Mainly because they've worked hard to achieve their good fortune, Bob and Melinda Blanchard are that rare couple that is easy to envy but impossible to resent. Proprietors of Blanchard's Restaurant (est. 1994), the most popular dining establishment in the Caribbean hideaway of Anguilla, these transplanted Vermonters first came to international attention with their nonfiction bestseller A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean (2000) -- a humorous, highly personal account of their adventures as struggling restaurateurs. With its freewheeling blend of personal anecdotes and savory recipes, the book struck a chord with legions of readers, and the Blanchards found themselves much in demand as lecturers, television guests, and life coaches.
In 2003, the couple released At Blanchard's Table, a cookbook filled with stories and recipes from their New England roots and their life in the Caribbean. Two years later, they scored a double hit with the self-explanatory manifesto Live What You Love and a culinary companion (Cook What You Love); and in the face of the 2008 recession, they released the practical how-to, Changing Your Course: The 5-Step Guide to Getting the Life You Want.
These days, the Blanchards juggle two lives. They continue to run their successful restaurant business in Anguilla, and they manage a booming cottage industry of linked services and products, specializing in practical change agency and dedicated to the proposition that we all deserve to live our dreams.
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The Blanchards adoptive home of Anguilla is a haven for celebrities anxious to escape the spotlight. They have served stars like Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, and Liam Neeson at Blanchard's Restaurant.
Some fun facts from our interview with the Blanchards:
"We can each easily eat an entire pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream in one sitting."
"Some of Bob's favorite moments are spent on his John Deere tractor, mowing the field at our house in Vermont. Anyone who visits us and shows even the teeniest amount of interest gets an automatic ride on the John Deere."
"As ironic as it may sound, we unwind by going to New York. Living in Anguilla and Vermont is wonderful, but it's always fun to enjoy the contrast of the hustle and bustle of a great city."
"More than anything else, we love to design things. Could be a restaurant, a house, a store, or something as simple as a greeting card. Sounds like work to some, but it's fun to us."
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In the spring of 2006, Bob and Melinda Blanchard took some time out to answer some of our questions about their favorite books, authors, and interests:
What was the book that most influenced your life or your careers as writers?
Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk was the book that probably had the most influence on our life. Though it was a work of fiction, it described life in the Caribbean in all its glory and eventually led us to our own life in paradise.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
We're both suckers for sappy love stories. We go to the movies to relax and be entertained and avoid films that are violent, heavy, or depressing.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
We both like to write in complete silence. Our taste in music varies depending on where we are and what we're doing at the time. The Blanchard's Restaurant kitchen wouldn't be what it is without reggae and calypso in the background. When we're in Vermont, we tend to lean toward folk and country -- probably because they share real stories about people with whom we can identify.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. His stories are so very real.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
We love books that make people feel good and relate to real life at the same time. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is an all-time favorite.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
Chocolate always helps us write. It makes us feel a bit indulgent and helps us relax. Crazy, huh?
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
We were lucky. Our first book proposal sold immediately, and we haven't stopped since. We seem to have a short attention span and have trouble focusing on only one business or project at a time. Writing books while we run the restaurant is perfect for us. There's always plenty to keep us challenged.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Write from your heart.
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