Local author writes about historical Alberta

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CARSTAIRS – A local author has penned a novel for a book series celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.

Victoria Chatham is representing Alberta in the series titled Canadian Historical Brides, which includes one book from each province and territory written by a different Canadian author.

For her novel, Chatham wrote about love and adventure in Banff in 1935. Brides of Banff Springs is a fictional story about life at one of Canada’s great railway hotels in the Rocky Mountain town of Banff.

“My book was the first one out (of the series) and it’s set in Alberta,” said Chatham. “The next one out is from Nancy Bell, who lives in Airdrie. That one comes out in March. There are other ones coming out right until 2018. They have to be historically correct. They have to have a bride. It’s a sweet romance. They have to be suitable for ages 13 and up. Ultimately these books will probably be going into the school system because of the historical aspect.”

The book series is being put together and released by Canadian book publisher Books We Love with some funding from the Canada Book Fund.

Chatham, who has lived in Carstairs for three years, has written seriously for about 10 years.

“Before that I just dabbled,” she said.

She has published five books including Brides of Banff Springs and has also had short stories appear in two anthology books.

Although the story is fiction, Chatham spent a great deal of time researching the area and the era to ensure historical authenticity. She even works in the legend of the “ghost bride,” which according to stories still roams the halls of the hotel there.

“My publisher actually stayed there for a week and heard about the ghost bride and asked if I could work it into the story,” she said. “I said, ësure, I can.’ The ghost bride is one of several ghosts at the hotel. The story is that sometime in the early 1920s a bride was going down the stairs at the hotel and tripped on her dress, falling to her death.

“The other story is a little more dramatic, saying her dress caught fire from an open candle flame, again causing her to fall to her death. There’s actually quite a bit online about the ghosts of the Banff Springs Hotel.”

Chatham said she learned a lot about the hotel and the area such as that the hotel used to only be open in the summer.

“It wasn’t open year-round until 1969,” she said. “It closed down for awhile after the war and there was talk of demolishing it at one time. So the hotel has a great deal of history. Unfortunately, even though I was able to talk to one of the historians – because the hotel has changed management so many times a lot of the things I wanted to know about, the records were pretty sparse. There were a lot of gaps.”

The story focuses on a young lady, Tilly McCormack, who ends up working at the hotel after her father dies and she is left alone.

She meets a local guide who shows her around the area and points out interesting sites such as the hot springs and the trails in the area.

“I mention the CPR when the railway pushed through the mountains,” she said. “I talk about why people are in the mountains such as the surveyors looking for the best route for the railway line.

“The surveyors needed packers and guides. There’s also the silk train that ran through from Vancouver. The historical parts are all well researched and as accurate as I could make it.”

Chatham said she set the book in Banff because she loves the area.

“I’ve lived in Canada for 23 years and go to Banff maybe three or four times a year,” she said. “Certainly one of the great things to do in the winter if the roads are good is to go up and sit in the hot springs. You can see the mountains and with the snow it’s so lovely.”

Chatham, who came to Canada from the U.K., told the Gazette the book has been very well received and is even up for a Canadian Literary Award.

When Chatham heard about the historical book series celebrating Canada’s 150th she jumped on board immediately.

“I thought it was a great idea,” she said. “To do something to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday is a good thing. I never really like history in school but I’ve become more intrigued by history over the last few years. Being able to find out more about Canada through these stories (is wonderful).

“The things I learned just about Alberta from what I did. The more history is about people and places and less about dates the better. The fact that we’ll have one book for each province and territory, which will bring different aspects of Canadian history to the forefront – I think that’s great.”

Brides of Banff Springs is available in digital form (Ebook) through Amazon. Print copies can also be ordered from book retailers such as Chapters/Indigo/Coles or independent bookstores.

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About Author

Craig Lindsay

Craig Lindsay is a reporter with the Mountain View Gazette who joined the newspaper in 2016. He covers news, sports and community events in Didsbury, Carstairs and Cremona. He is a photographer and columnist as well.