How did you come to be interested in the Lei Crime Kindle World?
I was a huge fan of Toby Neal’s series and had read every book. When I noticed that one of my Facebook friend, AJ Llewellyn, knew of her, I asked her how long Toby had been in the business. AJ replied and said, “You should write for the Lei Crime Kindle World.”
I was very flattered but didn’t think they’d accept me but, AJ wrote a really wonderful email to Toby and I was accepted. I had never been involved in anything like this before and it was intriguing. I’d been wanting to write a crime novel for a while and to be able to work with an established series I love and great characters, set it in my own home state of Hawaii was heaven. It’s a great honor for me. Mahalo nui loa Toby for having me.
Tell us how your story links to the Lei Crime Series.
I chose to work with a new detective who is a local boy that’s come home to the Big Island of Hawaii to heal and get his life back together. Reef Kahili had been an undercover cop in LA and it had destroyed his marriage and nearly himself. I paired him with Pono Kaihale because they were a bit short of detectives until something was sorted out. Michael Stevens was old mates with Reef from LA, and convinced him to come home. Lieutenant Ohale thought it would be good to have Reef paired with someone who could ease him back into island style policing.
Pele’s Revenge is set on the East Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Stationed at the Hilo Police Department, Reef thinks he’ll won’t be dealing with too many drug issues as a homicide detective. But his first day on the job turns up a dead body that Pele the fire goddess has encased in her flow. But did he lie down and wake up dead? Or was he placed there? And it looks like he died from a drug overdose.
The Lei Crime Series are police procedural mysteries with a twist of romance. What genres do you explore in your story?
This is a police procedural mystery but Reef also meets the enigmatic and interesting Hibby O’Neal who’s the assistant ME. She’s a psychologist who has been through some rough times and took on the ME job as a way to not have to physically talk to her patients. As Hibby says, “They still talk to her but she doesn’t have to have a great bedside manner.”
There’s an instant spark of attraction between Reef and her. And they fire off each other, plus they’re both nursing some serious wounds in different ways. I like to see people fall in love, be understood, heal, and become stronger.
I usually write contemporary sensuous romances but there is no sex in these stories. It was quite hard to do, I have to admit. 😊 I so wanted to let these two get lost in deep passion with each other. They’re lovely together. So, I had to be very good. LOL. I also had to keep the swearing down a bit as I’m a New Zealander and our natural speech is peppered with swear words but we don’t get very activated over it. So it’s a crime/mystery with some romance because like Toby, I love the combination of the two.
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 on the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m a New Zealander, born and bred, but Hawaii is my American home state. When I’m home I live on the sunny side in Kona. Getting to set a book at home is always pure joy for me. I love nothing more than showcasing my island. It’s such a fabulous place. There’s a special energy to the BI, and it’s the one place in the world I feel at home. I’m always the healthiest in my life when I’m there. It feeds my soul and my spirit. The island accepts me and even Pele and I have worked our differences over the years. (Our personalities were probably a little bit too similar—we clashed sometimes.)
But Hawaii is my great love. When I was nine-years-old, my Mum went on a world trip and of all the places she went and all the dollies she brought back—it was the tacky plastic Hawaiian one that captured my soul. I’ve been in love with the Hawaiian Islands since then and it’s never stopped. It’s part of who I am now. And despite having a slightly modified New Zealand accent, people think I’m a local and not kama’aina when I live there, which is fascinating to me. But I really have a very strong aloha spirit and connection to the islands.
Tell us a little about your main characters. Why do you think readers will like them?
I think they’ll like Reef because he’s ultimately a real person. He’s a bit battle weary, a good cop, confused at times, not all confidence or bullshit and bravado as I call it. He’s intelligent, a thinker, emotionally deep, kind, male, and very human. He has a cat called Koko and there’s a great deal of caring from Reef toward all living things. (I can’t abide men who don’t like cats.)
He comes from an interesting background. He’s half Hawaiian/half New Zealand Maori. His dad is a Hawaiian pro surfer and activist for Greenpeace. And his mum is a New Zealander who is a professor at UHC in linguistics. So his background is slightly different to other cops. He’s unusual, has expensive tastes, grows orchids, is a reader, collects art, and is a foodie but he’s very much an islander as well. Tough but vulnerable is how I’d describe Reef.
Hibby is fun. She comes across as slightly ditzy at times but she’s highly intelligent, emotionally deep, vulnerable, lovable, fun, and kind too. She’s a local, born and bred with Irish parents who are botanists at UHC.
I think the connection between Reef and Hibby is powerful. They’ve both taken some hits in their lives and they’re vulnerable and have some fragility. But they’re also strong and tough when it comes down to the wire.
Also, a side character is Vannie, Reef’s ex-wife who’s a New Zealand painter and another strong woman. And we get to see two cultures here of the Pacific.
What major theme comes across the clearest in your story? Is this a theme found consistently in your other works?
I write about relationships. I’m a therapist by trade like Toby, and I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s connections and relationships. I want to know what makes people tick, how they think, how they got to that point. What made them who they are.
I think all my characters ultimately heal in their relationships they get involved with. They learn about themselves, and each other. I like emotionally whole people and I want to see my character’s work through their things with themselves and each other to come to a better place. I like redemption and seeing people’s strengths in their vulnerabilities and the things they’re coped with in their lives.
Even though I write sensuous romances, I’m really about relationships. While there’s often explicit sex scenes, they’re part of the relationship between the couple. Because that is a big part of our relationship, so I don’t want to skip over it. But it’s not the whole story. Emotionally I want to know how my characters connect, grow, heal, and live with each other to find happiness and peace.
Among other things, I do write gay romances because they give me a lot of scope as a writer. Writing from a male perspective is very freeing. And I also want to portray men as human. Just like us.
I write a primary series set on the Big Island called The Hawaiians. It started with one relationship when Mattie a New Zealander meets Beau a Hawaiian/Japanese/Tahitian man. They fall in love and get married and it’s about their journey to get to that place where they’ve had to face some of their demons and insecurities to trust each other and themselves. And that series has continued with Beau’s cousin Kulani who comes from a rough Hawaiian family, and he eventually marries a New Zealand psychologist Rob who’s been through the works with the death of his husband. They have a family of “lost boys” who have all been kicked out of home for being gay. Kalani took them in and supported them. And then we get to see the boy’s stories are they grow up, fall in love, have issues, and work out their own backgrounds and things.
One new one has just been released – Hawaiian Fragrance and Hawaiian Ginger comes out in June.
I also write a trilogy series set in New Orleans, the other great love of my life.
Share some of your story about becoming a writer.
I’ve written all my life in various forms. My first book was in a notebook that I handwrote and I even did my own “cover art.” I cut and pasted some pieces of me on the cover with my family. LOL. I was eleven and it was about my parent’s separation and how they got back together. As you can see. I have continued that theme in all my books. LOL. It’s always been about relationships.
Then I self-published a metaphysical book about seven years ago.
It wasn’t until I hit 50, that I started to write in my current genres and put my work into publishing houses. I’ve published on Muse It Up and also Loose Id in my sensuous romances books. And self-publishing for the time-travel book, working with a group of women I edit for.
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!
Thanks. Back at you. I think so too. They always have a lot of strings to their bow. 😊
I’m a therapist and healer by trade but I only do it here and there because otherwise, I hit burnout quickly. I’m very introverted and having to deal with people one on one can really wipe me out if it’s full-time. So, most of my clients get recommended to me or are repeats because I work in a highly-specialized field. I’m NLP—neuro-linguistic programming—trained. My fields are relationship and self-work, emotional medicine, and trauma or phobia cures. I use my background in my books. Because despite everything I’m always ultimately fascinated by how things work for people on an internal level.
Outside of writing, I LOVE to travel. That old Expedia ad, “If you had to go today, would you,” is me. YES. I would jump on a plane in a heartbeat. I love other cultures and food. I’m a huge foodie which you’ll see in my books. I love good food. Eating out is one of my great pleasures in life and I love staying in hotel rooms. Especially nice ones. My idea of roughing it is staying at a 3-star hotel. I’m not the backpack around Europe type of person with my passport and a change of underwear.
I’m deeply interested in metaphysics, reincarnation, psychology, and linguistics. At heart, I’m really a sociologist. I want to see the social interactions and how they work. I’m a prolific reader. I collect art and books. You might notice I’m kind of Reef and Hibby rolled into one. LOL. I think most authors have large parts of themselves in their work.
I’m mad about cats, especially my twenty-year-old ginger ninja—Leo Ray Jr.
And I have a great love of open cockpit biplanes and flying in general. I soloed in Hawai’i, learning to fly a Cessna. And I had fifty-two hours in my logbook when I had an incident flying a Piper Cub. Since then I haven’t flown again for lessons or to get my hours up, but I’ll go up in a biplane anytime, anywhere. I absolutely love them. Slow flight, the gentle waft of the air from a grass strip. Heaven.
What are you working on next, aside from the novella in the Lei Crime Series Kindle World?
Coming up is new Paradise detective series about a cop on the Kona side of the Big Island with his life partner Duke.
And a time-travel series under Justine Amor is coming up. They’re a lot of fun too. Those are “sweet, clean romances.” The first one out will be a romance about a WWII ATA woman ferry pilot who accidentally finds herself landing her Tiger Moth biplane in Texas 2017.
Some of the confusion between Margaret the pilot, and Leighton the Texan cowboy/pilot is pretty funny. Even though he thinks she’s got the whole WWII enactment thing down pretty pat, he also thinks she’s probably missing from a nice lock down facility. And she thinks he’s had a head injury in the war because he keeps thinking the war’s over. Poor man.
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