WE ARE SO PLEASED TO HAVE WITH US TODAY….
So without further ado, WELCOME, Diane!!
MBA&M: Hi Diane, please tell our readers a little about yourself?
DH: What’s to tell? I began writing by accident the year after I graduated from college, lo these many moons ago. I was too intimidated by Shakespeare and Chaucer to be an English major, but bad choices made in my post-graduation year drove me to write, in the third person, about my unhappiness. It was a short hop from there to writing fiction. Once I started, I was hooked.
Though I embarked on a 25-year career in public relations, and another dozen years building websites for small businesses, I wrote during every free moment—on buses, subways, week nights, week days. I always dreamed of being a full-time author, and two years ago, at the age of 55, I finally got my wish.
MBA&M: Please tell our readers a little behind your inspiration for “Friday’s Harbor”?
DH: In my last public relations job I served as the spokesman for Keiko, the killer whale star of the hit movie Free Willy. Nearly every day for two-plus years I told his story to an international press corps. I’d had no experience with any marine mammal species, never mind killer whales. The experience was transformative. I’d hoped to write a non-fiction book about the project, which was laced with contention and intrigue, passion and anger, but couldn’t muster the necessary objectivity—plus I’m a careless non-fiction writer, tending to make up the facts rather than hunt down the real ones.
Instead, I wrote Hannah’s Dream, the first novel set in tiny Bladenham, Washington and its small Max L. Biedelman Zoo. I invested a lot of what I’d learned about zoo-keeping and animal care in that book about an Asian elephant, Hannah, and the people who loved and cared for her. But it wasn’t until five more years had gone by and I’d written another, non-animal-focused novel (Seeing Stars, a book about child actors in Hollywood), that I finally felt ready to write Friday’s Harbor, a novel in which a killer whale is one of the main characters. It felt natural to set this new book, too, in my little town of Bladenham, Washington, at the Max L. Biedelman Zoo, among the characters we first met in Hannah’s Dream.
MBA&M: Who was your favorite character to write? Why?
DH: One of my favorites was Julio Iglesias, the fractious Chihuahua with whom Ivy Levy, Truman’s aunt, has been locked in passive-aggressive warfare for nine years. He provided comic relief. And of course, Friday was very special—I gave him many of Keiko’s personality traits, including foibles and triumphs. But I think of all the characters, Libertine Adagio, the little animal psychic, was my favorite. Life is never easy for those who lack robust natures. Ivy Levy and Libertine made an unlikely but devoted duo.
MBA&M: Give our readers, if you will, a little insight into the “Killer Whales” you worked with for so long and loved so dearly?
DH: Actually, I only worked with one killer whale—Keiko. Even then, I was an observer, telling his story to an international press corp over a two-year period from 1996-1998. Until his arrival on the central Oregon coast, at a facility built especially for him, I had never even seen a killer whale in person. Early on, there was talk about whether his spirit had been broken after years of terrible living conditions, but it quickly became clear that he had a strong and hopeful soul in spite of the many challenges he’d faced (and conquered). By the end of those two years, I was one of his most ardent admirers.
MBA&M: What scene was the most challenging to write?
DH: Certainly one of the most difficult scenes to write was one in which Friday was fed poison by an animal rights extremist who believed he was better off dead than held in captivity. At one point during Keiko’s rehabilitation the water quality in his pool was sabotaged to make him sick, and while I didn’t make Friday’s ordeal exactly mirror Keiko’s, it was potentially just as deadly—and brought back old and bad memories.
MBA&M: Who do you credit your love of mammals, and your love to writing to most?
DH: I grew up with a love of books—at any given restaurant during summer vacation, ours was the family reading at the table while waiting to be served. My favorite day was always one when we went to a bookstore and each of us got to choose a book. My parents brought my sister and me up to have a keen appreciation for literary as well as popular fiction: The coffee table was always covered with copies of The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. It’s probably not surprising, then, that I always wrote one thing or another: journals, terrible poetry, and, after I left college fiction.
I give my husband Nolan full credit for nurturing my love of marine mammals, and especially killer whales. He headed Keiko’s rehabilitation, and is a gifted and passionate teacher and trainer.
MBA&M: Now, to a less seriously topic…”Friday’s Harbor” has recently been made into a made for TV movie, who would you envision as your lead characters?
DH: That’s always a fun game to play. Jason Bateman would be Truman Levy. Kathy Bates would be Ivy Levy; Amy Adams would be Neva Wilson; Morgan Freeman would be Sam Brown. I don’t know who’d play Libertine, only that she would be physically small and psychically gentle and somewhat timid.
MBA&M: What is your next project? Inquiring minds want to know?
DH: I’m not sure—I have several ideas for my next book rattling around in my head, but I’ll probably wait to start one of them until Friday’s Harbor’s been safely launched and no longer needs my full attention!
MBA&M: Please tell our readers how to connect with you and where they may purchase “Friday’s Harbor”?
DH: You can connect with me via my website, http://www.dianehammond.com, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Facebook or Twitter. From October 15, Friday’s Harbor will be available at all major books stores as well as online as an e-book.
Thank you so much,Diane, for spending time with us and our readers today! What an inspiring and touching story!!
Hannah the elephant is thriving in her new home, peacemaker Truman Levy is the new director of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo, and life in Bladenham, Washington, has finally settled down . . . or has it? From his eccentric aunt Ivy, Truman learns of the plight of a desperately sick, captive killer whale named Friday.
Reluctantly Truman agrees to give the orca a new home—and a new lease on life—at the zoo. But not everybody believes in his captivity. Soon the Max L. Biedelman Zoo is embroiled in a whale-size controversy and Friday’s fate is up for grabs.
Like The Art of Racing in the Rain and Water for Elephants, Friday’s Harbor beautifully illuminates the special bond between animals and humans.
Diane Hammond is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Seeing Stars, Hannah’s Dream, Going to Bend, and Homesick Creek. She served as a spokesperson for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Oregon Coast Aquarium and currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and their three Pembroke Welsh corgis.
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Thanks for stopping by today and taking a few moments of your time to visit with our guest, Diane Hammond!!