In writing her first book, Cambridge author Lindsay Hatton sought a familiar landscape. “I think the debut novel set in one’s hometown is almost a requirement at this point,” she laughed. But the Monterey Bay of her childhood was “a pretty sleepy little place,” she said, not the Northern California tourist-filled spot it’s since become.
As a teenager, Hatton found a summer job working at the now-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. “I did everything, from performing in visitor programs wearing a sea otter costume, to actually being behind the scenes feeding the fish and cleaning their tanks, all during my adolescence,’’ she said. “For better or for worse, fish and aquariums are interlinked with adolescent melodrama.”
It stands to reason, then, that the protagonist in Hatton’s debut, “Monterey Bay,” would be a teenage girl drawn to sea life and the aquarium. Another of the book’s main characters is Monterey’s most famous son, the writer John Steinbeck, whose letters and journals Hatton studied so that she could capture the Nobel Prize winners voice.
“Even in his darkest moments, his humor was very evident, which is something I love about him,” she said. “My portrayal of him in the book is not entirely positive, but if anything I consider that a tribute to him as an actual, factual person who lived.”
Hatton hopes the book will resonate with others who love Monterey as she does. “It’s a beautiful landscape and it’s a compelling one, and people feel very proprietary about it,” she said, “and the natural beauty is, of course, stunning. I miss it every day.”
Still, the California native has grown fond of the New England coast. “I love the Atlantic ocean,” Hatton said. “There’s such a different vibe. I don’t even know how to compare the two, but I love both of them.”
Hatton will read 7 p.m. Tuesday at Harvard Book Store.