Sunday, November 16, 2014

Author Blair McDowell: Where Do Plots Come From?

Coming soon from Wild Rose Press...

Recently widowed, Lacey Telchev is on a whirlwind chase around Europe running from mysterious thugs, and trying to solve a mystery through clues left by her late husband. She encounters a handsome stranger along the way, but is he helping her or is he too just using her to find her husband's secret?

As writers we’re frequently reminded that we must pay attention to pacing in our stories, that we must “keep the story moving”. I like a fast-paced tale as well as the next reader, and as a writer, I know I should be getting on with the story. But I like to stop and smell the roses. I love setting a scene. I like painting verbal pictures. In Romantic Road my heroine finds herself pursued down the Romantische Strasse in Germany, through 14th century walled towns, to Salzburg, then the beautiful lake district where The Sound of Music was filmed, and finally to a terrifying climax on the shores of Hungary’s Lake Baleton.

When I describe the lakes of the Salzkammergut or the dark medieval towns of Germany or the vineyards in the countryside of Hungary, I draw on years of being in these places. The route my heroine follows is one I have driven many times. Romantic Road is almost as much about my on-going love affair with these settings as it is about the lives and loves of my characters.

As a reader, I enjoy the stories of Donna Leon, set in Venice exuding the atmosphere of that incredibly lovely city, and of Andrea Camillieri, whose Sicilian settings leave one feeling dry and dusty, yet immersed in the stark beauty of that remote part of Italy. Or M.L. Longworth’s stories set in Aix en Provence, where one can almost taste the wine. I often find myself rereading descriptive passages in these books just for the sheer joy I take in reading any really good writing.

When engaged in my own writing, description and setting are vitally important to me. I love to travel, and for years I’ve kept detailed journals that I refer to frequently as I write. When I find myself in an intriguing or particularly beautiful or historic place, somehow characters suggest themselves. And once they have, their story unfolds, often very completely, in my mind. In a sense, the setting and the characters tell me the story.

With Romantic Road, the seeds of the story first occurred to me three years ago when I spent some time in Rothenburg, on Germany’s old Roman Road, the Romantische Strasse. The tall forbidding walls surrounding the town, the fourteenth century houses crowded close together, the cobblestone streets and old fashioned lamp light, all cried out for a heroine in distress pursued by unknown assailants, and of course for the right hero to help keep her safe. It was just the kernel of an idea, but it wouldn’t leave my mind until I created a plot around it and started writing in earnest.

The following is an excerpt from Romantic Road.
“Where is it? Just tell us where it is and you won’t get hurt.” The taller man loomed over her, his face expressionless, a mask.

“Where is what? What are you talking about? Who are you?” Lacy began to be annoyed. That was better than being scared. “Can I see your badges again?”

The second man stared hard at her though dead-looking flat grey eyes. “Mrs. Telchev,” he said, his voice low and menacing, “we mean you no harm. But you must tell us where he hid his manuscript.”  

They knew her name? Icy tentacles of fear slipping down Lacy’s back. She shook her head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

At that moment the red and white lights of a state police vehicle rounded the curve coming toward them. Seeing the blocked road it stopped. Two uniformed officers got out and approached the two parked cars.

“You’re blocking the road. What’s the trouble here?”

The taller man spoke.  “No trouble, Officer. Sorry about the way we’re parked. I’ll move the car immediately. The lady was pulled over here and we just stopped to see if she needed help.”

He flipped open his wallet and showed the officers the same ID he’d shown Lacy.
It seemed to mean something to the policemen.

Lacy opened her mouth to say something and then thought better of it. What could she tell the police? These men wanted a manuscript from her but she didn’t know where it was? Or what it was about? Or even if it existed. That it involved her dead husband? No. She wouldn’t say anything. Not until she knew more.

To find out more about Romantic Road or the writings of Blair McDowell visit 

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