Thanks for your interview, Richard. Can you tell us what your book, To Catch the Setting Sun, is about?
There’s a killer loose on the island of Oahu. His targets? Young, native-Hawaiian women. But it also appears that he’s targeting and taunting Honolulu police detective Henry Benjamin who knew each victim and whose wife, Maya, had been the first name on that list. In addition to battling his personal demons, this New York transplant’s aggressive style didn’t sit well with his laid-back colleagues who viewed Henry’s uncharacteristic lack of progress in the investigation as evidence that fueled ongoing rumors that he could be the killer. While little clues are left for the reader to consider several suspects from ex-cons to members of high society, the suggestion that it could also be someone within the Honolulu municipal hierarchy with a vendetta against Henry cannot be ignored.
After thirteen years on the job Henry had already been disillusioned with paradise. His career choice
long killed any fantasy of living in a grass hut on a wind-swept beach, being serenaded by the lazy sounds of the ocean and a slack key guitar. Instead, it had opened his eyes to a Hawaii that tourists will never see.
While To Catch the Setting Sun is offered up as a suspense thriller that is set on the beautiful tropical island of Oahu, Hawaii, it is so much more than that. It is also a story about relationships as I take the reader on a thought-provoking journey that explores loyalty, commitment, integrity, betrayal, corruption, evil, love and lust. That’s a smorgasbord, isn’t it? But I guarantee you will be glad to belly up to the buffet, or in this case, the luau.
Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Detective Henry Benjamin grew up in a small Adirondack town in upstate New York. And while far from the brash hustle-bustle in-your-face arrogance of New York City, his northeast personality was still far more aggressive than his colleagues on the Honolulu Police Department were comfortable with. He has a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners work ethic which feeds a level of animosity from his laid-back co-workers. But, as successful as Henry is, he’s no boy scout either. He has his weaknesses and bad habits, and he’s been known to bend the rules and disobey orders to get results. Needless-to-say, his style often gets him in hot water with his superiors as well as with local politicians who easily bristle at Henry’s less-than aloha spirit. Underneath his rough exterior, Henry is a man of integrity who cares about the underdog, is madly in love with his wife, Maya, and at the end-of-the-day, he’ll stop at nothing to protect the innocent and see that the bad guys get what they deserve.
There are a number of supporting characters in this thriller. For the sake of space, I’ll discuss the main players without getting into the list of possible suspects. First there is his wife Maya; the original target of the serial killer. We will meet and get to know Maya in flashbacks throughout the story. She is Henry’s soulmate who believes they had been lovers in past lives who somehow continue to find each other after each reincarnation. Maya is half Lakota Sioux and half Native Hawaiian who, after her mother died when she was a young child, grew up on a South Dakota reservation with her Native American father. It was the many visions and visitations from her mother’s spirit that foretold of her meeting Henry and her journey back to Oahu to seek out the true cause of her mother’s death.
Eighteen-year veteran Detective Billy Iona had been Henry’s mentor when the latter was promoted from uniformed officer to Detective. The two had a love-hate relationship which was the catalyst for their eventual split as partners. Henry was too aggressive for Billy which always made the senior detective look bad. Billy is not only lazy and likes to take shortcuts, he is also a little slow on the uptake which often fuels Henry’s disrespect and sarcastic insults. Still, they share a professional bond that goes beyond explanation.
Hokulani is the proprietor of Henry and Maya’s favorite breakfast place on the Waianae Coast of West Oahu—the Oceanside café. She understands and respects Henry because she knows he honestly cares for the native Hawaiian people and he’s not afraid to voice his opinion; something that is not appreciated or welcomed by the locals because Henry is, and will always be considered an outsider. Hoku, as Henry calls her, offers up some of the best food with a heaping serving of sass to the well deserving, and has become a loyal friend to both Henry and Maya over the 13 years they’ve been frequenting the café. She will do anything for them.
When we first meet Detective Kaelani Kanakina, she has been with HPD for a few years. A once troubled teen who ran with a gang engaged in petty crimes, she opted for a military-style youth bootcamp when a judge gave her the option of that or prison. Her bootcamp experience gave her the stability and discipline she had desperately needed and this led to military service that took her to Afghanistan for two tours of duty with the Hawaii Army National Guard. When her enlistment concluded, she returned home and joined HPD. After Henry finds himself suspended for the umpteenth time, Kaelani is assigned to take over his stalled investigation of which he is reluctant to surrender. Realizing they needed to help other to make any progress, and in spite of rumors and inuendo about each other’s personal history, they reluctantly agree to collaborate. Like Henry, we find that Kaelani has some flaws and hidden secrets; some of which has Henry wondering if she’s there to help him or get in his way.I love all of my female characters. As with my other four novels, they are all strong, independent, and intelligent and yes, they are not afraid to show their feminine side. Not all are honest, but nonetheless, they can hold their own in any situation and can kick a little butt when necessary.
Where is your book set and why did you choose this particular location?
Since moving to Hawaii six years ago I have had the amazing good fortune
to meet and get to know a wide variety of people from police officers,
native Hawaiian community leaders, cultural practitioners, politicians
and bureaucrats at every level of state and city government. I’ve come
to know Oahu from the beautiful sandy beaches that draws tourists from
all over the world, to the economically depressed neighborhoods of
Honolulu’s inner city. Working for a short time as a legislative aide,
community liaison, and ghost writer for a Honolulu City Councilperson
and a Hawaii State Senator, I’ve had an insider’s look at many of the
pressing issues that are at the forefront across this state and
especially here on the island of Oahu. This knowledge and experience
provided the seeds that nourished the creative process that gave birth
to To Catch The Setting Sun.
How long did it take you to write your books?
Not counting some interruptions that took me away from the creative process—such as a freak accident that necessitated a short stay at a local hospital for a fractured arm, wrist, and a dislocated shoulder—from first word to the final sentence, it took me a little over a year.
What kind of advice would you give other medicalthriller authors?
Patience and persistence. First and foremost, and the most important is to get your story written. It sounds like a no-brainer but you will be surprised how many would-be authors give up because they have trouble finishing. Why? Because for many it becomes laborious rather than fun. So, ask yourself the big why. Why am I writing this book? Is it to make a living, to become famous, because I need to suffer for my art? To me, that’s self-sabotage. Write to entertain yourself and nobody else, and definitely do not write for the approval of others. There are too many critics in this world (friends, family, co-workers etc.) who, while supposedly well-meaning, can easily hijack your project, along with your hopes and dreams when all you wanted was a simple affirmation. Keep your writing journey to yourself. Never tell anyone what your current project is—just let them see the finished product at one of your book signing events or via a link to the retailer’s website. I think a mistake a lot of writers make is they think of the process as work (I’m working on my next novel. I’ve been trying to work on this next chapter). I would say don’t look at your novel, short story, or collection of poems as work. It is and should be your entertainment. It is your creative outlet, so have fun with it and let your imagination take you to places you never get to go to. Never force it. If the imagination is stuck on neutral, take a break and go do something, anything, other than chain yourself to a keyboard. There’s no law that says you have to suffer to be a fantastic storyteller. You’re the creator so you be your own critic, and you always have the power to edit. The only one you need to please is yourself. If the end result of your adventure happens to be a short story or a novel, then celebrate it. You created people and a world that never existed until it developed within, and moved out from, the deep recesses of your brain. And while positive feedback of the finished product is the icing on the cake, I would still enjoy eating the cake whether it had icing or not. At the end of the day, it really is only your opinion that truly matters.
As far as getting published is concerned, It is my understanding that it is very rare a first time author and a query letter or two grabs the attention of a literary agent who then sells your book as if they discovered the cure for every ailment known to the human race. If you can do that, then I tip my hat and congratulate you. It’s good to be confident and enthusiastic about your manuscript, but it’s better to have some realistic expectations. After hearing many stories from many authors who queried dozens of agents to no avail, I decided to indy-publish my first four novels. It was more important for me to get my books copyrighted and in print. While none were million sellers or made the NYT best-sellers list, I got them published. Just like a resume, I have a track record, but with five-star reviews and all four will live on long after I am dust. With that under my belt and my fifth novel completed, I was ready to go the traditional route. Inspired by the fortitude and persistence of an author who sent out 60 query letters and received 60 rejections—some with hard hitting insults—only to find an agent with her 61st letter, Kathryn Stockett, went on to have a number one best-seller which was subsequently made into an award-winning movie called The Help. While my attempt didn’t turn out with the same results, I queried a small boutique publishing house who read and love my manuscript. Game on! But it doesn’t end there. There’s a whole heck of a lot that I’m now learning—getting bloggers and reviewers interested in the book, marketing, and getting your book into the right hands is just as important as getting published. So, as I mentioned at the top, patience and persistence. Take it one step at a time. Educate yourself and have a plan of attack. I wish every author the very best. The world is waiting to be entertained by you.