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St. Albert vampire writer Cordelia Kelly visits Bailey Books

'She’s really good at painting the atmosphere. Her books are cinematic, and you see the movie in your head'

Starting with Stephanie Meyers' release of the Twilight series in 2005, Young Adult (YA) vampire stories have gained massive traction with teen readers.

There is no mystery to their success. They are heavily plot-driven and deliver imaginative escapist adventures. They’re easy to read and there is much to learn about the night creature’s mythology.

Cordelia Kelly is the latest author to join the paranormal fantasy world. The Calgary-based novelist just released The Well of Souls, her first YA vampire book. It is the first in a series of seven titled Port of Lost Souls.

In The Well of Souls, Lola Monteaux, is a treasure-hunting vampire. Although Lola has supernatural abilities, she is the crew’s weakling, and the leader puts a hit on her. Desperate to avoid death, she escapes to a haunted island cursed for her kind.

The teenage heroine’s lone mission is to find the fabled Well of Souls, a treasure that is rumoured to endow great powers upon demons and grant her the freedom she desires. However, the island’s powerful magic weaves a spell around her, and she begins to lose sight of securing her survival at any cost.

“She’s really good at painting the atmosphere. Her books are cinematic, and you see the movie in your head. Her main characters are tough and old, and this genre is quite up my alley,” said Lisa Bailey of Bailey Books. The Riel Park bookstore hosts Kelly’s first public reading and book signing on Saturday, June 29.

Bailey Books is a father-and-daughter-owned enterprise specializing in used, signed first editions, collectables, fiction and book repairs. The bookshop also has a Romantasy Club, Dungeons and Dragons, Stephen King collectables, and is bringing in a series of local authors.

What makes this book stand out among many others is the author. Cordelia Kelly is the pen name for Lauren Barr, a former St. Albert resident who graduated from St. Albert Catholic High School.

Upon graduation, Barr worked toward a law degree at the University of Calgary.

“I completed my program and a year of articling. I really enjoyed law school, but the day-to-day work in the firm was not for me,” said Barr.

After reassessing her future, she was accepted into a one-year journalism program at Mount Royal University and upon graduation secured employment with the Calgary Sun. Barr also met her husband at MRU. When his company relocated him in Geneva, it launched a new chapter in her life.

“When we moved to Geneva, I couldn’t work outside the home. My French wasn’t good enough. So, I chose to pursue writing. I became involved with a great writers’ group, and I started writing short stories. We came back to Canada just as COVID was starting,” Barr said.

Her concept for the vampire series came from two different places. First off, the writer wanted to write a gender reversal story. Although historical mythology paints female vampires as victims, Lola is anything but a pushover. Kelly works hard to avoid that trope. She gives Lola superhuman physical strength and the courage of her convictions.

“She was turned when she was 16 and she’s nearly 100 years old. She’s had a lot of life experiences, but she didn’t evolve after she was turned. She has a lot of experiential wisdom, but emotionally and mentally, she’s still 16 years old.”

The second influence emerged from a dream.

“I dreamt there was a group of humans and vampires living underground. They were enemies, yet they had to work together if they wanted to accomplish things.”

Vampire lore is traditionally dominated by a single type of vampire. Eager to put her own stamp on vampire legend, Kelly gives her night creatures elemental magic.

“Elemental magic comes from the elements — air, water, fire, earth. Lola has water magic and can spend a long time in water, and she can control her power using water.”

Barr has always relished reading the genre since she first discovered novelist R. L. Stine, horror fiction writer of the children’s Goosebumps Series.

“I’ve always enjoyed horror. It goes deeper into human emotion. It’s more real when a situation scares you. You don’t have the ability to put on pretences. You are most honest when you are terrified.”

Book II, Carnival of Fools, is written with a planned release for June 2025 and Book III Below the Staircase is also completed. The reading and book signing takes place Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 29B Rowland Crescent.

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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