As Coquitlam's first archivist, Emily Lonie would drive from her home in Vancouver to work and pass by the large crow rookery around Still Creek in Burnaby — north of BCIT.
She didn't like the commute and wondered if the birds felt the same about their journeys.
The question planted the seed for a story, which Lonie then turned into a screenplay.
But when she presented it before her writing critique group, Archivists Who Write, in 2021, they suggested she adapt it into a novel that's geared for middle school students.
"It lent better as an early chapter book," Lonie told the Tri-City News on Monday (Aug. 14), noting it took a few months to change the format, as well as a few aspects of the narrative.
Last week, Lonie released Corben and the Crow Commute, a self-published debut that includes illustrations from Amy Knill, a recent graduate of Emily Carr University of Art + Design. It was edited by Naomi Pauls of Paper Trail Publishing while the book was designed by Jazmin Welch of fleck creative studio.
The work is available via Amazon.ca.
Lonie describes the book as a "love letter to the Lower Mainland" as her protagonist, Corben, visits all the landmarks she loves to go locally such as Steveston Harbour, Granville Island, the Vancouver Aquarium, Lions Gate Bridge and Jericho Beach.
The bored crow also encounters many animals — a seagull, squirrel and a fluffle of bunnies — along the way as he flees his family for new adventures around the region.
Lonie, who was Coquitlam's archivist from 2013 to 2021 and is now a financial advisor, said crows don't get enough props.
After studying their behaviours for years, she concludes they are intelligent and problem-solving birds that "are perfect candidates for fictional characters."
"They're cheeky and aggressive, too. I find them fascinating. And usually everyone has a story about a crow.
"I want to soften them a bit with this book."
As for her next writing project, Lonie said she may spin the Corben tale into a series.