“It’s a mystery, with a gothic tinge to it,” says Oickle. “This book stems from the old saying ‘one crow sorrow, two crows joy, three crows a letter, four crows a boy’.”
According to the official synopsis, on a damp March morning, the unexpected arrival of young Maggie Collins coincides with the sudden appearance of thousands of crows that descend upon Liverpool, covering it with a dark shroud of foreboding. The large ebony birds have visited the town in the past, and the residents understand that their return is a sinister omen. As the town is shaken to its very foundation, Maggie Collins goes about her mission.
Oickle doesn’t know where the idea for the story came from, however he says he’s always had an interest in the supernatural tales.
“Superstition and folklore of the Maritimes has always been an interest of mine, and I grew up in a home where (my family) was into the superstitions.”
As he developed the character and the plot, it just seemed to him as a natural fit to the story, which evolved from there.
Once he had the main character and what she was going to do set in place, the people and places were built around her.
“The main thing for me was getting her character right; she drives the story.”
One thing that was certain from the start was it had to take place in a rural town in the Maritimes to work. While it is set in “Liverpool”, the story isn’t meant to be a reflection of any specific place or people living in the community. He says he tried many different names both real and fictional, but Liverpool just seemed to stick.
“It’s my Liverpool in my head. The people and places in the town are fabricated.”
He says the historic timeline of Liverpool is the same, but book’s description does not give any sense of “this is a certain place in the town.”
Oickle adds he is a big fan of Steven King, and drew inspiration from how King creates towns, which are real place you can pick out on a map.
The story draws from folklore tales from the Maritimes, and grew from his research on ghost stories. Many of his non-fiction books deal with ghost stories of the Maritimes, which has involved a lot of investigating and talking to others about their stories.
The process to create the novel has been very long with a lot of rewrites and edits, he says, both his own and suggestions from family, friends and the publisher.
“This story has been percolating for many years. I probably put the first words of this story on paper six or seven years ago.”
It wasn’t immediately picked up either. He says there were a few rejections, and he would rework it to make it better, or put it away for a while and work on something else. However it wasn’t a story he could abandon.
“The basic story has always been there. Every time I went on to something else, I kept thinking about this story. It just had to tell it.”
Oickle says he’s discovered over the course of two novels writing fiction is very different from journalism. While journalism is sitting down to write a factual story, a novel is coming up with your own facts and presenting them in a believable way.
“It’s a challenge to write fiction that good and believable, is readable to the reader.”
The journalism side has helped though, he says, because part of being a journalist is observing people and your surroundings.
His first fiction book, Dancing with the Dead, had a similar supernatural feel, and was set in historic Liverpool. Oickle thinks he’s grown as an author since then, and this book will be much better.
“I think I’ve grown as a writer. I’m also working with a good company and editor, and that’s important too,” he says.
The company he is working with is Bryler Publications out of Chester, which is a fairly new startup. Oickle says the close proximity to home has made the process a whole lot easier. However being close to home doesn’t mean the company goes easier on his writing.
“As a writer and a journalist, you think every work you write is perfect. What you need is someone to look at the work and say ‘that just doesn’t work’.”
Oickle was born and raised in Liverpool, graduating from high school in 1979. After training as a journalist in Lethbridge Alberta, he started working full time with The Advance in 1982. The original summer position turned into a full time position, and he moved into the editor role in the late 1980’s. In 1994, he moved over to the Bridgewater Bulletin as editor, and has remained there ever since.
He has written 13 books over his career, two of which have been novels. The rest are non-fiction, focusing on ghost stories of the Maritimes. Later on this fall, he also has another non-fiction book coming out on people’s encounters with angels.
Oickle still lives in Liverpool, both his and his wife’s families are from Liverpool, and they feel very ingrained in community. When he took over the editor role in Bridgewater, he did briefly think about moving. However with his roots and young family in Liverpool, they decided to stay in the community.
He stays active in several community and professional organizations, and is the past president of the Atlantic Community Newspapers Association, chairman of the local school advisory council and was the chairman of the committee to refurbish the old burial ground in Liverpool. He was also on television in November 2005m on the series “Shadowhunters” on the Space channel.
The book launch is Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at Lane’s Privateer Inn, which was done on purpose to tie in with supernatural feel of the story. The evening is open for anyone who would like to drop in.