Thirty years ago, if someone had told Deborah Turrell Atkinson she’d end up living in Hawai'i, she’d have said, “You’re reading someone else’s tea leaves.” When she left for the islands, she didn't think she'd stay. Originally from the Midwest and a graduate of the University of Michigan, Debby likes the change of seasons—she even likes cold weather.
But Hawai'i is an alluring place. Thirty years later, she’s still in Honolulu with her husband, two sons, a dog, a cat, two guinea pigs, and whatever friends are escaping the cold in other parts of the country. It wasn't just the balmy weather and azure water that captured her. It was the kindness of the people, the variety of cultures, the sense of community in the vast Pacific Ocean, and the stories.
People in Hawai‘i live with folklore. Other cultures in the United States do, too, but Debby had never been told not to drive over the Pali with bananas or pork in the car, or to be sure to pick up old women by the roadside because Pele, the volcano goddess, likes to mess with people. And NO one wants to get on Madame Pele's bad side. Since 1982, she’s been spewing lava either spectacularly skyward or gushing underground rivers to the sea.
With all this legend, it’s a great place for writers. Though Debby has a background in science and worked for ten years as a pharmaceutical rep for Eli Lilly, her heart kept returning to books, essays, poetry, whatever was printed.
After having her first child, she retired from traveling for Lilly and decided to take some creative writing classes. Maybe she’d finally finish one of those stories. Egen is in college now, and Andrew is a junior in high school. And Debby’s third mystery in her Hawai‘i series, Fire Prayer, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in August, 2007. It follows Primitive Secrets (2002) and The Green Room (2005).
Like Tony Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries, Debby’s novels reveal Hawai‘i as her people see her. They incorporate the many cultures and folklore of the islands, and divulge aspects of the isles the tour books will never disclose. All three books have received national and local acclaim.
Poisoned Pen Press
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Plan USA, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu
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