At the beginning of 2015 I lost my dad. My wife and I had just bought our first house and begun planning a family. Juhi was only a couple of months pregnant when Dad’s health suddenly declined. We rushed to Virginia to see him in his final moments. About three weeks later, my step-father died of cancer. Neither man would have a chance to ever see our child.
I was devastated by the losses and found myself unable to concentrate on my day job anymore. While I liked the people I worked with, in the face of omnipresent thoughts of life and death, the minutiae of web design felt impossibly trivial. After struggling for a few months—and work was very understanding, allowing me to first shift to part time—I eventually made the decision to try to go full time at writing even though I wasn’t making enough money to support us.
We would live off savings and investments, hoping to make it last for several years while I established a name for myself. After publishing the first edition of The Mists of Niflheim, and pouring aspects of my grief into it, I wanted to work on something a bit more optimistic and begun delving into my intentions for some of the other eras of the Eschaton Cycle. While I had designs for each era, some were more rough than others. One was about an era where the world was flooded and the only land was archipelagos. We found out we were having a daughter, and maybe this was what prompted me to pull up my idea for a story about seven princesses each with different elemental powers.
Originally, this was a separate idea from my intentions for the Worldsea, but the two melded together nicely and I began planning a series set in a fictionalized Hawaii. I also decided to make my first research trip in a long time (since my first trip to India), to see the vibrant landscape for myself. In May of 2015, on our anniversary, Juhi and I flew to Maui. We pulled out … well, as many stops as one can pull out when eight months pregnant. We stopped at the Maui Ocean Center where I may just have gotten the idea for the he’e (octopus people in the series).
On the second full day after our arrival we had a helicopter tour which took us around a chunk of the island, showing off the mythic mountains and majestic falls (I highly recommend you do this kind of tour if you can).
This was followed by a submarine tour to see the reefs and wreckage of various ships (I mean I had to catch the underwater side of my story!).
We drove most of the circumference of the island, including the long, gorgeous trek to Hana where we saw the Sacred Pools of Oheo Gulch. These pools so inspired me they actually made it into the story as a major location.
This path also took us past numerous waterfalls. The vistas are so frequent and so breathtaking you have to experience the drive for yourself to really be able to believe it.
We also attended both a luau and the jaw-dropping Ulalena show, which depicted Kamapua‘a and compelled me to include the pig-man as an important side character in my work.
On my return, I wrote three books (I originally planned seven) about these Pacific Islander princesses. While I enjoyed the work and was proud of it, it had some issues, not least among them that the novels had a slightly YA vibe but didn’t follow YA trends. And of course, YA did not fit at all with the rest of my work. When I decided to reboot the Eschaton Cycle in late 2016 , I unpublished my old work. Once I finished out the new Gods of the Ragnarok Era series, I completely rewrote my Hawaiian-inspired series, which became the much more adult Heirs of Mana series. Namaka went from a 17-year-old kid who could barely control her power, to a semi-immortal god-queen who was way more badass. I am far more proud of the new series and it fits much better into the themes and tones of the rest of my work.
And of Hawaii, I would say it remains the most beautiful place I have ever visited. People talk about the Aloha spirit. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I could feel it in the air. And in the end, I think it helped me deal with grief.