Q and A with novelist JoeAnn Hart
JoeAnn will be reading from her recently published novel Float tonight, Tuesday, March 12th, at 7pm, at Toad Hall Bookstore in Rockport.
There’s a Maine town in Float that is suspiciously like Gloucester, Ma. Is Gloucester your model?
JAH: Gloucester is the inspiration for Port Ellery, Maine, but not the model. Float is fiction, so I needed more leeway with geography and temperament than a real city could offer. As I was writing Float I had an wholly imagined city in my head, but I was not above borrowing bits and pieces from Gloucester on an as-needed basis.
Such as the fish dehydration plant? Seacrest Ocean Products in Float has more than a passing resemblance to a company in Gloucester.
JAH: When I first came to Cape Ann in 1979, the old dehyde plant was still in East Gloucester, and the smell as you drove up over the hill from the intersection at 128 and Bass Avenue … well, it was quite the pungent introduction to my new home. Now Neptune’s Harvest in the Fort transforms fish waste — the 70% of a fish that remains after filleting — into amazing fertilizer and there’s barely a smell. Who could not be inspired by that?
Parts of Float have to do with the relationship individuals have with the sea. What is yours?
JAH: For a long time I wasn’t a water person. I took my kids to the beach, but other than that, I didn’t like to get wet, and I really didn’t like being on a sailboat, what with people yelling and booms swinging. Then, after watching the International Dory races off Niles Beach, I fell in love with wooden rowing dories. I bought one of the Committee’s old practice boats, named her “Doreen,” and after a rather brutal learning curve with my rowing partner, managed to get the boat to move across the water. It was both exercise and relaxation, and I learned to appreciate the wonders of the sea. The best is when a seal pops up to see what we’re up to, like a visitor from another world. “Doreen” finally died a couple of years ago, but as a dues-paying member of the Dory Committee, I’ll take one of their practice dories out for a spin around the harbor now and then. Gloucester Maritime usually has one or two for members to take out as well.
What’s with all the animals? The ferret, for instance. What is a ferret doing in Float?
JAH: There are always animals in my work, because there are always animals in my life. We have the usual cats and dogs, but we take in rescue livestock too, so we have donkeys (from Save Your Ass Rescue), chickens, a goat and a pig. Over the years, the children have brought home more animals than I can list, including finches, hamsters, and rabbits. Many rabbits. One year, my son brought home a pair of ferrets, and they turned out to be both smart and personable. They pretty much ran free in my son’s room, so I’d open up a sock drawer and there they’d be, curled up in a ball. They loved people and were as clever as chimps, but they smelled terrible. Worse than any dehyde plant. So when my son went off to college, they went too. I placed them with another male teenager, a species apparently immune to smells, but I missed them. So I brought a ferret back in Float, and named him Fingers.
When you sit down at your desk to write, what do you look out at?
JAH: I used to work in the guest bedroom where the family couldn’t find me. It was quiet, but it looked out onto a messy woodpile. Now that the kids have left the nest, I’ve moved my office into one of their bedrooms, with a distant view of the harbor. It’s beautiful, but I have to keep the curtains closed most of the time or else I’d never get any work done. I’d just be daydreaming all day, watching the boats go by.
Snapshots from JoeAnn’s magical garden–just to get us in the mood for delicious warm weather. Throughout the summer JoeAnn and Gordon welcome me to their gorgeous gardens – sometimes I am there filming for hours. Thank you JoeAnn and Gordon for your always gracious hospitality.