THE BOOK: FLOAT,
PUBLISHED IN: 2013
THE AUTHOR: JoeAnn Hart.
THE EDITOR: Midge Raymond.
THE PUBLISHER: Ashland Creek Press. (Ashland, Oregon) An independent publisher of eco-fiction and environmental literature, which includes books in all genres about animals, the environment, and the planet.
SUMMARY: FLOAT is a wry tale of financial desperation, conceptual art, insanity, infertility, seagulls, marital crisis, jellyfish, organized crime, and the plight of a plastic-filled ocean.
When Duncan Leland looks down at the garbage-strewn beach beneath his office indow, he sees the words God Help Us scrawled in the sand. While it seems a fitting essage—not only is Duncan’s business underwater, but his marriage is drowning as well—he goes down to the beach to erase it. Once there, he helps a seagull being strangled by a plastic six-pack holder—the only creature in worse shape than he is at the moment.
Duncan rescues the seagull, not realizing that he’s being filmed by a group of conceptual artists and that the footage will soon go viral, turning both him and the gull into minor celebrities. And when an unsavory yet very convincing local talks him into a not-quite-legitimate loan arrangement, Duncan can’t help but agree in a last ditch attempt to save the jobs of his employees.
For a while, it seems as if things are finally looking up for Duncan—yet between his phone-sex-entrepreneur ex-girlfriend’s very public flirtations and the ever-mysterious terms of his new loan, Duncan realizes that there’s no such thing as strings-free salvation—and that it’s only a matter of time before the tide rises ominously around him again.
THE BACK STORY: The impetus for the story was when I saw cryptic words written in the sand at a local beach and thought how interesting if those words could change a life. First I created a character to read the words, then I walked the beach with him. What would he find there? Wind, sand, shells, seagulls and, sadly, always, plastic marine debris. To create conflict, I imagined him coming upon a seagull caught in a plastic six-pack holder, a common sight on any shore, and I was ready to write the opening scene. My character freed the seagull, a task not as easy or safe as one might think. then I wandered off for more than a year to research plastics in the ocean. Slowly, the more I learned about the horrors of plastic, the more sea animals were pulled in. Plastic never goes anywhere. It just continues to break down to the size of a single cell, and when that happens, the very smallest of the sea creatures eat this man-made molecule thinking it’s plankton, a single-cell organism that forms the very basis of the ocean’s food chain. My research into the oceans went beyond plastics and reached out like an octopus in all directions. I began looking at ocean warming from carbon that humans release into the atmosphere with our petroleum based fuels, and the news got grimmer. Many scientists predict that the only animal likely to survive warm, acidic oceans that lie ahead are jellyfish, so they got pulled into the plot too. The conflicts grew and grew, not just between humans and animals, but between humans and the entire natural world, something I had no idea was going to happen.
WHY THIS TITLE?: A few years ago a friend was going through a rough patch, and her therapist told her to imagine herself floating with her problems instead of fighting them so hard, or else she would exhaust herself and sink. Every time she got stressed out, she repeated the word “float” to herself and felt better. It seemed like good advice for anyone, so I created a FLOAT document. For two years I added other meanings, such as to float through life without direction, or to float a loan. As a physical object, a float is used in fishing to keep the nets or line buoyant, and a float is part of a pier. I learned about plastics that float along in the oceans from Flotsametrics and the Floating World, by Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Eric Scigliano, and plastic’s environmental impact on not just sea life, but all life. Then one day I came across the Alan Watts quote — “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float” — and I was ready to start the novel.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Aside from the humor, psychological insight, and driving narrative, it is a fine example of eco-fiction. I believe that climate change is the most pressing issue that humans are facing right now. It powers famines, wars, migrations, and suffering of all living things, including ourselves. As a fiction writer, I believe I have a role in helping people wade through technical information to a deeper, personal understanding of what carbon emissions and other toxins mean for our home, the planet. As Kipling said: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
“In Float, art is far more than decoration. It is the power of achievement and change. Out of it, we’re encouraged to believe, may come the transformation of our world.” – Maine Sunday Telegram
“Could there be a more hilarious sad sack than Duncan Leland, whose trials and tribulations, so wittily conveyed, had me laughing (and wincing) from the first page? Hart’s Maine landscape is rich with eccentric characters, dried fish, and other surprising and original treasures. While Duncan sinks, the reader will float on a cloud nine of classy entertainment.” – Mameve Medwed
“JoeAnn Hart’s newest novel, Float, takes a darkly comedic look at [a] very serious topic…there are weighty and important issues buried in the black humor: the human impact on the world’s oceans; infertility, which might be caused by our careless disposal (and over-reliance on) plastics; and overfishing and the economic impact of this, to name a few…an enjoyable read which shines a light on the possible toll our continued inattentiveness to our environment could exact.” – BookNAround
AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in New York, but my home for almost forty years has been Gloucester, Massachusetts, America’s oldest seaport, where fishing regulations, the health of the ocean, and the natural beauty of the world are the daily topics of wonder and concern. My first novel was Addled, (Little, Brown, 2007) a satiric look at an exclusive country club when Canada Geese invade the links. My essays, articles, and short fiction have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals and national publications, including Orion magazine and the fiction anthology Winds of Change: Short Stories for a Changing Climate. My household includes a husband, a donkey, two pigs, a goat, some chickens and, of course, the dogs.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: When readers identify with characters, and those characters develop accountability to the environment, a novel can be a powerful tool for social change. FLOAT directly takes on the issue of plastics in the ocean, but instead of a mind-numbing presentation of facts as might happen in non-fiction, a novel gets the reader involved by relying on fiction’s strength — the exploration of the human condition. The characters in Float are keenly aware of environmental dangers to the ocean and some act accordingly, not just because it is their workplace, but because they also recognize that keeping the oceans healthy means keeping the human race alive.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: Float Excerpt.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Through Ashland Creek Press.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon PRICE: $18.95.