Questions asked by Traci Rork of The Key West Citizen
Q. How did you handle not getting overwhelmed at such a big project? And when did you know this was going to be your project?
A. I started researching this book eleven years ago after one of my many visits to the Hemingway House in Key West. I knew I wanted to write about Ernest Hemingway’s sensitive side, the women he cared about and most of all his relationships with his beloved cats that he immortalized in his work. While researching material for the book Hemingway In Cuba in 2003 and working as a researcher and a co- producer on the PBS documentary of the same name, which aired in 2004, I had uncovered enough new material about Ernest Hemingway and his cats to write a book. After four trips to Cuba, I knew I was going to write this book.
Q. How difficult was it to select the photos? What was the process?
A. Many of the photographs in this book showing Hemingway with his cats had never been published until now. Some were very small family photographs including the cover photo. Many were in need of extensive restoration but with today’s technology and a skilled scanner Michael Gulnac, I was able to reproduce some extraordinary photographs of Hemingway with his beloved cats. James Hill and his staff of the Audiovisual Archives at the John F. Kennedy Library were a tremendous help. Hilary Hemingway generously shared her family photographs with me and Abel Prieto the Cuban Minister of Culture personally gave Hilary and I permission to view and reproduce photographs from the Finca’s private collection. It was not difficult to select the photographs for the book. I primarily wanted to use photographs that had not been used in the past except for Hans Malmburg’s work. He was able to capture through his photographs Hemingway's deep devotion to his cats. I’m also a photographer so while in Key West and Cuba I had the opportunity to photograph cats, dogs, places and people that I felt important to the story including Fidel Castro who I met on my last visit to Cuba.
Q. What about this book are you the most proud of?
A. I was able to show the gentle, caring side of Ernest Hemingway up till now only known to family and close friends.
Q. What was the most daunting task in researching this man? Who helped?
A. There was very little information written about Hemingway and his cats or his feelings about animals in general. I began piecing together bits and pieces of information from family members, and those who knew him or worked with him in Key West and Cuba. The many biographies written about Hemingway also helped me a great deal. There were also several new biographies and collections of letters that gave me new insight into Hemingway’s life.
Q. What felt like your most important discovery during your search for info?
A. The gentle, kinder side of Hemingway especially in later life and his deep devotion to his cats and dogs for the most part ignored by biographers.
Q. I know you were battling health issues while writing this book. Could you explain how this project, and your own feline friends, helped?
A. In 2004, while writing this book I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Working on this book was a blessing for me. I even wrote some of the chapters while I was waiting to go into surgery or recovering in my room at the hospital. At home, it was my pets that comforted me. No matter if I was lying in bed or on the couch or writing at my dining room table, my cats, Bugsy, Charlie and Princess of the Wild, my daughter’s cat Max and her two poodles Murphy and Teddy were always at my side giving me as Hemingway once said "valuable aid."
Q. What kind of reaction have you received from readers?
A. I have received a positive reaction from readers. I wrote this book for people who care about cats as well as for those who have an interest in Ernest Hemingway. So far, cat lovers have been very pleased with the book. Many want to share their own stories about cats with me which I think is wonderful. I love hearing their stories and I hope to soon be able to share these stories with others once my webpage is available. Hemingway fans have also been pleased because there is so much new material about the writer.
Q. What surprised you about Hemingway?
A. Hemingway owned 57 cats in Cuba, I was surprised to learn that he knew all their names and had a personal relationship with all of them, of course he had his favorites.
Q. How did Hilary Hemingway assist? What other family members personally aided you in your quest?
A. Hilary Hemingway knew of my desire to write about Hemingway’s sensitive side and his love for his cats. She is a cat lover and was very supportive of the book and agreed to write the Foreword. Ernest’s son Patrick and his wife Carol were also very supportive and helped me with the Key West chapters. Patrick lived in the Key West House for over 20 years and he had wonderful stories to tell me about the neighbor’s cats and the house itself.
Q. What next? What’s in the works, or are you celebrating the glory of your story and taking it easy?
A. I’m presently working on the marketing of my book Hemingway’s Cats. I’m also working on my next Hemingway project, a literary guide Hemingway Those Who Knew Him Best. I have acquired so much information on Ernest Hemingway during my interviews for the Cuba book, the documentary and the cat book that I felt I had a good start on a new book about Ernest Hemingway including an interview with Fidel Castro who talked about Ernest Hemingway, a man he truly admired.