The Next Chapter

How Lesley Choyce found inspiration in nursing homes and surfing to write his 90th book

The Nova Scotia author explores the friendship between an 80-year-old man and a pregnant teenager in his latest novel.
Lesley Choyce explores the surprising friendship between an 80-year-old man and a pregnant teenager in his 90th book. ( Publishing)

Nova Scotia author Lesley Choyce has written 90 books between running his own publishing press and surfing the Atlantic Ocean. But before he was an author, Choyce worked as janitor in a nursing home. That's where he found the inspiration for his latest novel, The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil. In it, Choyce explores loneliness through the friendship sparked between an 80-year-old man and a pregnant teenager.

An unlikely friendship

I think we find salvation from it [loneliness] in unusual places. That's why I have this unlikely alliance of a 16-year-old pregnant girl with old John Alexander MacNeil in my story. He's her ally and she is obviously really helpful to him. It's that friendship that they develop is essential to the core of the story.

Inspiration comes in waves

Sometimes I have dreams, visions or hear voices while I'm surfing. It's usually between waves. I'll be sitting there and the sun will be out. Taking a deep breath after having a good ride on a clean six-foot wall of water. I have a big smile on my face and my brain is empty and receptive. I think that's the moment that a lot of titles for books, characters and poems form automatically. All you have to do is remember them before you paddle into shore.

A writing life

Everything about writing and publishing is exciting. Every day I'm either teaching creative writing at Dalhousie University or weaving that together with writing my rough drafts, editing books and dealing with printers. I find every aspect of the whole process very invigorating and it makes me a happy man. 

Lesley Choyce's comments have been edited and condensed.