Down & Out Books: 6 questions with Lono Waiwaiole

Q&A for Down & Out Books

1. How did the Wiley series come about?
I never envisioned a series when I wrote the first book—in fact, I didn’t really envision it being published. I thought it would be bunch of pages about a father who had lost his way sitting on a shelf somewhere that I could point to periodically and say, “Yeah, I wrote a book once. That’s it over there.” But the first thing my first editor at St. Martin’s asked me after reading the manuscript was how long would it take me to write another one. That resulted in a two-book deal and the birth of a series.

2. With your fourth novel, Dark Paradise, you moved away from Wiley. Why?
That came out of a collaboration with my second editor at St. Martin’s, who thought it might be the right time to come up with something a little denser than a fourth Wiley novel—no doubt motivated somewhat by the fact that no one was making any money from the series anyway (critics generally loved it, but it turns out they don’t buy that many copies). And voila—a standalone was born.

3. How much of your stories are factual?
The books are all fiction, for sure, but all of them have been sparked by an actual event from which I have been able to spin each story. For example, “the biggest drug bust in the history of the Big Island” which occurs in Dark Paradise actually happened while I was living in Hilo—and it came down in much the same way as I describe it in the book. I started with that event and worked backwards and forwards from there to turn it into a novel.

4. What have you been working on lately?  Anything new on the immediate future?
I recently finished a short story called “Leverage” for a new anthology focused on financial skullduggery being put together by Gary Phillips and will be issued by Down & Out Books in March. It was an honor to be included and a very enjoyable project (my first short fiction after a career of writing short non-fiction as a journalist). I should also have a prequel to the Wiley series done in the next month or so, which has also been a blast to write. It’s like the sports books I used to read when I was a kid, except it takes place in the same year that the crack gangs arrive in town. It has a lot more edge than those old-school books, but it should still be high-school appropriate (something that no one has said about my first four books).

5. Titles can be fun or hard, but a finishing touch that’s important to writers. How did you settle on the titles of your books?
I had the title of the first Wiley book—Wiley’s Lament—before I wrote the first word. The name Wiley came from one of my childhood nicknames—no matter how many times I moved to a new school (and I did that a lot of times), someone would start calling me Wile E. Coyote because my last name apparently sounds like that to some people. And Lament came from the decision to write a story about an estranged dad who loses his daughter before he gets his life back on track—in other words, a very sad tale. The other two Wiley titles—Wiley’s Shuffle and Wiley’s Refrain—are cues to the locus of the books (Wiley’s life as a poker player and his connection to the music industry, respectively). And the title of the book set in Hawai`i—Dark Paradise—wrote itself. The difference between the paradise the tourists visit and the one the islanders inhabit is like the difference between noon and midnight—they are both 12 o’clock, but one is a helluva lot darker than the other. Hawai`i has a very dark side, indeed, and that title points the reader in that direction from the start.

6. What writers influenced your style and who continues to influence you?
The writers who influenced my style the most were probably William Faulkner and Richard Stark. I still love Faulkner, but his prose ultimately inspired me to move in the opposite direction. When I stumbled on Stark’s Parker books, my response was “Yeah—that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” I was also profoundly impacted by Andrew Vachss, not stylistically but in terms of how bleak a picture I could paint and still hope to end up in print. As far as current influences go, there are so many writers out here who knock my socks off that I am barefoot almost all the time. It’s so intimidating that I mostly read non-fiction now just to keep from being overwhelmed. Check out the other Down & Out writers to see what I mean, for example.

Eric, of Down & Out Books, gave us a heads up on the prices for Lono’s books:

Wiley’s Refrain will be FREE between Mon and Fri and $0.99 after Friday. 

Wiley’s Shuffle is $2.99. 

Wiley’s Lament is $2.99. 

Dark Paradise is $2.99.