Lightning Lou

Young readers often ask, “Where did you get the idea for the story?” Most often, I find it very hard to come up with an answer. Well, not this time! I have finally written a book for which I can point to the exact concrete source of my inspiration. It wasn’t just a voice, whispering through the dark coiled alleys of my brain, or a visual image – it was an actual three-minute clip within the CBC documentary, Hockey: A People’s History; Episode Three: Empires on Ice. This episode focuses on World War One and how men all across the country were trading in their hockey sweaters for military uniforms; hence, the boom in women’s hockey. The best of the best were Albertine Lapensée who played for the Cornwall Vics and Eva Ault who played for the Ottawa Alert. Desperate to defeat these women, a coach from Ontario scoured the small towns of Quebec looking for a female player who could compete with the very best; there, he found a player across the river from Montreal in the small town of Chateauguay. Except …. that player lasted only one game until “her” secret was discovered; she was a he!

Now, history is full of interesting tales of girls who, desperate for adventure and independence, disguised themselves as sailors and soldiers and cowboys. In the English military, a Dr. James Barry, who rose all the way up the ranks to Inspector General, was discovered, on “his” death bed in 1865 to be a woman. Simply put, men could have more fun back in the day. So, to hear a story of a boy who was so desperate to play hockey on a real team that he would pretend to be a girl sunk a hook in my imagination that I just couldn’t shake. More than a year after watching the show, I could still see the boy (who’s nameless in the episode) skating forlornly around the ice – all the men in his town off to war – dreaming of beating Lapensée. Then suddenly he was there on the page, pulling on the long dark skirt that he stole off a washing line, rushing out without being seen to fly onto the lake to impress the coach.

The rest, as they say, is history!

I discovered in the writing of this book that I love writing about the past; I love doing the research. I loved bringing the various threads together; the history of women’s hockey; the history of conscription in Quebec; the history of women’s rights; the conflict between the French and the English. It is the most Quebecish (new word) of my books and I love that about it too. I was born into an interesting albeit diminishing community – Anglo Quebec. I have experienced and witnessed firsthand the French-English tensions that sometimes permeate the atmosphere of this province; yet, I cannot imagine living elsewhere. There’s something about it I love. Being part of the only Anglophone minority population in Canada is kind of cool. Writing from the perspective of 1) a boy 2) a francophone was a new creative challenge for me.

I’ll let my readers be the judge of whether or not I succeeded.

Reviews and more…

CM Magazine Review

Montreal Review of Books