Thanks Houston Arts Alliance and artshound.com for the nice plug for one of my Houston events! You can read the article below or click here to see the article in living color online!
Gaellen Quinn: book signing and discussion
June 5, 2009
Blue Willow Bookshop presents a book signing and discussion by Gaellen Quinn. Releasing in celebration of Hawaii’s anniversary, The Last Aloha (May 2009) by Gaellen Quinn tells the whole story of Hawaii’s rich history: from monarchy to annexation.
How did far-off Hawaii become part of America? Suppressed for nearly 100 years, it’s a story known to few. In 1886, Laura Jennings boards a steamship bound for the exotic islands of Hawaii to live with missionary relatives she’s never met. Laura imagines she’ll live in a grass hut and minister to “savages.” But on arriving in Honolulu, she’s surprised to find that, far from being savages, the Hawaiians have developed a charming and prosperous kingdom—and Laura’s family is among the wealthy elite plotting to overthrow the monarchy.
To avoid her conniving uncle’s control, Laura goes to work for the royal family. She’s swept up in a web of intrigue and turmoil as the Missionary Party intensifies its scheme to topple the throne and Hawaii’s last queen, Lili`uokalani, struggles heroically to save the kingdom. When every way is blocked, the queen’s choices reveal to Laura a power capable of restoring the spirit of a people caught in a turbulent, changing world. And Laura discovers how her own family’s long-hidden secrets can lead the way to reconciliation.
Inspired by true events, this is the story James Michener never wrote.
Quinn will be discussing and signing copies of her book on behalf of Blue Willow Bookshop and Literacy Advance.
When she’s not writing novels, Gaellen Quinn works as a consultant to social economic development projects in far-flung parts of the world like the Amazon, Cambodia, Tanzania and Austin, Texas. She holds a Masters Degree in International and Community Development and her writing reflects her passion for diverse peoples, as well as major world themes that affect our personal, social and spiritual lives.
Her mother, a stewardess, and her father, a pilot, met in the 1940s glory days of aviation. Gaellen grew up traveling the world, intrigued with the multiplicity of cultures she encountered, both ancient and new.
Her first short story, about an old Chinese man trying to adjust to his new life in San Francisco, placed in a writing contest and was published in the high school paper. That was the beginning of the call to write.
However, life intervened. She married, raised two daughters, worked in the corporate world and eventually she and her husband went out on their own and built a successful computer mail order business.
Then when her own children were high school age, she and her family went for three years as unpaid volunteers to an orphanage and school for street kids in the Brazilian Amazon. That fish-out-of-water experience, so vastly different from her life in southern California, sparked the setting and characters for her first novel, The Interior, a story of a young woman who joins a survey team deep in the jungle and must confront all her assumptions about what life means.
Returning to the US, Gaellen and her husband worked as a serial entrepreneurs in advertising, newsletter publishing and marketing enterprises. They happened to be in New York on 9-11, staying just 14 blocks north of the World Trade Center. Unable to leave, they remained a month in the city. During that time Gaellen determined to reorder her life to make writing a priority.
To do that, she extracted herself from the time-intensive activity of building businesses to get her Masters Degree in social and economic development so she could do consulting work and arrange her own time. Little did she know that course of study would lead to the themes that would permeate her writing: What makes cultures and individuals effloresce and grow, and what makes them decline?
In the next few years, she completed two more novels. The Last Aloha, the first to be published, is set in 19th century Hawaii. It creates a moving, vivid picture of a vanished time — the final days of the Hawaiian monarchy when descendents of American missionaries plotted to topple the throne. Her third novel, The Black River of Eve, is a story that moves from the stratosphere of corporate Manhattan to the depths of the Amazon to shed light on what happens when the relationships of women and men are out of balance.
Blue Willow Bookshop is one of the last indie bookstores in Houston and has a large following. The owner, Valerie Koehler, is a Champions of Literacy Honoree. For more info: www.bluewillowbookshop.com; www.literacyadvance.org.