How I Wrote It

John DeMont explores the deep history and heritage of Nova Scotia in his new memoir

The newspaper columnist and author tells CBC Books why he wrote The Long Way Home.
John DeMont is an award-winning journalist and author with more than 25 years of experience. (McClelland & Stewart)

John DeMont is a Nova Scotia-based newspaper columnist and author. His memoir The Long Way Home examines the veteran journalist's personal relationship and historical connections to the Maritime province. The book touches on the original Mi'kmaq inhabitants, the first European colonists and the many cultures and peoples that make up what the province looks like today. 

In his own words, DeMont explains how he wrote The Long Way Home.

Maritime nooks and crannies

"I've had the good luck to be able to wander the province [as a journalist] — looking at all of Nova Scotia's nooks and crannies beyond the conventional reporting. It's me summing up more than a third of a century of covering the province. 

"The book is the story of Nova Scotia. But any book about a place is about the person who writes it. This is a chance to talk about the province and my family's connection to it. I was interested in the longer time, the big narrative over time. This was an opportunity to do all those things in a personal way that was fun and interesting and resonated for me. I hope it resonates for the people who read it."

Mining a personal narrative

"I wanted to look at the broad historical narrative of my family in the province. On my mother's side, they were one of the first European settlers in Nova Scotia. They were Protestants who came here, on some of the first boats from Europe, to counterbalance all of the Acadians who lived here in the 1700s. On the other side of my family, they came from Cape Breton as coal miners and steelworkers. My family history had just enough drama to move the book along.

"From a European point of view, Nova Scotia is one of Canada's oldest provinces. I did do a lot of the conventional things in terms of research — looking at literature and academic materials — but mostly I tried to go directly to the source. This included old diaries from around the time of historical figures such as Samuel de Champlain in the 16th century and historical events such as the Expulsion of the Acadians in the 18th century."

Going down the road

"I let the book take me where my interests were. If I heard or found something interesting, I would head down the road, both literally and metaphorically, just to see where it took me. I'm the type of person who likes to see things for himself. I always tried to go to the places in the province that I was writing about. So the land has a lot to do with this book. I made sure I got out and about and experienced Nova Scotia for myself. I just let things go where they took me. It's an unconventional approach and I think an unconventional book came out of it."

John DeMont's comments have been edited and condensed.

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