In Bokur’s The Lava Witch (Kensington, June), the police on Maui probe the murder of a woman amid reports that “a band of witches” was seen flying through the trees near where she was killed.
What about Hawaii appealed to you as a mystery series setting?
I wanted a setting that could become indelibly tied to my series in the same way that those picturesque English villages are ubiquitous to so many cozy mysteries. Hawaii, with its built-in polarities and self-contained island landscape, fulfilled my requirements.
What are those polarities?
Having had the immense good fortune to have traveled there frequently in a past role as a magazine editor, I’d grown fascinated by how the reality of Hawaii differs from popular perceptions of it. Stunning and glorious, yes—but also given to extremes in everything from weather to social conditions. Many of the Hawaiians I’ve worked with seem to live effortlessly in two worlds at once: the everyday, busy modern world, and a second one that’s far more deeply and directly in touch with the realm of nature.
What did you find that you didn’t expect as you conducted research?
Many shocking things: Hawaii had the nation’s highest rate of homelessness per capita, and almost double the national average for use of methamphetamine drugs. The population suffers from high rates of diabetes and heart disease, there’s ridiculous traffic congestion, and major environmental concerns. There’s also an understandable undercurrent of resentment from many local people regarding land development. It has been eye-opening to hear local views on massive third homes belonging to mainlanders popping up when many locals are struggling financially. Tourism is a mixed bag in Hawaii. While it provides industry and income, it also means the building of additional resorts, time-shares, and tourist infrastructure that impacts the very way of life and atmosphere that makes Hawaii so appealing.
Has your experience writing essays for boxes of Celestial Seasonings teas influenced your writing mystery fiction?
All writing adds up and helps define voice. The essays were terrific fun to write. My brief was to imagine into words the kind of world each tea might be part of, and it was extraordinarily satisfying to create an entire tea-based story in the space of a single paragraph. The process of quickly setting a mood and backdrop, establishing story, creating an air of mystery, and bringing it all to a satisfying conclusion has turned out to be essential to the skills necessary for writing longer works.