Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Peggy Blair on Cuban music, insects and tiny cars

The author of Umbrella Man answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Peggy Blair is the author of the novel Umbrella Man. (

It's not all bad being a character in a Peggy Blair novel. Sure, you're knee-deep in deeply troubling murders, as Blair's latest instalment in the Inspector Ramirez series, Umbrella Man, attests. But on the other hand, you're in dazzling, hot, vibrant Cuba, with not a grim Canadian snowstorm in sight.

Below, Peggy Blair answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. Tracey Lindberg asks, "Your latest novel is made into a movie. Who is on the soundtrack?"

It has to be Cuban music, since my books are set in Havana. I'm a huge fan of Caridad Cruz and Miguel De Armas, who have often played live at my launches. That throaty Afro-Cuban jazz would make a terrific soundtrack.

2. Teresa Toten asks, "Where in the entire writing process (from first draft to waiting for reviews) do you feel the most vulnerable?"

Sending what I think is a complete manuscript to a prospective agent or publisher. That's when I usually discover it ain't as ready as I thought it was.

3. Charlotte Gill asks, "What is your Kryptonite?"

Not ever knowing enough about any subject, even the ones I have a doctorate in, to feel confident I know what I'm talking about. I have to remind myself it's not whether it's true but whether it's believable.

4. Joy Fielding asks, "What comes first — the character, the theme, or the plot?"

None! I often start a book with an idea for one single chapter. In Hungry Ghosts, it was the idea of a scene with an entymologist who could tell exactly when someone died by tracing an insect's life cycle, and who was smitten with her bugs. In Umbrella Man, it was the idea of a car chase involving a cocotaxi.

(Adam Jones)

5. William Deverell asks, "Ever wanted to throttle an interviewer? Tell me about it."

Never. But I've been at a few book clubs where I've had readers disagree with me about the plot of my books, or tell me I'd written something I hadn't written. Just goes to show that the books I write are not always the ones they read.

6. Eric McCormack asks, "Honestly, what does your writing tell you — both the good and the bad — about yourself?"

That I'm completely undisciplined, and that I am probably a bit OCD.

7. Lawrence Hill asks, "What is the worst job you ever had, and what kind of good material did it give you?"

I never lasted very long at terrible jobs, which meant I had a lot of them. Means I have a bit of insight into quite a few different careers and the characters you meet along the way.

8. Anthony Bidulka asks, "Have there been moments in your career, early or late, when you doubted yourself as a writer?"

I'm a writer?


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?