October 21, 2012

Guest Post - Interview with Lehua Parker

Aloha, Terron! Thanks for letting me drop by to answer a few of your questions about my MG/YA novel One Boy, No Water, book one in the Niuhi Shark Saga. It’s available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon in hardback, trade paperback, and ebook.

"Aside from your talented imagination, what else motivated you to write your book, One Boy, No Water? What are your goals with this book?"

One of my main motivations to write is avoidance, specifically of things like laundry, housework, and snow. I first started what became the series one bleak -20°F Heber day when I was terribly homesick and in desperate need of a few hours on a sunny beach. When I came up for air, I had an unpublishable mess on my hands and a spark of an idea that wouldn’t let go. I did some research and discovered how few titles there are for MG/YA readers that show Hawaii as a real place rather than a Tiki god curse for Bobby Brady to solve. That nagged at me.

I thought back to when I was a kid and how teachers used to coach us just before standardized exams—“Now Lehua, when the test says the leaves are falling off the trees, what are we supposed to infer?” “Uh, that the trees stay makÄ“ die dead ‘cause nobody wen water them?” “Lehua, sweetheart, I hope you love hairnets and grease because trust me, child, with an answer like that your future is going to feature both of them.”—and I realized I wanted to write a story set in Hawaii for all those kids who wondered how Santa was going to come since no one they knew had a chimney. (My Dad’s answer: he comes through the sliding glass door on the lanai like the invited guest he is; Hawaiians don’t make guests enter houses like two-bit second story cat burglars, especially if they’re bringing gifts.)

As I refined the target audience, I imagined a kid who called all the adults in his life Uncle or Aunty and could make a killer kite out of a pair of wooden chopsticks, a sheet of notebook paper, some leftover rice, and yarn from the ball in the junk drawer. Typically, this kind of kid isn’t a big reader, (Ho! Boring! Waste time read books!), and I wanted to write a book he could relate to, one that would make him want to sneak a flashlight to bed so he could read under the covers. To engage this kid, (and to amuse myself, I admit,) I wrote a lot of cultural inside jokes into the series, things a kid who knows the taste and sting of saltwater in the back of his throat would immediately get, things non-islanders probably wouldn’t, and the Hawaii kid, being in on the joke, would feel smart.

Yet at the same time I wanted people who think Hawaiian means something with pineapple on it to get a glimpse of what life in Hawaii is really like and to understand that paradise can be very different depending on whether you’re the one on vacation or the one dancing in a hula show to make rent. While I try to keep the Hawaiian, Pidgin, and storylines accessible and entertaining to those unfamiliar with the culture, I also figure it’s okay if the kids who know the correct answer to my teacher’s question is autumn have to work a little harder to read it. Turnabout’s fair play!

"How much writing time do you make for yourself every week? What tricks do you use to motivate yourself to write, especially when you don't want to?"

I manage to write something most days, but since I signed with Jolly Fish Press I find I spend most of my writing time on blog articles, social media marketing pieces, and critiques—and far less time than I’d like on the series. During the work week, I often write from around 11 am until 3:30 pm, that magical Mom witching hour when I transform into a taxi driver, chef, and homework warden. I usually sit back down at my computer around 10 or 11 pm when the house settles down and write until 3 am or so—insomnia and I are old friends. When the spark hits, it’s not unusual for me to lock myself in my office and write twenty or more hours at a time—my family is highly self-sufficient, at least in the short run.

Book two is due to the publisher soon, but I’m not as far along as I would like to be. I keep thinking I will go into turbo mode and bang the rest of it out in a couple of weeks, but the spark hasn’t ignited yet. Until then, I’m outlining and researching and tweaking what I have written, but it’s slow going. The trick is to never stop thinking about characters and plot, even if you aren’t sitting at your computer writing.

When all else fails, I take a long, hot shower, listen to Hawaiian radio via the internet, practice my mad hula skills while cleaning house, and watch Shark Week reruns. For me, deadlines are crucial to getting any serious writing done. Otherwise it’s too easy to spend a day reading a book instead of writing one.

"What personal impacts has writing had on your life?"

Before I returned to creative writing about a year ago, I used to read all the time, about 250-300 books a year, mainly adult novels with a few YA thrown in based on my kids’ recommendations. The ability to download any book while in pajamas at 2 am was like having a fine chocolatier on standby with my next order on a fancy silver tray. However, in the ten months since I wrote and sold One Boy, No Water, I think I’ve read maybe fifteen books, most of them research for the series. Writing has usurped most of my reading time.

Lehua is a pen name, part of my middle name, and not one that I’ve used before. I did this to try to keep some separation between my personal and professional lives, and not as my kids claim, to protect their burgeoning social lives. (Your mom does what? The shark books? That’s weird, dude.) I still have to remind myself when someone says Lehua, they’re talking to me. I once told someone they had the wrong number and hung up—and that was last week.

Jolly Fish Press is keen on using social media as a marketing tool which had the unintended consequence of squelching my private interactions since I’m less inclined to post things about my family life to friends if I’ve been posting things about my professional life to the public. In my private life I’ve become the person who “likes” many things everyone else is posting about, but seldom adds a status update, which has some old friends believing my account has been hacked by an antisocial voyeur.

On a more positive note, since I pursued publishing I’ve made many bright and talented new friends as well as reconnected with others I hadn’t seen in years. It’s forced me out of my cozy book-filled, chocolate-covered, pajama-wearing cave, which had gotten a little too comfortable and narrow for my own good. It’s given me focus and purpose in a way that still allows me to be the kind of Mom I want to be. Maybe not the kind my kids or husband want, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

Brief Bio
Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. So far she has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a poet, a web designer, a mother, and a wife. Her debut novel, One Boy, No Water, is the first book in her MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, four cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

Contact Info
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/LehuaParker
Blog: www.LehuaParker.com
Twitter: @LehuaParker
Goodreads: Lehua Parker

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