Tattoo Tuesday with Rob Hart – interview

potters field

Tattoo Tuesday is a new interview series (hopefully!) where we talk to authors about their tattoos.

Brian Lindenmuth: What was the first tattoo you ever got and why did you decide to get it?

Rob Hart: A celtic knot on my right shoulder, which morphs into a dragon in the middle. I drew it myself. I thought it was so cool. I still think it’s cool because it’s my first. Pretty much all my tattoos are milestone tattoos—I got them to mark a life event. This was “I’m 19 and can legally get a tattoo.”

What was that first experience like?

Scary, because you’re making a decision you can’t go back on, but that’s also kind of the point. And it hurt a little more than I’d been led to believe. But overall, I was pretty happy with how it went, except, I remember having a mini-meltdown because I went to the gym the next day and sweat out a little bit of ink and I thought I’d ruined it. But it healed up fine.

Tattoos can capture a memory, or are representative of a feeling or a person. What is your most meaningful tattoo, and why?

The heart on my left arm. I got it because my daughter underwent two open-heart surgeries the year she was born, for a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, which means a couple of things go wrong with the formation of the heart. She’s great now and we’re far enough past it that it’s mostly just a story and a scar. Forgive me if this is a little precious but I wanted a scar to remember it, too.

I also got a tattoo on my right forearm to mark the publication of my first novel, and I like it a lot, but the heart wins, for sure.

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What was your last tattoo?

A switchblade handle with a fountain-pen tip on my left forearm. I got that to celebrate my most recent book deal—a pre-empt sale to Random House, with 18 foreign sales so far, and we sold the movie rights to Ron Howard. It felt like something worth commemorating and it’s a tattoo I’ve wanted to get for a while.

When will you get your next one?

I’m up to eight, and I always tell myself I just got my last one, and then an idea will strike me and I like it and I end up going in. I do feel like I’m nearing the end of the road because I don’t want to be covered and I’m running out of free space, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Any tattoos you regret?

Not yet!

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What do your tattoos say about you?

I’m not sure. “I want people to believe I’m super cool because I have body art.”? I’ve always thought of them more for me, and will often resist when people ask me to explain them, because what they mean to me is enough.

How do others react to your tattoos?

I get the occasional compliment, which is nice. Coming back from Singapore recently the customs official really dug my book tattoo and I told him about it and he said he would look for it on Amazon, so I was like, “nice, I made a sale!” But truthfully, I don’t get people engaging with them a whole lot? I do have a hydrogen atom on my arm, which was partially inspired by Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, so every now and again someone will point and be like “Watchmen?” and I’ll be like “yup!” That’s always fun.

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What do tattoos bring to our culture?

They’re a form of expression, and I think, a fun and bold one that is often deeply personal. It’s pretty cool to take something so personal to you and wear it on the outside, so people can see. Or certain people, if you mostly keep it covered up. Either way, it’s art, and art is good, no matter what form it comes in.

Do you have a go to tattoo person/shop? Give them a shout-out!

Magie Serpica at Milk & Honey on Staten Island. She’s done my last four, plus touched up another where the ink didn’t take very well because it got a little infected. She’s got great style and sensibility, and her shop is right down the block from my house, so as long as she’s in business I don’t think I’ll get work done anywhere else.

Rob Hart is the author of New Yorked, City of Rose, South Village, and The Woman from Prague, as well as the upcoming novels Potter’s Field (Polis, July 2018) and The Warehouse (Crown, 2019). He is also the co-author of Scott Free with James Patterson. His short stories and non-fiction articles have been published widely.

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