Living in Hawaii, you must take airplanes as often as Halley. Do you enjoy flying?
NO. Nope, no-no, not at all! It’s not that I’m terrified of flying. I get on planes all the time, quite calmly, but the morbid thoughts are there. This is ironic, because my dad was a pilot, and as a teen I flew with him up and down the island chain in little two and four-seater prop planes. That never bothered me. I guess I trusted my dad. The problem with being on a passenger jet is that there is literally nothing you can do except hold on if something goes wrong. Of course it’s really not a good idea to think too much about this when you’re 30,000-feet up over the biggest ocean in the world, and hours away from any landmass.
Here on Maui, powerful, gusting trade winds make our airport more “exciting” than most. But the roughest flight I’ve been on in recent years was into Mexico City. That was so bumpy for so long that it ceased to be scary long before we landed, showing that even a nervous flyer can eventually let the imagination rest.
What inspired “Halfway Home,” and what was your process in researching and writing it?
Most writers claim to have so many story ideas that they will never write them all. I’m the opposite: very few ideas that inspire me enough to put a story together. So last fall, in an attempt to generate more ideas, I decided to devote a regular period of time to brainstorming a story plot: any story about anything so long as it had a problem, a protagonist, and a beginning, middle, and end. I did this for a total of only three days, but one of those sessions produced the idea for “Halfway Home.” At the time, I was trying to finish up a novel, so I put the idea aside. Then, at the end of the year, I posted an assessment of the year’s writing goals. I’d intended to write at least four short stories during 2012, but I’d only managed three. One of my regular readers pointed out that I still had four days left in the year and that I should get on it. So I hauled out the original synopsis and in the last days of the year, I wrote the story . . . and that is the prosaic origin of “Halfway Home.”
This story embraces ambiguity, so much so that on your website you describe it as either dark fantasy or magic realism. By the end, Halley and readers are questioning everything. Do you have all the answers? Did you have a single explanation and a clear ending in mind all along?
Yes, from the earliest conception I knew how the story would end, and what the ending meant to me. The question was how to communicate it, and how direct to be. I wanted to stay deep within Halley’s point of view, and not resort to an omniscient narrator, which would be a double-cheat because this is a first person story. So we can only know what Halley knows, or what she suspects. As the story progresses, the reader might hunger to know more of Anita’s motivations, or what went wrong with the plane, but in the experience of an event like this an individual like Halley will have no way of knowing those things. Life doesn’t provide all the answers, even when we desperately need them, but in the end Halley constructs her own answers from what she’s been given.
Speaking of ambiguity, this story reminds me—favorably—of the television show Lost, which was primarily filmed on the island of Oahu. Was that a big deal in Hawaii? If you watched it, what did you think of the ending?
I confess I didn’t watch Lost. I watched very little regular TV for quite a long time. It’s a deficiency that’s left me with a huge knowledge gap, so lately I’ve started renting DVDs of popular shows just to get a better idea of what people are talking about. Anyway, Hawaii is a small state, and any regular TV series filmed here is a big deal, so three cheers for Hawaii Five-0—even though I don’t watch that one either!
What’s your worst-case scenario? How would you prepare for it?
Oh, let’s not go there. Best not to speak such things for the gods to hear, you know?
What are you working on now? What other work do you have out now or have forthcoming?
One of my projects has been a series of short fiction featuring a character, Zeke Choy, from my Nanotech Succession story world. I’m looking forward to finishing that series with a third short story followed by a rather ambitious novella. Of course at this point it’s all vaporware, so we’ll see how it turns out.
The big project is the novel-in-progress. It’s called The Red: Trials and is a sequel to my near-future thriller, The Red: First Light, published this past spring. First Light is the story of Lieutenant James Shelley, U.S. Army, who commands a high-tech squad of soldiers in a rural district within the African Sahel. To keep his soldiers safe, Shelley uses every asset available to him—but his best weapon is a flawless sense of imminent danger . . . as if God is with him, whispering warnings in his ear. I hope you’ll give it a try!
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