A Conversation with: Victoria Heckman
November 27, 2010
Author of K.O.’d in Honolulu, K.O.’d in The Volcano, K.O.’d in The Rift, and Kapu
Victoria, I’m so glad to visit with you! I think (not sure), that I first met you at Left Coast Crime in Los Angeles. Since then, I’ve visited with you at several events, and had the opportunity to read your first mystery, KO’d in Honolulu. And now I can’t wait to read more Katrina Ogden mysteries (love the picture of the Natatorium on your website). But I’m also very much looking forward to reading Kapu, and meeting the Coconut Man. For me, going to places I’ve never been and dropping-in on cultures I’ve never experienced are several of the great joys of reading. I’ve never been to Hawaii (I know, I know, fool that I am!), but I have several friends who have not only visited numerous times, but also lived there—and of course love it. You do a great job of “taking the reader there,” geographically and culturally. I could see and smell the ocean, and feel the showers and humidity.
Your writing about Hawaii is so knowledgeable, and “feels” so intimate. So my first question is, could you elaborate on your connections to Hawaii? And how those connections inspired or enabled you?
I went to college at UH Manoa and then didn’t leave until I moved to California, by way of New Mexico. That last was Tony Hillerman’s fault. He made NM sound so wonderful in his books that I added living there to my life list. So, when the opportunity arose to move there and work with the Navajo for a year, I jumped at it. It was an amazing experience. I am an ocean person, however, and couldn’t live in a land-locked state long term, no matter how wonderful! But back to Hawaii. My mom was born there, and suggested I go to college there, and destiny was fulfilled. I worked for two years for a San Diego area police department (Reserve) and really liked law enforcement. So when I moved to Hawaii, the first thing I did was check out HPD. Since I was in college, it wasn’t a fit at the time, but my ride along partner and I became best friends and my source in the department. We are still friends to this day.
NM and Hawaii!–I can see how both places would provide great inspiration, and why your Hawaii descriptions and locations are so compelling. Since we’ve met, snatches of conversation I’ve eavesdropped on lead me to believe you live a very FULL life. In fact, didn’t I meet some of your students in San Luis Obispo? I’d love to hear more about your other interests/demands, and how you juggle everything. Especially how you manage to carve out time to write!
I am slightly insane, and very determined. Yes, I am a middle school teacher and just love it, and my students. I joke that hormonally we’re all in the same place, so we get along. I direct youth theater (among other hats I wear at school) so we develop a close relationship in the course of producing a show. During the school year I can’t do much writing except articles, short stories and of course, fun things like this. I edit, do PR, workshops, signings, etc. I write the next novel in the summer. I am very disciplined about it, since I know I only have so much time to write. When my two boys were little, they went off to kindergarten or pre-school, so I used those few morning hours to create. Now that they are big boys (one in college, one a junior in high school) I write in the mornings in summer when they are sleeping. So, I get mom-time in, and murder-time in. During the school year, I still work early, before I go to teach, to do the “business” of writing. I have a very understanding family (perhaps they are just nervous?) and support me in my need to write (“Don’t interrupt while mommy’s killing…”) and in the vast amount of work that comes after the book is done. They have all been forced to attend book-signings, book-launches, and various other tortures the families of writers must endure. I don’t think they are terribly impressed, but you should hear the whining when someone has a four page paper due.
“Mom-time” and “murder time,” I love it! Can’t imagine being as disciplined as you are, Victoria, but having that discipline seems to work and is enabling your multi-talents. I remember asking you questions at an event about your promotions experiences, and I found your observations thoughtful and quite helpful. Are there any particular adventures or “lessons learned” that you’d like to share? Or new ideas you’re thinking of trying?
One thing that was fun was before my first book was published, I acted as though it was out. I attended conferences, workshops, and did lots of PR on my book that *should* happen after. I remember when I finally got published, many writer-friends came up to me and said, “Congratulations, but I thought it was already out?!” I made book marks, gave out leis with tags, really made a presence for my work and myself as an author. I remember a recurring mantra in my head was ‘I want this.’ And I did. I didn’t try to say it or think it, but it was something that was so strong in me, that I wanted my words read by others.
Very smart promotions strategy! I’ve also met several other members of your Sisters in Crime Central Coast Chapter, and I must say, I was really impressed with how warm, welcoming, energetic, and savvy you all are. In fact, even though I live miles away, I plan on becoming a member! I’d love to hear more about how your chapter has impacted your writing career—or life even?
I wouldn’t be published if not for Sisters in Crime, and in the Central Coast Chapter in particular. They encouraged, critiqued, edited, and helped me every step of the way. I entered a contest and won the prize of publication for a short story I wrote. The Sisters helped me go to conferences, meet *real* authors and really taught me the ropes. I try to pass that on, Pay it Forward, as it were. And of course, they are my friends, and I am very selective about friends! I don’t have a lot of free time, but make time for my Sisters.
Looking forward to seeing you again, Victoria, and getting a signed copy of Kapu. I’m truly amazed at how you do it all! What are you working on currently? More from the Coconut Man, or another Katrina Ogden adventure?
Currently I’m on the final edits of “Burn Out” a stand alone featuring an animal communicator. (Not a Pet Psychic!) It was fun to write and sort of auto-biographical. If there is enough interest, I might make it into a series. I leave in 2 weeks for Hawaii to research the next K.O., where she reluctantly agrees to chaperone her nephew who has qualified for the big surf contest at the Banzai Pipeline. K.O. surfs as well as I do, which is not well, but enthusiastically! I’m really looking forward to watching the contest again, something I haven’t done in 20 years. I’ll be staying on the North Shore of O’ahu, surf central, and taking it all in.
I’m a lifelong dog lover, so “Burn Out” also sounds right up my literary alley. Also sounds like a great holiday adventure you have planned—I say adventure because surfing is an activity I can only envision others doing!
Victoria, is there anything else you would like to discuss?
I’m really looking forward to seeing you at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe in March and maybe seeing a GHOST on our Spirit Tour of Santa Fe! Hold my hand, ‘kay?
You bet! And wouldn’t that be something, actually seeing a ghost? And if you’re a ghost, what better time to show yourself than to a group of mystery writers? It’s been such fun getting to know you better, Victoria. Looking forward to chatting with you even more at future promotions events, and for sure looking forward to Santa Fe. Continued success with your novels!