There’s a number-tagging game happening on Facebook where you must reveal mysterious details about yourself. I got the #18 from Theresa Schubert (another superwoman mom of her own #Fab5) but because nobody cares about 18 deeply scintillating secrets about me, I’m going to do 18 #ThingsYouMayNotKnowAboutTheTelesaBooks instead.
- Nafanua had six children in her lifetime. One boy (Leila’s twin) and five girls. Leila has four half-sisters out there somewhere. Three of them were utter UnGifted disappointments to Nafanua and given away to be raised by others. One of them was Telesa Matagi like her mother, but something happened and she and Nafanua parted on very bad terms. (As in, Nafanua tried and failed to kill her.) One day, I’ll tell that story and maybe Leila will get to meet her older sister.
- There really is a secluded freshwater pool in the mountains that not a lot of people know about. It’s up at Vailima somewhere. The water is deliciously cold and it’s blanketed in lush green surroundings. A nice boy took me on a date there. (Not blindfolded.) We went swimming and I told him the story of the Little Mermaid.
- Daniel Tahi is a welder and steel fabricator because the Hot Man is a welder and steel fabricator and so I like to think I know a little bit about the fabrication industry. And if you’ve never seen a hot welder at work in a pair of overalls half-undone and tied low on his hips, sweat dripping off rippling muscles as he works amidst blue-green sparks and flame….then you haven’t really lived. #GoFindOneToday
- There’s lots of Samoan food in the books but that doesn’t mean I like all of it. I don’t like kokoSamoa or fa’ausi. And the smell of vaisalo makes me sick. I do love valu vi, pineapple pie and coconut shrimp though.
- I started writing Telesa after a late night conversation with my big brother Cam. We were talking about Twilight and how much cool’er it would be to have a story that drew on Pacific legends…a Samoan Young Adult romance with mythological elements. He challenged me, “It can’t be that hard to write a book like that. Go on, write one.” I made lots of doubtful sounds and excuses, to which he replied, “Fine. I’m going home to write a book. Watch, it will take me a week probably. Let’s see who can write it faster. Go! You can’t write a book faster than me, ha.” (the power of reverse psychology) I wrote 100 pages in two weeks. My brother didn’t write any. But I think that was his devious plan all along. So thank you Cam. Without you, there would have been no Telesa book.
- While those 100 pages flew from the overactive imagination onto the page, the rest of the book was horribly hard work. Writing the ‘fun bits’ in a romance novel is fun. But writing all the rest of it and then trying to make it fit together is a long, difficult slog. So many times, I chucked that book to the side and vowed I wouldn’t waste another minute on such #crap. Finishing a book is the toughest thing I’ve ever done. Six times over. It’s worse than running the last length of a 100km relay after you and your team have been on the freakin road for fourteen hours and you want to quit with every step. It’s about forcing yourself to keep going, keep writing – even when you hate the story and you’re sick to bits of the characters and you wish you had a regular job.
- I’ve never been to the Matavanu volcano in Savaii. Or the lava fields. Or to Falealupo, where the fabled entrance to Pulotu is. Thank goodness for imagination. And Google. And my friends fabulous photos of THEIR trips to those places.
- I don’t write my books in chronological order. The very first scene I wrote for TELESA – was the showdown at the end where the Sisterhood are torturing Leila and then Nafanua makes her epic choice to fight for her daughter. And give her life for her. That scene was so powerfully vivid in my mind that it played like a kickass movie… and made me cry ( and I hadn’t even figured out who all those random women were and how they all ended up trying to kill each other by the ocean.) The second scene I wrote was Leila and Daniel’s midnight pool meeting. And THAT was the very first moment that Daniel Tahi began to come to life. (I may or may not have studied some pics of SBW to assist with the writing of that scene…)
- My favoritest, fun-nest scene to write in TELESA – the SamCo strip.
- They really do put you on ‘Hard Labor’ at Samoa College. Prefects rule there and they will give you detention for things like – wearing the wrong color jandals or getting caught in the corridor during class-time. Lots of detention earns you a session of Hard Labor which is usually cutting grass or weeding vaofefe (prickle grass) with your bare hands. Have I ever been on Hard Labor? Yes. And no, no gorgeous male-model Head Boy prefect ever took off his shirt and helped me cut grass.
- Writing TELESA gave me six cavities. I was hooked on TicTacs at the time, eating up to six packs of them a day while I was writing. (More like six packs a night since that’s when most of the writing happened.) After the book came out, my dentist forbade me to eat TicTacs anymore. And because she was drilling me several root canals at the time – I didn’t argue with her.
- Daniel Tahi’s birthday is June 10th. Leila Folger’s birthday is March 9th. Simone is a Christmas Day baby. (Hence why he’s so sparkly and joyous?)
- When I was thirteen, I wrote a story about a girl who meets an Ocean prince and he gives her special seaweed to eat so she can breathe underwater and visit his kingdom. He was disgustingly handsome and wonderful in every way (of course), and he could turn into a silver dolphin. He was probably the prototype for Daniel Tahi.
- In two years, I’ve only sold about 24,000 Telesa Series books, digital and print combined. I’ve given away more than 70,000 copies (mainly digital) and that’s not counting the thousands of illegal shares and downloads. Which is why, I just roll my eyes when people say, ‘Ohmigosh, everyone is reading TELESA! You must be so megastar rich…famous…chillin’ with the Rock, besties with that Saamowen chick on Shortland Street, talking movies with Peter Jackson, driving a Wrangler Jeep just like Leila…’ Because even if lots of people you know are reading or talking about Telesa, it doesn’t mean they bought the book. (if anyone can hook me up with a movie meeting with Peter Jackson, I would bake you choc-chip cookies for the rest of your life!) But while I’m not rich from my writing, I am grateful I can be a full-time writer, doing what I love. It’s a blessing when your work is your passion and I am very blessed.
- None of my sisters have read the Telesa books. Which is probably a good thing because they might imagine I based a fury-filled Telesa woman on one of them. My big brother has read them all.
- Young Pasifika women tell me, “Daniel Tahi has made me raise my expectations for the man I want to date/marry. I especially like the way he treats women – the way he respects his grandmother and Leila.” I’m glad. Because every woman deserves to be treated with respect and honor, and every woman should expect that in all her relationships.
- I’ve never tried surfing. Which is why I very much hope no surfer expert reads TELESA and calls me out for writing a surfer character like Jason.
- In book two, Sarona alludes to Ryan Folger ( Leila’s Dad) coming to Samoa shortly before his death and of having a hand in his illness. She wasn’t lying. Ryan took his daughter away from her mother 18yrs before but he never stopped hoping that Nafanua might change and one day be able to have a relationship with Leila. That hope brought him to Samoa because Leila was now an adult and he was going to tell her the truth about her mother, but he wanted to see Nafanua first. Who knows how that meeting might have turned out? But Nafanua was out of the country and he met up with Sarona instead. And like the loving sister that she was, Sarona seized her opportunity to strike at the man that still appeared to love Nafanua – even after all she’d done to him and his children. Sarona caused Ryan’s illness, and his death. (And these are the days of our lives…)
There ya go. Eighteen things that maybe you didn’t know about the Telesa Series. If you’ve got a question you would like answered about anything else on the writing and publishing journey – ask me in the comments and I will gladly put together another random answer sheet blog!