How did you come to be interested in the Lei Crime Kindle World?
I first came across Toby Neal on Twitter. She was marketing her first book, Blood Orchids, at the same time I was feeling my way around social media, marketing my first book, Almost Paradise. I read Blood Orchids and loved it—of course! I started following Toby on Twitter and Facebook. From the start, I had a feeling Toby was an author who was going places and I needed to keep my eye on her. I finally met her in person at the Aloha Writers Conference on Mau‘i and I hope I speak for both of us when I say we’ve been friends ever since. When we met up at the 2015 Honolulu Book & Music Festival, Toby explained the concept of Kindle Worlds to me and encouraged me to write a story in her Lei Crime World. I was honored to do it.
Tell us how your story links to the Lei Crime Series.
The protagonist in Hoaka Moonshine, Dee Maltin, walks her dog on the same beach where Lei takes Keiki for her runs, so Dee and Lei were bound to meet. Eventually, Dee learns her reclusive neighbor, Billy Kamai, is the second cousin of Lei’s father, Wayne. The past comes back to haunt Billy and Wayne and secrets come to light that will change Lei’s life forever.
The Lei Crime Series are police procedural mysteries with a twist of romance. What genres do you explore in your story?
Hoaka Moonshine is a spooky mystery, just right for Halloween reading. There’s a touch of late-in-life romance when neighbors of fifteen years, Billy and Dee, speak to each other for the first time. Unexplainable events force long-buried secrets to the surface. But are there really ghosts about causing the eerie, other-worldly sounds and smells—or is it all in Dee’s head? I leave that to the reader to decide.
The Lei Crime Series is set in Hawaii, but these novellas could be set anywhere. Tell us about where you set your story, and why?
I set my story in the quaint beach town of Pā‘ia, on Mau‘i’s North Shore. I love the ocean, and it’s the perfect place for Dee to encounter Lei and Keiki while they’re on their morning runs.
Tell us a little about your main character. Why do you think readers will like her?
We all know someone like sweet, unpretentious Dee Maltin. She’s an overweight fifty-something-year-old lady who dresses in shortie mu‘umu‘us and slippahs, and wears her prematurely gray hair in a twist held by a barrette. Everyone Dee ever loved has walked out on her or died. Everyone except her smart-mouthed son Simon who, at thirty-three, has never left home. Dee lives for Simon, and her spunky terrier Nai‘a. She takes long walks on the beach where she scavenges for shells and beach glass, and finds solace in the tropical garden she habitually overwaters. Life isn’t what Dee dreamed it would be, but she makes the best of what she has. Then, things start to unravel.
What major theme comes across the clearest in your story? Is this a theme found consistently in your other works?
The major theme of Hoaka Moonshine is loneliness, and the need we all have to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s a common theme that runs through my Louise Golden series.
In the first Louise Golden mystery Almost Paradise, Louise has recently moved to O’ahu after the tragic death of her lover and soul mate. Louise deals with several romantic relationships with men who are almost right. When an elderly woman on Louise’s mail route goes missing, Louise it blindsided with memories of her own mother who died when Louise was fifteen. Louise never had a chance to say goodbye to her mother and has no memory of being at the funeral.
The second book in my series, How Far is Heaven?, has mail carrier Louise struggling under the overwhelming Christmas workload. Half Jewish, half Irish Catholic, and raised without religious tradition, she feels disconnected from the holiday festivities in full swing around her. A trip to new York for her estranged father’s funeral changes all that.
In my third novel, Another Day in Paradise, Louise searches for a missing dog and becomes embroiled in a much more sinister mystery. She’s still testing the waters of various religious traditions, trying to find the right fit. Her quest for a spiritual connection nearly ends in tragedy.
In Stairway to Heaven, Louise is settling into a domestic partnership she hopes will satisfy her need to belong. But when a friend makes off with Louise’s boyfriend’s sailboat, the strength of their relationship is put to the test.
Share some of your story about becoming a writer.
Thanks to my mother who read Nancy Drew mysteries to me at bedtime, I grew up loving the mystery genre. I’ve always read voraciously, especially mystery series that follow a beloved character. One all-time favorite is Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series. I always hoped that one day, after I retired, I’d write a mystery series too. I figured there’s always room for one more good mystery series and decided I’d write the type of stories I love to read. In 2006 I was able to retire and immediately launched into writing my first mystery novel, Almost Paradise.
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!
I spent my adult life working for the Honolulu Post Office, which might not sound very exciting. But while I worked there I heard many tales from the mail carriers about unusual things that happened on their routes. Mail carriers go about the community almost invisible, like part of the scenery, and they see a lot. At some point in my career, the idea solidified—I would to write a series about a mail carrier who stumbles across mysteries in her community and solves them.
I’ve lived a colorful and eclectic existence growing up first in Hawai‘i, then in the Mariana Islands. My father pioneered air travel to some of the remotest parts of the Pacific. When I wasn’t in school, I accompanied him on his flights. I can’t imagine not living on a tropical island, and try to convey my love for the islands and their people through my writing. I went to college in Seattle, then moved to a kibbutz in Israel. I married an Israeli and traveled in Europe and Asia before settling in my childhood home of Hawai‘i. We’ve raised our three children in Hawai‘i while trying to instill in them strong ties to Israel—two lands that are as far apart geographically as they could possibly be. We’re a religious family, our beliefs consisting of a main serving of Judaism with a side of Buddhism. Call me a JewBu. My children feel just as at-home with a black-hatted, bearded rabbi as with a shaved-headed, orange-robed monk. I’m a vegan for many reasons including my love for animals, my concern for the environment, and my own health. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me swimming (an hour every morning, rain or shine,) doing yoga, meditating, or in the kitchen preparing a gourmet vegan meal.
The Lei Crime Series uses mysteries to explore social issues of Hawaii. What social issues intrigue you, and why?
I’ve brought out several social issues in my writing including homelessness, religion, and animal rights. I have plans for a story that will explore environmental issues.
What are you working on next, aside from the novella in the Lei Crime Series Kindle World?
I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time, which means I’ve committed to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. It should give me a good jumpstart on my work in progress—a Young Adult novel featuring Emmy, the little girl who grew up through my Louise Golden series. It’s a challenge writing from the point of view of a seventeen-year-old, because this was a particularly painful time in my own life.
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