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An Interview with Joy Ogawa, author of Victoria Ward and the Gilded Age of the Hawaiian Kingdom


I am a born storyteller. At age five, I taught myself to type on my dad’s typewriter, and I’ve been creating worlds and characters since then. I also have a self-published illustrated children’s book about growing up with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) titled I Am A Heart Warrior. Also, I collaborated on a pineapple passion project called A Pineapple Republic, for which there is a companion book and a feature-length documentary film that I narrate. Both books are available on Amazon. Born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, I now live in Honolulu. My day job is as a Mental Health Professional for the State of Hawaii’s Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation. My hobbies include needlework, Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling, and cycling.

You can buy Victoria Ward and the Gilded Age of the Hawaiian Kingdom here!

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

As a precocious child, I was fascinated by story or character series or franchises. I imagined being a writer having all this material in me to produce a number of books (or movies, or have a television series)—what a life!

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

This story came together in one month while I was recovering from an emergency bowel resection operation. My mom told me that my jichan (Japanese for grandpa), her father, had to have most of his stomach removed in a complicated surgery in the late 1950s. After months of recuperation, when he went back to work it was at the Victoria Ward Company Limited in Honolulu. She was very young at the time, but fondly recalled how that company and that job (as a yard man and general laborer) kept them afloat and insured during that time. I got curious about the real Victoria Ward, whose name and legacy are all over Oahu. She was a very impressive woman. Her spirit called me to take a stab at crafting a fictional story about her life and world, based on true events, facts, and people.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

To see the Hawaiian translation of the English chapter titles was a special wow moment. I fought to have that be as accurate as I knew how. I don’t know of any other fiction story that does that.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Music and songs play a role in the crafting of my debut novel. I include the lyrics, in both Hawaiian and English, of a couple songs. Songs, or mele in Hawaiian, contemporaneous to Victoria’s time would be nice!

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My goal is to revitalize the historical fiction genre and to make it my own. I hope my readers will get curious about the characters, events, and tidbits of history. If they grew up in or are familiar with Hawaii, I hope they feel like history comes alive for them. I want my readers to come away with a new fond appreciation for our historical figures and events.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

Nothing motivates and excites me to keep on writing like scoring this traditional publishing contract with a major publishing house! I’ve got at least three more novels in me in this series. I am excited to see what manifests!

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