This posting is a heartfelt thank you (Mahalo!) to the readers who have so generously purchased my latest ebook, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, Pacific Stories Volume II, a sequel to my first collection, HOUSE OF SKIN PRIZE-WINNING STORIES. Since so many of you are curious about the genesis of these stories, I hope to give you a little insight into how I researched and wrote them.
CANNIBAL NIGHTS is a darker collection than HOUSE OF SKIN. The stories range from Navy SEALS (and the women who love them) and Al Qaeda terrorists, to a father's adultery, to slave-ships roaming the Pacific in the 18th and 19th centuries, kidnapping and enslaving hundreds of thousands of natives. A story set in the Marquesas Islands deals with Paul Gauguin in his last days, riddled with syphilis and morphine addiction. In other stories, a modern-day Tahitian girl searches for her biological father, a French Foreign Legionnaire. An Australian Aborigine exacts payback from white men who gang-raped her. And a brother and sister struggle to find normalcy and even happiness, while burdened with life-long affects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Do I create these tales from scratch? No. But I build, I construct one story out of maybe three or five that I have heard, or personally experienced. My cousins in Honolulu know several retired Navy SEALS. Sometimes we sit and listen, stunned, to the stories they tell of their combat experiences. I knew the parents of several college students killed in the Al Qaeda nightclub bombings in Bali in 2003. I tried to merge all these stories until 'ASSASSIN ORDERS PEKING DUCK' evolved, a tale that is tragic but somehow ends hopefully. The narrator is a young woman forever searching for her father who abandoned her. Readers have pointed out to me that this is a theme that runs through earlier stories. Even my novels. I was not aware of it during the writing. But in fact, I never knew my father well. After my Hawaiian mother died at a young age, my father left our islands. Growing up, I saw him only intermittently. Perhaps it is what we most long for that circumscribes our lives, and ultimately becomes the running subtext of our work.
For three months I lived in Tonga, setting of 'GEORGE BUSH AND PAPA AT THE PARADISE.' During that time one of the maids at the Paradise hotel discovered her father was having an affair with a tourist. It broke her heart and she spent months thinking of how she could make her father pay. (There really was a life-size portrait of George Bush in the lobby!) I left Tonga before the story resolved itself, so I orchestrated an ending. Tongans are such a warm and beautiful people, so deeply dedicated to their children, that I wanted to ennoble both the wife, and husband. I wanted them to have a happy ending. And I wanted the young girl to mature and learn to forgive, and come to understand the imperishability of love. That it can be tested and survive.
'MYSTERIES OF RAPA NUI' is based on the tragic history of Easter Island. The ecological devastation and the unspeakable tragedy of how their male population was nearly wiped out by slave-ships roaming the Pacific. I have visited Easter Island and heard stories of huge sacrifices the women made, attempting to hide their men from the notorious Blackbirder slave ships. This 18th and 19th century practise of kidnapping and slave-trading was rampant in the Pacific, coinciding with the slave-trade flourishing in the Atlantic, yet so little has been written about it.
'CANNIBAL NIGHTS, COLONIAL AFTERNOONS' is based on the last year of Gauguin's life in the Marquesas Islands after he had been deported out of Tahiti, a French colony, as a drug-addled rake and libertine. In that period he was in a morphine-induced stupor, yet he managed to paint some of the most magnificent portraits of his life. There has always been the question of who helped him complete the last canvases as he began to fail and death approached. I took 'authorial license' in portraying these last days and who might have helped him and even, in some instances, repainted his portraits completely. More importantly, I wanted to portray how in the colonialist period of that time - when the Church over-ran the islands and taxed the natives to near-starvation - a young clergyman befriends Gauguin, sees through his eyes the bigotry of the Church, and learns how Art, true Art, goes deeper than religion.
We come to 'THE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGIONNAIRE'S BATARD,' and again, it is a story comprised of several stories. During my many trips to Tahiti (culturally, they are very close cousins to Hawaiians) I met several 'fatherless' women born to mothers who had had affairs with French Foreign Legionnaire's during their military duty in Tahiti. Several women had actually lived in France and spent years trying to locate their Legionnaire fathers. I began to wonder what would happen if one of them found her father. How the drama would unfold. My biggest challenge was the ending of the story. I struggled to make the characters sympathetic, but was the ending plausible? Only, you, the reader can tell me. I am anxious to know from your responses if this story works. I hope so! For, during the writing, I fell in love with both characters. They are each damaged, and lonely, and searching.
' FLASHNESS,' set in Australia, is based on a story I heard while traveling there a few years back. It happened after the Columbine High School tragedy in the U.S. I knew the background of how Aborigines were massacred when England deposited boatloads of its convicts on their shores, and so the story automatically fell into place in my mind. It is a dark, harsh tale of payback, but I hope readers will also remember the suffering and wholesale slaughter of Australia's Aborigines by white convict-settlers, that continued for two hundred years
The last story, 'CELL FATIGUE, ' was very difficult to write. Like Native Americans, and many other under-represented minorities, Native Hawaiians have an extremely high percentage of alcoholism, and thus, their children suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I have seen people struggling all their lives with this condition. The story was initially so dark and potentially hopeless, I revised it least 20-30 times. It began to depress and defeat me, and I put it aside for weeks. Then one day, epiphany! I began to see it as a love story between a brother and sister trying to save each other's life. Then it became instantly deeper, more meaningful to me. The characters slowly transcending from victims to survivors. I now saw them as heroes, and when I finally wrote the last page, I was overtaken with emotion. (Only when I completed this story did I realize it was also a kind of memorial to my dear brother, Braxton Rowan, a soldier and hero, who died too young. )
Looking over the entire body of CANNIBAL NIGHTS, I see that what I have written is a collection of love stories. Though dark, and often violent, they are tales of people searching for the love of a father, or brother, or the love of women sacrificing their lives for their husbands. There is the love of a clergyman for an artist, and the love of that artist for his Art. The love of an Aborigine for her tribe, and for her ancestor, cold-bloodedly murdered. Finally, the deep love of a brother and sister, trying to survive.
I hope these stories will speak to anyone who has suffered the confusion of being a mixed-blood, or to anyone, male or female, who has served in the military and suffered Post-Traumatic Stress. I hope they will speak to anyone who has ever lost a child, or betrayed or abandoned a child, or, conversely, anyone who has ever searched for a parent who abandoned them. Lastly, I hope they will remind you that our fate is not determined, that we each have choices. And that, after all, especially in these cataclysmic times, love is still the basic need that drives us, that renders us still-noble, still-supremely human.
Again, thank you, mahalo, for your support. I sincerely hope you enjoyed CANNIBAL NIGHTS, and I look forward to your questions and comments.
With aloha, Kiana