Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Guest Blogger: Andrea Campbell

Whacky Business This

My book idea is whacked. You know how authors always say, “There’s nothing like my book, it’s unique”? (They usually say that when pitching to agents who roll their eyes up into their heads, or when trying to get media attention—the whores.) Well, in this case it’s true. I’ve written a romantic-intrigue and the characters are monkeys who drive cars, hold jobs, and do
all the things that humans do, (sometimes better! I’m also sure that they ride in cars with the top down too, come to think of it.) I think the closest title to mine in kind has been Lives of the Monster Dogs, about a race of super-intelligent dogs with artificial hands and voice boxes (nearly a NYT bestseller), and Eric Garcia’s mystery series featuring mafia dinosaurs (I kid you not,) who disguise themselves as humans by wearing latex suits. But here’s the difference between those books and mine: my characters are real monkeys.

Okay, let’s drop back for some how-did-you-do-its. Way back in 1986 I was having a miserable time because of a series of jaw surgeries (ugh, tumor) and spent about four years bouncing around, life out of control, seeing doctors. Since my mouth was wired up a lot (yes, it’s a good way to lose weight), I started writing things down (although it’s hard to yell at your kids on paper so they got away with a lot of mischief for a long time, and if you meet them, that’s why they are like they are, a little bratty and over-confident). Anyway, that led me to writing trade magazine articles, which segued into books.

I wrote a career piece about the lady who started Helping Hands, an organization that gives trained capuchin monkeys to quadriplegics. (I had to know whose brainy idea that was!) Anyway, I got so caught up in the story, I wound up putting in an application to be a mom for a monkey—and, yes, it came to pass. I was passed a five-week old baby capuchin monkey straight from Discovery Island in Walt Disney World and we christened her Ziggy (after the cartoon guy with the pin-dot eyes).

Turns out this seat-of-the-pants adventure—we had her for thirteen YEARS—(okay, more data: they live about 46 years long), led to some strange, horrible, and wonderful situations that became a memoir entitled: Bringing Up Ziggy: What Raising a Helping Hands Monkey Taught Me About Love, Commitment and Sacrifice http://www.andreacampbell.com/html/Ziggy.html. And Zig also got me on more than a few television shows; I was featured on To Tell the Truth and, John O’Hurley, (yes, he is that handsome,) well, he said: “Will the real Andrea Campbell please stand up!” Soon those appearances led to booksignings where people with monkeys kept showing up. (How’s that for getting attention!)Before long I had lots of primate and nonhuman primate friends (and a silverback gorilla who is mad for me—another story for another day…)

… and, I joined the Simian Society—private individuals who own monkeys—and wrote a column for their newsletter (still do) and then the day arrived when Ziggy went to college.

Oh, we knew what the end result would be and we’re happy that she is such a loving, brilliant and helpful companion for John but I pine for her just about every day. My husband always tells people it was harder to let go of Ziggy than to send our boys off to college and he’s right. She will always be about five years old (yes, that is smart!).

So, in order to ease the pain, I found another monk mom who lost her kid, and we decided to do a labor of love, a book! First we: put out the word to our friends and got photos of their monk kids, then I wrote a real, bona fide mystery, and later my collaborator photoshopped the monkeys into characters. I described the scenes in-depth and we went through hundreds of digitals until we found just the right combination and the effect is genius. You’ve never seen anything like it. And that is the genesis of our whacked idea, our book, Love Monkey: A Tale of Desire, Romance & Intrigue.

Now if you’d like to see a few characters, download a “sell sheet,” get a copy of Author’s Notes or buy the book securely on PayPal just visit: http://www.monkeyromance.com

And, of course we’d love to hear from you—and that’s the truth.

17 comments:

lois greiman said...

Andrea, it's so great to have you and Ziggy here in the convertible with us. I'm absolutely intrigued by your story. Monkey fiction: genius. Real helper monkeys: even more genius. (And the book's terrific, by the way.) But I'm even more interested in raising a monk. What does that involve? Did you trail him yourself or did you just rear him? And what's life like with a smarter-than-your-average first-grader monkey?

Tell us more.

And thanks for joining us.

lois greiman said...

Whoops...that's supposed to be...did you TRAIN him yourself. Sorry.

Betina Krahn said...

Andrea, welcome! And ditto to all of what Lois asked!!!! Inquiring minds want to know!

And I've never heard of Helping Hands or "helper" monkeys before. Dogs are all over the place down here. . . we're near the home of Southeast Guide Dogs, but I've never seen or heard of somebody with an assisting monkey.

And thirteen years-- it must have been devastating to give her up. Did you have to keep her that long for her to mature, or did she have to meet a trainability standard before going to Helping College?

I'm fascinated. More info, please!!!

Keri Ford said...

This is one of the neatest things I've read in a long time. I've always pictured monkeys to little curious creatures getting into things when you weren't looking...never would have pegged them for little 'helpers'

So Interesting!

Helen Brenna said...

Welcome Andrea!

Can't imagine giving up Ziggy after 13 years. Have you seen him since? Does he remember you?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Terrific idea, Andrea! I can really see a monkey sleuth. Cat detectives are so yesterday. (I have a cat. He's only interested in one mystery. When am I going to get off my duff and wait on him?)

My daughter volunteers for the local helper dog org. She doesn't raise them, but she helps with fundraising projects. She's had about every pet you can think of except a monkey. She suffered with migraines from the time she was 12, and those wonderful critters saw her through some painful times.

Now I'm off to your monkey romance site! Thanks for riding along with us today.

Kathleen Eagle said...

What a gorgeous web page! Such sweet faces. I need this book. Plus one for my daughter. And the grandchildren. It's full of photos, right?

M. said...

what a creative way of dealing with loss. good on you! i have to say i'm fascinated to see the end result....

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Andrea. Love your story and ditto what everyone else said. I want to know more more more. You can answer Lois's questions and I'll be quite happy. Can't wait to pick up the book!
And welcome, by the way. Wonderful to have you in the convertible.

Christie Ridgway said...

Hi, Andrea! I am so interested in all this. I just told one of my kids the other day that a life wish I have is to see a monkey in the wild (have seen plenty in zoos).

But to raise one...

Andrea Campbell said...

Lois,

You asked about training. Actually, it was our responsibility to "socialize" Ziggy (she's a little girl, by the way). For this, they mean she should be able to be past from person to person, be easy to handle, accept love and welcome from everyone. They have found that monkeys that grow up in loving homes, are easier to train for their tasks. And the training is so cool!

The can: go to the mini-fridge, get a drink and put a straw in it (remember, quadriplegics can't use their arms or legs, hence, the term "quadri". The monkeys can: • open books, • comb the patient's hair • turn on computers and lights • bring them a sandwich • put cassettes and VCR tapes into machines • dial 9-1-1 on redial • run a little Dust-Buster just like a vacuum—what a riot it is to see that!

And they can be potty-trained to their cage.

Pretty damn smart, hm..?

Andrea Campbell said...

Betina,

Nice name you have. (Gee, I just looked at the typos in my last response, I think I need a Diet Coke...)

You asked about length of time. Generally, the foster family agrees to come on board for four years. We had Ziggy so long because I was a kind of spokesperson for HH, giving programs in schools and helping to interview prospective foster families.

And, as long as the home situation is stable, meaning: not a hardship on the family, loving environment, they stay. If a family has a major illness, or if they lose their job, or if something happens to them, then they might send their little ward back to headquarters to be re-placed or trained.

But they are best trained when they are semi-adult age.

Andrea Campbell said...

Helen,

No, I don't see Ziggy. We made a pact to respect the quadriplegic's privacy. Ziggy got a lot of press and attention and maybe the recipient has a lot to think about just to maintain their lives. (I call them "deep-dish wounded" as a lot of the clients come as the result of car accidents.)

BUT, we can get reports on Ziggy, sometimes they will send photos. ...I have to believe that I gave someone the greatest gift they will ever have—a loving companion who will love them and not make any judgments about who they are or what they look like, or what their capabilities are. To the monks, their new bonded person is just someone new to love and fun to do things for. The monkeys are engaged and the quadriplegics have something else to think about besides their loss.

Andrea Campbell said...

Kathleen,

Yes, the book Love Monkey has 16-full page color graphics in it. In fact, it was printed in Korea because their color printing is awesome!

The really fun part was thinking of a scene, deciding on a character, selecting digital photos and then having my colleague photoshop them into their scenarios.

The people who submitted photos now have their little monk-kid as the character in a book. We sold about $780 dollars worth even before the book arrived on a slow boat from Asia.

Andrea Campbell said...

Thanks, ladies, I love to answer your questions. It is something different and has meant a lot in my life.

In fact, once you get involved with nonhuman primates, you can't shake the interest. Case in point, my editor for the Bringing Up Ziggy book wrote a book called Monkey Love—a kind of chick-lit with a monkey hanging out (Brenda Scott Royce). In her private life too, she went on to voluteer with chimp care in So. California.

If I ever got a bestseller, my husband and I would like to open a sanctuary for capuchins who needed homes.

Wearing that 8-pound monk on my body everyday for hours was hard to give up. (And she kissed me and groomed me constantly), so that is much missed.

I'm glad I could interest you in something new.

lois greiman said...

So Andrea, are you considering fostering another baby or was one enough?

Andrea Campbell said...

Dear Sweet Lois,

Whom I remember at the booksigning at Murder by the Book looked especially wonderful in wide-leg linen pants...

Thanks for the phone call. I won't be at Romantic Times BookLovers Convention this year (in Philly) as I had some problems. I managed to roll my Ford Taurus Christmas Eve (oh, we're fine, thank you), and now I have to watch my expenses and try to get a car!

I will be at the New Jersey Romance Writers meeting on January 19 and will be having dinner with some of the members Friday night, January 18, so... if anyone is in that area, please call the Hilton and find me. If you want to write me about it: campbell@arkansas.net

I would love to have another monk baby and, one day, will do that. Right now I have another kind of, well, baby...—my mom lives with us and good old mom is 92 grand years old. So, we won't be seeking new animal companionship for awhile. I want to concentrate on my mother for as long as I can. And monks like to compete for attention with their siblings, and usually win.