Aloha e komo mai. Let me first say Mahalo nui loa to the amazing Lana Griffin for having me here today.
As you know, I write paranormal romance. Wow, when you say it that way it sounds like I need an intervention. I set my books in Hawaii and use the Hawaiian panethoen for a very simple reason…I was bored with Vampires. (No offense Lana, DUSK rocks)
NOTE FROM LANA: I’ve loved the ocean since I was a little girl. But I’ve also loved vampires since I was a little girl. I can’t imagine growing bored with vampires any more than I can imagine growing bored with Hawaii. Though I understand your point, that paranormals in Hawaii certainly differ from typical vampire fare.
Like many paranormal romance lovers, I read Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon. I devoured every book I could get until one scorchingly hot summer’s day---I live in Las Vegas, it’s like living on the sun--- when I was standing in Borders and looked up to see vampire romances as far as the eye can see, nothing but rows and rows of tortured vamps and the slayers who love them. I annoyed. I wanted something new. With some many amazing cultures in this world you'd think publishing would branch out. So I decided I would write my own. I had no idea what to write about until I took a trip with my family to the Big Island of Hawaii. There I found what I needed to kick start my true writing path. Two helpful items in particular come to mind, the beauty of our fiftieth state and Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Warren Beckwith. Beckwith’s book is the definitive collection of Hawaiian myth. For a long time it was the only written record of many of the tales of Pele, Lono, and the other gods. With good old Martha by my side and a view of the Pacific Ocean stretched out in front of me, the idea came for Kona Warrior and the two WIP sequels.
As I wrote about the ancient Hawaiian tradition, I came to respect Hawaii and it culture heritage more and more each day. A friend asked me if I was born in Hawaii. No I wasn’t but I think my soul was born in Kona. The terrifically talented A.J. Llewellyn, who also writes Hawaiian romance, referred to us as Pele people and I believe he is correct. That is one of the main reasons I lose my cool when I read something set in Hawaii that is inaccurate. One in particular made me toss the book across the room in anger, but I’m not naming names. When you write about an existing culture you must honor that world, not simply use them for cultural appropriation purposes.
Another addiction that feed my Hawaiian love is cheesy beach movies. Don’t act coy. You know which ones I mean, something from the late fifties or early sixties, featuring the curvaceous Annette Funicello and the manly Frankie Avalon in the throes of teenage hormones How about the ones with Elvis and his white swimsuit strumming a ukulele? When I pop Blue Hawaii or Paradise Hawaiian Style into the DVD player I am instantly taken back to the shores of my island home.
In my first novel, Kona Warrior, my hapless heroine Gloria is confronted with the most delicious Hawaiian hunk when Mano steps from the ocean into her arms. She doesn’t even mind that he occasionally turns into a shark. As a paranormal romance novelist I get to cruise around in the rich textured world of Hawaiian lore and write about sexy beach boys and girls. In my current Hawaiian paranormal WIP, Daughter of Fire, all American Jack O’Connor is discovering the mystique of a true island girl with a fiery lineage. Kalama Young is not your usual bikini clad goddess. She also happens to be the daughter of a goddess, Pele the Goddess of fire. Jack’s in trouble, but the good kind.
Is it any wonder I write beach romances set in Hawaii? The mystique of Polynesia and the hunky surf god has always been an attractor for me and my fevered imaginings. There is something so incredibly appealing about an exotic hero and I think a Polynesian warrior is as exotic as they get. A line I love from a cheesy ‘80’s film, spoken by Shelley Long in the character of a romance novelist no less, sums it up best for me. “If there is one thing women love more than muscles, it is brown muscles.” Give me a tall tanned delicious hero and I am set every time.