In my mind, I’m gone to lovely Burchill*
(*sung to the tune of Carolina in My Mind)
Of course, unlike James Taylor, I couldn’t be gone to lovely Burchill anywhere else but in my mind, because Burchill is fictional. There are times, however, when I feel like it’s real. I hear voices in my head. I see imaginary places. I am a writer.
I did base Burchill on Merrickville, Ontario, which is near our nation’s capital city, Ottawa. One night when the highways were plugged with accidents and traffic, we veered off the regular path and drove through the little town on the Rideau River. I couldn’t believe it. Even in the dusky evening, I could see the river, the canal, the old-fashioned lift bridge. It was exactly what I’d pictured when I imagined my fictional Burchill.
My husband and I returned some months later to walk the streets. I’d found my village – almost.
Naturally, I had to write in a few extras. For instance, I wanted a lake as well as a river. I called it Ogeechee after an obscure location in Ontario. I added a native reserve, with an enclave of Ojibwa-Ottawayans (which only makes sense in a very loose historical way). It's called Sahsejewon, which means “rapids”, because the raging river passes through the territory. I made up all the residents. I kept a few of the street names, threw in some descriptions of homes from the Merrickville brochure, and later, a gold mine popped up (which only makes sense in a very loose geological way).
From a picture in a magazine, I designed Emily Taylor’s house. Right on the lake, of course, the place is huge and comfy with a big porch and a studio for Langford. She can look out from her kitchen and bedroom to watch the water’s changeable moods. No motorized boats are allowed on Emily's lake; instead, it’s dotted with sailboats and canoes. Perfect.
The Native Council and Town Council get along, consult one another, and most people are friendly and welcoming. Perfect.
How they manage to have so many murders and so much mayhem is a little odd. Especially since it all began with the arrival of Emily and Langford. It’s a bit of a challenge to ensure that I maintain the edge of believability where Burchill is concerned. I moved out to Vancouver for the fourth book but I'm coming back in the fifth.
Sometimes I wish I’d called the series The Burchill Mysteries, because involving many different characters is one way to take the focus off Emily. I don’t want her to become Jessica Fletcher, where murder follows her everywhere. Plus I absolutely adore my lovely little village. Maybe that explains why I can never find the perfect place to live. It exists only in my imagination.
Now back to the fifth novel.
I’m gone to lovely Burchill in my mind.
This is a picture from Merrickville, taken by my husband, Vince Astolfo.