Friday, October 3, 2008

Guest Post: Diane Hammond & Giveaway

I am so happy to have Diane Hammond, author of HANNAH'S DREAM stopping by Booking Mama today. I absolutely adored her latest book (you can read my review here), and I found myself falling in love with her characters, especially Hannah the elephant. I think her guest post will give you a little insight into the background of her novel. I found it very interesting, and I'm sure you will too.

When a Killer Whale Becomes an Asian Elephant

If you have children of almost any age, you’ve probably seen the movie Free Willy. For those few who haven’t, the film is about a captive killer whale named Willy that’s set free by a brave young boy. Willy was played by Keiko (pronounced kay-koh), a killer whale not nearly so lucky. Once wild, by the time the movie was filmed he was living in a cramped, hot pool at an amusement park in Mexico City, where he was more than a ton underweight and suffered from a chronic, stress-related papilloma virus that gave him clusters of skin lesions. He couldn’t have been less like the glossy creature that made his leap to freedom over a stone jetty. (An insider’s note here: Keiko didn’t make that leap, or appear in any other scenes that were shot outside of his pool. Those starred a life-size, neoprene-clad model fondly named Fake-o.)

But luck can change. The amusement park owners sought out animal welfare activists who formed the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and built a rehabilitation facility for Keiko at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. He was moved there in 1996 and, as befits a movie star, became an overnight media darling. Even better, he got well.

As his press secretary, I had a seat front and center for the amazing early months of Keiko’s rehabilitation. His keepers spent hours each day swimming with him in a pool so cold that without a wetsuit or survival gear you’d lose consciousness from hypothermia in less than thirty minutes. Rain or shine, summer or winter, day in and day out, this handful of young men and women petted him, nursed him, played tag with him, spent holidays with him, and came up with creative ways to bring his mind as well as his body back to health. By the time Keiko left Oregon for the North Atlantic in 1998, he was a masterpiece of buff muscle and hearty vitality.

I had always assumed that I’d write about what I’d seen and learned in those two remarkable years—especially about the bond that developed between Keiko and his staff. And I tried. But it quickly became clear that I had neither the distance nor the objectivity that the story required. I moved on to write my second novel, Homesick Creek, instead. But in 2002 I went back to thinking about Keiko all over again.

My husband Nolan Harvey, who had directed the killer whale’s rehabilitation, suggested that it might help if I transferred what I knew and had experienced to a member of another species. Why not make that animal an elephant—another huge and broadly charismatic species?

Because, I said, I know absolutely nothing about elephants.

Maybe so, but you’re a fast learner.

I wasn’t convinced, but I let Nolan introduce me to a couple of keepers at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, who were willing to help me learn my way around an Asian elephant.

Even among zoo keepers, elephant keepers are a breed apart, and not just because the animals in their care can—and sometimes do—kill them without notice, intent or provocation. Elephant keepers work with these enormous, powerful animals day in and day out because there’s a quality, they say—call it a presence, an intelligence, a soul—that sets elephants apart.

Keiko’s keepers said the same thing about him.

Maybe, I thought, I can do this.

So at the hands of excellent teachers, I learned about protective versus free contact (working with an animal from behind a barrier versus moving unprotected within the same physical space); about elephant body language; about what pleases them and hurts them and what problems are common among elephants at zoos, especially the older and second-rate ones.

I was hooked. Now all I needed was a story, which I failed to find until one day, by pure kismet, I stumbled upon television footage of a man named Solomon James, Jr., who was unshackling for the last time an Asian elephant he had taken care of for twenty-two years. He had just transported her from her small zoo to the
Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. He was struggling to maintain his composure as he unchained her for the very last time. Theirs was obviously a strong bond, the details of which I could only imagine. In fact, I did imagine them, through characters Samson Brown and Hannah. They became the centerpiece of my third novel, Hannah’s Dream, which tells the story of what can happen when incredible animals find homes in the hearts of incredible people.

It is a love story.

I hope between my review and Ms. Hammond's guest post that you will be enticed to read HANNAH'S DREAM -- it really is a beautiful novel. I am thrilled that I have three signed copies of HANNAH'S DREAM (courtesy of Harper Collins) to share with you! Please leave a comment with your e-mail address if you are interested. If you'd like to double your chances, blog about this post with a link back here. The contest will be open until October 10th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winners on Saturday, October 11th. Unfortunately, this contest is only open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses.


Anonymous said...

Don't enter me - I already have the book. After reading Diane's post, I want to put it at the top of my TBR pile! She sounds like a fascinating person.

Jersey Shore Deb said...

Originally, this book didn't sound like one that would interest me--but after reading your review and author interview, I want to read the book!

cpullum said...

I am very interested in reading this novel. Please enter me!

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'm feeling a little desperate to read this book -- we are particularly fond of elephants in my family! Thank you for the chance to win a copy!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Stacie said...

I would love to read this. I have also posted it on my blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm very interested please enter me

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

I love books like this, and the interview makes it even more interesting :) THnaks so much for hosting the giveaway!!!

Please, pretty please enter me too :)

bethany(dot)canfield AT gmail(dot)com

Ti said...

I am dying to read this one. Please enter me!


Jeane said...

Please enter me! I would love to read this book. jeanenevarez AT gmail DOT com.

Chesh said...

Please enter me. I would love a good book to read during the winter coldness. LOL!!

angelleslament @


Serena said...

I would love to read this book. Please enter me in the contest.

savvyverseandwit AT gmail Dot com

Amanda said...

I've heard nothing but good things about this book. Thank yoU!

photoquest said...

I think this book sounds wonderful! I've always loved Elephants and would go to the circus to see them untill i heard about the way they were treated so I've never gone to the circus since. You don't see many books with Elephants in the story. I would love this! please enter me.

Becca said...

Please enter me. This book sounds really good and I would love a chance to win. Thanks

Bridget said...

Don't enter us. Just a note to let you know we've posted this contest at Win A Book.

Mom of 5 Boys said...

I'd love to read this! Please enter me in the giveaway!

Susan said...

This sounds like such an interesting book. I'd love to win it. My email is blogginboutbooks[AT]gmail[DOT][COM]. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You're review has made me enter to win this book! You are so talented at describing books:)
Thanks for the giveaway and interview

Bonnie said...

Please add my name to the drawing!
I just heard the author interviewed yesterday on The Diane Rehm radio show and read your review and interview. This looks like a wonderful book.

I've blogged about it here:

harmony85 said...

The review for this book sounds beautiful and poignant...and just looking at the cover touched my heart. Please enter me for the drawing!

Thank you!

darbyscloset said...

I would love to win and read this book!!!! YES!!! I have read so many good reviews about this book!
I'm so happy that you have 3 copes to give away...that's awesome!
Thank you for all that you do for us!
darbyscloset (at) yahoo (dot) com

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I'm so anxious to read this! We have a special love of elephants at our house, as my youngest son is obsessed with them. I blogged the giveaway too.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

So here's the link!

Cheryl said...

Oh this sounds like a good book. Great review. I would like to be entered. Thanks

clbstitch At yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great read.

I just finished reading Sarah's Key and it was amazing!

Hoping to another great book!


Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in this book, especially after reading your interview. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Count me in!

Alicia said...

This sounds like a great book.
Please enter me!

adw7984 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting! Count me in!


SmilingSally said...

I'd like to throw my name in the hat for this giveaway. Thank you.

BTW come enter MY giveaway

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book! I want to read it.

wordlily AT gmail

Corinne said...

This looks like a great book, I'm totally interested. sheelysmom at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Count me in, please!

SunnyLea at gmail dot com

Beawhiz said...

I'd love to read this book. I was crazy about killer whales after Free Willy, and I'd like to learn about elephants, too.


Thanks for the giveaway!

Keyo said...

Very interesting, I would love to read this one! Also am adding a link to this on my blog. :) thanks

BoxingKing said...

Hi! I would love to read this book, and even more than me I know my mother would love to read this book. She is an elephant addict! Anyways, please enter me and I'll be posting a link on my blog.

Anonymous said...

I would love to be considered for this giveaway! thank you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it most certainly DID entice me to want to read the book!

Jackie B. said...

You hooked me. I want to read this book. Please enter me to win.

Anna said...

What a great story! I'd love to be entered! I listed the contest in my blog sidebar.


SmilingSally said...

I just read your review, and if it got you that emotional, I would like to read it.
smilingsal55 [at] yahoo [dot] com

shelburns said...

As an animal lover, I would love to read this book!

shelly dot burns at cfisd dot net

Carol M said...

I would love to read this. When my son was a docent at our zoo he worked with the elephants. They were doing a study to see how much they could remember. I would love to give this book to him after I read it. We just had two more baby elephants born at our zoo. They are so cute!
mittens0831 AT aol DOT com

Anita Yancey said...

This sounds like an interesting book. Love to have the chance to read it. Please enter me.

Amy said...

Hi Julie!
Please enter me, I also blogged about it here:

Megan said...

This sounds like a fantastic read. I'd love to be entered in the giveaway. Thanks!

toadacious1 at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Great work.