Maui Arts & Entertainment

“Descendants” Author Kaui Hart Hemmings Discusses Books, Maui

January 15, 2013, 4:48 PM HST
* Updated January 16, 11:45 AM
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By Vanessa Wolf

Kaui Hart Hemmings at the 2012 Writers’ Guild Awards. Courtesy image.

Hawaii-born Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of “The Descendants,” will be on Maui this weekend as a keynote speaker at the first annual Aloha Writers Conference in Kapalua.

“The Descendants” focuses on Matthew King, a wealthy Hawaiian land trust administrator. His missionary ancestors purchased large amounts of land on Kauai and one married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. The novel focuses on Matt’s relationships with his daughters, his comatose wife, and the challenges of deciding whether to preserve or develop the family-held land.

Hemmings took some time out of her schedule to talk with us about her best-known novel, the 2011 movie of the same name starring George Clooney, and her favorite things about Maui.

Maui Now: When you were writing “The Descendants,” did you have any particular actors in mind for the varying roles? 


Kaui Hart Hemmings: Yes, in a way. I gave them a list of names for the roles of Matt King’s cousins; people I knew who I thought would fit. I didn’t realize they’d take my suggestions.


MN: When you saw the film, did you feel it captured what you were trying to say/communicate in your book?

KHH: I had the privilege of watching the film grow up: location scouting, auditions, script, filming, even acting, if you could call it that. So while the very faithful adaptation wasn’t a surprise, the end result was no less majestic. It captured the novel – yet more importantly – it was a great film.

MN: You were born and raised on Hawaii Island. You live on Oahu and have family ties in Kauai. Do you have any childhood memories or relationship with Maui?


KHH: I haven’t spent as much time on Maui as I have on Kauai, the Big Island, and obviously, Oahu. Makawao, Kula, Haleakala, and Hana are so trip-worthy (and yet to get my whole family there is so expensive).

I love that arts and culture on Maui seem to be really thriving. One of my favorite local artists, Abigail Romanchek, is from there, Melissa Chimera–whose work I really admire–has a studio there, and Rebecca Walker regularly runs a terrific writer’s workshop.

During my last visit, I stayed at the Hotel Wailea, a super cool boutique hotel, and had one of the best dinners ever at their restaurant, Capische? We went to the Taste of Wailea, which overlooked the outdoor screen at the film festival. As I’m saying this, I realize I need to visit Maui more often!

MN: What are you working on right now?

KHH: A novel set in Breckenridge, Colorado

MN: Last up, a question only locals and regular visitors are truly equipped to answer: loco moco, halo halo or Spam musubi?

KHH: Sorry, but none of the above. Fresh fish, local vegetables and red wine here.

The Aloha Writer’s Conference runs this Saturday through Monday, Jan. 21 at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua. Space is still available and registration is $795.

Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (

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