Talking with Harriet Sutton from Don’t Put the Boats Away by Ames Sheldon

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for agreeing to be here, Harriet.

Harriet: You know, I’m not really comfortable talking about myself.

Novel PASTimes: Well, we’ll make this quick.

Harriet: Good.

Novel PASTimes: What impression do people get when they first meet you?

Harriet: I come off as very serious and intense but I have to be—as a woman aiming to become a professional chemist in the late 1940s, I must prove I’m just as capable as the men around me, and actually I need to work harder and be even more capable than the men. I just hope I’m smart enough to succeed. 

Novel PASTimes: What makes you angry?

Harriet: Being condescended to by male professors and bosses and colleagues infuriates me.

Novel PASTimes: What person do you most admire?

Harriet: I admire my mother for her bravery driving an ambulance in France during the Great War and then nursing soldiers at an Army hospital during the Second World War.

Novel PASTimes: What do you want?

Harriet: I want a career creating new antibiotics that save people’s lives. 

Novel PASTimes: How would you describe your relationship with your father? 

Harriet: My father is very important to me. I have spent my whole life trying to please my father George, who raised me, even though he isn’t my biological father. George is very demanding and critical. Ever since my brother Eddie died in WWII, I have been trying to fill Eddie’s shoes for my father since our younger brother Nat has no interest in taking over the family business.

Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing George could do to you?

Harriet: He could fire me for not being good enough at my job.

Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing you could do to your father?

Harriet: Eventually I will probably have to fire him once Nat and I agree that he is becoming too forgetful and credulous to continue in his role as president.

Novel PASTimes: Why would he deserve it?

Harriet: Because he did the same thing to me, he essentially fired me, though I know he wasn’t acting out of malice, and neither was I.

Novel PASTimes: What do people like best about you?

Harriet: I’m direct and honest, unselfish, practical, hard-working. I do what I say I’ll do. People can count on me to get the job done—whatever it is.

Novel PASTimes: What do you look like? What is your physical appearance? 

Harriet: Why do you ask me this question? You wouldn’t ask a man you were interviewing what they look like! It doesn’t matter what I look like!! 

Novel PASTimes: What about your personal life? Do you have a boyfriend?

Harriet: I only recently found a boyfriend for the first time and I’m 26 years old. He has been pressuring me to get married but I hope he can wait because I want to go to graduate school and to see what I can accomplish on my own before I get married.

Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? 

Harriet: Losing my brother Eddie was the worst.

Novel PASTimes: When are you happy?  

Harriet: I’m happiest when all the members of my family are together at our summerhouse playing games and making music. 

Novel PASTimes: What makes you sad?

Harriet:People who are ill, depressed, or hopeless.

Novel PASTimesWhat are your hopes and dreams?

Harriet: I hope to do my bit to make this world a better place.

Thanks for joining us today, Harriet!

Ames Sheldon is an award-winning historical novelist who loves delving into the history of American women during the 20thcentury. She enjoys creating characters who are inspiring women. Her first novel Eleanor’s Wars won the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best New Voice: Fiction.

Ames Sheldon worked as a reporter for two small-town newspapers in Minnesota before becoming lead author and editor of Women’s History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States, which ignited her passion for studying and writing about the history of women in America. After that, Sheldon ventured into the world of creative nonfiction, writing grant proposals and raising funds for the Sierra Club in San Francisco, the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, the Minneapolis Public Library, and a variety of other nonprofits. She lives with her husband in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

See her website www.amessheldon.com

facebook.com/amessheldonauthor

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