Talk Story Session with Kaui Hart Hemmings

An unpublished manuscript by a fledgling author lands on the desk of a producer. In four years, the movie based on that book becomes the buzz at the Academy Awards and a girl from Punahou School is the toast of the red carpet.

It's a fairy tale silver screen story that could not have been more amazing had it been penned by Kaui Hart Hemmings herself. The author of The Descendants is now back home and will hold a series of readings and talk story sessions open to the public this week. HONOLULU Magazine asked her about flying solo to the Oscars, introducing the real Hawaii to Hollywood, and her favorite new reads.

What were the highlights of being at the Oscars, who did you go with and what were you wearing?

The highlight was The Descendants winning for best adapted screenplay. I went alone (I only got one ticket) and wore a dress by Nicole Miller. I found the best jewelry from Riches in Kahala Mall – Bold and bright and fresh.

It's quite a fairytale story – how your work exploded on the national scene and became an Oscar-award winning movie.  Is it still surreal?

I have been involved in the film version of the Descendants since 2007 so it has very much become a real versus surreal part of my life.  I have moved to Hawaii, I've helped Alexander Payne with his script and pre-production, I've had fun times with friends, dinner with George Clooney, and field trips with my daughter.  I've gone to Africa to adopt our second child, I went to the L.A premiere, the Oscars, then the next day Stroller Strides and My Gym, and so on.  It all blends together to make a life.

We understand that you personally took the film team around Hawaii to give them a feel for the state. Where did you take them and why?

I took the director and set designers to the places I had in mind when writing the book: My grandmother's house, my house, the house I grew up in, all in Maunawili.  We visited a friend's house in Nuuanu (that they used).  I connected them with my aunt in Hanalei (they used her cottages), my husband's law office Starn, O'Toole, Marcus and Fisher, The Outrigger Canoe Club (had to use the Elks), Punahou, and they went to HPA (Hawaii Prepatory Academy).   These were all locations in the novel – they don't represent Hawaii in any way – they're the turf and the world of Matt King. 

Now that you've been through the media whirlwind what are the strangest questions or requests you have dealt with?

Being on Page Six (of the New York Post) was pretty strange. Other than that the questions are always pretty ordinary and repetitive. I'd prefer strange.

HM: What books are on your nightstand right now?

I love a good book. I go through a lot of them and am always reading something. The Rules of Civility was my last favorite.

HM: What is your advice for fledgling authors in Hawaii?  

Read what you want to write.  Be open to criticism.  Rewrite, then rewrite then rewrite some more.

Kaui Hart Hemmings' readings and question and answer sessions will be Friday, at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa as part of the new Guest Artists Program. The sessions are 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. on the newly redesigned Moana Terrace. E-mail RSVPs to Erin Kinoshita at Validated self-parking is available.


Related Links:
Kaui Hart Hemmings beats literary odds
The Descendants: Behind the Scenes
Hawaii at the Movies
Hollywood in Hawaii