Think back to the last book you read. Chances are, it was set somewhere in suburbia. Maybe, if you were lucky, it took you somewhere unique–the jungles of South America, a loft apartment in NYC. If you’re a fantasy or sci-fi fan, the setting was most likely completely made-up.
Chances are, though, the last book you read was NOT set in Hawaii. Unless you’re a crazed Christy Miller fan, re-reading the series for the millionth time. (Confession: the Christy Miller series is jumbled next to Joanne Bischoff’s books in my cluttered, mental TBR stack. BUT I’m finally reading a much-anticipated Joanne Bischoff novel so…Christy’s turn will be coming soon.)
All rabbit trails aside, Hawaii isn’t a very “normal” place to set a book. If you read last week’s post, though, you’ve probably already figured out that I am NOT normal. Not normal at all.
So, it probably doesn’t come as too much of a shock that I chose to set my debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, in Hawaii. Maui, to be exact. But…why? A strange case of wanderlust, strong ties to a Hawaiian heritage?
A bit of both.
Now–let me clarify. I’m not Hawaiian. Not a bit. But I consider myself an honorary Hawaiian (though the locals would definitely disagree) after spending three glorious vacations in a condo above the pounding Pacific waves. My aunt’s boss happens to be the owner of this condo (as well as the orthopedic surgeon I’ve been consulting with as I write my second book) and he graciously allows “family” to stay whenever they’d like.
Because of this, I’ve gone to Maui for two “research trips” (because snorkeling and eating shave ice totally counts as research) and I’ve fallen more and more in love with the island with every visit.
Why is Maui so amazing? What about it enchanted me so fully that I decided to put it in my books?
THIS is why.
- Beautiful. No one can argue with the beauty of a sunset, especially one that paints the sky and the sea in every shade of pink imaginable. It’s impossible not to marvel at the beauty of a rainbow, especially one that arches down from the clouds and disappears into the glittering blue ocean. Every flower seems to be handpicked by God, chosen simply to bring others immense delight.
- Delicious. Shave ice (NOT anything like a sno-cone. Bleh.) saturated in sweet syrups and topped with sweetened condensed milk. Mochi (solidified rice paste–don’t knock it yet) that tastes like butter and…well…it doesn’t exactly melt in your mouth so much as it…squishes–but it’s good, trust me. Macadamia nuts, so salty and rich and fresh that you can almost imagine you picked them yourself. Ahi tuna, seared to the ultimate perfection–in other words, still raw and sushi-like on the inside.
- Musical. Ukulele shops dot every corner, inviting tourists to learn the classic Hawaiian art of music-making. Polynesian drums pound as tiki torches flicker late at night. Birds roost in plumeria trees, creating their own melodies in perfect counterpoint to the crashing ocean waves.
- Laid-back. Everyone kicks off their “slippas” (flip-flops) before going inside, pet chickens and roosters roam the streets, and people never pass up an opportunity to stop on the sidewalk and chat. Giant sea turtles spend hours floating in the waves, engaging in their own style of bodysurfing. Even the tackiest of tourists are welcomed with the classic “aloha spirit” and, if a Hawaiian local isn’t friendly, it’s a fair guess that they’re actually a mainland “transplant”.
- Soothing. The gentle rhythm of crashing waves can wash away even the most persistent worries. A simple walk in the warm, white sands of Ka’anapali Beach can ease all of your aches and pains. An authentic, Hawaiian lomi lomi massage can make a person melt after only one long, sweeping stroke. (Fun fact: lomi lomi traditionally means to knead…as the paws of a contented cat.) One whiff of lavender from the upcountry can quiet any busy mind and an hour spent basking in the golden sunshine is sure to put anyone at ease.
- Brilliant. Red-capped birds hop along the pathways, hibiscus bushes flourish in old, overgrown neighborhoods. Vibrantly colored mopeds zip along the highways. Sunlight refracts off of the water, creating thousands of underwater rainbows. Morning fog in the mountains clears to reveal hundreds of verdant forests that hide the most spectacular of waterfalls.
- Magical. Sitting outside, dining alfresco while eating some of the island’s freshest produce and listening to traditional Hawaiian ukulele music as the sun sinks into the horizon, one cannot deny the beauty of Hawaii. Just hours later, after darkness has fallen and the resorts have come alive with light and vivacity, it’s even harder to ignore the magic of this enchanted isle. When God created Maui, he crafted something so special, so lovely, that everyone dreams of visiting at least once. It’s impossible to put into words how amazing Hawaii is, but I will try to do so for the rest of my life.
Well, these are a few (and only a few) reasons why I chose Hawaii as the setting for my debut novel, Porch Swing Girl–and the subsequent books in the series. I hope that, by reading my books, you get an even better look at life in Hawaii. Until then…aloha!
What about you? Where have you been/do you dream of going? Would you ever put that place in a book?