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Character Interview: The teen Joan from author Joan Heartwell’s memoir, Hamster Island



character interviewWe’re thrilled to have here today the young Joan Heartwell from author Joan Heartwell’s new memoir, Hamster Island. Joan Heartwell is 17, a high school student living in Somewhere, New Jersey.

It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Joan. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I like how the author portrayed me as a hero sometimes, out to save my brother, who was developmentally disabled, from a cruel world full of ignorant kids who were willing to bully him for a laugh or two (and in one case, for a heck of a lot of money). But I hate that she had to also talk about how ashamed I felt sometimes to have a brother like him. Yes, it’s true, there were times I went out of my way to pretend I didn’t know him, but so what? Most kids would have done the same.

HamsterIsland_medDo you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

The author went and told a story about when I was thirteen and a boy who liked me (thank God I wasn’t crazy about him) told me he cared a lot for me, in spite of the fact that his best friend’s mother said I had no personality! Now, there was no reason for that—no reason for his friend’s mother to say that and no reason for the author to repeat that story. You see, I was painfully shy at age 13, and as I had not one but two special needs siblings (my sister was just a baby then, with her circumstances yet to be revealed), oddball parents, a grandmother who was a successful kleptomaniac, and as we all lived more or less in the middle of a parking lot, I tried to keep as low a profile as I could. So yeah, it probably looked to some mothers like I didn’t have much of a personality, but really I was only protecting myself by trying to become invisible.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I’m good at making things up.

Worse trait?

Sometimes I lie.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)? 

I like that feisty girl in Little Miss Sunshine, Abigail Breslin.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

You could say I am in love with love in this book. I expect love to save me (and I don’t want to give away the ending, but in fact it does.)

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

Chapter one.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Geez, I wouldn’t change places with any of them. If you think I suffered having to be the middle kid between two special needs siblings, think about what it was like for my brother and sister. Think about what it was like for my parents, poor, uneducated people who didn’t know didn’t know how to work the system to provide for my siblings as well as they would have liked. No thanks. If I have to be in the book, I’m happy to be a characterization of the author’s younger self.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Well, the author really wanted to tell two stories here, one about me growing up, or “coming of age” as she likes to say, and one about what it was like for her as an adult when she became caretaker for our siblings. So, she did something that some critics are going to complain about. She wrote the book in two parts, the longer part being the part that I’m in, which I think is the better part because it’s pretty funny in places and it reads more like fiction, and the second part, which is really a longish epilogue, describing the last few years of her life with flashbacks to incidents that are important to the story. Basically, she wrote a memoir that leaves out the middle years of her life. She says she doesn’t care. That’s the way she wanted to do it. She’s says the middle years were boring and no one would want to read about them anyway. She thinks because she’s had several novels published and she writes for a living she can break the rules. I don’t know. Maybe she can.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

She’s a pretty good fiction writer. I think she should go back to fiction now that she got this memoir out of her system.

Thank you for this interview, Joan.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Oh, I’ll be out there, in one form or another, forced to breathe life into various fictional characters. No rest for the weary.

Purchase HAMSTER ISLAND from Amazon B&N / OmniLit



Joan Heartwell makes her living as a pen for hire, writing, editing and ghostwriting for a variety of private and corporate clients. She has had four novels published under another name and has a fifth one due out later in 2014.

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