BOW VALLEY – When first penning the newly released suspenseful mystery novel The Man in the Barretina Hat, author Nancy O’Hare took extra care of the story for its only two readers at the time.
After all, the writer’s audience was her parents and entertaining them was only part of the bigger picture.
Best known for her work in helping others grow green in their pocket through personal finance handbooks and first-hand travelling accounts at world destinations, O'Hare's latest book The Man in the Barretina Hat delves into fiction for the first time and into a genre she’s been fascinated with since childhood.
“In non-fiction books, you have to stay true to the experience and what really happened,” said O’Hare. “In The Man in the Barretina Hat, I could push boundaries and create intrigue and drama.”
Under the warm sun on the Mediterranean island of Malta is where a dangerous picture begins to emerge in O’Hare’s suspense novel that intertwines religion, ancient civilizations and modern cyber-technology.
Two professors disappear on the same day; a baker gets involved in shady side businesses; and a woman wakes up in a strange clinic in a story web that includes misinformation, conspiracy and shifting allegiances.
“There is certain characteristics that I wanted to build into the characters. For example, I wanted them to have enough depth that I could explore, say, the different characters motivations, why they did what they did,” said O’Hare. “Even if they were depicted as a foe, then the characters’ themselves actually saw themselves as bad people.
“Kind of like life and what lens you’re looking through affects your reality.”
O’Hare, who used to live in Canmore, is abroad preparing for an endurance race in Nepal. She said she hopes readers get a thrill out of her latest work and gain some value from it.
However, she can’t help but think to why she initially started writing The Man in the Barretina Hat two years ago. At that time, she was only writing a few paragraphs per day and then emailing them to her late father, Brian Veale, and mother, Millie.
During the summer of 2020, Brian was diagnosed with lung cancer, and Millie, a retired nurse, was his primary caregiver.
“I wanted to help out as I could, but it was quite difficult during that time because of all the restrictions and my dad was at such a high risk as well,” said O’Hare.
“My mom said that having something to look forward to everyday really made a difference for them … so that’s when I started to write and emailing them a paragraph a day hoping to give them something to look forward to that was completely unrelated to normal life and all the stresses they were going through.”
The author went-back-forth on what direction to go and was constantly thinking if her story was engaging and worth reading.
“I had a really singular purpose with each paragraph and wanting to make sure it was weighty enough in its own right and to leave my mom and my dad wanting to read the next day’s paragraph,” she said.
What materialized as a novel became The Man in the Barretina Hat. Within the first few pages, O’Hare dedicates the story to her father, writing that he was a man who wore many hats.
“Because I was writing it for my dad and my mom, there are even more emotions attached to it,” said O'Hare.
“On a personal note, my dad collected hats. For me, it made the name really special because it matches the story and matches that he was a man of many hats. In the metaphorical sense, he did a ton of different stuff, but he also collected physical hats so it kind of just fit all around.”