Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Friends with Margaret Blake

Our Friday Friend this week is multi-published author, Margaret Blake, whom I ‘met’ via a yahoo group last year and have since met up with a few times, as we only live about 50 miles apart. Margaret has written over 20 novels, and her historical romantic suspense “The Substitute Bride” made the finals at the Eppies this year. Her new book, “Dangerous Enchantment” is published this month by Whiskey Creek Press.

Margaret's website is at

HWH: Hi, Margaret, you and I have a lot in common, not least both being Lancashire born and bred. But whereas I’ve always lived in North West England, you have experienced other places. Can you tell us a little about your life?

MARGARET: I was born in Manchester, England – actually during the blitz. My Grandson wrote a story about me and told how I was “born under a table” when actually what I had told him was that I used to “hide under a table when the bombs were falling!” If ever I do write an autobiography I certainly know what to call it.

John, the love of my life and my wonderful husband, recently died. He and I both lived in the United States when we were younger, however we did not know one another then, and it is just one of those small coincidences that seem to bind us together. We used to travel quite a bit and lived in St Tropez, France for a short time, which was quite amazing. Now I live in Fleetwood, Lancashire and it is wonderful – I love being part of Lancashire once more!

I have one wonderful son, a fantastic daughter-in-law and three lovely grandchildren. They live in the States so I get to go over every year, which is marvellous.

HWH: Our sympathies are with you over your recent sad loss. It was John who encouraged you to submit your stories for publication, wasn’t it?

MARGARET: I always wanted to be a writer but when I was growing up such things were not possible for me. My parents were wonderful but they were quite hard up. From being fifteen I had to go out and earn money and did lots of different jobs from window dresser, waitress and secretarial work. I ran a pub and worked in a hotel, lots of variety is highly recommended for any writer. Having such a varied career did me no harm, in fact in many ways it was a great educator.

I always wrote from being a little girl but it was John who encouraged me to do something about it and in 1978 I had my first novel accepted for publication. I wrote historical and contemporary romance over a period of ten years and then opted to go into Higher Education. This proved to be another remarkable experience, I can highly recommend being a student at 40, and you meet so many interesting people. It used to amuse me to see that it was the mature students that turned up for all the lectures!

HWH: Whether you’re writing historical or contemporary, your stories are all romances. What do you think makes a good romance novel?

MARGARET: Strong characters, male and female. I hate wimpy girls who hang on men’s arms, I like women who are capable. And, of course, there has to be tension and passion.

HWH: Totally agree! So are you a plotter or a pantser?

MARGARET: I am a “pantser”. If I did plot I would change it, I change as I am writing. I think of a plot such as “what would happen to this woman if…” and then I have to have her name and the name of my hero. If I don’t have the name I can’t write a word. I then let the characters run away with the story. It would not work for everyone but it works for me. I like my characters to drive the story forward and not me!

HWH: Another thing that we have in common, as I too let the characters lead me. Now, something that I have problems with - how do you know when to stop ‘tweaking’ your manuscript?

MARGARET: I never know. I just think that seems all right – then when I get the proofs I always think I could have done something slightly different. But the basic plot I generally am happy with, it is just a word or two. I think you can over-tweak too! You have to be firm with yourself. I know someone who is still “tweaking” their novel that they wrote five years ago – it hasn’t gone on its merry way to a publisher yet.

HWH: Very good advice about being firm with yourself. Now I need to be firm, stop tweaking mine, and send it on its merry way. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received or read?

MARGARET: I don’t understand the advice “write about what you know” as, if I took that mantra as my own, I would never write anything interesting. For instance I have written two books set in Spain and I’ve never been to Spain, so I am not sure what they mean by that. Perhaps it is for more “serious” writers. The best advice I ever had is from my husband. “Stop hiding those stories in a drawer and send them out to a publisher!”

HWH: John gave me some advice too, the last time I saw him. He said simply “Keep on writing.” Which leads us to my next question: what’s your cure for ‘writer’s block’ or when you’re stuck at some point in your story?

MARGARET: Leave it alone, go for a walk or just forget about it for a day or two. When you return and look at the story you will be inspired. However, there is a more serious side to writer’s block when you can’t even write a story. That did happen to me and it was meeting up with my late friend Loren Teague that had me back in the saddle and raring to go. Other people can, by showing they have confidence in you, be inspiring.

HWH: Meeting you has certainly inspired me! It’s so good to have a writer friend in ‘real life’ as well as those we meet via the internet! I know you have a varied and busy life in addition to your writing. What are your other interests?

MARGARET: My other hobbies are walking and reading. I like the theatre and films and television – I am a Frasier freak and just have to watch all the CSI shows. I also really feel lucky to have my family and my friends. They are a wonderful support to me. They are carrying me over this lonely, heartbreaking path that I am currently on. Bless them all.

HWH: You didn’t mention my favourite TV show, ‘The West Wing’ but I know you enjoyed that too! Now let’s talk more about your writing. Which, of all the characters you have created, is your favourite – and why?

MARGARET: Oh yes, how could I forget The West Wing, one of the greatest shows on TV, if not the greatest. When I am writing my characters they are my current favourites but if I look back over my work three spring to mind. One is Sarah who featured in my Peterloo books, I liked Sarah because she was a fighter. She overcame terrible odds in her life and she is a role model for anyone. My other favourite is Maddie in Eden’s Child, she is strong and although suffering like Sarah, manages to move her life forward. She is also not afraid of facing up to the truth. My other favourite is Jesse Crane from "A Poisoned Legacy"…oh boy I am afraid I have fallen madly in love with Jesse and don’t mind admitting it!

HWH: Your new book is set in the late Middle Ages. What attracts you to the medieval period?
MARGARET: I have always been fascinated by this period, of course my main attraction has always been Richard the Third. I obsess about what kind of country we would have were he to have remained king. He was a true renaissance man and not a penny pincher like Henry the Seventh! So I imagine lots and lots more art would be seen.

HWH: Although I’m a historian by profession, I’ve always been scared by the research needed to write a novel set at any time in the past. How do you research your historical novels?

I used to research my novels by going to the source, I would read extensively and especially really good biography. Then I learned a trick about background research. Children’s history books are a mine of information and they have excellent illustrations too!

HWH: Please give us a ‘teaser’ about your new book, “Dangerous Enchantment”.

MARGARET: A medieval historical romantic suspense, it tells the story of Kate Merryweather. She has been trusted with a very important cargo. How can she keep the secret of her supposed stepson? If someone finds out the truth, Kate knows both of them will be killed. The safety of the castle in Yorkshire is suddenly no more. A Lancastrian lord has been granted the house and lands of her dead husband. Shall she chance the roads and escape to Burgundy, or stay and out bluff the new lord?

HWH: I can’t wait to read it because, as you know, I’m also a ‘fan’ of Richard III and the mystery that surrounds him.

“Dangerous Enchantment” is published by Whiskey Creek Press this month. It is available from the publisher in e-book and print, and also from or as an e book only from

We wish you every success with it, Margaret, and thank you very much for joining us at this time. We really appreciate it and hope that your happy memories of John will help you through this very sad time for you.

MARGARET: Thank you, Paula, it has been wonderful to be here. I feel John has inspired some of my answers, he always was “the wind beneath my wing” and now he is my guardian angel and will always be there for me.


  1. Am reading Dangerous Enchantment and loving it. Is Kate based on a real historical figure?

  2. Margaret, I'm so sorry to hear about your husband. I LOVE the advice he gave you, and good thing you listened, right?

    My question for you is... Do you have any tips on how to revise a MS before you send it out? Are there things you make sure you have checked for?

  3. My heart goes out to you, Margaret. Wishing you much comfort in this difficult time.
    Congrats on the release of Dangerous Enchantment.

  4. Hi Margaret,
    It is wonderful to have you here. Paula talks about you often with great affection and admiration.

    I love historicals, too. I think research is exciting and fun. I take advantage of children's library books for research.

    I will order your new release this weekend. (I prefer printed books.)

  5. Great interview. John gave you excellent advice.

  6. Thanks everyone. Ana I hope Dangerous Enchantment will go into print, I prefer that too.
    Toni, my only advice for revising an MS is to leave it for at least seven days, it's amazing what you see after you have left it a while. This brings fresh insight and I always try to do that.
    Kathy - no Kate is a figment of my imagination, is she a little like me? I have been in love with Richard the Third for many years???

    Thanks so much for condolences and kind remarks.

  7. Margaret, my heart goes out to you. I'm so sorry about your loss. Dangerous Enchantment sounds really interesting. I'll have to check it out.

  8. Margaret,
    I am an Internet buddy of Paula's who shares her love of TWW. This interview has been most interesting. I am sorry for your recent loss, but so glad your husband did encourage you to get those transcripts off to the publisher. I have just purchased an electronic copy of The Substitute Bride for my Nook from Barnes & Noble. I look forward to reading one of your novels. Cheers, Cally

  9. Thank you Cally - that is so great. I hope you enjoy The Substitute Bride, but what is your Nook?
    Thank you, Amber, your kind comment is much appreciated.
    I would never have sent a novel to a publisher without John making me. When I had my first book accepted he bought me a bottle of champagne and has carried on that tradition ever since.

  10. I meant to say, anyone who contacts me on this page, has a chance of winning an e book copy of Dangerous Enchantment. All names in the green fedora tomorrow - so keep watching.

  11. Hi Margaret,
    Wonderful interview. We all know what a great author you are, but you are so brave and steadfast in the face of such a terrible loss. Your John would be proud of you. And what wonderful memories you have to hold within your heart.
    Your Aussie mate, Margaret

  12. Hi Margaret, you are so kind, thank you for your lovely thoughts. You are such a good friend and have been inspirational during this dreadful time.

    I am off to bed now, I am sorry but just so exhausted with all that's gone on. But please rest assured I will be back at 2.00 a.m.Eastern and will be answering any questions or just saying hi to people who drop by.

    Ciao for now, Margaret.

  13. Margaret I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, John sounds like he gave you valuable advice.

    I also love the way you let your characters lead the story. I try to have a plot, but my characters do take over.

    Dangerous Enchantment sounds wonderful.
    Best wishes

  14. Thank you Jan, I find it more exciting when I am running by the seat of my pants, not knowing what is going to happen next I am sure adds to the momentum.

  15. Margaret, sincere condolences on your loss; my heart goes out to you.

    Congratulations on the release of Dangerous Enchantment. It sounds wonderful and I'll certainly be checking it out.

  16. An interersting and touching interview.
    I feel you must be the type of strong resilient sort of character that you write about in your books.
    Best wishes,
    Margaret Muir

  17. What an inspirational interview on so many levels -- both personally and professionally. Thank you for sharing so honestly, Margaret!


    Jen Dosher

  18. How kind you all are - thank you so much.
    Margaret and Elizabeth - it was good of you to stop by, I do appreciate that.
    Hi Jen - - I know we share so many things together, and I think honesty is one of them.

  19. Again Margaret, my most sincere sympathies about your loss. I am always fascinating to know with authors, do your characters "speak" to you? I had one author tell me that she changed a plot line because her hero didn't like it!


  20. Lovely interview, Margaret. Wishing you strength and luck in equal measures.

  21. Thank you Jan, and many congratulations for our future success.

    Marcy, I think that is wonderful about the author that thought the hero didn't like the plot. I can well believe that happened. You have to let your characters go to where they want and not where you are anticipating they go! They know best.

  22. From Gabriela Jacobs (via email)

    Margaret, I'm so sorry for your recent loss. It's sweet that you attribute your writing success your husband. It sounds like he had a lot of faith in you. I haven't read one of your novels yet, but I'm curious now that I've read this interview and am looking forward to reading your work. Best of luck!

  23. Thank you, Gabriela, I hope if you do read one of my books that you enjoy the experience.

    My first book was published in l978, and now I am up to my 24th published book, that is not counting those that did not make it!

  24. I am awed, Margaret, by your courage at this terribly sad time for you. Your strength is admirable as is your power of invention. 'Dangerous Enchantment' sounds a wonderful read.

  25. Thank you, Beth. I do find that working is the best medicine at the moment. I've had proofs to do for another historical book and publicity for Dangerous Enchantment, and I say thank goodness for that.

  26. The name out of the hat is Amber - so Amber if you will let me know your e mail address I will mail you an ebook copy of Dangerous Enchantment. You can let me know either via here or privately via my website.

    Cheers - been so lovely being here.