A former San Francisco mom, Kaui Hart Hemmings is the acclaimed author of The Descendants and a short story collection House of Thieves. She contributed an essay about her relationship with her daughter to Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writer’s Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond. She has a new addition to her family as they recently adopted her son Leo from Ethiopia. The new film The Descendants, based on her novel, is getting rave reviews. Kaui took a few minutes out of her crazy week of interviews for the Los Angeles premiere to speak with Red Tricycle.
Nicki Richesin: Congratulations on the success of The Descendants. Your brilliant novel (made into a film directed by Alexander Payne and starring George Clooney) just opened. What was it like being on the set with the cast and crew?
Kaui Hart Hemmings: This cast and crew was absolutely top notch. Everyone has their unique jobs, yet it’s all in service of the same goal. There was a lot of fun on and off the set. Parties, dancing, softball, and going to Kauai was quite the experience for all of us.
NR: Most of Alexander Payne’s films (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways) are hilarious and yet sweetly vulnerable and compelling. How did you enjoy working with him on The Descendants?
KHH: I got to see a master at work. I enjoyed his joy, his curiosity. He’s exacting, patient and observant. And a big ball of fun.
NR: You lived in San Francisco when your daughter Eleanor was born. When you return to the bay area, do you have favorite places and parks where you like to hang out with your family?
KHH: The Bay Area Discovery Museum, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio; I have such beautiful memories of those old haunts. It’s such a child-friendly city (until your child reaches a certain age).
NR: You returned to Hawaii, where you grew up, to live with your family. It must be such an inspiring place to live and work. What’s inspiring you the most right now?
KHH: Well lately I’ve been seeing the place I’ve inhabited up on a big screen with actors spewing out words that I wrote. That’s kind of inspiring me to try that again, to capture places and people never seen before and yet resonate somehow.
NR: What are some of your favorite things to do when you spend time with Eleanor and Leo?
KHH: Eleanor is 7. My son, Leo, is 15 months. That’s an age gap, but I find that the beach accommodates age gaps. My perfect Sunday is at Kailua Beach. My daughter and my dog, Bob, boogie board. Fearless Leo charges the water. Friends, food, good sandy fun.
NR: Could you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now?
KHH: I’m working on a book set in a ski resort town in Colorado. Another family light-handed drama set in an idyllic place.
NR: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and best of luck to you with your next novel.
Nicki Richesin is the editor of four literary anthologies, The May Queen, Because I Love Her, What I Would Tell Her and Crush. She lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband and daughter. You can find more about her work on her website.