OK readers! It is that time again, so please grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax. Listen in as I chat it up with Margaret Blake about her life as well as a new book that contains suspense, drama, murder, romance, sexual tension, and enough mystery to keep you guessing.
Hello Margaret! Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions about life in general and your newest novel Shadows of the Past. Why don’t you start off by telling the readers a little about your book?
Shadows of the Past is about Alva who has lost her memory. That is the reason for her returning to Santa Caterina and to her estranged husband Count Luca Mazareeze. He is the only person who has offered her a place to stay. The island fascinates Alva but she is uncomfortably aware that something happened there that made her unhappy. She is also uncomfortable about her husband. Was she really married to this dark attractive aristocrat? When she asks about their marriage he tell her “the sex was good” which makes her think that it was not a marriage of like minds. It is only when someone tries to kill Alva that she realizes that she has to know something that someone is afraid of her revealing. This is my darkest romantic suspense to date. Writing romantic suspense is a new venture and this is the third one I have done.
With so many different ways to create a world with a tension-filled marriage, what made you choose amnesia as one of the main events within the book?
I needed Alva to go back to her husband with her past life obliterated. There was no way she would have gone back had she remembered the past. Alva also needed to get to know Luca again and to experience the deep emotional feelings she had for him.
Alva is so realistic in all she fears and the emotional highs and lows that are within her clouded world. Can you tell us if you were able to relate in any way to her as a character as well as relate as a victim?
Yes, I wanted Alva to be a strong woman, which was my main priority, she is a victim of course, but her character would help her overcome that. She was not going to give into those who meant her harm. She is also very independent, had a good career, she is able to think things through. It is her amnesia that holds her back.
Count Luca seems so debonair and enchanting. He is the epitome of what a true gentleman should be, kind and caring. And yet he is unable to trust his own wife after her betrayal, which gives him an air of mystery and sadness. Are his characteristics a reflection from someone you know whether personally or from history?
No, Luca is pure fiction. Actually I changed in my feelings about him when I first started writing. He is a handsome and cultured and romantic in an Italian kind of way, which I loved. He is hurt by what he perceives as Alva’s betrayal.
The book has a lot of rich and vibrant scenery that pulls the reader straight into the island of Santa Caterina. Can you please describe how you came up with this place?
Santa Caterina is fiction but I have been to the Isles of Capri and Elba and travelled a good deal in Italy, I had this wonderful place in my head but it isn’t a real place, more a combination of places I have visited and of course, the kind of place I would love to visit! I think it is my love of Italy that spills over into the book. I am fascinated by islands – I suppose that stems from living on one, albeit one much larger than Santa Caterina.
There is a strained relationship not only between Luca and Alva, but between Alva and Renata also. With the storyline already full of conflict, why add the stepdaughter which makes the strain of relationships more hostile?
Renata is really a catalyst, she is more important to the plot later on but also she is able to reveal to Alva the truth of Luca’s first marriage. There is no way Luca would ever talk about Sylvia to Alva. I think it also shows how contradictory the original image of Alva is. Really in a way Alva’s concern for Renata also leads her into trouble.
Antonio is a perfect example of a mysterious character. There is just something about him that the reader knows they do not like, even as they cannot figure out what it is. How did you come up with him?
I don’t know. I wanted to write about someone that I did not like and he just flew off the page. I really detested him but of course I did not want to show any reason for his being dislikeable. He really is a creep, isn’t he?
As I mention in my review, the ending is a shocker. Will you do a follow up story from where this novel ends?
Funnily someone else asked me that. At the moment I don’t think I will because I think the ending says it all…but you never know.
Now I would like to talk a little about you. Can you please start off by giving us any websites you might have? For example MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, maybe a blog?
I have my own website, and readers can leave comments there. I am at MySpace - facebook - you can find me at twitter and I do a blog with three other writers from Whiskey Creek Press for whom I also write – Hale writers also have a blog to which I contribute from time to time.
I was reading up on your biography and saw where it mentions you began writing at a young age. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I always wanted to be a newspaper reporter, so my first story was about this girl that goes to work at a newspaper. I never wrote “fairy stories” they were always about grownups. Strange but true. I think it stemmed from my being an only child and being surrounded by older people for much of the time.
Your website also refers to your love of history. What is it about history that you love so much?
I am particularly interested in medieval history. I love that period, and it is challenging to write about a time without mobile phones. You can string the plot out far more easily because of the difficulty in communication and people finding things out. I have written about the Victorian period too, I like it when you are at the start of things, when these wonderful inventions were being developed and their effect on the community. I have a medieval romantic suspense out with Whiskey Creek – probably next year and I really love writing about that period. The Substitute Bride published by them last year was such fun to write. It got me back to writing historicals as well as contemporaries. It was the No. l best seller at the publishers too.
You reveal that you later went back to further your education, which I would like to commend you for. When you began teaching “mature students”, what is it that you taught them?
The most important thing I could teach them was “I did it and so can you” not to be afraid but just enjoy learning. Many of my students had had a hard time at school for one reason or another; it is a big bold step to go back into a classroom. Another secret was not to make it like a classroom, there are lots of ways of teaching mature students, and you don’t have to have them sitting at desks making notes all the time.
You travelled to Australia and New Zealand after you retired. Can you illustrate to the readers how it felt to do this and maybe some of the things you saw while you explored?
I had always wanted to go to Australia and my husband told me I should go. I wanted to spend more than three or four weeks but money was a concern. My sister in law told me to stay at Youth Hostels, and I did this. It was great, such a revelation I met people from all over the world and these are such friendly places. I had the time of my life. I went to Alice Spring – you know A Town like Alice the novel (one of my favorites) and it was fantastic. I was amazed to see how red the centre of Australia is. Once a wallaby put its paw on my hand, I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I swam in Crystal Rivers and in the Pacific, the Tasman and the Coral Sea. I climbed in King’s Canyon and saw the wonder that is Ayres Rock and the huge red Olgas. My novel “Eden’s Child” (also a No. l best seller at WCP) came from my visit to Australia and “Breaking the Clouds” my first romantic suspense came out of my visit to New Zealand. You know when you dream of something the reality is never quite how you picture it, that did not happen on this trip. Everything was like in my dream. I loved every moment.
You write romance, mainly historical and contemporary. Is there a genre that you would like to write that you have not had the chance to? What about a genre that you would never write?
I am happy writing historical, contemporary and romantic suspense. I would not write any other genre – I certainly never would write science fiction.
With your love of history, have you thought what time period you would like to go to if you could travel back in time? What about what period your husband would like to go to?
Medieval of course – I would love to meet King Richard the Third, one of my favorite characters. I know he would be charming and not the monster that Shakespeare portrayed. I asked John, my husband and he said l941 to l945 – because he had such a good time. MEN – I ask you, no imagination! LOL.
And one last question that I like to ask all of my interviewees. In keeping with the Coffee Time Romance theme, if you were described as a cup of coffee, what flavor would you be and why?
Ooh the hardest question of all – I love coffee straight – no fancy stuff in that cup – I guess I would be an espresso!
Thank you Margaret for taking the time to answer my hopefully thought-provoking questions. I had a blast thinking them up and hope you enjoyed answering them. Shadows of the Past is available through Robert Hale Books www.halebooks.com.