A Weyburn woman has written a novel with roots overseas.
Birdie's lullaby is a murder mystery novel written by Tara Keating-Jaap of Weyburn. The book is available on Amazon and Kindle, with printed copies arriving in a few weeks.
Keating says the novel evolved from a short story she began writing while taking a class in 2019 by local author Anne Lazurko.
"I remember Anne telling us in our class that her first novel, Dolly Bird, took her ten years because she had kids and so never did I see this happening with me. I thought this is a short story because she talked about things like the Writers Guild and things that you could have the inclination to do, if you wanted to further yourself. She didn't set out to task any of us with writing a novel," she shared.
The story took a longer form, she said, because of the setting of the story, as it takes place in Llantwit Major, Wales.
"I flew over there in 2001 and met my best friend, Heather Wagner, who was living in Japan at the time," she explained. "We stayed in Wales for a week and that is where I got the idea for the setting. Wales really made an impression upon me obviously."
She said they had stayed at the home of a relative of one of her relatives, so they were able to become immersed in Llantwit Major, where sheep, for example, were part of town life.
"I think I was so drawn to this area, as it impacted me so much when I was there in my 20s. I was probably about 26 or 27 when I was over there, and had never really traveled like that, and not alone," she noted. "I don't think I'd been on a plane from Regina to Calgary and I went all the way to Europe by myself and then met up with my friend. So it was a big deal."
The story revolves around what happens after Edith comes home from the shops to find her best friend Birdie dead.
"That's sort of the beginning of how the novel kicks off, everything to do with the law, and how this woman has come to die, and what has gone on, and the police looking into things. So it's really a murder mystery, and a lot of characters come into play."
Keating said the hardest part for her was keeping her timeline and characters straight, as she worked on the story outside of working a full-time job. So, she used a 'tracking document'.
"It had my people, all of their first names, their surnames maybe their ages potentially how they were related to other people," she told. "Their names weren't readily normal to Canadian culture. They are sort of names that you'll hear over in Europe a lot more, and so that was even a little bit of a struggle. Names of towns, and things I would always have to reference back, because I'm not going to remember the spelling of giant Gaelic names of towns and things."
The novel even has some people of English descent and Irish descent, and the main character Edith is loosely based on the matriarch of her gracious hosts in Wales.
"Of course I'm a Canadian person trying to write with the accents of different people from the UK, and so there are quite a few footnotes in the book for things that are, say, idioms and rhyming cockney slang kind of things that people over there may say that we here may not understand," explained Keating.
Also a published children's author, the murder mystery wasn't a genre Keating had originally pegged for herself.
"I don't read a lot of mysteries," she said. "I think I would say my stronger pull and desire for this kind of storyline is that I'm very and always have been really drawn to real-life tragedies and murders and deaths and podcasts. And I've always been fascinated."
"The very first thing that ever really intrigued me about that was a story that I read probably when I was 18, about some young girls who killed another classmate, and I was just so flabbergasted that something like that could occur. So now that podcasts are so readily available, I listen to a lot of things like that where people are trying to solve cold cases."
She shared that she is, in fact, writing another novel inspired by such things.
Birdie's Lullaby, which is available on Amazon and Kindle, had some ongoing editing help from her family members.
"So I did dedicate it to them, thanking them for their editing purposes and, still editing."
Keating noted the great part about publishing through Amazon is that changes can be made to the document, so the edits are reflected with each printing run.
A book signing at the CollabArtive Studios on February 11th from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.