Book Interview on February 2013
Interview by Laura
Blair, it's great to see you here again at The Romance Reviews to talk about SONATA. Thank you for taking the time to be here.
Q: First of all, SONATA depicts the romance between Sayuri and Michael, but there's also a mystery involved. What made you write a mystery? What is it about the genre that interests you?
Mysteries are among my favourite books to read. I love Donna Leon's series featuring Venetian detective, Guido Brunetti, and Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano books. But I love a good romance as well. I'm a great fan of Nora Roberts who often combines mystery and romance. I like there to be both internal conflict (the love story) and external conflict (the mystery) in both the books I read and the books I write.
Q: In the story, jewelry of about two million dollars has gone missing from Sayuri's family home. Aside from the monetary loss, what sentimental value does the jewelry have for Sayuri's family and for Sayuri personally?
Sayuri's father gave her mother, his first wife, jewelry to mark every occasion—but it was in the nature of an investment. Her mother didn't care to wear diamonds and emeralds, and wore them only when she had to, on special occasions. Of the things stolen, only two pieces mattered to Sayuri: her mother's wedding ring and a small jade pendant given to Sayuri by her Japanese grandmother. The latter had no great financial value but a great deal of sentimental value.
Q: There were several suspects as to who the thief could be, yet in your character study of Sayuri, you mentioned that Michael suspects her father may have been involved. How did this affect the budding romance between Michael and Sayuri?
Everyone in the household is initially a suspect, and Sayuri is incensed that Michael should have to "clear" her father and Nora and Joseph who have been "family" to Sayuri since her mother's death when she was a child. This creates tension, but as Michael eliminates suspects, Sayuri comes to understand the necessity of the process.
Q: You've made such a great character study of Sayuri. Could you please share with us a brief character study of Michael Donovan? What makes him tick?
This is how I saw him before I started writing the book, but I'm afraid it's not brief!
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 fiancée and the couple who have worked for them for years and raised Sayuri after her mother's death must be considered as suspects 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?
Q: You mentioned that Sayuri and Michael shared a past. How was it like for Sayuri to see him again after so many years? How about for Michael?
Her knees go weak. She has to sit down and try to concentrate on what's being said. She wonders how he can possibly still have this effect on her after so many years.
As for Michael, he drives away from the house, his mind and emotions churning so much that he misses the turn into his headquarters.
Q: You've already shared with us an excerpt in a previous interview. How about another excerpt where Michael and Sayuri are at a deeper point in their relationship?
This isn't deeply into their relationship, but it is later than the first excerpt I offered:
Sayuri thought about three more days and nights with Michael as she brushed her teeth and turned on the shower. Especially about the three nights. She wasn't sure she could survive three nights like last night. She ached in places she hadn't even been aware she had. Whatever had possessed her to come here with Michael for four whole days? Last night had been wonderful. Exciting beyond belief. But four days, four nights… she shivered as she stepped under the pulsing water. It was almost like a commitment. Was she ready for that?
Then she had a more disquieting thought. Was Michael ready for that? He said he loved her, but that was last night in the heat of passion. Men said things like that in the heat of passion. At least she had read that they did. Her personal experience was pretty limited.
Oh well, it was just four days out if her life. She would try to relax and let what happened, happen. She shivered in anticipation. He was so exciting. So overpowering. She wasn't sure she liked being so easily overpowered. She wasn't used to losing control. She'd try not to let that happen again. Surely she could control her own responses.
Q: Woo…so intense. In the previous interview, you've also shared with us the most romantic thing that Michael did for Sayuri. How about Sayuri? What is the most romantic thing she did for or say to Michael?
Sayuri and Michael are deeply involved. They've been sleeping together for some time, but she's not sure whether she loves him or not. Is it love or is it just sex? She's never been in love before. Then her father asks her, "How would you feel if he disappeared from your life?" She realizes life without him would be unthinkable. She calls him and asks him to meet her on his lunch hour just so she can tell him she loves him.
Q: Aw, that's certainly romantic. It would be remiss of us as this point not to talk about the other interesting characters in the story. Please share with us something about Sean (Sayuri's father), Alyssa (Sean's new wife) and Hugh James (Alyssa's brother).
Sean McAllister—Think Sean Connery when he was 50. Urbane, charming, worldly, delightful company—and a thoroughly good man.
Alyssa—a woman with a past she hopes no one will ever uncover. Superficially very sophisticated, inwardly insecure.
Hugh James—Anything I say about him, except for his Irish charm and his desire to bed and wed the wealthy and beautiful Sayuri, would give away too much of the story.
Q: Having a stepmother is never easy, no matter at what age we are. How did Sayuri cope with having one? How did Alyssa cope with having a grown-up stepdaughter?
Neither of them copes very well at the beginning. How they come to like and respect each other is one of the journeys in SONATA.
Q: What's up next for you?
I'm in the final draft stage of a thriller — ROMANTIC ROAD — a romantic suspense story in which my heroine is pursued all over Europe in the company of a dashing, handsome stranger. I'm hoping for a fall release.
How thrilling! Thank you, Blair, for sharing with us these insights! We'll be sure to check out your next novel.
About Blair McDowell:
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 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!
Blair is graciously giving away 2 copies of SONATA (digital)! Sweet! Thanks, Blair!
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