I began to write Mahu under the title Death in Waikiki. I created a hero, Kimo Kanapa'aka, who was a former police detective, now working as a private eye. He was called in by the manager of a hotel to investigate the suspicious death of a hotel guest.
I wrote about 200 pages and then went to the FIU Writer's Conference in Seaside, Florida. My MFA thesis advisor, Jim Hall, (James W. Hall to you mystery lovers) read and critiqued the first 40 pages. His first question was to ask how many pages I'd written. His face fell when I told him 200.
His next question was, "Why did your hero leave the police force?"
I gave him a jumbled answer about inability to accept authority, and admitted I didn't really know more than that. I said I'd hoped that the writing would tell me, but it hadn't yet.
Jim sadly advised me that I really had to know the answer to that question before the book could succeed. I left Seaside and stopped work on the book. It was another four years before I found the answer to that question and could start to write again.