COURTESY OF TIMARK HAMILTON
John Saul will speak at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival this weekend. Saul writes psychological thrillers and has penned more than 30 books.
Going from temp typist to best-selling author
If you ask John Saul about his early career as an author, he chuckles, seemingly amazed to have overcome the roadblocks and pitfalls of his journey.
'A Celebration of Story and Song'
Hawaii Book and Music Festival
Place: Honolulu Hale
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Call: 589-BOOK or visit hawaiibookandmusicfestival.org
Hawaii's book market
» Hawaii is the largest regional publishing center in the world.
» There are more bookstores per population in Hawaii than anyplace else in the United States. Oahu will have six superstores this year.
» Borders Waikele sells more children's books than any other bookstore in the country.
Source: Hawaii Book
and Music Festival
"Starving writer" are the words Saul used to describe his early career. "I was writing books that no one wanted to publish," he said. "I had no other marketable skills. So, it was either become a successful writer or starve."
Saul will attend this weekend's Hawaii Book and Music Festival to speak, sign books and meet fans. He is scheduled to speak at noon Sunday.
The author is firmly established in the niche of plot-driven psychological thrillers, but success was not instant. In the '60s, Saul worked as the first male Western Girl, a typist who was popular with employers and was sent on the best assignments.
He recalls walking into his first job at the symphony association in San Francisco. "I said 'Hi, I'm John Saul. I'm your Western Girl.'" Later, he was the only male featured in yellow-page ads for Western Temporary Office Services. "The other two girls in the photos were professional models," he laughed. "I was the only real Western girl."
In 1977, his luck changed. After writing about 15 "practice books" that flopped, he came out with "Suffer the Children," which has sold more than 3 million copies. Saul has now authored more than 30 books.
"Writing best sellers is my job and it is a challenge," he said. "If I can convince people that it really could have happened, I'm satisfied."
Fans often send letters noting that his stories have led them back to books and the enjoyment of reading. That kind of feedback keeps him going.
His titles include "Perfect Nightmare," to be released this month; "Suffer the Children" (1977, his first novel); "Black Lightning" (1995); and "In the Dark of the Night," set for release during the summer.
Saul lives six months out of the year on the Big Island. His newest book, "In the Dark of the Night," is due in July or August; his "Perfect Nightmare" comes out in paperback this month.
"Once I finish one book, I've already started another one," he said, although he doesn't comment on books that haven't been released. He said he doesn't want to give away plots or set specific expectations. "And, I make it all up as I go along."
Although his works are often categorized with those of horror writers Stephen King and Dean Koontz, Saul considers his books in the genre of thrillers, and he'd actually prefer to be writing international spy thrillers.
"Once you are pegged in the publishing world, it is hard to get out of it and do something different," he said. "My audience has expectations ... expecting to be kept up all night on pins and needles."
Writing aside, he does find time to play -- a lot of bridge, golf, traveling and reading.
"I'm addicted to sudoku. I really need to kick that addiction. It takes way too much of my time. I spend at least two hours a day."
SAUL will be among 200 authors and musicians at this weekend's book festival. "It's a unique opportunity for fans of individual authors and performers to see them in person and even talk story with them a little," said Blair Collis, festival chairman and senior director of marketing for the Bishop Museum.
Between 200 and 250 titles relevant to Hawaii are released each year, he added, so the festival hopes to have a little of something to suit all tastes.
Beyond the books, there will be performances of hula, slam poetry, storytelling, comedy and music from Brother Noland to the Girlas. A keiki reading room will feature local children's authors, including Tammy Yee, Yuko Green, Lisa Matsumoto, Michael Furuya and Patrick Ching.
A wellness pavilion will feature programs such as partner yoga and natural health choices for women. Local celebrity chefs on hand will include Sam Choy, Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi.
Would-be writers are welcome to "Pitch the Publisher" in an event sponsored by the Hawaii Book Publishers Association. Hopeful authors will have 15 minutes to pitch their project to Hawaii's leading publishers and gain feedback. Sign up for a time by calling Angie Britten at 732-1709.
Proceeds will benefit Hawaii Literacy and Read to Me International.