Real Life Heroes

Elizabeth McKay is the hero of my novel, but she could not have taken shape in my mind without the influence of some real life heroes. These are people who influenced my writing and characters in Eye of the Whale, some of whom were incredibly generous and took time out of their busy lives to read the novel and advise me on the science behind the story. Those people are:

Bryant Austin

Bryant Austin Bryant Austin, a colleague of Libby Eyre's, not only arranged my research trip to Tonga through his non-profit, Marine Mammal Conservation Through the Arts; he also documented the whales we saw together for his extraordinary project of mounting life-size whale photos in public places, especially in whaling countries. His work inspired the scene I set in Japan, and he also was an invaluable advisor on the technicalities of BASE jumping. For more on Bryan and his work with Marine Mammal Conservation, please visit their website:

Senator Barbara Boxer

Senator Barbara Boxer Senator Barbara Boxer is one of the wonderful legislators who are trying to address the environmental crises we face and working to help protect our environment and our children. Witnessing Senator Boxer chair the Committee on Environment and Public Works was what inspired the congressional hearing chapter at the end of the novel. The testimony that was received that day on the human impact of global warming from then-CDC director Julie Gerberding, M.D., was heavily “edited” (many said censored). I wrote the novel with the Senator in mind as my ideal reader, and she greatly influenced both my writing and my goals for the novel.

Christopher Gavigan, CEO/Executive Director , Healthy Child Healthy World

Christopher Gavigan Christopher Gavigan is an inspiring and extraordinary leader in the environmental movement and the fight to keep our kids’ bodies toxin-free. Along with his organization Healthy Child Healthy World, Christopher has showed parents everywhere how to make healthy, toxin-free choices for their children and the planet. He is also the author of "Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home". For more on Christopher and Healthy Child Healthy world, please visit their website at

Dr. Frances M. D. Gulland, Director of Veterinary Science, The Marine Mammal Center

Frances M. D. Gulland I was inspired to write the book by a whale named Humphrey, who swam up the Sacramento River in 1985. In amazing serendipity, while I was working on the novel two more humpback whales—a mother and calf pair named Delta and Dawn—swam up the Sacramento as well. I got to watch the whale rescue first hand and to meet one of the incredible individuals who were significantly involved in conducting this successful rescue.

Frances Gulland is the Director of Veterinary Science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, one of the truly great organizations working on behalf of marine mammals. Frances answered innumerable questions and read several drafts, and her devotion to the whales and to marine mammals in general informed and inspired Elizabeth’s quest to save Apollo. For more information on Dr. Gulland and the work of the Marine Mammal Center, see

Senator Frank Lautenberg

Senator Frank Lautenberg Senator Lautenberg is also doing incredible, inspiring work on behalf of our oceans and our planet, as well as fighting the ever-increasing dangers of toxics and pollution. Along with other members of congress who are working to ensure the future of our species, Senator Lautenberg is a true leader and an inspiration to us all.

Iain Kerr, Vice President & CEO, Ocean Alliance

Iann Kerr I had an amazing, eye-opening late night meal with Iain, and heard heart-breaking tales of our oceans from his five-year voyage aboard the Odyssey, gathering the first ever baseline data on synthetic contaminants throughout the world’s oceans. The fact about chromium in the Gilbert Islands comes from his and Roger’s expedition.

Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group

Ken Cook One of the most effective groups working to educate people about the dangers of toxins in our environment is the Environmental Working Group, headed by the tireless and inspired Ken Cook. We have been able to join forces w/ Ken and EWG to help spread the word about toxins and the importance of the Kid-Safe Chemical Act. Ken has been invaluable in supporting the novel and in telling the truth about the dangers to our children and the very real villians that are polluting the next generation. Click here to read Ken’s comments about the book, and for more information on Ken and his work with the EWG, see their website at

Libby Eyre, Biological Sciences Museum of Macquarie University in Australia

Libby Eyre Libby is the marine biologist who took me into the wondrous underwater world of humpback whales and allowed me to videotape and record their song. Libby serendipitously shared the name of my protagonist and also has an “assistant” named Milton. Libby was the first to believe in this project and to give me early guidance when I was literally just getting wet. I doubt I would have had the courage to continue without her confidence, her creativity, and her friendship.

Dr. Pete Myers, CEO & Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, author of Our Stolen Future

Pete Myers An invaluable guide in the area of endocrine disruption and ecotoxicology has been John Peterson Myers, Ph.D. Pete is CEO and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences and former Senior Vice-President for Science at the National Audubon Society. He is the co-author of the now classic Our Stolen Future and one of the world’s leading experts on endocrine disruption. The lecture that my fictional Gladys Ginsburg gives is almost entirely based on his lecture and slideshow, which I had the opportunity to see at the American Holistic Medical Association. The standing ovation he received there is just a small expression of the gratitude that he and his colleagues deserve for their incredible work educating us about the dangers that toxins pose in the environment. For more on Pete and his work with EHS, please see their website at

Robyn O'Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth

Robyn Robyn is the author of The Unhealthy Truth, a shocking and inspirational first-person story that reveals the alarming relationship between the manipulation of our food and the increase in dangerous allergies in our children and cancers in our families—and offers a road map to healthy living. Robyn is also the founder of AllergyKids, an organization designed to help protect the 1 in 3 American children that now has autism, ADHD, asthma or allergies. I've been delighted to trade wisdom and advice with Robyn as we both work to raise awareness through our books.

Dr. Roger S. Payne - Ocean Alliance Founder & President

Roger Payne
Another early advisor for the whale science in the book was Roger Payne, Ph.D., the legendary co-discoverer of whale song and one of the leading whale scientists in the world. He is also the founder and president of Ocean Alliance, which along with other important work, has been testing the health of the oceans around the world.

Roger is in my mind the ideal model of a scientist-humanist. He is one of those rare people whose brilliance and warmth calls us to a higher aspiration in our own life. His love of the wild and the potential for humans to return to their rightful place within the natural world inspired my writing of the novel throughout. I highly recommend his book Among Whales, which through its poetic evocation and scientific exploration brings us as close as we can get to experiencing the grandeur of whales while on dry land. Roger is also a ruthlessly talented copyeditor. For more on Roger Payne and the work of Ocean Alliance, please see

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Ecologist, Author, and Cancer Survivor

Sandra Steingraber Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., who lives with bladder cancer very likely linked to environmental exposure, is an extraordinary scientist-advocate for the environment. Her two poetic books Living Downstream and Having Faith were a great inspiration to me.

Stephenie Hendricks, author of The Divine Destruction of the Dominionists

hendricks Stephenie Hendricks is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist with a 35-year career working for mainstream and progressive media. She has worked for ABC Radio, CBS TV San Francisco, and is currently a PacificaRadio producer. She has been a wonderful resource and mutual ally in helping me reach out to organizations and inviduals working to further our essential joint mission.