Russian folklore is rich in characters. There is Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch with iron teeth, bumbling fools, damsels in distress and fantastic creatures like the fire bird.
Their adventures and mishaps are buried deep in Liliya Galitskaya’s mind.
Born in the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, Galitskaya can’t help but draw on them for inspiration.
I grew up surrounded by stories, she says, as she explains how those tales and legends were fodder for her first self-published book.
“Originally, it was a mental exercise. But I thought why don’t I base my book on Russian folklore? People don’t know it.”
Destinies in Motion begins in the home of the Vladners, who have their lives turned upside down by a series of mysterious events.
Their cat Tacker, though, is privy to these strange happenings. His silence prompts his teenage mistress Lana to begin a quest to unravel the mystery herself.
“It’s three different stories – the story of animals, the story of families struggling and a fantasy world,” says Galitskaya.
But soon, these three separate worlds start to bleed into each other.
Lana is forced to confront the magic she does not believe in with Tac, the house cat, as her guide.
Tac becomes a treasure hunter, the wealthy owner of a fairground and an employer of humans.
He battles dragons and wizards. There’s a little romance mixed in with the clashing interests of magical helpers and powerful enemies.
Full of different characters, surprises and emotions, Galitskaya hopes the book reflects her vision, artistic leanings, imagination and sense of humor.
A graduate of the prestigious Ukrainian Art-Theatre Institute, Galitskaya specialized in historical costume design. She used her drawing and painting skills to sketch 22 illustration for her book. And it wasn’t just folklore that inspired Destinies in Motion.
The book also reflects Galitskaya’s love of animals. Tac’s curiosity and spunk was inspired by her own cat, Matilda.
“I hope that people stop looking at animals like an object of possession but look at them like a person,” she says.
“That’s why I give them human characteristics and a personality, hoping that people stop abusing animals. If you look at something, as something of value, it’s hard to hurt it.”
Other characters are based on people in her life, including her husband Roderick Rhodes, who helped edit the book and has a Scottish sheep – Rory MacBaah – named for him.
Galitskaya also see the novel as a fable of sorts, that ends with a moral or lesson.
“I figured I could tell a story about a young person trying to find their place in life,” says Galitskaya, who wrote the book for a teenage audience, but believes it’s a tale for all ages.
When Lana’s baby brother Troy is kidnapped by an evil witch, she is forced to make a choice. Will she be a passive fence-sitter or accept the challenge to protect family, friendship and love?
“It’s old-fashion values,” says Galitskaya, who is quick to point out that the book has no violence, even though Tac must slay a dragon, his nemesis.
“They just need to find something to transform the character into a nice guy.”
Just like the legends she heard as a child, Galitskaya hopes her novel can transforms and transport.
“Our life is very flat and very practical,” says Galitskaya, who is already working on a sequel. “People want a little bit of magic. It’s like food. We need a little bit of flavour. That’s why people like fantasy. It’s an exercise of the mind. It’s about possibilities.”
• To purchase Destinies in Motion, visit destiniesinmotion.com. Liliya Galitskaya is also selling copies of the book at her workplace Meadows Cleaners in Valley Fair Mall.