Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Mark Daniel Seiler, author of Shave Ice Paradise.
FQ: What would you say was the turning point in your life that led you to become a writer?
SEILER: When you’re a kid, you notice little things, like air. “Hey! Why isn’t anyone talking about this invisible stuff?” Even though we can’t live long without air, we just kind of get used to it and don’t really think about it much. Little invisible things, like air, tend to go unnoticed until the tiny unseen things gather together into a storm: a tornado carries away your home or a gale blows your ship off course and you find yourself shipwrecked on a desert island. What was the turning point? Why did I begin writing? I blame the little invisible forces.
FQ: Who would you say are your inspirational authors, and why?
SEILER: Just the right book, at just the right time in your life, can change the world. As a terrible teen, a kind, older woman gave me Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Looking back on it, had I not run into those hobbits and elves at just that precise moment, I probably would have become an orc? Books aren’t just “okay.” Books change the world.
FQ: What books would you say have had the most influence on your life as a writer, and why?
SEILER: Before I ever dreamed of becoming a writer, reading Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldman in high school had a profound effect on the trajectory of my life. Many of Hesse’s novels follow a similar pattern: childhood friends take diverse paths, one quits school runs away and has unexpected adventures and experiences, while the other youth goes to university and leads a conventional life. By chance, many years later, the two friends meet and compare mythologies. I love stories that blend the knowledge learned from experience with the knowledge that can be taught. And yes, I was the friend who ran away.
FQ: Since Hawaii is your place of residence it makes perfect sense to write a story that weaves everything Hawaii in them. There are under fifty novels (according to Wikipedia—thirty-three, to be exact) written with Hawaii in the backdrop. Have you read any of them, and if so, would you consider any of them to be inspirations to why you’ve chosen to write a Hawaiian-based novel? If not, what inspired you to write this story?
SEILER: I’m shocked there are only thirty-three Hawaiian novels. If you walk around the neighborhood you’re bound to bump into at least thirty-three storytellers. Life is a struggle on the island. Locals work three jobs to make ends meet, but they make time to talk story. Along with the constant Trade Winds, there is also a prevailing attitude of giving on the islands. A little respect, a measure of kindness, and a pinch of generosity returns to you thousandfold. If you’re very lucky, you will encounter the true Aloha Spirit which can’t be captured with words, but must be experienced. I’m constantly inspired and humbled by the people I meet.
FQ: What would you say is the inspiration for your characters in Shaved Ice Paradise?
SEILER: Though other people appear in our dreams, I’ve read that we are all of the people in our dreams, which is crazy to think about. Dreams are wonderful and wild—pure storytelling. We have little, if any, control over the characters in our dreams. Similarly, the characters in Shave Ice Paradise have minds of their own and seldom, if ever, listen to my advice. They are willful, troublesome, stubborn, and fun. I’d like to say we have somethings in common, though I’m not sure they would see it that way.
FQ: You’ve chosen to portray all your characters in Shaved Ice Paradise — protagonists and antagonists alike — with redeeming and flawed qualities, which is not common in literature. Why did you choose to do this?
SEILER: “Redeeming and flawed,” you say? Flawed sounds like a piece of pottery that comes out of the kiln with an imperfection. We’re all certainly works in progress. Somethings in life come easily for us, while other things are just plain hard, if not impossible. What’s in the way, what are the obstacles keeping us from being content? One can make a compelling argument that the reason we’re not happy is because of things that can’t be changed, that we ourselves can never change. One of the dirty secrets is we are able to change. Transformation is not only possible, it is taking place around us all of the time.
FQ: You incorporate environmental issues in Shaved Ice Paradise. Are they based on events that have happened or are presently happening in Hawaii?
SEILER: Yes, there are many serious environmental issues at present in Hawaii.
FQ: With two award-winning books under your belt and a possible third with your latest novel, Shaved Ice Paradise, what plans do you have for your next literary project?
SEILER: If you love fun characters, my new novel, RIFT, is coming out in the spring of 2021, followed by a thriller, Black Tango. The genres may vary, but at the heart of all my novels is a love story.
FQ: What do you hope your audience will come away with after reading Shaved Ice Paradise?
SEILER: Mostly, I want readers to have fun and enjoy the story. If I’ve done a proper job, there might be one or two points of interest along the way. One of the many things I love about being a writer is hearing from readers. I’ve learned to never underestimate the reader’s imagination. I’m constantly amazed by the rich, wonderful world the reader creates from the words I’ve strung together. When the reader describes the story they read, the tables are turned, and I’m the one who comes away with something new.
FQ: Do you foresee writing more Hawaiian-based mysteries in the near future?
SEILER: My hope is readers enjoy Shave Ice Paradise and they leave me no choice but to write the continuing adventures of Gina Mori.