November 17, 2015
Yesterday evening I met with the members of the West Maui Book Club at the home of Kathy Davey. The meeting was held in a home in the middle of a coffee plantation well up the mountain from Kaanapali. The women of the club are well read and very interested in Hawai’ian culture as well as the evolution of the books they read. I shared my background and the genesis of Kolea, and the members asked many questions about details in the story. They were particularly interested in what passages were based on actual events and the reality of places in the story.
I passed around a small jade adze carving Tom Prang had made and demonstrated the use of the nose flute. Remembrances about Hawai’i in 1946 and the 1970s held some interest, but they were mostly focused on the book and seemed to be genuine in their affection for the characters; particularly Pueo.
Perhaps because of the recent violence in Paris and the fact that they have been reading World War II memoirs and books about returning veterans and the difficulties faced by them, the was some discomfort about the warfare in the story. I talked about the theme that runs through literature about envy and the lust for power, and discussed my half-cocked theory about Polynesians overpopulating islands, and either fighting one another for territory or migrating to new lands; a theme that runs through today’s earthlings looking for habitable planets.
One member talked about the softness of the sound coming from the nose flute and the lack of harsh sound being conducive to beckoning a lover. She compared it to the somewhat harsher sounds of pan-pipes and other wind instruments; a fascinating concept. Some members were paddlers and I confessed to bringing a big fleet into the wind to get from Halawa to Keanae; an unlikely scenario, but one I found necessary to avoid a boring chapter and to get the warriors into position for the pincer maneuver through the Haleakala Crater.
I believe one member was uncomfortable with the whale killing and I explained the Makah and other Native Alaskan whaling history and the current situation with Native Americans and traditional whaling.
I read some material from my ranger book and there was a lot of interest in the Haleakala material. It was a definite call for me to work hard on the next book and to get it into publication in 2016. I am glad this was the place for my first book talk. The story of Kolea is grounded here and the interest of Mauians was a boost for a novice author.
Having only signed books with people I knew, this was a new experience. The Maui Library Book store is the biggest of its kind that I have seen. The used book area is extensive and they carry hundreds of new and used titles about Hawai’i. Lots of people come in and read while sitting on comfortable chairs and young people are frequent visitors to the science fiction area. Lots of women were in looking for fiction of different sorts and a few tourists came in as well.
I was assigned a table near the window and had prepared a sign indicating what I was doing there. I sold five books and the store kept six more on consignment to include on their Hawai’i shelves. I have some observations about how this all works.
I left a box of books with the sellers and thus avoided a business license hassle and sales tax issues. The store wanted a 40 % discount and I agreed. This pulls my profit down, but the issue for me at present is getting the book out in Hawai’i. I arrayed some books on the table and sent buyers back to the register for a sale. When they returned, I signed the books. Many people stopped for a chat and I had some interesting visits. An 85 year old man shared early Maui stories with me.
When people saw me sitting at the table they often avoided eye contact. I’m assuming they were avoiding an unpleasant “pitch”. There are so many of these in malls and markets, they get used to whipping by without making contact. A simple hello and a smile got some to stop for a chat. Once I was able to give a soft pitch about the book most showed interest. But $12.95 is more than most were prepared to pay for books in a place with 1 and 2 dollar prices.
I took some reading material and kept occupied during slow periods. Trying to do work on the lap-top wasn’t good. It set a social barrier and I quit when I realized what was happening. At Haleakala National Park I left a free copy with the people who sell the books and sold two more to employees.Free copies were left at some of Maui's libraries. West Maui Book Club sent a nice letter with two copies of Kolea to the Lahainaluna School Library with a recommendation.
I should have sent a press release to the Maui News and a nice notice to post at the store and perhaps the libraries. If I lived on Maui this would have gone better. The remote and unique aspects of Hawai’i make it a tough go. While the sales were meager. The experience was good. I’ll see how it goes at home.