Back to the Source: Cape Breton

Published December 12, 2014 by A.J.B. Johnston

You get to be a certain age and you cannot help but look back at your life and ask “what if?” A Robert Frost moment, I guess, with a choice of life paths on a snowy eve. What if I’d done this instead of that, lived here instead of there, taken this job rather than the one I did, and on and on. There really is no end because we all make a countless number of decisions each and every day. Some choices, however, loom larger than others.

In my particular case, one of the big life-shaping decisions was to relocate from Halifax to Cape Breton in 1977. Had I stayed where I was … well, that’s the thing, I cannot know. Our lives are not laboratory experiments where you can change the variables and do it over again. You get only one shot at each moment as it comes. As things turned out, my time on the Island, living in Sydney and working at the Fortress of Louisbourg, determined much of the rest of my life. Cape Breton and the Fortress became — and remain — the source for much of what I write, one way or another. Would I have written other books and articles, or any at all, had I not come to Cape Breton in 1977. I’ll never know for sure. Funny to think of all the time and effort spent on writing about Louisbourg would have been directed somewhere else.

All this preamble is to say that I am eagerly looking forward to returning to Cape Breton Island in the days ahead. It’s where I learned my various crafts, and it’s where not just my history publications but also my fictional series of Thomas Pichon Novels were born, nurtured and first sprang to life.

On Jan. 19, I’ll take part in a class of Communications Prof. Erna MacLeod at Cape Breton University. Later that same day, at 4 pm, I’ll be offering a public presentation on History & Fiction in the Library at CBU.

On Jan. 20, I’m doing a reading that night at the Book Pub at Governors. I’ll be sharing the mic that night with Dave Mahalik, author of Ten Nights without Sleep (Breton Books). It’ll be my second time at the Book Pub and I think it’ll be fun. I’m wondering if I should read something from The Maze and offer a short peek at how the third novel (tentatively called “Crossings”) opens up.

On Jan. 21, en route back to Halifax, I’ll be at the Library in Port Hawkesbury for a 1 pm presentation similar to the History & Fiction talk at CBU. A portion of each presentation is on my time spent at the Fortress of Louisbourg and how those experiences tie in with my unfolding series of Thomas Pichon Novels.

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