I’m back on the Big Island after a month on the road for the book launch of Mauna Kea: A Novel of Hawaiʻi. The launch is going very well, with positive reviews of the book at events and now starting to show up on the internet. I’ve had marvelous one-on-one contacts with readers, authors, media folks, and members of the literary community. Word-of-mouth attention to the novel is beginning to spread, and I’m stoked! Here, to share the excitement, are some photos from the Twin Cities Book Festival in Minnesota and the Hawaiʻi Book & Music Festival in Honolulu . . . and there are more Mauna Kea events coming up soon!

A detailed Book Tour Calendar—including new, recently scheduled events—is posted on my website here.

Photos by Catherine Robbins or Tom Peek unless otherwise credited

Mauna Kea as seen from the Hawaiian Airlines plane.

A proper send off . . .

In my household, off-island journeys always begin with a stop at Ah Lan’s Lei Stand at the Hilo airport, where the Hiro family has carried on the Polynesian tradition of lei-making for generations. For this extended journey my wife asked our friend Lana Hiro Hassenritter to create a hefty ti-leaf lei, to provide protection and good luck on my journey and to help me stay grounded—connected to my island—by wearing a garland of this traditional “canoe plant,” brought to Hawaiʻi by early Polynesian voyagers from the South Pacific Islands. To provide strong protection, Lana wove together five strands of ti picked from her family’s property in Puna.

Tom with Lana Hiro Hassenritter at Ah Lan’s Lei Stand after Tom gave her ʻohana a copy of Mauna Kea. Lana and her family have been making leis for Tom’s family for decades, including the leis for his and Catherine’s wedding on the upper slopes of Mauna Loa.

Back in Minnesota: the Twin Cities Book Festival . . .

Having lived the first half of my life on Grey Cloud Island on the Mississippi River south of the Twin Cities, it seemed only fitting to attend the Midwest’s biggest book festival when my publisher arranged a book signing there. I was deeply moved that family and friends (some from high school and college) were among those who attended the book signing on Saturday, October 14 in the Progress Center at the State Fairgrounds. The festival also gave me a great opportunity to meet writers, readers, publishing staff, and others from the land of my birth. I was pleased to discover that while Minnesota is a long way from Hawaiʻi, almost everyone I met was interested in the islands—and Hawaiʻi fiction—and many were familiar with the decades-long indigenous struggle to protect Mauna Kea.

Shortly before the festival, longtime St. Paul Pioneer Press book reviewer Mary Ann Grossmann included a mention of Mauna Kea in her fall book preview of new titles by Minnesota authors and publishers.

Tom in the festival’s exhibition hall where numerous publishers, authors, bookstores, and others in Minnesota’s arts and culture community displayed their work. Photo by Jerry Taube

Tom talking with longtime public affairs colleague David Rodbourne, former Vice President of the Center for Ethical Business Practices at the University of Saint Thomas and coauthor of the seminal study Corporate Responsibility: The American Experience. Photo by Jerry Taube

Honored to be with a Minnesota legend . . .

I was blessed with an invitation to sign copies of both my novels at the festival table of David Unowsky, a legendary literary figure in Minnesota. Renowned for his independent bookstores (The Hungry Mind and Ruminator Books), Unowsky was a progressive publisher and book reviewer and is now a publishing consultant. Having always thought of Unowsky as the Twin Cities’ Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I felt honored to have been invited by him to sign books at his table.

Tom with the Minnesota legend David Unowsky, renowned for his Hungry Mind and Ruminator Books bookstores, the Ruminator Review literary journal, and his Ruminator Press titles. Photo by Jerry Taube

Photo by Jerry Taube

One of the many author events during the daylong festival was this lively and probing reading and discussion, “Novel Mélange,” featuring (R to L) novelists Mojgan Ghazirad, Laura Sims, Kathleen Rooney, and the moderator.

Only one glitch . . .

The only glitch during the Minnesota book tour was that I caught a mild case of Covid-19 almost immediately on my arrival. This meant postponing my October 8 reading at the Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis, an award-winning bookstore renowned for its community service, especially during the pandemic and the George Floyd protests. Co-owner Angela Schwesnedl—who prudently still requires masks in the bookstore—was truly empathetic and is now planning to hold the event virtually in early 2024. In the meantime, after testing negative following my long quarantine, I stopped in to sign copies of Mauna Kea that were meant for the event and had a chance to meet some of the bookstore’s wonderful staff.

Tom, masked, stopped by Moon Palace Books to sign copies of Mauna Kea on October 11, after his long quarantine. Photo by CJ Peek

The Moon Palace staff exemplified aloha when Tom dropped by to sign copies of his novel.

On to the Hawaiʻi Book and Music Festival . . .

I flew back to the islands to attend the annual Hawaiʻi Book & Music Festival in Honolulu, held during the weekend of October 20-22 on the University of Hawaiʻi’s Manoa Campus and online for some events. This year it was a hybrid festival with both in-person and virtual events. Mauna Kea: A Novel of Hawaiʻi  was among the festival’s featured books, with two big events—a reading on Sunday, October 22 and a book signing at the festival’s fundraising gala on Thursday evening, October 26.

Honolulu Magazine profiled the festival in an excellent article prior to the event, and the festival’s full schedule of potent and inspiring events is on their website. Video recordings of the virtual events are on the festival’s YouTube channel. Bios of the festival authors and other presenters are available here.

Some of the featured authors at this year’s Hawaiʻi Book & Music Festival (R to L): Chris McKinney, Scott Kikkawa, Megan Kamalei Kakimoto, Mindy Pennybacker, and Tom Peek. That evening the authors signed books during the festival’s fundraising gala celebration, which was followed by a marvelous concert by renowned pianist Alpin Hong. Photo by Don Wallace

The three-day festival included numerous author readings, discussion panels, and other literary events—some virtual but most in-person—held in the lovely Richardson Law School building. I attended as many as I could and was always glad to have done so. In addition were ongoing book signings—and lots of informal “talking story”—in the law school’s courtyard.

A lively discussion of Megan Kamalei Kakimoto’s (center) new short story collection, Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare with author Kristiana Kahakauwila (left) and session moderator novelist and teacher Chris McKinney.

Festival goers getting their books signed and talking story in the Law School building courtyard.

Featured and related titles were made available for purchase at all events by the University of Hawaiʻi’s Manoa bookstore.

The festival’s New Fiction panel . . .

Sunday morning Tom joined two other Hawaiʻi authors–novelists Scott Kikkawa and Alain Gunn–on a “New Fiction” panel, potently moderated by longtime Hawaiʻi Book & Festival Executive Director Roger Jellinek. Each author read from their new novels and answered excellent questions from Jellinek and the audience.

Authors on the “New Fiction” panel (L to R), Alain Gunn, Scott Kikkawa, and Tom Peek, skillfully moderated by Roger Jellinek.

‘1898: Imperial Visions and Revisions’ panel . . .

One of the most potent panels at the festival was “1898: Imperial Visions & Revisions—And Their Impact Today,” moderated by UH Manoa political scientist and prominent political commentator Colin Moore. The panel discussed the consequences and contemporary impacts of the convergence of American imperial ambitions and actions in Hawaiʻi, the Philippine Islands, and Guam near the end of the nineteenth century (currently the subject of a major exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.). Among the panelists was renowned author and filmmaker Tom Coffman, one of Hawaiʻi’s keenest observers of the state’s political history and the author of Nation Within: The History of the American Occupation of Hawaiʻi and Inclusion: How Hawaiʻi Protected Japanese Americans from Mass Internment, Transformed Itself, and Changed America.

The “1898 Imperial Visions & Revisions” panel (R to L): Veronica Alporha, Tom Coffman, Colin Moore, Kealani Cook, and Catherine Cruz.

Mingling with Festival attendees . . .

Tom discusses Hawaiʻi’s turbulent political history, and the honest portrayal of that in his novels, with Dr. Colin Moore, UH Manoa political scientist and Catherine Cruz, longtime host of Hawaiʻi Public Radio’s daily public affairs program, “The Conversation.”

Tom with Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, a fiction reader and longtime supporter of the Hawaiʻi Book & Music Festival. Photo by Miwa Ogletree

Mahalo to Roger Jellinek and his Festival team . . .

Roger Jellinek, longtime Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Book & Music Festival whose inspiration and hard work have kept the festival alive and vibrant for 18 years.

Festival Event Manager and master of public relations Amy Hammond and her assistant Miwa Ogletree.

And a Honolulu television interview . . .

During the week of the Hawaiʻi Book and Music Festival I taped an in-studio interview with Kainoa Carlson for Hawaiʻi News Now’s “Hawaiʻi Now Daily” variety program, which was broadcast statewide on Monday, November 6 and is now available online.


The novel’s growing relevance as conflict grows . . .

While I was gone, turmoil in the world intensified—including yet another new war—as polarization and violence continues to spread across the globe. This makes the Hawaiʻi narrative of Mauna Kea all the more timely and relevant . . . unfortunately. I am, however, encouraged by the numerous comments I’ve received from those who’ve read the novel and who say its deeper perspective on conflict provided them with genuine optimism, and even hope, in this challenging, turbulent era.

The lovely Koʻolau Mountains above Kaneʻohe Bay on the island of Oʻahu. During the Hawaiʻi Book & Music Festival Tom and his wife Catherine Robbins were blessed to stay with friends who have long lived above this beautiful bay.