Thursday, October 25

Hawaiian Author Makes a Splash in the Literary Scene

First of all, let me just say, Brrr! What a week. First, it was the hail, then came the sleet, and now a snowstorm. Great! But I love it. As a lover of spooky stuff, I am enjoying this gloomy weather. And if you are hating this cold and depressing weather, don't fret, for I'm bringing you sunshine all the way from Hawaii!

Yes, I'd like to welcome the fabulous Lehua Parker, whose debut middle-grade novel, ONE BOY, NO WATER, was released last month to awesome reviews. So, how about a round of applause for Ms. Parker!

Aloha, Chris! 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.

Briefly, tell us about your debut novel, One Boy, No Water.

One Boy, No Water is the first book in the Niuhi Shark Saga, a five book series for MG/YA readers set in modern Hawaii. It tells the story of Zader, a boy who was found abandoned as an infant and adopted by a local family. On the surface One Boy, No Water is about Zader growing up and learning that he can’t run away from trouble; like a series of ocean waves, he has to face his problems head on, problems like staying connected with his surf crazed brother, getting into an elite private school, and dealing with a couple of bullies who’ve painted a target on his back.

While these kinds of problems are ordinary, Zader himself is not. He has unusual allergies to things like water, rare meat, and seafood. He also dreams about a girl and the fantastic adventures they have together, and also about a scary man with too many teeth who seems to stalk them. Underneath the surface is another world that Zader has to navigate—and survive—as he discovers who he really is, how he defines family, and ultimately decides how he will live his life.

In a few sentences, tell us about your journey as a debut author so far.

As I write this, the whole process from roughly plotting the series, selling the concept, writing the first book, working with an illustrator, going through editorial review, ARC distribution, building a marketing campaign, and publication has taken ten months. That’s not typical, I know, particularly for a debut author. Ten months sounds like a whirlwind, but the reality was punctuated bursts of activity surrounding the book followed by long periods of waiting, during which I started building a social media platform and developing a website chock-full of supporting material for fans to discover after publication. The amount of time I’ve spent social networking and on the website easily eclipses the time spent on the book itself by a factor of 10:1. Now that One Boy, No Water has officially published, I’m doing bookstore signings, a blog tour, and gearing up for school visits in late winter/spring. I’m also finishing book two, One Shark, No Swim, for release in August 2013.

One Boy, No Water  is quite an unconventional novel with a huge part of the narrative written in modified Hawaiian pidgin. How do you successfully market such a unique book to mainstream readers in America? And what are the reactions so far among Hawaiian readers?

You have to start with a compelling story, one that captures and engages readers unfamiliar with Hawaiian Pidgin or island culture to the point where they’re willing to work a little harder to read it. It’s important to provide a context for unfamiliar words, so even if the reader doesn’t exactly know what something means, the gist is pretty clear. Kids do this naturally; it’s how they learn new vocabulary and extend their reading skills. For those who really want to know the definition of a word, I wrote a glossary for the back of the book.

Beyond providing context and a glossary, it can be challenging to market something so Hawaiian-style to a mainstream audience. Here too, I think the quality of the story has to carry the day. Being a fish out of water, creating your own definition of family, and eventually choosing the kind of life you want to live are universal young adult themes. I trust my audience to recognize the underpinnings of the story and simply try to tell it in the most genuine way possible, consciously choosing details that I think will either resonate with familiarity or jar the reader into making new connections.

From reviews, readers who are familiar with island culture find it authentic, funny, compelling, and obviously get more of the inside jokes and foreshadowing than those who have never lived in Hawaii. I say lived, because vacation Hawaii and everyday Hawaii might as well be on different planets for all they really have in common. Thankfully, reviews from mainstream readers have also been very positive, some even going so far as to say they feel like they’ve been to Hawaii for the first time.

What are your expectations and goals for One Boy, No Water and how do you plan to achieve them?

Over time and with more experience, my expectations and goals for the series have changed. Right now, newly published as a debut author, I’m happy if a book signing earns more than I spent on other books while in the store, a far cry from my original hope of paying the kids’ college tuition or for a nifty family vacation. I’ve learned that professional marketing campaigns and leveraged distribution channels are paramount for significant sales, no matter how well something is written. Without them, there’s always the promise of word of mouth, social media marketing, a book award, a positive review by a prestigious industry powerhouse, a serendipitous something that happens which raises awareness and drives sales, but these are long, slow processes, and unlike The Hunger Games, the odds are never in your favor. While I will continue to do whatever I can to make the Niuhi Shark Saga successful, I’ve found I’ve had to refocus on enjoying the journey and less on measures of financial or literary success.

Thank you so much, Lehua, for dropping by. It's always great to hear from authors who are actually doing it. 

ONE BOY, NO WATER is available through all major online booksellers and eBook readers. You can always order it from your nearest bookstores if they don't already carry it. For more information about ONE BOY, NO WATER, please visit the official site at 

A Little About Lehua Parker
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. Book 2: One Shark, No Swim will be available in August 2013. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

Facebook author page:
Twitter: @LehuaParker
Goodreads: Lehua Parker