Lois Cloarec Hart
An Accidental Author

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ABOUT LOIS
Born in Cranbrook, British Columbia, in 1956, I grew up the second oldest of five siblings, with two incredible parents and a multitude of lifelong friends. It was a Norman Rockwell-ish upbringing, filled with books, family camping trips, paper routes, yard and street hockey, sleepovers, and all the other signposts of a small town childhood.

A month after high school graduation in July '74, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces. Having never been further than my own province, I was promptly sent to the other side of the country and spent ten weeks in Nova Scotia doing basic training. Much to my amazement, I loved it...except for those 0500 runs. Nothing like racing through a thick Atlantic fog in the company of thirty other young women to wake a person up every day.

Assigned to air traffic control, my first posting was Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I was there for two years, having a blast, but left the Forces when my best friend did. We had grand plans for our future, but economic circumstances-like barely having two pennies to rub together-saw me back in my parents' house in Cranbrook. I spent two years working for the Canadian Pacific Railroad as a train order operator (sort of an air traffic controller for the rail set) on straight midnight shifts in the middle of the Crowsnest Pass, before I saw the light and rejoined the Forces in '78. This time I was posted to Ottawa. I began taking university courses on my own time, and in '79 applied for officer training. My dream was to be one of the CAF's first female pilots, but unfortunately my less than perfect eyesight burst that bubble. However I was selected for Officer Training and sent to Royal Military College in Kingston for three years where I completed an Honours Degree in History, switched from ATC to Intelligence, and commuted on weekends back to Ottawa where my husband, BJ, lived.

Husband? Yup, having spectacularly failed to connect my own dots, I met a man of profound courage, great good humour, and quick intelligence. Being highly susceptible to all those things, not to mention his gentle blue eyes, I fell in love. BJ was my best friend, and remained so for the 22 years that we would spend together, even after I finally admitted to us both, at the ripe old age of thirty, that I was gay. He became progressively more disabled with multiple sclerosis, and in '90, when he retired from the Forces, I left my own military career to care for him full time. Three years later, my husband, grown son and I moved to Calgary to be closer to my B.C. based family.

In retirement, BJ and I traveled, entertained, and generally enjoyed life until the degree of his disability made all those things quite difficult. As we became housebound, my brother-in-law introduced me to the wonderful world of the Internet.

When an on-line writer-friend encouraged me to try writing for myself, I resisted for many months, insisting that I was a reader, not a writer. However with BJ's health getting progressively worse - he was by this time quadriplegic - I eventually began writing a story about us. It was fictionalized to a great degree, but explored the conflict between my love and loyalty to him, and my longing to be who I truly was-a lesbian. Sadly, over the years BJ's mental state had deteriorated as severely as his physical condition, and a form of dementia meant that my best friend was gone from me; only his physical shell remained. I spent his last couple of years caring for him around the clock, writing when I could.

I hadn't planned to show Coming Home to anyone else, but my mentor/friend arranged for it to be posted in Aug '00. I was amazed by the response and even more surprised when I was approached to publish it with RAP. What had started as a simple effort to exorcize the pain of events in my own life had taken me in completely unforeseen directions. Writing was only meant to be my own personal escape, but it swiftly became intoxicating to reach other people through my words, and I began a second novel. In the meantime, the process of getting Coming Home published continued, and eventually I was assigned an editor in January '01.

Little did I know that my life was about to take another huge turn. That editor became a friend, then, shocking both of us, we fell in love. It was the age old story: girl meets girl on-line, and through the power of words, they fall madly, hopelessly in love.

It did indeed seem hopeless, as we both knew I'd never leave BJ. Back when I finally told him I was gay, a fact which he had already gleaned, I also promised him I would care for him for the rest of his life. I simply couldn't break that promise, even if my best friend had already been taken from me by a treacherous, insidious disease.


In May '01, Coming Home was published. The cover art includes a photo of BJ as an RCAF fighter pilot in the early Sixties.

I was able to show him 'his' book, and in a rare moment of clarity he recognized 'his' story even though I never read it to him. The character of Rob was BJ in a nutshell, with his courage, sense of humour, and the non-exaggerated tales of his rowdy exploits as a young NATO pilot in Europe. One of the greatest compliments I've ever received on the story was when our son told me that I'd captured his dad perfectly.


The book was my tribute to a splendid human being, caught in an impossible situation in which he simply couldn't triumph. I deliberately wrote all three lead characters as good people trapped in circumstances beyond their control, simply trying to be honourable even as their hearts tore them in different directions. Though I hadn't met Day until after I finished Coming Home, that was exactly the scenario that developed in the spring of '01 as I balanced my love and responsibility for BJ with my new love for this woman who had turned my life upside down.


In early July of that year, I had to take BJ to the hospital for irregular breathing. When he was admitted, I went home thinking it would simply be one more of the innumerable times he'd had to stay in the hospital, and that I would bring him home again in a week or two when he had recovered. However, it wasn't to be. He pulled through one major crisis and appeared to respond to treatment, but by mid-July he slid into a coma. BJ passed away Wednesday July 18th, and those of us who loved him, mourned for a truly special human being. Not a day goes by that I don't remember BJ, but I rejoice that I got to spend so many years with him, even as I marvel at the timing of Day coming into my life just as BJ was leaving it.

I was always grateful that BJ lived long enough to see Coming Home in book form. Though no one lucky enough to know him in real life could ever forget him, the book was my way of expressing how fortunate I felt to have met him and been part of his life, despite our obvious difficulties. Once I had written that story, I felt free to move on to things much more removed from my own life, and Broken Faith was the result. Marika, one of the leads in Broken Faith, had been a small, but vital part of Coming Home. She was originally intended to be the villainess of the story, but she stubbornly went in a completely different direction and turned out to be not only a sympathetic character, but also one that I wanted to know more about...so I gave Marika her own story. Having failed to write a credible villain in Coming Home, I took it as a personal challenge to write one for Broken Faith and ended up with two, Gao and Cass. Whereas Coming Home had been both a learning and cathartic experience, Broken Faith was pure fun to write. Creating a believable, well rounded cast, in a plot with enough twists and turns to keep a reader's interest fascinated me. I still consider myself more of a reader than a writer. I go into withdrawal if I don't consume at least two or three newspapers a day, but writing fills a very real need to create.

Since my first tentative foray into writing, I've enjoyed writing both short and novel length stories. My fourth novel, Walking the Labyrinth, will be published by Ylva Publishing in print and e-versions in the summer of 2013. Revised editions of my older novels, Coming Home, Broken Faith and Kicker's Journey will also be issued in both print and electronic formats in 2013-14. As for future projects, Madeleine L'Engle wrote "You have to write the book that wants to be written." I've found that true with all of my work. I can't force a short story or a novel, so I will await the understanding of what wants to be written next. In the meantime, if the rest of my life wasn't so filled with my wonderful wife, family, and friends, reading, travel, kayaking, gardening, and another passion - home improvements - I'd probably be much more productive in the writing field. But I really wouldn't change a thing.

In the midst of an unexpectedly late snowstorm, Day and I married at the country home of BJ's family in Southern Ontario in April, '07.

These days I travel regularly between my southern home with Day in Georgia, and my northern home in Calgary, Alberta. Though I look forward to the time when Day moves north permanently, I appreciate both countries. I could do without March tornadoes in Atlanta and May snowfalls in Calgary, but how can anyone not enjoy having two springs every year? Though Atlanta has theirs in March, and in Calgary, we occasionally wait until June for ours.



Still, there is much compensation for our erratic weather in my northern home...


These days, whether I'm in Georgia or Alberta, you'll usually find me at my laptop, or with a paintbrush in hand. Either way, I'm a very fortunate and contented woman.
Lois Cloarec Hart
 

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