Q&A with Susanna Moore

Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai’i, out in March from Grove Press, is a small dream of a book—a buoyant, sun-drenched hybrid of a memoir from best-selling author Susanna Moore (In the Cut, Sleeping Beauties, and The Whiteness of Bones). Moore intersperses childhood memories with excerpts from Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, and other tales of the sea. “Reading,” she says, “was—and is—the means to another world, a kingdom of delight and sometimes terror.”

Q: How does the Hawaii of your youth continue to influence you as a writer?

A: Just about everything I do or think springs from longing, an endless and by now almost pleasurable homesickness. My first three novels are love songs to those islands and to my mother—full of grief and yearning for a world that was disappearing even as I sat reading in my grove by the sea.

Q: What books of Hawaii would you recommend to others?

A: As a girl I sat awestruck at the feet of Harriet Ne, author of Tales of Molokai. It was she who used to say “I myself have seen it” after telling a particularly hair-raising ghost story—a phrase that I borrowed for one of my titles. Other books that have been invaluable to me are Shoal of Time by Gavan Daws, Journal of William Ellis, and two edited volumes: The Echo of Our Song and The Legends and Myths of Hawaii.

Q: What place will you write about next?

A: I spent last summer in Japan—it was very hot, very beautiful, and very strange. I’m hoping to write a novel about a young American woman teaching English in Tokyo.