Friday, February 15, 2013

SinC/Hawaii Interview with Author Laurie Hanan

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:


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dr. Gene Parola, Author and Docent

Sisters in Crime/Hawaii spotlight today features Gene Parola. He is a retired Professor of cultural history at Indiana University and University of Michigan-Flint; the Ministry of Defense Saudi Arabia and Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey. Gene lives in Hawaii and is a member of our writers’ group in Honolulu. He is the author of several books, including Lehua, his newest novel which he will discuss today.

Gene is also a docent at Manoa Heritage Center in Manoa. On February 9, 2013, he gave a tour of the Center grounds and the Hawaiian heiau, an historic and sacred site, that has been preserved behind the main house.

Dr. Gene Parola sharing information about
the heiau and history of Manoa Heritage Center

GAIL: Thank you for joining us today, Gene, for this interview. Your novel, Lehua, is a fascinating story set in Hawaii. Can you please share with us the background story and the responsibility your protagonist Lehua assumes in her life?
GENE PAROLA: The Lehua of the title is a young ali’i wahine coming of age just when her Queen destroys the thousand year old Hawaiian religion. This happens six months before the arrival of the first Calvinist missionaries, but is in response to powerful ali’i who have already converted to Christianity.
As in many ancient cultures, its history, mores, and social systems are bound up with its religious values and practices.
The ali’i, knowing that they must stay on the‘right’ side of the emerging new monarchy, conform quite readily. The kahuna class, the most threatened in the new order, immediately find shelter in the retinue of powerful chiefs who have already converted or intend to.
In Lehua’s case, she is conflicted because she sees some of the advantages of the changes to result from this cultural shift. At the same time, she is intelligent enough--and insightful enough, to recognize the agonizing negative effects on the behavior of the ignorant common people.
Lehua takes as her kuleana (responsibility) the guiding of the maka’ainana (commoners) down the narrow path between pono (righteousness) and the preachers. That is, maintaining the values of the old system while incorporating the new. It will be a tough job, as we see in book two, because the ‘long necks’ are bent on destroying every aspect of the ‘old’savagery.
Because Lehua is ali’i, it is her unspoken, unquestioned duty to lead her people. It is especially important now, when large numbers of ali’i are abandoning that responsibility as their own sacred reason-to-be is questioned.
GAIL: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Sisters in Crime/Hawaii. What unique twist makes your novel stand out?
GENE PAROLA: In a coming of age novel, as in a Mystery/Suspense novel, the compelling question is what will happen to the character, and can and how will she survive. Lehua’s task is a fictious one, but set against the historic failure of the ali’i to successfully resist the onslaught of both Christianity and external commercial forces that would result--80 years later--in the take over of Hawai’i by the U.S.
Historically there were a few attempts to confront the twelve shiploads of missionaries that arrived in successive waves. The first, and most well known, was Chief Kekuaokalani’s failed military attempt a short time after the ‘lifting of the kapu’ in 1819. All the rest were subrosa and were finally submerged in the duality of day-time Christianity and night time nativism. These latter efforts were finally defeated by the death of a generation and the unrelenting, pressure of the invaders. Except in the smallest and remotest enclaves.
In book two we see Lehua lay the ground work for one of those clandestine movements as she builds confidence among the chiefs and kahuna on Molokai. All the while, raising children on an early ranch, assimilating her paniolo husband’s half-Chinese culture, and conflicted as she is drawn inexonerably back into the questionable practices of the old religion that she thought she had turned her back on.
GAIL: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations?
GENE PAROLA: In Lehua’s case it is the constant confrontations with other members of her ohana (particularly her brother, whom she loves dearly), who are often as conflicted as she, but who yield gradually to her much larger world picture and the teaching of many religions, which she is introduced to by her Chinese in-laws.
GAIL: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?
GENE PAROLA: Yes. This is the first of a trilogy that will follow Lehua as she confronts all of the outside influences that impact Hawai’i until she dies at the age of 80 as a kokua on the Hansons Disease Settlement on Molokai.
GAIL: You have whet our appetites for the novel, Lehua, and given us good reason to read the full story. This next isn’t so much a question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why?
GENE PAROLA: I seem to be able to work anywhere where the spirit moves me. Recently on vacation I sketched out a new mystery and wrote the first chapter in longhand while my wife and grand daughtertransposed sheet music into guitar chords.
However, there is one place I’d like to try out. It’s in China near one of the tourist entrances to the Great Wall. A sidewalk sign with an arrow up hill announces accommodations at the End of the Universe inn.
Where readers can follow GENE PAROLA: