Places that Inspired the Novel
"For me, once something inspires the heart, then the mind has got to get it right. [Cape Breton] isn't just a romantic landscape. This is a real place, where real people live. That's exciting and tremendously rich.
A lot of people don't realize just how incredibly diverse Cape Breton Island is culturally. There are more that 40 identifiable ethnic groups on that island. At one time, you could hear a lot of different languages. People from all over the world came, including my mother's people [from Lebanon] at the turn of the century, and ultimately, they're all Cape Bretoners.
I did have to recreate the New Waterford of that time. In a place that is driven by one industry, it's not like a lot of buildings and places are preserved. In New Waterford, as in many mining towns, there were company houses, A-frames, semi-detached, and that's classic. You can still see some of those old houses.
In communities like [New Waterford], all the beauty, imagination and aesthetic yearning would be expressed by the church. There is no shortage of churches in Cape Breton, especially Catholic churches.
Holy Angels School is a very real place. Members of my family have graduated from Holy Angels. The nuns, in the great tradition of their Order, committed themselves to educating girls.
Number 12 Colliery, the mine, was taken down several years ago, but my father used to tell stories about the disasters and the hard work. That town was like a real boomtown, kind of a wild great place to grow up."