How did you come to be interested in the Lei Crime Kindle World?
Hi thanks so much for this amazing opportunity! I read all of Toby’s books then started delving into the Kindle Worlds stories. They are all so rich and varied and I wanted to throw my hat into the ring and write a book in Toby’s amazing world! The idea for Dark Dawn came to me pretty quickly and I was so thrilled that Toby was so encouraging and supportive. She truly is a wonderful person—and such a gifted author.
I picked Tiare Kaihale, wife of the lead male detective in the Lei Crime Series. Tiare is often mentioned but wasn’t given a lot of action in any of the stories. I was intrigued that she is a wife, mother, AND a wedding planner AND studying nursing. In Shattered Palms, Toby mentions Tiare has an aunty with a lot of problems. I contacted Toby and asked about the aunty. She said she’d never specified the problems (and I hadn’t noticed further mention of her) so I developed a storyline around Tiare’s aunty. In fact, I came up with a twin sister for her. Toby loved my outline and told me she had a fascination with twins (as do I!) and she also liked my angle of drugs/homelessness. Both are very big issues in Hawaii.
The Lei Crime Series are police procedural mysteries with a twist of romance. What genres do you explore in your story?
I explore the female amateur sleuth. I figure a woman who is tenacious enough to tackle a husband like Pono, two very active kids, an dual, challenging careers, could harness all those things in finding her missing aunt. I have always loved female sleuths starting with Miss Marple. She was a strong woman. I love Lei Texeira because she strong and yet flawed. Very human, very believable. I like believable characters people can relate to. I think this is why Toby is successful. She understands people and really gets them.
I have romance in my story. I wanted Pono and Tiare to have a very passionate, hot relationship, even though her family – the aunties – drive him nuts.
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 mine in Maui because that’s where Pono works and the family lives in Pukalani. I know the area well and have stayed in Kula many times. I have a friend with a massive property that looks out onto Haleakala. I appropriated this home for my book!
I’ve loved this area ever since I read Armine Von Tempski’s autobiography Aloha set in Maui in the 1940s – before everyone came. Before it all changed. She and her sister opened Maui’s very first bed and breakfast establishment at a time when women didn’t do such things as run businesses.
I was so impressed by their tenacity because they were forced to do this after their beloved father died and left them financially stranded. Armine had to do something to support her younger sister and brother. Two of her most famous guests at Haleakala Ranch were Jack London and his wife, who feature in the book.
At the time, Armine was also launching a writing career. She asked for Jack’s advice and he was so mean! But she kept at it and was a very successful author in her day. All of this is covered extensively in her autobiography, which was first published in 1946.
This book is a must-read if you love Hawaii and its history. It is such a vivid story I’d love to turn it into a movie. Armine was an amazing writer but only wrote a handful of books. She died in obscurity in a hotel room in Fresno, before Aloha was even published. I see Dark Dawn as a sort of homage to her. I think she and Tiare would have loved each other.
Tell us a little about your main character(s.) Why do you think readers will like her?
Like I said, Tiare is a woman who is very family oriented. Being married to Pono has given her the confidence now that her children are older to pursue her lifelong dream of being a nurse. She also plans weddings and has her heart set on doing Lei’s wedding. Of course we all know later on that is exactly what happens! I think they will like Tiare’s strength but also her vulnerabilities. I plan on a second book for the March 31 launch. I hope people love her as much as I do!
What major theme comes across the clearest in your story? Is this a theme found consistently in your other works?
My major themes are love of family, the search for truth and justice, and love. Period. I am a romantic and Pono and Tiare will never break up! I am working on a new series already contracted to Amber Quill Press called the Nina Eleni Santor U.S. Marshal Series. Still hunting for a title for book one.
Like I said I like strong women and I worked with a U.S. Marshal here in California where the books will be set. The world of U.S. Marshals is so little known so it’s been fun to explore it. Readers can find out more on my website.
Share some of your story about becoming a writer.
I have always been a writer since I was very young. I was a hopeless romantic even as a kid. I wrote love letters to my favorite pop singer (Johnny Farnham) and movie star (Richard Chamberlain). I never got responses, but I always like to say that this prepared me for a lifetime of rejection as a writer and in my personal life! I was a journalist very young, right out of high school. I got a cadetship in Sydney, Australia, where I was born, and I went to college at night. I have had a long career in journalism but I am focusing on writing mystery novels now.
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!
As I said above, I’ve been writing for years. I had a nonfiction book published 20 years ago and various short stories in periodicals. One of my favorites was The Two Princesses, published by Marion Zimmer Bradley in her Fantasy magazine series. She was a big supporter and critic of mine.
Our correspondence reminds me of the tough love Jack London gave Armine von Tempski. Marion was an incredible woman and she encouraged me to refocus a story I submitted. We exchanged letters I still cherished. She wrote the definitive female hero book, The Mists of Avalon. She was a gem. So committed to the written word. So supportive of women writers. I still miss her. I like to think she would be thrilled that I am finally writing novels!
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 am intrigued by everything to do with law enforcement. I respect all forms of it.
What attracted me to the Lei Crime Series is that Toby doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics. I am really concerned and interested in the huge animal smuggling trade and there was a recent bust in Hawaii, one of the biggest ever recorded of ivory. I used this as part of my storyline for Pono in Dark Dawn. It flabbergasts me that the smuggling of ivory is illegal and in many parts of the US, the sale of it is illegal, but Hawaii is one of the biggest sellers of it!
It needs to be illegal all over the US. I also hate that sharks are finned, dumped, and left to die in the ocean. So many animals are killed all over the world for stupid, superstitious beliefs, such as bears for their bile, and tigers etc.
What are you working on next, aside from the novella in the Lei Crime Series Kindle World?
I’m working on book 2 in the Dark Dawn series and my new US Marshal series. Research is my passion and I love reading. So it’s a win-win all the way round for me. I appreciate the opportunity to be here. Thanks so much!
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