Welcome to another Friday Reads post. My featured book this week is YA author, Jennifer Walker, whose contemporary romance, Finding Aloha, was published in February. So make yourself a cuppa and let’s find out a bit more about the book, then have a chat to Jennifer.
Jess moves to Maui anticipating a world of beaches, boys and bikinis. Romance with a passionate local and the discovery that her presence puts his family at risk? Not in the tourist brochure.
Her mother is having a baby with a man who is not her father, and her best friend has been secretly dating her boyfriend. Seventeen-year-old Jess Kennedy desperately needs a new life.
When her father accepts a job offer in Maui, Jess feels like this could be the fresh start she craves. The island’s beauty and charm provide a stark contrast to her home back in Canada. But the elite social hierarchy of Maui Gardens Charter School proves to be a thorny world to navigate.
Then in swoops Kai Kamealoha, a surf-loving Maui local with a fierce loyalty to his family and a passion for preserving his home’s natural beauty. Kai shows Jess that Maui is much more than the sun, surf and sand of tourism brochures, and he introduces her to an authentic look at Hawaiian life.
Jess can’t help but fall in love with Maui—and maybe with Kai Kamealoha as well. So, when she discovers that a real estate developer is forcing Kai’s family to sell their ancestral farm, she’s determined to help him find a way to save it. But digging deeper exposes a duplicity within her own family. Her presence there may be putting Kai’s family in jeopardy. Leaving the island for good may be her only option.
Welcome to the blog, Jennifer. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always dabbled in writing to some degree, although I didn’t write my first full-length novel until I was 40. I decided it was a bucket list item for me to check off and things got rolling from there!
Has any author inspired you?
I adore YA authors like Jason Reynolds (his writing is magical) and John Green (THE authentic voice in YA), but I read widely, so I’m also a huge fan of Erin Entrada Kelly for middle-grade, as well as Taylor Jenkins Reid and Kristen Hannah in the adult sphere.
What do you like writing most?
I’ve published two contemporary YA romances that I’m really proud of. I find it quite natural to write in a YA voice. Maybe I’m just stuck as an angsty teenager at heart! But I teach fourth grade, so I also love to write for middle-grade audiences. You can have so much fun with this age group—take them on wild adventures, experience a ton of firsts with them, adapt a snarky, witty attitude—so I’ve been writing more middle-grade lately. And then I get to read it to my class, which is a lot of fun. Kids are so honest!
Do you have a special place for writing?
Unfortunately, no. But as long as it’s relatively quiet and I’ve got a cup of good coffee beside me, I’m good to go. I’ve got two children who are busy with activities, so I often do my best writing while waiting to pick them up or drop them off. Sometimes I’m even writing while I sit in the car!
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Definitely a pantster, and anyone who knows me would not be surprised. Sometimes when I write a novel, I’m actually a bit stressed that I have no clue how it’s going to end. But for me, the best part of writing is seeing how the story unfolds as I go. It’s like I’m reading it at the same time as writing it.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
Yes, for sure. As a teacher, I tuck little tidbits of my day into my back pocket for later use all the time. Kids are so funny and heartfelt and awesome, and I feel like between my students and my own children, I never run out of material.
What are you writing at the moment?
I just finished writing a middle-grade survival story about a young girl who goes away with her dad, her little sister, and their dog on a back-country camping expedition to the Canadian Rockies. Their car crashes, injuring her father, and it’s up to her to find her way out of the alpine wilderness. It was really fun to write, and I think it’s going to be a really exciting book for kids to read!
What inspired you to write this book?
Growing up fairly close to the Canadian Rockies, I’ve spent many long weekends in the mountains. Going on hikes and exploring nature always led me to wonder what would happen if I got lost out there. Could I—would I—survive? And what dangers would be lurking for me along the way?
What time of the day do you write best?
I’m a morning person so I like to get up early and write then. My daughter swims early on Saturday mornings so one of my favourite times of the week is to get up early with her, send her off to swimming, then sit in silence for a couple of hours to write.
What are your hobbies?
Prior to Covid, I loved doing yoga daily, so I need to get myself back there more often. I like being active in a variety of different ways, running, golf… I used to even do karate three times a week with my family! But to balance all that exercise, I love to bake too. I can eat all the scrumptious goodies without too much guilt!
What advice would you give to other writers?
More than anything, the writing industry seems to be about perseverance. No one will ever care as much about your writing as you do. So, push yourself to write more, reach out more, take more risks. Unfortunately, rejection is a main aspect to this industry, but you can’t let it bring you down. Just keep on writing what you love!
Great answers, Jennifer! Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to us today. Wishing you lots of success with your books.
Jennifer Walker is a teacher and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She lives with her husband Ian, two children, and her floppy, impossible-not-to-love Bernedoodle, Leo. When she’s not teaching, writing, or reading, you can most likely find Jennifer in a yoga studio, in the kitchen baking muffins, or running off the calories of the muffins she’s just baked. She’s also famous for publicly embarrassing her family by singing terrible show-tunes and practicing 90’s dance moves, and if this whole writing thing doesn’t work out, she’s pretty sure she could make it as one of the Wiggles.