Well-known Port Elizabeth pianist Ulagh Williams has been tapping a different kind of keyboard for her latest creative venture and is launching her first book, an action-packed novel set in exotic locales, at the Barn Theatre next week.
The singer-songwriter, pianist and music teacher has based Dying for a Song on her life as a professional performing around the world, centred on her cabaret contracts at five-star hotels in the Middle East.
The twist in the tail, however, is that the book is fiction and she takes the story into the murky world of human trafficking, served up with a dollop of glamour, humour and plenty of suspense along the way.
“I spent several years in the Middle East doing what the main character, Julia Gold, does and it is me,” the Greenshields Park wife and mother of one said in an interview.
“If I didn’t get married and have a kid several years ago that would still be my life. It’s like a parallel identity kind of thing except for the love life and the out-there story line, and a lot of me and my passions are coming out in the characters.”
Williams believes being an entertainer has given her a unique bird’s eye view into other people’s lives with the benefit of going relatively unnoticed as an individual herself.
“As a professional musician, you are wallpaper – but what is it like to be just a soundtrack to other people’s lives six days a week?” she asks.
She says the suspense builds when the main character stumbles upon a human trafficking network, and the plot twists and turns from there.
“I’ve always read suspense novels from authors like Kathy Reichs, Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, and always wanted to write a book that I’ve wanted to read.”
However, said Williams, whereas their protagonists generally were characters like an attorney, a pathologist or a detective, she asked, “What if the main character was a musician?”
She researched the background extensively.
“I’ve spent 20 years working in the music industry but this is completely uncharted territory for me. I went heavily into researching so that it would not be a fluff piece or just chick-lit and would ring true for people who were living, or had lived, in those places.”
So far the feedback has been great: “People have told me it starts slowly but then becomes ‘un-put-downable’. It goes where you don’t think it’s going to go!”
However, not even her husband, fellow musician Gareth, knew she was writing a book.
“I didn’t tell anyone, I would just lie in bed with a laptop and put down a few lines.”
It was thanks to her next-door neighbour in Greenshields Park, Diane Lang, who herself is a writer, that Williams found the courage to publish her novel.
“I went over to ask if there was ever a chance I would be a writer, and she said ‘give me the thing, let me read it’, which she did and told me ‘I can’t put it down, you’re an author already!’”
Williams says Dying for a Song is the first in a trilogy and she is almost finished writing the second novel.
The launch is by invite only on Tuesday February 27. Further information from Williams, 083-627-4686.