How did you come to be interested in the Lei Crime Kindle World?
I was writing what I expected would be my first novel—a verrrry long novel—and I got to a point where I needed some professional advice. I knew Toby Neal through her husband, a photographer buddy of mine, so I reached out to her. Over lunch, we discussed what I was working on, and I also pitched an idea for a possible future Lei Crime novel she might write. She liked the idea, and asked if I would consider writing it in the Kindle World she was developing. I’ve always loved reading a good mystery, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ Several months of trial-and-error and several revisions later, KAPU was finally finished.
Tell us how your story links to the Lei Crime Series.
Lei Texeira and her partner Pono Kaihale are the two lead characters in the book, which takes place in the time frame shortly after Toby’s Rip Tides. Lei’s husband Michael Stevens plays a role, and his brother Jared makes a couple of appearances. Pono plays a much stronger role, more of an equal to Lei, and also has an opportunity to represent his Hawaiian heritage. I also introduce a couple of new characters, a ‘brash-but-brilliant’ young investigator, and a seasoned crime scene tech. The story is about a series of murders that take place on Maui, with locations all over the island.
The Lei Crime Series are police procedural mysteries with a twist of romance. What genres do you explore in your story?
KAPU is a straightforward murder mystery. Lei and Stevens are fairly settled, so there’s no real drama in their relationship in this book, and no subplots as with Toby’s Lei Crime series. There are some hints of romance sprinkled through the book, but it’s not a major theme.
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?
All of the action in my book takes place on Maui. It’s my home, and the only place I can imagine Lei being a cop. The land and culture of the island also become minor characters in the story, with locations and history having major significance. When we have visitors, I love touring them around, and sharing the history and beauty of my island. KAPU gave me another opportunity to share.
Tell us a little about your main characters. Why do you think readers will like them?
Several of the characters have been around through many of Toby’s books, and I love all of them. The main new character I’ve introduced is a young woman named Katie McHenry, a new officer assigned to Lei’s investigative team. Katie is brilliant and beautiful, a white hat hacker with a black belt and a badge. She’s resourceful, spontaneous, and feisty, and hates being encumbered by rules. She’s also a technology whiz who spends most of her workday fighting crime with her family of computers.
What major theme comes across the clearest in your story? Is this a theme found consistently in your other works?
The broader themes of KAPU include respect for the local culture, protecting the environment, and acting pono—doing the right thing. The history of Hawai’i comes into play, along with some very current political issues. Katie struggles at playing by the rules, and in a turnabout, it’s Lei who has to keep her out of trouble.
I’m working on two other books right now, a work of literary fiction that will be the first book in a three-book series about a man’s search for love and redemption. I’m also outlining a novel based on the power of dreams. In both of those books the themes that fascinate me are questions of good and evil, love and loss, trust and betrayal, and trying to live a righteous life in the gray area between right and wrong.
Share some of your story about becoming a writer.
Writing starts with reading, and I’ve been reading since I was four. My parents used to bring home books as presents instead of toys, and I still love spending long hours with a good one. I got involved in journalism in high school, and completed a major in journalism in college. I took a couple of classes in creative writing in grad school, and actually won my college poetry contest one year. I worked in publishing and public relations for about six years before my life and career changed directions completely. During thirty years as a firefighter, I wrote hundreds of thousands of words of business and technical writing: memos, policies, budget requests, master plans, etc. Boring but necessary, and it made some good things happen.
When I retired and we moved to Maui, I dove back into photography full time, and that became a business. But after about four years, I was feeling stale, and started searching for another creative outlet. I’d always loved writing, and one day I sat down and started a story. A year and two-hundred thousand words later, I was lost and flailing, which was what sent me off to my lunch with Toby. And I’ve loved every minute of it, from the creative dream to its expression, the joy of working with words, and the utter delight of discovering my characters.
Do you have a background related to your writing? What makes you interesting outside of your books? Authors are often some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met!
KAPU uses photography as a plot element, and I’ve been a photographer for fifty years. I had a lot of fun tying that into the story.
What makes me interesting? Good question! I’m kind of a Renaissance guy—emphasis on ‘Guy’—with a lot of interests and a high level of achievement in areas I’ve pursued. Becoming an ‘Author’ feels like my fourth or fifth re-invention of myself. I love literature, history, politics, nature, teaching, family, and rock-and-roll music. My favorite color is blue, and John was my favorite Beatle. I’m a hopeless romantic and kind of a smart-ass, and my grandkids think I’m pretty cool. That’s gotta count for something.
Favorite piece of trivia: I was an extra in a Disney movie called The World’s Greatest Athlete. My face appears for 0.3 seconds, so don’t blink.
The Lei Crime Series uses mysteries to explore social issues of Hawaii. What social issues intrigue you, and why?
Fairness, respect, integrity…I spent fifteen years working with a consortium that developed an international training program on leadership and ethics, and those themes resonate within my own life. Hawai’i is a breathtakingly beautiful place, a true paradise on earth, but we have tremendous social problems here. Water rights, destruction of the environment, overcrowding, homelessness; these play out every day on the islands, behind the pretty picture of surf, sand, and aloha. I’m fascinated by the issues powering the Hawaiian Renaissance, and the current efforts to re-establish a Hawaiian Nation within the islands.
What are you working on next, aside from the novella in the Lei Crime Series Kindle World?
My next projects are the two novels I mentioned earlier. The three-parter is a thirty-year coming of age story about a guy who believes in the ideal of one true love, but isn’t sure how to find her. The second one is still being outlined, but plays with the question, “What if dreams actually came true?” And in the back of my mind is the kernel of an idea about another Lei Crime Kindle World novella…gotta think about that one.
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