Author Interview with Roy MacGregor

Author Interview with Roy MacGregor

Posted on April 3 by admin
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Roy MacGregor, author of the bestselling book The Last Season, joins us today for an interview about the 30th anniversary of his book, hockey culture in Canada and in Europe, and his newest project.

Caitlyn: Tell us about your book.

Roy: This is the 30th anniversary of The Last Season, a novel about hockey that has become something of a cult in the hockey world — particularly with players who have gone over to Europe to play. It was a made-for-television movie in the late 1980s that won several awards. The book received magnificent reviews but, alas, did not find its legs in the wider market, as bookstores seemed unsure where to place a “novel” about “hockey”. So it was often lost in sports sections or Canadiana. Thirty years later, Canadian Literature has matured to a point where hockey is as fair a subject as love and adventure (which are also in The Last Season) and it is hoped the novel will find itself into the hands of a wider and more general audience.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the idea for this work?

Roy: I grew up in Ottawa Valley and my father worked in lumber with many Polish workers. I have always been fascinated by the Poles of the Wilno/Barry’s Bay/Whitney area. I was born in Whitney. My studies of the Polish experience in Canada led me to begin writing the book as a political novel, set on Parliament Hill and Wilno, but I scrapped that and instead made the main character a hockey player.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the title?

Roy: It seemed obvious once the book was finished. I had called it “At A Man Disadvantage.” Too obscure a hockey term. The Last Season seemed exactly right.

Caitlyn: Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.

Roy: The theme is that gifted athletes must die twice, once in their sport, once in life. But that is only part of the The Last Season. It is about the relationship between fathers and sons. It is about the Polish settlement of the Upper Ottawa Valley. It is about strange religious rites and fears. It is about playing hockey in Finland and about falling in love. It is about family and roots, about good and evil, about life itself.

Caitlyn: How did you research your book?

Roy: I spent a lifetime in the Ottawa Valley and in the town of Huntsville, where the early part of the book is set. I played hockey in Finland (not professionally). I covered the NHL for years, so have intimate knowledge of the world of professional hockey. I also read dozens of books on Poles, Canadian settlement, the Second World War, Finnish history and the Ottawa Valley.

Caitlyn: What was your first publication?

Roy: Shorelines, a novel in 1980, republished in 2002 as “Canoe Lake.” The story of Tom Thomson and the love of his life, who likely bore his child. This was fiction. In 2010 I published Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him, a non-fiction account that proves, once and for all, where the famous Canadian artist is buried.

Caitlyn: Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

Roy: On two different occasions, professional hockey players who had gone to Europe to play, said they felt The Last Season was their own story and wondered how I have been able to tell it.

Roy MacGregor is the bestselling author of Home Team: Fathers, Sons, and Hockey (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award), Northern Light, and Canadians. Currently, he is a regular columnist for the Globe & Mail. His journalism has earned him four National Magazine Awards and two National Newspaper Awards. In 2012 he became a Media Honouree Hockey Hall of Fame. He lives in Ottawa.