In the Sisters in Crime/Hawaii Author Interview spotlight today is Laurie Hanan, author of the Louise Golden Mysteries. Laurie recently published her third novel in the series, Another Day in Paradise. Each novel is set in Hawaii, and more specifically, on the island of O’ahu. By the third novel, many of the questions have already been asked and answered, so I dug deep to ask more obscure but interesting questions of Laurie.
GAIL: Welcome, and thank you for joining us today, Laurie. Each of your novels offers the reader a closer look at your protagonist and an opportunity for you to showcase your evolution as a writer. One of the joys of reading an ongoing series is the anticipation of revisiting familiar characters and sharing another adventure with them. An added bonus with your series is for readers to also experience real-time life in Hawaii. While it may not be the same as that portrayed on Hawaii 5-0, that is mainly because Steve MacGarrett doesn’t pop up in our lives all that often! You do have one supporting character in particular, a polo player, who does offer that special dazzle in Another Day in Paradise. What’s the back story on him?
LAURIE HANAN: I assume you are referring to the blond Brazilian, Felipe. My method is to start with a tight outline, but stay open to allowing scenes and characters to detour from the original outline as I write. Felipe is a good example of how that happens. First, let me say Felipe is an entirely fictional character, created in my imagination. I intended for him to be a minor character. But as I wrote him into the story, he grew into a much more interesting and complicated fellow. I went with the flow and let Felipe develop. In fact, at the end of the story, Felipe caught me by surprise. Now I'm sure he'll have to come back as a regular.
GAIL: One of the top questions asked of authors is, “Where do you get your ideas?” It is also one of the most difficult to answer because of its broad scope, in the vein of “What do you want out of life?” To narrow the focus of the question, let me pick a specific area of your latest Louise Golden mystery. Louise takes the neighbor children to a polo match where she meets a rather sexy man. Why did you choose to set scenes at a polo match in Hawaii?
LAURIE HANAN: My sixteen-year-old daughter has been working as a groom's apprentice at the Mokulēia polo field on the North Shore for about two years now. She also takes polo lessons and plays in off-season skirmishes with the professional polo team members. Naturally, I've spent a good deal of my time at the polo field and have gotten to know many of the regulars there. I absolutely love horses, and Mokulēia is one of the most beautiful parts of O'ahu. It seemed natural to have part of my book take place in that setting. I also wanted to share with my readers who may not be aware that polo is a popular sport in Hawaii and very much a part of the culture and history of the islands. And I will reiterate, the sexy Brazilian polo player is purely a figment of my imagination--so girls, don't go out to the polo field hoping to find someone like Felipe.
GAIL: Your protagonist, Louise Golden, is a mail carrier. Ever since the term “going postal” surfaced, it is not so difficult to suspend disbelief that a mail carrier can become involved in a mystery of murder. You were a postal worker also, and while I don’t believe you have ever been involved in a murder, can you tell us some of the experiences you did have on the job?
LAURIE HANAN: For eighteen years I worked at the Honolulu Airport facility as a distribution clerk. That means I worked inside the building sorting letters, magazines, and parcels. Tempers flared from time to time. Supervisors were occasionally threatened with bodily harm. But as far as I know, nobody ever brought a gun to work. There was one stabbing while I worked there, but that was a lover's quarrel. Just like in my first book, Almost Paradise, there was said to be a ghost or two residing in the building. There were a few eerie occurrences. For the most part, the situations Louise encounters in my books are made up.
GAIL: One of my favorite subjects is food, an eclectic variation of foods such as chicken katsu, deep-fried lake perch, sashimi, and pie. What are some of the Hawaiian favorites that receive mention in Another Day in Paradise and why do they have enough importance in your life to warrant mention in the novel?
LAURIE HANAN: Like myself, Louise is an animal lover and therefore a vegetarian. This means her enjoyment of local foods is somewhat limited, as mine is. There is less focus on food in the third book in the series. She does have a lychee and li hing flavored shave ice at the polo field. This is one of my favorite indulgences. For lunch she stops to pick up sushi one time and vegetable manapua another time.
GAIL: Religious tolerance is a vital foundation of our “One nation under God.” Recently, I read a newspaper article stressing the idea that we do not have to believe the teachings of another’s faith to respect each other’s faith. Ideology is often an evolution of ideas that even President Obama and Governor Romney exhibit in their lives. In your novels, the protagonist reflects this tolerance. Were your personal ideas about religious tolerance formed early, or were they influenced by life experiences such as travel?
LAURIE HANAN: I grew up in Hawaii and the Mariana Islands. Especially here in Hawaii, we are surrounded by a wonderful smorgasbord of cultures and religions. All my life I've been exposed to people from all religious backgrounds. Only as an adult, though, I have opened my mind to the possibility that there is something to be learned from all religions. Maybe some of that understanding has come through my travels, but much of it I've discovered right here at home. While I practice a conservative form of the Jewish faith, I have come to believe that religion is merely man's attempt to explain the unexplainable, to grasp the untouchable. Religion is the proverbial finger pointing to the moon. Too many people, sadly, have mistaken the finger for the moon. I believe Truth resonates with our souls, if we would only pay attention. Truth can come to us from many sources. Each of us would do well to embrace Truth when we come across it, regardless of the source of that Truth. I intentionally created my protagonist, Louise, as someone who grew up with no religious background, and had little use for religion. In the first book, Almost Paradise, religion doesn't enter her thoughts. In the second book, How Far is Heaven?, Louise is forced to confront her Jewish heritage for the first time at her father's funeral. She discovers she was baptized in the Catholic church as an infant. She also gets to know Freddy, who is a Jew-Bu, a follower of both the Jewish and Buddhist faiths. It isn't until the third book,Another Day in Paradise, that Louise begins to explore her own religious path. I hope many readers will relate to Louise's search for Truth, and her quest to understand herself.
Look for Laurie Hanan on the Internet at these sites:
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE:
ALMOST PARADISE on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Almost-Paradise-Laurie-Hanan/dp/0983286132
THE INDEPENDENT AUTHOR NETWORK: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/laurie-hanan.html