Arts & Entertainment
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How one Ottawa author is honouring World AIDS Day

Charles Seems’ Gay Soulmate Wanted! is a remembrance and a message of hope

Charles Seems’ new book, Gay Soulmate Wanted! comes out on Dec 1, 2016, to honour World AIDS Day. Credit: Courtesy Robert Labine

World AIDS Day, held on Dec 1 each year, is meant to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and to honour those whose lives have been lost. To mark the day, some gather with candles, some give speeches and others come together in bars and nightclubs. Charles Seems is honouring the day with the launch of his new book. 

“I am humbled by the magnitude of this memorial event celebrated around the world,” the Ottawa-based author says. “I want to contribute to the remembrance of a whole generation of people who suffered so much and left this world far too early.” 

Seems’ Gay Soulmate Wanted! is the second book in a trilogy. The first book, called The Road to Dalhousie, was released in 2013.

Gay Soulmate Wanted! picks up the story of protagonist Richard Steeves where it left off at the end of the first book. It’s 1991 and Steeves, now 39 years old (which is like “78 in gay years,” Seems says), finds himself in what he considers the very unlikely position of having a shot at a relationship with a much younger man named Joshua. They decide to go on a month-long European trip to test their compatibility. “It’s a trial period for a budding relationship,” Seems says. 

The book’s cover was created by Ottawa artist Claude Chapdelaine. The launch of Gay Soulmate Wanted! on Dec 1, 2016, will also auction off the painting that the book’s cover is based on.
Courtesy Claude Chapdelaine

There’s another issue they need to sort out as well. It’s the tail-end of the AIDS crisis and Steeves is reluctant to get tested for HIV. Joshua is concerned and wants to know everything about Steeves’ past — how risky has his life been? Consequently, the book features a series of Steeves’ flashbacks to the ’70s and ’80s.

The discussion of HIV/AIDS in the book is given extra significance by the fact that Gay Soulmate Wanted! is semi-autobiographical. Seems says line between what’s real and what’s fiction is  “a little bit blurry,” but Steeves’ situation does, in many ways, mirror events from Seems’ life — including the reluctance to be tested in 1991. 

Like The Road to Dalhousie, the second book also features a character named Norman. He is based on Seems’ real-life friend Normand, who passed away from AIDS complications on Dec 1, 1987 (the following year it became World AIDS Day). 

So, this World AIDS Day, the launch of Seems’ book is his way of remembering those who have passed away. And with the unexpected love that develops between his characters Richard and Joshua, the launch is also Seems’ way of spreading a message of hope that “life can turn out for the better even though it may appear bleak at times.”

“[I] feel very fortunate to have been allowed to live and to carry on,” he says. “And for this, I must share my story in the hope that it may serve as an inspiration for others — maybe younger people — who welcome an opportunity for a positive story in a very dark and somewhat negative world.”