How did you come to be interested in the Lei Crime Kindle World?
First, it was Toby Neal’s invitation to participate in it. Before she emailed me, I believe back in December, 2014, I hadn’t heard of Kindle Worlds. I feel honored to have been invited to join this group of professional, accomplished authors.
Moreover, Toby Neal’s characters struck a strong chord in me. I was most intrigued by Pono Kaihale from his first appearance in Blood Orchids. He always appealed to me, even though I know that Toby, as the author, intended readers to be more drawn to the main characters, Leilani and Michael Stevens. Somehow, I’ve always been intrigued by strong, well developed secondary characters. The other thing was, of course, the setting. Who doesn’t want to explore Hawaii, through fiction or in reality?
Torn Roots is set some time after the action in Shattered Palms, and references one of the villains of that book, Edward Kingston. Kingston was a Canadian graduate student doing his doctoral work on endangered birds on Maui. Torn Roots features another Canadian scientist, also doing research, who knew Kingston and takes over, as a minor plot point, a forest shelter that Kingston made.
Torn Roots also features Lei Texeira’s onetime partner, Pono Kaihale, as a major POV character.
The Lei Crime Series are police procedural mysteries with a twist of romance. What genres do you explore in your story?
Torn Roots is also a police procedural, with a bit of romance, several “fish out of water” stories and a lot of humor. That was part of what made it so much fun to write.
The Lei Crime Series is set in Hawaii, but these novels/novellas could be set anywhere. Tell us about where you set your story, and why?
Torn Roots is set on Maui, like Shattered Palms. I felt drawn to the rainforest on Haleakala from that book.
I had been thinking an idea for a story featuring an environmental and political activist who gets targeted to be a scapegoat by a rogue intelligence agent, and turns to a brilliant, reclusive outdoorsman for help. But until I thought about setting it in Hawaii, it just didn’t work. When Toby invited me to write a Lei Crime story, everything clicked.
Tell us a little about your main characters. Why do you think readers will like them?
My main characters are:
- Pono Kaihale, created by Toby Neal in the original Lei Crime novel, Blood Orchids. Readers already love Pono, a strong, straight-as-an-arrow, courageous and loyal family man. As Toby Neal put it best, he’s not afraid of confrontation, but prefers to defuse situations peacefully, if possible. In Torn Roots, he has been promoted to Acting Lieutenant of the Hana station of the Maui PD.
- FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, the newest addition to the FBI’s Hawaii branch. She’s smart, dedicated and knows when someone lies to her. She has recently been through the end of a personal relationship, but that’s only hinted at in the book.
- Sam Boyko, a graduate student in geology from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His father’s Canadian, his mother Hawaiian. He was born on Maui, and moved with his family to Vancouver as a child. He jumped at the opportunity to come back home to do his doctoral research. A consummate outdoorsman, he works as a forest ranger in the Haleakala National Park to support himself as he completes his research.
- Rowan Fields, Sam’s ex-girlfriend, an ardent environmentalist and political activist. She’s passionate, opinionated, sometimes abrasive and always free spirited. And she has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
What major theme comes across the clearest in your story? Is this a theme found consistently in your other works?
Concern for the natural environment is a central theme in Torn Roots, as well as in my first book, The Bones of the Earth. Torn Roots begins with a forest fire in the Haleakala National Forest on Maui, which my main character, Sam Boyko, discovers and is instrumental in putting out. Soon after that, Rowan Fields’ opposition to commercial development in a fragile ecosystem gets her targeted by an intelligence officer.
Share some of your story about becoming a writer.
I have loved writing stories since Grade 1. I wrote short stories and started any number of ill-conceived novels growing up. After university, I became an editor with a major publishing company in Toronto and learned the profession of making books. Later, I worked as a journalist, publishing mostly in business magazines but also in publications like MacWorld, the Financial Post and Applied Arts.
I continued to work on novels, and around 2000 or 2002, got a good idea for a novel based on some historical research I had done. Nearly a decade later, I published The Bones of the Earth to some critical acclaim and moderate sales. I followed that with a spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey, called One Shade of Red, and then last year published Army of Worn Soles, the true story of my father-in-law, who was drafted into the USSR’s Red Army just in time to face the German invasion in 1941. I was working on a sequel to that when Toby Neal invited me to join the Lei Crime Kindle World.
The Lei Crime Series uses mysteries to explore social issues of Hawaii…what social issues intrigue you, and why?
In am very interested in protecting the natural environment simply because while we humans are undeniably very good at degrading and destroying it, we depend on it for our own survival. Which means that if we don’t change the way we grow our food, travel and dispose of our waste right now, we’re not going to survive as a species. And as a father and grandfather, that worries me.
I am also concerned about the accelerating concentration of wealth in the world. That’s why my protagonists are always working class or middle class.
What are you working on next, aside from the novella in the Lei Crime Series Kindle World?
Interestingly, I was also invited to contribute to another Kindle World, Russell Blake’s JET series. I have recently released JET – Stealth, which adds a heap of humor to the breakneck action and gunplay of Russell’s world. After that, I have an assignment to rewrite a screenplay about the internment of Ukrainian Canadians in World War I, and then I will finish and publish the sequel to Army of Worn Soles: Under the Nazi Heel.
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