How did you come to be interested in the Lei Crime Kindle World?
I don’t remember how, exactly, but I found Toby’s first novel, Blood Orchids on Amazon a while back. I was probably just looking for a novel set in Hawaii, since I’m such a… what’s the word for it? “Hawaiiphile”? “Hawaiiboo”? I don’t know – I just really love all things Hawaii. Anyhow, I read the first novel and just absolutely fell in love with it. I adore strong female characters, and Lei was incredibly strong despite her own self-doubts and troubled past. Once I finished it, I noticed Toby had two more books in the series! Bonus! So I downloaded them, and each one turned out even better than the last! I was totally hooked. I think I tweeted to Toby how much I loved her series, and she tweeted me back – I was floored. Anyhow, long story short: I’ve been a big fan of Toby’s writing for a while now, and when she encouraged me to write my own story for the Kindle World, I jumped at the chance.
My story, Of Rainbows and Butterfly Wings, centers on Dr. Gregory, the Maui County Medical Examiner who makes some short appearances in a few of Toby’s books. Being a slightly odd, middle-aged haole, known among friends, family, and co-workers for wearing aloha shirts all the time, I naturally felt a connection with the good doctor. So in my story, there’s Dr. Gregory; his good friend and coworker, Dr. Tanaka; and the Honolulu County Medical Examiner, Dr. Fukushima. The story starts in Maui, and ends up on Oahu as Dr. Gregory tries to find the truth behind a painfully ill-fated relationship from his past.
The Lei Crime Series are police procedural mysteries with a twist of romance. What genres do you explore in your story?
It’s a mystery – who is the dead person? Why were they killed? What ever happened to the love of Gregory’s life? All that kind of stuff.
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?
Mine is also set in Hawaii. It starts on Maui and goes to Oahu. Why Hawaii? Have I mentioned that I absolutely love these islands?
Tell us a little about your main characters. Why do you think readers will like them?
Dr. Gregory is a little quirky, but pretty much an everyman. He’s a tad self-conscious and has a little self-esteem issue when it comes to romance. Dr. Tanaka is confident and professional, and can take care of herself. She’s also a little quirky, but only to those who get close enough to see it.
What major theme comes across the clearest in your story? Is this a theme found consistently in your other works?
That’s more of a question I would like to ask to anyone who reads my book. I don’t want to shout out, “THIS IS WHAT I MEAN!” I’d rather people come to their own conclusions and find the metaphors and symbolism themselves. I may have buried some a little too deep, been a little too cryptic or vague sometimes. Others I’m sure I’ve probably hit the reader over the head with – mostly because my editors had asked me, “what the heck is this about?” I don’t mean it all to be a puzzle or anything, but I personally enjoy trying to read stories for the subtext, to figure out what the author means but didn’t say. For instance, I really love the “unreliable narrator” paradigm. Hopefully some of that comes through in my writing.
Share some of your story about becoming a writer.
I’ve always wanted to be “an author,” literally since I was a little kid. I would fold up paper and write “books.” One of my favorites was on “hort [sic] attacks” and how smoking could cause them. Another was on Mars and how it’s green – I was really young at the time. I guess it just took a few decades before I actually went through with it for realz.
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 have a Bachelor of Science degree in Literature from MIT. It’s not a BA, but a BS because of the numerous math, science, and engineering classes I took while there. And not a lot of people graduate from MIT with just a degree in Literature. In fact, at graduation, people are announced by department; I was the only one announced for “Course 21L.” There were others who received degrees in Literature that year, but they were all second degrees, and they were all listed under their other departments.
My professional life revolves around software engineering – I’ve spent most of that time as a developer for Microsoft in the Great Pacific Northwest. I worked on developer tools, an online mortgage engine, and the initial release of the Tablet PC and its ink-enabled applications. I spent a couple years in the company’s Research division, where I co-authored a number of software patents. But most of my time at Microsoft was spent on the MSN product – the online network. It was a great job in a great part of the country – but eventually the call of Hawaii lured me away.
Now I direct a software engineering team for Hawaiian Airlines here on Oahu, and my family and I live in a tiny little town (~1300 people) on the windward side of the island, right across the street from the ocean. My wife and I have three boys and three cats. I’m fascinated by renewable energy. We’re getting solar panels for the roof, and I drive a plug-in hybrid – I’m always on the prowl for free charging stations.
My favorite book is Moby Dick. In college, when I had to take “American Lit,” I was terrified that I would have to read it – and sure enough, it was on the syllabus. But my professor – she was amazing! She was a Moby Dick fan, and she pointed out all the absolutely stunning symbolism and subtext of the story, and it just hit me at a profound level. Melville himself wrote to his best bud Hawthorne that he had “written a truly wicked story” [paraphrased – I’m sure I got it slightly wrong]. It’s not a story of a half-mad captain hunting an evil white whale – don’t get me started on how all the movies get it wrong, and how most of the critiques get it wrong. It’s really SO much more! Remember what I said about how I love the “unreliable narrator”? Ishmael is one of the biggest in all literature! Anyhow, I can digress on this for hours upon hours. I’ve read the novel several times, and I have at least a half-dozen different copies. I could go on and on and on and on…Okay, you can wake up now.
The Lei Crime Series uses mysteries to explore social issues of Hawaii…what social issues intrigue you, and why?
Let’s not open that can of worms, lest I rant on for many, many pages…Lots of social issues interest me. Justice, Equality, and Freedom are some of my biggest ones – specifically the lack thereof. Seems every day in the news there are sad stories of fellow creatures on this little rock being deprived of one or more of them.
What are you working on next, aside from the novella in the Lei Crime Series Kindle World?
I’m thinking about writing another story centered around Drs. Gregory and Tanaka. Maybe a horror/ghost story this time. I had a lot of fun earlier this summer on Facebook with a fictitious post about seeing a ghost in the condo in which I was renting at the time. It was a lot of fun to write, and it generated a LOT of comments and activity from my friends and family. Maybe I’ll crank up the scare factor (and the body count) and see what pops out.