You live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, on the slope of Haleakala, in Maui. Does the view inspire your books and writing? Actually, I eat the same chocolate as Tiwaka! But, if it's not the chocolate, it could very well be where I've found myself over the last many, many years. I lived on a beach on O'ahu for 19 years, surfing and diving and having beach bonfires that my friends on the Space Station phoned in being able to see. Since 2001 I've been on Maui, have lived in a seaside jungle, built a treehouse (where I wrote most of "The Parrot Talks in Chocolate") and now, as you mention, live at the 4000 foot elevation on the slopes of the world's third tallest mountain (measured from it's base at the bottom of the ocean). It eventually has an effect on one.
Your books are both in print and in e-format. What made you decide to publish digitally? As a self-pub kind of guy, I recognized early on that I was going to have to do my own marketing. The power and breadth of the Internet, alone, was not going to get my paperback titles recognized as even being in existence. I had to explore other ways to get my books out there. Just before Christmas 2010 I stumbled across this new eBook phenomenon and gave it a shot. I didn't even own a Kindle for another six months. When I recognized that the price of an eBook could be quite a bit lower AND I could make a higher profit, I got real excited! FORTUNATELY I already knew HTML coding from a decade of building websites...and that was how one had to format their eBooks initially. Amazon needs better tools to help authors get it done, similar to what Apple just released for iBooks. The industry is moving fast, and I believe in a year, or less, you will see school kids doing professional quality eBook production.
The covers of your books are beautifully colored, almost magical, depicting the Islands and their distinctive flora and wildlife. Do you have an artist that you work with on the covers? I understood one thing about getting attention from people on the Internet...you had to have a good visual. So, fortunately, I lived next door in the jungle to John Girodani, an accomplished designer from New York City. He did the covers for the first two books in the series "The Life and Times of a Hawaiian Tiki Bar". Later, for the third book I enlisted the expertise of an artist I found who did fascinating retro travel posters, Kerne Erickson from California. A great, eye-catching cover is CRITICAL to capturing a shopper's eye on a page full of other great covers.
You write about the Hawaiian culture, and particularly the life and background of those who work and come to Tiki bars in the Hawaiian Islands. You even have some great drink recipes in your book, In the Middle of the Third Planet's Most Wonderful of Oceans. Can you let us know how you got this insider information? Well, I had to put something extra in that book for readers who got past that crazy-long title! I've met many great people, both in person and online, that embrace the American-style Tiki theme. Naturally, cocktails are always involved. My own invention, the Coco Loco Moco is one. So, I solicited some outstanding recipes from that inspired crowd.
You have a major character, a parrot named Tiwaka. He's fun and funny and very smart. And he says some very profound things. Does this wonderful feathered creature come from a real parrot much like Tiwaka? No, unfortunately not. However, with my fiction, particularly the "Tiwaka series" I try and create a world I would like to live in, if I had a magic wand of near infinite power. That said though, much of the stories are based either on actual experiences of mine, of people I know, or people I would like to have known, and if those pools of inspiration don't work, I just make it up.
Your readers say they love the positive messages, that you put them under a spell with the beautiful imagery of the Hawaiian islands. I certainly found this to be true when I read, The Parrot Talks in Chocolate. I felt such nostalgia, because I lived on Oahu. What do you learn about your books from reviews, and do they sometimes surprise you? That's a great question Pam! Because initially a new writer might think that sales, or downloads of free promotional books, is a good measure of reader enjoyment. I sure did, and fight the urge to think so still (of course, I'm still a new writer). But, reviews and comments are enlightening, especially when they mention what parts of the book made an impression on the reader. It's fun, and educational. It's exciting when you find out that a particular writing technique you use is working magic on your readers. Stephen King said it in a book of his, "On Writing", best: (to paraphrase) a writer's goal is to let the reader paint the image of your story in their own minds. That is a great advantage over film, where the director paints it for you. So, if you make that happen inside your reader's imaginations then you have accomplished something wonderful indeed.
You have three novels about Tiwaka. Will we get more? I had so much fun writing the first three, that I have built a bridge to the fourth in the latest. It will be "Tiwaka Goes to Lahaina". In this one, Tiwaka, and the rescued ground-bound parrots of Waikiki move into the great banyan tree at Lahaina Harbor on Maui and learn to fly. Once they do Tiwaka sets up a fish-spotting business with the local fishermen. Adventures with whales, dolphins and turtles, as well as quite a few colorful humans will take the reader to new heights of enjoyment (if I write it correctly!)
Can you tell us about your work schedule? How much time you spend writing each day. And if you like working at night, or early in the morning? I prefer early mornings, with strong coffee and a fire in the fireplace. Often I will rise at 3 or 4am, build the fire and get a couple of hours in before the kids get up for school. Otherwise, it's late at night, after the kids go to sleep. The important requirement for me is that I have no distractions. I put on my 'writing music' and for all practical purposes transport myself into the story. I look around at where I am then, and write what I see and feel. It's entertaining! Thank you so much Pam, I appreciate the your time and a chance to talk about my craft.