotted over to Sayuri and leaned against her, looking up at her adoringly with one blue and one brown eye.
“That was quick,” Sayuri commented as she scratched the dog behind her ears.
“She was anxious to get back to you. We don’t often have visitors. Actually, I’m surprised at her reaction to you. She usually hides under the bed when there’s anyone she doesn’t know in the apartment.”
“Under the bed? I can’t believe she can get all that bulk under a bed. Just what kind of dog is she? I’ve never seen anything like her. She’s huge. And those eyes are amazing.”
Sayuri moved to the armchair and sat down. Buttercup followed her and put her massive head in Sayuri’s lap.
“Clearly she’s fallen in love with you. The vet thought she was probably half Malamute and half Newfoundland, but I’m pretty sure there’s some wolf in the mixture. And the two different color eyes are unusual, but they do happen, particularly in those breeds.”
“Did you say wolf?”
“Watch.” Michael came over to the dog, knelt down beside her and put his arm around her. He lifted his head back and started to howl. The dog threw her head straight back and joined him. The sound was at one and the same time musical and eerie.
“Wow.” Sayuri stared at the dog. “I haven’t heard anything like that since I was twelve years old and went on a canoeing trip up Desolation Sound with my father. We could hear the wolves from our campsite every night. I loved the sound.”
“Don’t let her howl give you any ideas about Buttercup’s personality. Her wolf genes begin and end with her howl. She’s a complete wimp.”
“She’s a big dog for an apartment dweller.”
“Yes, well, I didn’t exactly choose her. She just sort of happened.” Michael paused. You see, I’m in the R.A.A. Unit.”
“Robbery, Assault, Arson. We got an anonymous call that there was a break and enter in progress at an apartment house on the east side. When my partner and I answered the call, we didn’t find a robbery in progress. What we found was found a room full of people cutting and bagging cocaine. We called immediately for backup, but before it could come, gun fire was exchanged and people got hurt. It wasn’t supposed to have happened that way.”
Michael paused and frowned. Sayuri wondered if he was going to say anything more.
Then he sighed. “When it was all sorted out, as we were to leaving the scene I heard whimpering. I pulled this small scrawny shivering mass of matted fur out from under the bed. I was supposed to take her to the SPCA, but I didn’t. I took her home with me. She couldn’t have been more than two months old and she was half starved and filthy. I fed her and bathed her and the next day I took her to the vet for a checkup. He said there was nothing wrong with her that food and love wouldn’t cure.”
“So you had a dog.”
“I had a dog. I had no idea at the time she was going to grow into a giant hairy mammoth.” This was spoken with obvious affection as he ruffled the dog’s head.
“But her name?”
“Just look at her.”
Sayuri studied the dog. She had fur as thick as a bear’s, only longer. Her underbelly was white and everywhere else she was brown and black and white in large splotches. “I don’t get it.”
“Look under her chin.”
Sayuri laughed. “Of course.” There was a large spot of bright yellow there.
The dog, tired of being the object of so much attention, moved to the fireplace, circled three times and plopped down in front of it.
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!