Book Trailer for Pilikia

Monday, July 30, 2007

Interview with Hawaiian Mystery Author, Victoria Heckman

Guest interviewer, Earl Staggs interviewed Victoria Heckman, author of KO'd in Honolulu and KO'd in the Volcano. Earl is the author of Memory of a Murder, published in 2005 and soon to be re-released. Learn more about Earl here:

Victoria Heckman

Interviewed by Earl Staggs

You’d have to look very hard to find someone more talented, charming, and likable than Victoria Heckman. I’ve known her for several years online and have twice had the pleasure of spending time with her in person. I welcomed this opportunity to interview her because I’ve always wanted to know more about her. In her presence, however, I could only stare and stammer a lot. (Did I mention she’s also knock-down, drag-out gorgeous?)
So this is an opportunity for me -- and you – to learn more about this accomplished novelist and short story author.

ES: As an introduction to the real Victoria Heckman, tell us where you’re originally from, where you live now, and who you share life with on a daily family basis.

VH: I was born in San Diego, but now live on the Central Coast of California. I'm married with two perfect boys and a variety of furry, scaly critters.

ES: Your online screen name is "Irish Witch." How did you come up with that? Or am I better off not knowing?

VH: Well, I'll tell you, but then. . .you know the drill. I’m Irish, as you may have guessed and my brother, who is a genius (ask him, he'll tell you) has the screen name of The Demon Prince. There are no “dark” connotations here. He is a warm, wonderful guy, with the same family twisted sense of humor. Once I saw his screen name, I had to come up with something better. Siblings, don’cha know.

I have other names, too. My Renaissance Faire character at the time was an "herbalist" (in 1582) named Esme and, wanting to keep my head on my shoulders, I did not want to advertise being a witch. (But, if you needed someone cursed, sheep or cows to run dry, I was your girl.) Since then, my desire to carry a giant sword took over, and I became Morgaine of Erin, Esme's cousin, and a mercenary. Yes, there were female mercenaries, and female pirate captains in that period. It was a toss up, but the mercenary costume won.
See how complicated it can be when you ask a question?

ES: In addition to writing, I understand you’re also an actress, singer and dancer. Are you still active in those areas?

VH: Yes, from time to time, but I teach theatre and direct shows with middle and high school students, so that is my primary focus.

ES: When and why did you decide to add writing to all those other talents and pursuits?

VH: Like so many things in life, it was an accident, a matter of fate. I saw an ad in the library from the local chapter of Sisters in Crime sponsoring a short story mystery contest. The prize was publication. I entered, placed second, was published, and was hooked!

ES: Which do you enjoy most, writing novels or short stories?

VH: I love them both and usually do them concurrently, writing a short story to give me a break from the novel. I'm doing it now with my new series--Kapu, A Coconut Man Mystery of Ancient Hawaii. I'm also working on a completely different short story called "Stardust" about a being who arrives to change the world... sort of! : )

ES: Do you find it difficult to switch from novel writing to writing a short story?

VH: Nope. It's therapeutic!

ES: You seem to have developed a love for Hawaii along the way. How did that happen?

VH: I was in college in San Diego and wanted to go somewhere else. SDSU just wasn't doing it for me. I applied for and was accepted to UCLA, but my mom begged me not to live in Los Angeles. I asked her where else I should go, and she said Hawaii, just like that. My mom gave excellent advice. What young person isn't going to live in Hawaii with the blessing of her parents?

ES: Speaking of young persons, I had the pleasure of meeting your two handsome sons. Did they inherit any of your creative and artistic genes?

VH: As you know, Earl, my sons are uniquely perfect, unlike many teenagers today. Both sons have done theatre classes with me as the teacher (not from any inherent love, but because I needed warm bodies!) However, they both are excellent. The eldest is a word perfect guy, follows directions and does his best. The younger is relaxed and more of an improv guy. Lines are approximate. : ) He recently began making videos and they are hilarious. He is fearless and we have a lot of fun together doing both improv and sketch comedy. The eldest has transitioned to the technical side of theatre production -- again, because I needed someone – and loves it. He found the design and operating aspects of light and sound interesting as well as wanting to do a good job.

ES: How did you come up with the idea for your first novel, "K.O.’d in Honolulu?"

VH: I was at my first writer's conference, the Cuesta Writer's Conference, which is excellent, by the way, and I stopped into Carol Higgins Clark's seminar on "Plotting the Mystery." Not because I thought I could write a whole novel, but because I loved mystery so much and thought I'd like to see how the masters did it. But, while sitting there, the entire book plopped into my head, and while she was telling me how to do it, I was taking the information in and was actually doing it. I outlined the entire book in her session. I have not done an outline since, because I'm not really an outline girl, but that's how the first baby arrived!

ES: How did you come to develop Katrina Ogden (“K.O.”) as your rotagonist? Was she modeled after a real-life or fictional person?

VH: Like most authors, she is an amalgam of many things, real and fictional. She is mainly a combination of myself and my best friend and source in Hawaii PD, since we have spent so much time together. However, she is also fiction, her own person.

ES: In what ways is she like or different from you?

VH: Well, she's taller than I am... and ballsy-er. Is that a word? She loves Diet Pepsi and Snickers bars, just like I do. She is loyal to her friends, probably to a fault, and I am as well.

ES: It’s a word now. How long did it take you to write that first book?

VH: Just the writing, probably three years, because I was learning how to write in novel format. It was a huge learning experience for me, not only the process of writing, but how to submit to agents and publishers and other aspects of the business side of writing. Then editing, more editing, sweating, cursing, more re-writes, and two more years after that until publication. So, five years from start to published.

ES: Was it hard to find a publisher?

VH: It was, because it was pegged a “niche” book (a dirty word in publishing) by being set in Hawaii. No one wants to read about Hawaii, right? Well, I didn't believe that. I did the traditional look-for-an-agent thing, but really felt a small publisher was best, and followed that road.

ES: How do you fit your writing into your busy life? Do you set aside a certain time each day for it?

VH: I try to, but I’m a teacher, so during the school year, I always start off well, but everything is shot to hell by Halloween. I write in the morning, which is when I'm most creative and most awake. Sort of. However, being a theatre director has its ups and downs. I'm free to write in the morning because I work all afternoon and into the evening, but I teach at two schools and each is into its own production, so that is a number of different worlds.
For example, last year I did a murder mystery with audience participation at one school, while doing "The Three Musketeers" at another. So I had a dark and stormy night at the Starkweather mansion along with, well, teenagers and kewl sword fighting. Then I have my real life, and adding a fourth world -- writing -- is tough. I can do editing or the business part of writing during the school year, but the creative end takes a beating.
As a result, the bulk of my new work takes place during the summer. I'm finishing “Kapu,” and hope to begin “K.O.'d in Maui,” which has a surfing sub-plot. I'm not a surfer, but I figure the research will be fun. K.O.'s not a surfer either.

ES: Is there anyone in particular who has had a major influence on your writing?

VH: There are many writers I've read from classics like Christie, Margery Allingham, Hammett, to modern writers like Robert B. Parker, Nevada Barr, and James Lee Burke. But the greatest influence on me as a writer was my mom. She was an elementary school librarian, and her love of books and mystery was immense. She was also my first reader and editor. She could have told me my first 75 pages of K.O.'d in Honolulu stunk (and it did) and I would probably have stopped, but she didn't. She supported me and helped me all the way.

ES: If you could see your life ten years from now, both from a personal aspect as well as your writing career, what would you like to see?

VH: On a personal level, probably doing what I'm doing now, except the children will be in college! I love what I do, both warping--I mean teaching--teen minds, and writing. I will have traveled much more and continued to pursue my lifelong learning of Hawaiian culture. I also hope during those ten years, I continued to grow personally and will have become a better person.
With regard to my writing, I have so many stories yet to tell. As I mentioned before, Coconut Man is the new novel series I’m working on, but I also have a new "baby" -- Stardust. I am writing about Universal Energy and one of the things I am studying is energy movement and healing. Both tie into many forms of ancient Hawaiian healing which I’m also studying to enrich my Coconut Man series. I see my writing reaching out beyond Hawaii and into the realm of intuitive healing. I plan to continue with my K.O. series and she has many adventures ahead. I’m only adding to my repertoire, so look for both series to be ongoing for the next decade.

ES: Wherever your eventful life leads you in the future, I know you’ll be successful.
Thanks for taking time to answer my questions.

Learn more about Victoria Heckman at


  1. Neil Plakcy said...

    Great interview. I've met Victoria Heckman in the past, and she's just as charming in person as she comes through in this interview.