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Once There Was Fire: A Novel of Old Hawaii
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Member showcase N through T > Stephen Shender Hawaii historical fiction

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message 1: by Stephen (last edited May 22, 2017 09:16PM) (new)

Stephen Shender | 1 comments Aloha, everyone. The only thing I ever wanted to do for a living was write. (It was also the only thing I could think of doing for a living, because in all honesty, I didn't have the attention span to become a doctor, lawyer, or a physicist, not to mention a rocket scientist or brain surgeon.) For 30 years, I was fortunate to find employers who would pay me, sometime handsomely, to write for them: including newspapers, politicians, and corporate marketing departments. I've always been in awe of novelists, and throughout this time, I wanted to write a novel of my own. But while I am good at expository writing, I've never been much good at inventive story-telling and never knew where or how to start.

Then, during a visit to Hawaii (the Big Island) in July 2004, I happened on the story of Kamehameha the Great (c. 1748-1819), who exploited European weaponry and advisers to defeat his rivals, conquer the Hawaiian Islands and found the Kingdom of Hawaii. Kamehameha's story was stocked with fascinating characters, Hawaiian and foreign (haole), and turned on the islands' "discovery" by Capt. James Cook in 1778-79. It had a built-in dramatic beginning, action-packed middle, and an emotionally charged end -- elements I could never have concocted on my own. Moreover, it seemed that no novelist had ever told Kamehameha's story before, not even the foremost exponent of Hawaiian historical fiction, James Michener. I decided to give it a go. I would combine my reportorial, expository writing skills with a modicum of plot invention to tell Kamehameha's story from the Hawaiian perspective (of which, of course, I knew nothing). How hard could it be?

As they say, "fools rush in ...." After a bit of preparatory research (I read one biography; the only one I could find), I started writing on Nov. 16, 2004. The more I worked at the book, the more I came to understand how little I understood about the old Hawaiians. I wrote and researched on parallel tracks, acquiring a growing library of source materials. Meanwhile, various personal issues and other distractions intervened. It took me nearly 11 years to finish the first draft. I spent another year working with a freelance editor, who helped me trim my by-then elephantine manuscript by some 63,000 words. I finally published my book on Amazon on Dec. 6, 2016, 12 years, 20 days from the date I entered the first character in my Word doc.

Working on Once There Was Fire was a voyage of discovery about Hawaiian history, fiction writing, and perseverance. I would like to write a sequel, but for the moment, I'm at somewhat of a loss on how to begin and how to proceed. It'll come to me eventually, I hope.

I invite anyone who's interested in learning more about the novel to visit my website at, and my blog at


message 2: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1090 comments Hi Stephen, welcome to the showcase!

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