Interview with Linda Ballou

You’ve done a lot of traveling, which is your favorite place in the world? Why?

Without a doubt the most phantasmagorical place that I have been fortunate enough to visit is the South Island of New Zealand. Experiencing the rich diversity of terrain, and meeting the friendly Kiwi’s who make their country so accessible to visitors remains a wonderful memory. The primordial, subtropical-forests with flora unique to the Land of the Long White Cloud at the base of snowcapped spires striped with turquoise glaciers seems surreal. The fact that you can stop without reservations, rent a kayak and paddle into still waters of an estuary and see hundreds of birds, or rent a jet boat and power up a pristine river valley without another soul in sight is my kind of heaven. I would love to go back and visit uninhabited Steward Island, hike the Milford Track and explore more of this natural wonderland.

You’ve written articles for various travel publications, how did you get started doing this?

I used to have my own horse and together we jumped, did cross-country courses. One day I felt a tingling in my lower back. It was a garden-variety herniated disk that took me to my knees. I had to stop riding, give up my horse and think about it all. By that time, I had the usual drawer full of rejections with a few clips to my credit. My first published pieces were in the horse magazines. I decided to have more fun with my writing. While I was healing I put together a package I could present to outfitters, and joined I still loved to ride in gorgeous country, and I am a writer, so my travel writing career became a blending of all the things I do naturally. I queried a high end guest ranch in Telluride and they said yes! I went and sold the piece I wrote about my incredible experience at the Skyline Ranch to Equus Magazine. I have been hooked on these types of adventures ever since.

If your readers are interested in this subject I have a free download on my Website called How to Make Travel Writing Work for You. In it I give the basic nuts and bolts of what you must do to get started in the field.

You visited the Hawaiian Islands. How did you use this experience when writing Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii: Her Epic Journey?

I was more than a casual visitor to the Islands. I lived for one blissful year on the island of Kauai in 1978. I had just graduated from Northridge University with a degree in English Literature and I wanted to see if I was a writer. I took a job on the local paper interviewing locals. That year the paper was celebrating the bicentennial of Captain Cook’s arrival on Kauai in 1778. This is what originally got me interested in the history of the Islands. It seemed to me as I delved deeper into the subject that historians had given the Hawaiians a bum wrap. This made me want to tell the story from the Hawaiian point of view. Little did I know what a monumental task I had taken on! My novel Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii is the culmination of a 30-year love affair with the Islands.

I read the oldest chronicles on record and have gone to almost all of the places described in the book. I spent a couple of nights in Waipio, the valley of kings, where the bones of great chiefs are hidden in caves. I hiked across the bottom of Iki Crater where I felt the breath of Pele, the goddess of the volcano. I spent time at the Place of Refuge where wrong doers were spared hideous fates. I visited Bishop Museum which houses the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world. I snorkeled in Kealakekua Bay where Cook was killed. To give balance to the story I read Cook’s journal and that of his seaman John Ledyard as well of modern accounts of the great navigator. Since Wai-nani’s best friend is a dolphin I studied dolphin behavior and the mind set of the long distance swimmer. I also studied Hawaiian mythology, legends and lore which are woven throughout the text

Tell us a bit about your book

My novel is fabled history couched in magical realism that combines truth with folklore and myth of a heroic past.

Through the eyes of high chiefess, Wai-nani, you experience the Hawaiian society as it existed when Captain James Cook landed at Kealakekua Bay in 1779; ride the billowing seas with Eku, the wild dolphin she befriends; learn why she loved the savage, conflicted ruler, Makaha; walk with her as she defies ancient laws and harsh taboos of the Island people; share the love she received from all who knew her; and learn how she rose to become the most powerful woman in old Hawai’i.

Even though born into the rank and privilege of the royal class Wai-nani rails against harsh penalties meted out by priests and ruling chiefs invested with the power of gods and the separation of men and women in daily rituals. Her rebellion takes her on a journey that puts her squarely into the eye of a political storm.

She meets Makaha, inspired by Kamehameha the Great, an inward thinking youthful warrior who is prophesied to unite the Hawaiian Islands. This is the beginning of a tumultuous forty-year love affair. Makaha accepts the challenge to end years of tribal wars and gives Hawaii a golden age. Wai-nani stands beside him before, during, and after his rise to power.

Like all Hawaiians, Wai-nani is a water baby finding sustenance and solace in the sea. Her best friend is a dolphin named Eku who joins her on her mythological journey. She listens to the voices whispering in the winds off the velvet green see cliffs lining the shore, fears Pele, the goddess of the volcano in her fiery home and speaks to gods in every rock, flower, and tree. She tells us what was happening in her beautiful world when Captain Cook arrived bringing new weapons and spreading disease in his wake.

Her literal journey follows the rise of Makaha to power, but her more important personal journey takes her to her own truth. She must lift the dragon’s tail from her path; the priests who see her desire for change and fear her. When Makaha dies he makes her prime minister, with equal weight in society as his son. She uses her position and personal power to bring down the 2,000 year old kapu system. Her story ends with the burning of the gods.

What made you pick your publisher Star Publishing?

I decided on Star because it is boutique publishing company that gives a lot a special attention to authors. Owner, TC McCullum, provides a custom illustration for the cover of the books she publishes. I felt that was very important for me because even if people don’t judge a book by its cover they won’t select it off the shelf if they are not initially drawn in. She also fine-tuned my manuscript making sure every detail was correct. There are many Hawaiian words with unique punctuation in the book that most publishers would not have helped me incorporate into the text. I am very proud of the end product and the quality of her work.

Where can people find out more about your work?

Please go to my Website There is a page there dedicated to Wai-nani with reviews, first chapter, reader comments, and a buy button. I have a host of travel articles and photo essays there for visitors to enjoy. In my media room there is information on the different types of talks I have prepared for speaking engagements. These include “How Traditional Hawaiian Values are Being Applied into Today’s World,” “The Secret Side of Paradise,” and “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Ancient Hawai’i, but Didn’t Know to Ask.”

As a busy writer, how do you organize your writing time? Do you write at fixed times? Word count per day?

I confess it is hard to fit all that I am attempting to do in a 24-hour day. I insist on taking care of number one first because without a clear head, heart and mind the work is not my best. I also have set boundaries for my loved ones. They cannot disturb me while I am writing. I have a sign that says “In Session” I hang on my door if they forget. My freshest and best writing arrives in the morning. I read at night about what it is I will be writing about to enlist my subconscious to the task. I review notes over coffee and then head for the keyboard. I resist opening email before writing as it inevitably distracts me from the job at hand. I don’t focus on word count, as much as on a goal for that morning, like editing a rough draft of an article. My attention span is about two hours, after that my writing becomes labored and stilted. I print out what I have done and put it on my reading table for after dinner relaxation. About mid day I go for a long walk, or a hike in the mountains to let my mind relax and breathe in the beauty of the day. I have pretty much stopped watching television in the evenings. I need that time to do my book marketing online. I also sell real estate, so that task gets a large share of my waking hours. I am not in the position yet to give up my day job!

Anything else you would like to add?

Once you get your book published it’s easy to lose sight of your writing discipline. The Internet is a double-edged sword empowering yet insatiable for content. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information and lost in cyberspace. For the first six months Wai-nani was out, I focused on launching the book, but now I am back to my writing schedule and working on getting my travel collection Lost Angel Walkabout out of my drawer and into the hearts and minds of readers.


  1. HI Jo
    Thank you for posting my interview. I look forward to sharing more with your readers on Promo Day in May.
    Linda Ballou


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