Today we're talking with Christine Sunderland, author of Hana-lani
FQ: You obviously know and love Hawaii. What is your connection with Maui?
I have had the opportunity to visit Hana, Maui and other locations in Hawaii many times over the last twenty years, and have been impressed with the welcoming spirit of the people, their sense of family, history, and faith I have found there.
FQ: Nani-lei is such a warm and inspiring character. Is she based on someone you are lucky enough to know?
Nani-lei is a blend of many elderly women I have been so very fortunate to know, primarily, I would add, in my church life. These women have given me so much and I continue to learn from these generations that go before me.
FQ: Meredith's experience at Hana-lani causes her to think about what truly matters in life. What is at the top of your list?
I would say family, faith, church, and making every day count, searching for what is true and not merely fashionable or politically correct.
FQ: Meredith's story is too familiar these days. In what ways can all of us be like Nani-lei and her family, bringing hope to those who, like Meredith, are alone?
I think we can all slow down and take the time to listen to and love one another. We begin with our family members – husband, wife, children. Then we consider friends and those who cross our path day to day. Every person is worthy of respect and love, and the gift of time, of paying attention, is probably the greatest gift to those alone. Of course giving one's time means sacrificing one's own time, being a little less selfish, a little more self-less.
FQ: Henry and Maria's project, A History of Ethics, seems to be a topic you have thought much about. Is this a side project of yours?
I have long been concerned about how we decide what is right and wrong. With the demise of the Judeo-Christian ethical influence in the public square, our culture has been hard pressed to determine what authorities to use to decide right and wrong. Abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, cloning, the definition of marriage, are questions of serious moral impact for many of us, as well as the boundaries of free speech and the parameters of artistic expression.
FQ: Do you share Henry's love of poetry? Which poets, along with T.S. Eliot, do you admire?
I love the poetic more than poetry itself – the phrase or metaphor that catches some otherwise indescribable truth about our humanity. I admire greatly Gerald Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Browning, among others. The Psalms are wonderful expressions of man's yearnings and angst as well as joyful and thankful moments. Poetry helps express who we are, gives us voice. My sister Barbara Budrovich is developing into a fine poet, catching unique family moments we experience as women and mothers.
FQ: Without giving away the ending of the book, I will say that it was not the “happily ever after” ending I was expecting. Did you know as you were writing the novel that it would end this way?
I knew it would have to end with a degree of realism, since I didn't want to write a "romance." I wasn't sure about the specifics, but the ending became clear as the characters became more real, and I soon knew what they would do, even what they needed to do, to reflect the themes of the novel. So I wanted the ending to be both challenging and yet hopeful.