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Pandemic projects: Retired Freeman High School teacher self-publishes Welsh mystery series

Dec. 16, 2021 Updated Thu., Dec. 16, 2021 at 6:30 a.m.

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Janet Newton has always loved to write.

“I’d make up stories and tell them to my younger siblings when we slept out in the tree house or the barn on summer nights,” she recalled.

She taught Spanish, English and creative writing at Freeman High School for 30 years before retiring in 2005. Retirement gave her time to concentrate on writing. She already knew she wanted to write what she loved to read – British murder mysteries. But introducing original settings and characters to a beloved genre took some time and thought.

Ultimately, she drew inspiration from a trip she had taken to Wales in 2001.

“I settled on a tiny village called Llangynog in Wales as the setting for my series,” said Newton. “I’m drawn to the mystical history of that country, and the village I set my books in is listed on the mystical Britain sites as a ‘thin place,’ – a place where the lines between worlds can be crossed.”

She joined the Inland Northwest Writers Guild and is proud to be one of the guild’s original members. With encouragement from the group, she finished “In the Churchyard Spilled,” the first of what turned out to be five books in the Llangynog Murders series. Newton is currently working on the sixth.

The novels feature two returning characters; Bronwyn Bagley, a young Welsh woman who’s able to communicate with otherworldly faeries, and Detective Chief Inspector Will Cooper of the North Wales major crimes unit who finds her “connections” useful as he investigates murders in the area.

Newton said the plots come to her in bits and pieces.

“The murders are the hardest part – figuring out who gets murdered and why. With the first book, I didn’t even know who the murderer was going to be until I was actually writing.”

She chuckled.

“I like to be as much in the dark as my readers.”

While Newton enjoyed writing and sharing the books with friends, she didn’t have the time or desire to publish. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

She’d visited Wales four additional times during her retirement, the last trip in 2019. The pandemic meant travel was off the table for the Spokane Valley resident and so were many other activities she and her husband, Craig, enjoyed.

“I had plenty of time on my hands, and my friends were urging me to publish. So, I did,” she said.

In August 2020, Newton released “In the Churchyard Spilled” on Amazon. She has published four more books in the series. The fourth novel, “Over the Whales Road,” came out in July, and the fifth is due for release in February. The books are available in hardback, paperback and Kindle versions.

Newton has been delighted with the response from readers.

“I’m loving it, and I am thankful for the extra free time the pandemic gave me,” she said.

Learning how to self-publish while continuing to write and dream up new plots for Bronwyn, Will and the villagers in Llangynog, gave framework and joy to Newton’s days.

“Being a published author had been my lifelong dream. If not now, when?” she said. “It’s the scariest thing in the world to put your work out there, but it’s been so rewarding.”

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Correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com.

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