Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications recently interviewed our client, JoAnn Petrie Carr, Author of the fiction novel, “Keeper of the Flame”. JoAnn is a former Astronaut wife and retired Attorney in the Houston area. Her answers were astute, honest and thought provoking.
Q & A with JoAnn Petrie Carr, Author, “Keeper of the Flame”
SJF: In a nutshell…tell us about your life as a former Astronauts’ wife – a few tidbits…
JPC: My life as a former astronaut wife was in many respects business as usual with a houseful of six children. The monotony of mopping the floor was broken up with invitations to some of the River Oaks swankiendas (“swanky haciendas”) as well as invitations to the Indy 500, a week at Las Brisas in Acapulco, a week at a fabulous dude ranch in the Rocky Mountains, a trip to Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral) and back in our host’s private 747 – among other less elaborate places.
This Cinderella always knew that the kitchen floor was waiting along with the other menial tasks that go with being the mother of six. We went to a lot of fabulous parties locally. Lucky for me I was an expert seamstress, so all the fancy outfits I needed were made on my handy dandy sewing machine. A simple Vogue pattern with a smashing fabric of some sort and I had a new outfit for every party! It was like being Cinderella, but one who was only too well aware that the coach was going to turn into a pumpkin sooner or later. Only the gown stayed the same.
SJF: What experiences and/or people (parents, role models etc) in your life influenced you the most and why?
JPC: My maiden aunt gave me piano lessons and saw that I was involved with the local church. I was also influenced by the fact that my mother’s cousin was a designer for Twentieth Century Fox and I always went to the movies where her wares were displayed. I think I tried to emulate her. I never got to meet her though. But she continued to be an influence on my life. My skills also came in handy when Halloween came around and my kids always had elaborate Halloween costumes.
SJF: Describe your work as an Attorney – any fascinating cases? Do you miss it?
JPC: The first case I ever worked on was one of the biggest cases Texas had seen for a while. It involved a Supreme Court Justice who had gotten elected because he had the same name as a well-known political family in the State. I didn’t have my license yet but worked as the lead attorney’s “gofer”. He had been the Attorney General when Kennedy was killed. After that I had a general practice and did a lot of family law and managed to have some interesting divorces along the way. And no, I don’t miss it.
SJF: Describe your book “Keeper of the Flame” -why? Any backlash?
JPC: I decided to write a memoir about my life as an astronaut wife for my kids but it turned out to be so boring that I decided that I could tell more truth with fiction. As I was watching my youngest son play a role in Hello Dolly it just came to me that I would write a novel and call it Keeper of the Flame. I think they were singing “Before the Parade Passes By” and I was facing retirement age. I am unaware of any backlash. A few of the wives have asked me if certain incidents in the book really happened. My reply is always “It’s fiction”. I sent every wife a copy of the book when it first came out and I got several very nice notes and a few positive phone calls. Now that I think of it there were a lot, I didn’t hear from at all. I got a very nice call from Al Bean. He was quite complimentary. He was the only man who had the guts to call. And I’m sure that at least several of the men read it too.
SJF: What do you dream about?
JPC: I dream about this book becoming a movie.
SJF: What are your top 3 values in life?
JPC: First and foremost is family. They all have each other’s back and are ready to circle the wagons at the first hint of trouble. Another is helping other less fortunate people. Christianity – but not necessarily in that order. But family is always first.
SJF: Did you enjoy the celebrity status? Describe…
JPC: I did enjoy the celebrity status. It was sporadic so we didn’t have the kind of attention that the first few groups had. It was just as well. I had too much else to do.
SJF: What are you most proud of?
JPC: I’m most proud that all my kids are good people. We escaped the teen years with no drugs and no scrapes with the law. They were active in their church fellowship groups and I helped lead them. It was a blast hanging around with those teenagers. They had a musical group and we played and sang for other churches.
SJF: Describe your feelings about balancing motherhood and work
JPC: Balancing motherhood and work is a team effort. My kids had chores on a rotating basis. They did their own laundry. They helped me cook meals.
SJF: Female issues with males (harassment) in law practice, etc.?
JPC: I didn’t encounter much in the way of harassment. The Texas male attorneys separated females into two categories — – lady lawyers and women lawyers. I never did figure out what was what but I guess I was whichever one was better because they all seemed to like me and didn’t harass me at all.
SJF: Any insight on the process of aging? Has it been a challenge?
JPC: Aging is a bitch. I can’t play tennis. I can’t hike. I can’t garden. My eyesight is declining. I can’t sew or do jigsaw puzzles. And if I don’t hurry up and get this book out there, I am going to lose my short term memory and giving speeches will be a challenge.
SJF: Any fears? Doubts? ever?
JPC: The only fears I had were that my ex-husband Jerry wasn’t going to get a flight. He was assigned to Apollo 19 but the last three flights (18, 19, 20) were cancelled. He was named Commander of the third and last Skylab flight – an 84-day mission in the Skylab workshop. But we sweated it out for several weeks before we knew about the Skylab flight. It was a heart-breaking time for both of us. I was just as anxious for him to get a flight as he was. So I don’t think I ever had any doubt that he was made for the exploration of space. It was something that was meant to happen. And it almost didn’t.
SJF: Many thanks, JoAnn!
Read our previous SJF Communications blog post about JoAnn Petrie Carr here : https://sjfcommunications.com/2019/08/26/joann-petrie-carr-author-keeper-of-the-flame/
“Keeper of the Flame”
About the Author
JoAnn Petrie Carr was born and raised in Orange County, California. She graduated from The California State University at Long Beach with a degree in elementary education. She married her high school sweetheart who was later to be named as an Apollo astronaut in the ‘60s. During her life as the wife of a marine fighter pilot, she organized and taught a private kindergarten in North Carolina. She moved to Houston where she raised her six children against the backdrop of Gemini, Apollo and Skylab. She later completed her Doctor of Jurisprudence at the Bates College of Law at the University of Houston with all six children still at home. She divorced and practiced law for 30 years. During this time, she was a sole practitioner, general counsel for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and counsel for Star Station One, a 501c-3 dedicated to space education for children. She designed a distance-learning program for primary grades.
To book JoAnn Petrie Carr for media interviews
or speaking engagements please contact her publicist:
Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications 408-398-5940
Visit Jo Ann Carr at her website: https://www.joannpetriecarr.com
Follow JoAnn Petrie Carr on Facebook
Follow JoAnn Petire Carr on Instagram (@keeperoftheflamenovel)