Originally published on The Nerd Daily.
About the book: After a career disappointment, a young woman travels to Hawaii where she meets a mysterious man over coffee, and in a moment their lives are irrevocably changed. Moments Like This is the first instalment in the From Kona With Love series that releases March 9th 2021 from Rosewind Books.
Kristoffer Polaha is an actor/producer whose movies include the forthcoming Wonder Woman 1984 and Jurassic World: Dominion. He is popular with Hallmark’s fanbase and played opposite of Meghan Markle in Dater’s Handbook. He is also known for his long starring role in the critically acclaimed CW Network series, Life Unexpected.
Anna Gomez is CFO of Leo Burnett Group, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. Born in the Philippines, Anna is an #ownvoices and diverse author. She was recently named as one of 2020’s top female executive role models by Yahoo Finance.
I’m so inspired about Moments Like This, the first in your new Hawaii-set series, From Kona with Love. Can you tell me a little more about the inspiration behind the story?
Anna: I originally wanted to write a love story that was light and fun and set against the breathtaking backdrop of Hawaii. The first book, Moments Like This, was difficult for me to write at first, just because I had never written something set for a specific audience. Kristoffer entered the partnership just when I was starting to put things together: I wanted a strong protagonist who was multi-cultural and real. And then Kristoffer came in with so many great ideas, plus the fact that he used to live in Hawaii – the book turned out to be more than just a light and fun story. On this, we built a series that is going to be entirely different and meaningful.
Kristoffer: The inspiration behind the story was entirely Anna’s, but she had created this world and filled it with characters that I immediately responded to. It was so easy for me to piggyback on her idea and use it as a launching point for my own contributions, which were plenty having lived in Hawaii, because I have a treasure chest of stories to tell about the islands. Writing this book with Anna became the perfect opportunity to share them.
Anna, what’s it like to write with an actor as a co-author?
Anna: Well, I’ve written a few books under my pen name, Christine Brae. They were more women’s fiction type stories that depicted a journey in different stages of a woman’s life. So, I have that under my belt. I’ve never collaborated with anyone before, let alone opened up anything I’d ever written to someone else until full edits have been complete. So, this is a completely new experience for me. Kris is the ultimate creative – whether he is writing a book, producing a movie, or acting in it. So, the only experience I’ve had with him as an actor, is adjusting to each other’s schedules and trying to make it work! We both recognize that shifting gears from our other careers (my full-time job, his acting, producing) takes some effort, and so far, we’ve really been willing to commit as needed.
Kristoffer, how do you hope to bring the characters of Moments Like This to life on screen?
Kristoffer: About six months before I meet Anna I was shopping at the supermarket and saw books that were being sold alongside of the magazines, mostly women’s fiction, and I took down five names of authors that I was going to cold call and ask if they’d like ever consider collaborating. Over the past five years I have built a wonderful relationship with my audience, an audience that loves women’s fiction, so it seemed like a smart move. Plus, I had recently hung my shingle as a producer and there is no greater advantage when selling an idea then when one owns the IP. If you created it, you own it. But I never made those calls. Then I met Anna and Providence made my dream of collaborating a reality. Once we have a built in Kona Series audience with the publication of our books, turning these stories into films will be an obvious next step, especially for a studio that knows the value of a built-in audience.
You’ve both mentioned how excited you are to work with one another. How did the two of you first meet?
Anna: We were introduced by someone I worked on one of the not for profit Boards I’m involved in, who was Kristoffer’s neighbor. Seriously, when it was mentioned to me that Kristoffer was interested in speaking to me even just about presenting the scripts that I had already written for my previous books – I really didn’t pay much attention to it. One Zoom call later, and we were planning to write five books together. Still don’t know how it happened, but I’m not questioning it at all!
Kristoffer: That’s funny, because I always thought that Anna was the one interested in turning her books into films and that she was curious about talking to me to see if I could help her do that. I think we both owe Javier a debt of gratitude for playing match maker. My neighbor, Javier, mentioned he had a friend who was somehow involved in launching a new romance imprint and asked if he could send me her info. He did, I looked at her past books, explored what Rosewind Books was wanting to accomplish regarding taking IP to screen, and it seemed like all the pieces just fit together. The best part of our story, I think, is that during our very first zoom call I pitched the idea of collaborating with Anna and she immediately said yes. In fact, she told me she was working on a book series and then asked me if I’d like to collaborate with her on all five books! It was my turn to immediately say yes, which I did, but I insisted she take the weekend and think about it and talk it over with her husband, Bill, but on Monday she stuck to her guns and we made it official. The rest is quickly becoming history.
Co-authoring a new book—let alone a new series!—is challenging on its own. Then, there’s a pandemic to throw into the mix. How have the two of you been successfully collaborating during COVID?
Anna: Our collaboration has been pretty great during COVID, obviously because I am working from home and Kris has had to quarantine for weeks while filming his projects. We’ve been quite good about staying in touch weekly, throwing ideas out, writing and making sure we are sharing the same vision. We’re actually well into writing our second book (title is still a secret!) and are doing all we can for a November 2021 release date! I never expected a project as huge as this to be so easy. Most of the time, I forget that we haven’t met in person.
Kristoffer: Agreed, this collaboration is one of the easiest and most pleasurable artistic endeavors I’ve ever worked on. Anna is endlessly open to ideas and very collaborative. We’ve also agreed to throw every idea into “the pot”, not keeping track of who wrote what. It’s as if we are playing an enjoyable game of “writers’ tennis” with each other. She writes a chapter or two then hits it back to me where I build off of what she wrote, then I hit it back to her. If there are things that need to be reworked or sanded down to make the pieces fit, we are both happy to make those changes. And let’s make no mistake, this is Anna’s world, so there is quite a bit that I let her take the lead on. She is whip smart and she’s easy to follow. As for Covid, the pandemic has made zoom a normal thing, which is how we’ve kept in touch the entire time. We zoomed while I was in LA, we zoomed while I was working in the UK, and the same while I’m working in Canada. Our biggest conflict has been keeping track of the time zones and when to schedule our zoom calls.
I have to admit that I absolutely love the book cover! Do you have any insights or perspectives you’d like to share on the inspiration behind the cover art?
Anna: OMG, this cover is definitely a labor of love. We had so many iterations of it and had to pick the perfect one that truly reflected our story. Hang Le did a terrific job, listening to two very passionate people go on and on about their concept – and she nailed it beautifully. The cover is subtle and serene; we wanted our readers to feel Andie and Warren in their moments together and to use their own imagination in visualizing the beauty of Hawaii, Oahu in particular.
Kristoffer: Yes, a lot of thought went into this cover. Hang Le just listened to Anna and I talk for about 45 minutes one day on zoom and came up with two totally different options for us that both spoke to the idea of transporting our reader to a far-off place. My biggest concern was that I was wanting a book that will look beautiful on your bedside stand or the coffee table in your home. This book has had three covers, all were special, but the one we ultimately chose evokes personal memories, has texture, and transports you when you look at it. We also have a special treat planned for the readers who will collect all five books of the series.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.