I'm so pleased to have today's guest post from author Diane Hammond. Her last book, Hannah's Dream, which was inspired by the time she spent working with Keiko the whale, won the hearts of thousands of readers. With her newest book, Seeing Stars, Diane once again drew inspiration from an experience in her life and here she shares the story behind Seeing Stars.
Seeing Stars, the story of four child and teen actors seeking fame in Hollywood, was inspired by the two years my own family spent in Hollywood supporting our teenage daughter as she pursued a professional acting career. While Stars is not autobiographical, I certainly relied heavily on the things I saw, heard and discovered while we were there. And while upon returning to Oregon we had few regrets besides leaving good friends behind, I will always be grateful for the amazing, exhilarating, alarming and transformative experience those years proved to be for all three of us.
Stars addresses many of the real-world issues and obsessions shared by most young actors and the families that love and support them: ambition, talent, drive, guts, hard work, justice, injustice, and more than a small measure of luck. It also explores the roles that adults inevitably play in the lives of child actors—the parents of other child actors, as well as photographers, managers, talent agents, coaches, teachers, casting directors, movie directors and producers, and more.
In the early pages of Stars, recent Hollywood arrivals Ruth Rabinowitz and her daughter Bethany are befriended by Vee and Clara Velman, a much more seasoned mother and daughter, in a casting studio waiting room. Clara has just described with some relish being treated atrociously by the casting director for whom Bethany will soon be auditioning. Appalled, Ruth says, “But why would they do something like that? Especially to children.”
Vee said, “There’s your first mistake. They’re not children. They’re job applicants. You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“It shows that much?”
Vee reached over and patted Ruth’s hand. “Yeah. But enjoy that naiveté, honey, because when it wears off you’re going to want to start drinking.”
This notion of employability, mixed with superheated competitiveness, is at the heart of what makes the world of child actors so ripe with opportunities for things to go seriously wrong. Children hold the keys to their parents’ futures rather than the other way around, and normal notions of parenting often go out the window.
And what could be more interesting than that? Thus, Seeing Stars.
Browse inside Seeing Stars, check out the reading group guide, and invite Diane to talk to your book group!