How did you come to be interested in the Lei Crime Kindle World?
I love Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series and to be honest I thought Toby was doing such a wonderful thing to share her World with other authors I wanted to be a part of it. She is not only talented and successful but very generous and supportive with other authors. Really quite rare in our industry.
Tell us how your story links to the Lei Crime Series.
When I chose Toby’s big loveable Tongan detective and explosives expert Abe Torufu as my World character, I read every single cannon book and made notes of everything she told us about Abe. I used everything including his penchant for chewing toothpicks, and his Sudoku habit. I loved that he and Lei failed an IED test in the field and used that as a basis for my story. The reality is that in Hawaii they don’t get many bombs and Abe references this is one of Toby’s stories. So I gave him a bomb. Two in fact. I brought in characters he dealt with in the canon stories. I mention Lei of course, but also Pono and his wife and Lt. Omura. Gerry Bunuelos who has been Abe’s partner and Lieutenant Guttierez from Honolulu Police Department are also in the story. Lt. Guttierez was one of the people who trained Abe so he features heavily in my story, Coffee and Kukui Nuts.
The Lei Crime Series are police procedural mysteries with a twist of romance. What genres do you explore in your story?
I have a gay character in the U.S. Marshal, Tony McCracken who is assigned to protect Abe. I write predominantly gay erotic romances and many of them are mysteries set in Hawaii. I was thrilled that Toby was open to a gay character, very welcoming to the idea actually. But she also stipulated no sex and I was happy to comply. It was quite freeing actually. After having over 200 books published I’ve started to run out of imaginative sexual positions!
There is no romance in the story but I wanted a kind of “bromance” between Abe and Tony. A little nod to McGarrett and Danno in Hawaii Five-O. Again, Toby was very supportive when I gave her an extended outline of the story.
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?
I set mine in Oahu because I love it there and the story I came up with happened when I went to a wedding cake shop in Honolulu. I always think of stories and then ask myself, “What if?” Abe is based in Maui but when I worked on his story I created a family for him. His parents, a brother who is a Coast Guard in Maui, and his sister who is a former boxing champion. Abe comes to Oahu to pick out wedding cakes for a traditional Tongan wedding. I really love Tongan tradition and I based my story on one that I attended. Hundreds of people were there and I was surprised how much was involved in making one happen.
I also created a bit of drama because when Lei got married Pono’s wife organized her wedding and she and Pono are hurt when Abe’s sister, Meleny doesn’t hire her to help her. That was fun! Tongan brides, by tradition, must do everything themselves, so that was a nice bit of character detail to put in the story.
Tell us a little about your main character(s.) Why do you think readers will like him?
Abe is adorable. And I cheated a little. I learned from a poll that Toby did, that he was one of the main Lei Crime Series characters that her readers most wanted to know more about. I know I did. I wanted to be respectful to her creation but also give him a real life. I hope she likes what I did.
What major theme comes across the clearest in your story? Is this a theme found consistently in your other works?
Oh, yes. My consistent theme in my most prominent series is family loyalty, love, and the pursuit of criminal justice. And food. I’m a foodie. One of my most popular series is Mingo McCloud Honolulu Mysteries. So far there are six with more to come.
Mingo is a happily married man raising his teenage son and gets into a lot of trouble with some very twisty cases. He is a forensic accountant working mostly criminal cases. He often teams up with his husband Francois Aumary, a Honolulu security expert.
I love doing research for my books and worked with a forensic accountant on the Mingo series and with a U.S. Marshal for Coffee and Kukui Nuts.
Share some of your story about becoming a writer.
I have been writing since I was seven years old. My mother died when I was six and it was a painful time for me. We weren’t allowed to talk about her and so I wrote about her. She became a super hero in my mind. I explained her shocking absence in my life as her being Super Woman. She was gone because she was helping people in trouble. I am crying writing this. I’ve never told anyone before.
I was also obsessed with horses and I wrote my first book when I was eight. I was also obsessed with death. Everyone died at the end of the story. Including the horses!
Do you have a background related to your writing? Interests? What makes you interesting outside of your books…Authors are often some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met!
Like I said I’ve been writing for a long time and have had over 200 novels published. It is my life. Along with animal activism, reading, hiking, cooking. I love my life.
What are your opinions about our justice system and those who enforce it? The Lei Crime Series uses mysteries to explore social issues of Hawaii… what social issues intrigue you, and why?
I have a strong respect for law enforcement and the men and women involved. I recently spent time doing research with officers of HPD and found they are concerned about many things I care about such as the homeless problem in Hawaii and the crippling drug issues. I have also been working with a female U.S. Marshal who really taught me a lot about how much danger ordinary people involved in protecting our welfare really are, such as judges, prosecutors, and police officers.
What are you working on next, aside from the novella in the Lei Crime Series Kindle World?
I have many ongoing series. I just this morning completed book five in my Honeybone: U.S. Marshal Series and I am working on Book seven in the Mingo McCloud Series. I co-author books with the amazing D.J. Manly. We’ve had about eighty books published together and we have many more coming up. I urge people to check out my website. I have many free books, free blog stories and all my published works listed with purchase links.
Thanks so much for joining the “Lei Train” AJ! So great to see one of my favorite characters, Abe Torufu, get his own story!
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