Last year the Kauai Writers Conference provided scholarships for a number of students and faculty of Kauai Community College. Greg Shepherd, professor of Music and Drama at KCC, was one of them. He just wrote to let us know the impact the conference had on his thriller, Sea of Fire.

Greg took classes at the Kauai conference with Scott Turow and Josh Mohr. Turow is the author of Presumed Innocent and a dozen other legal thrillers that have sold some forty million copies. Josh Mohr, the authors of the highly acclaimed Sirens, All This Life, and Fight Song, was nominated to the conference by one of the students in his Stanford creative writing program. A dozen of his Stanford students came to the conference to study with him.

Greg writes, “The festival last November was very helpful to me on several levels. For one thing, my participation in the various workshops let me know that I was doing most of the right things in terms of getting Sea of Fire placed with a good publisher. Since then I also got a contract for a sequel from Simon and Schuster which will be coming out next year. It’s set at the Tokyo Olympics with North Korean terrorism as the theme.

“Something I learned from Josh Mohr was that I needn’t be all that OCD about setting a deadline for myself. He himself takes three years to write a book, and that was refreshing. I also learned from him (and other panelists) the importance of avoiding adverbs, and using vivid descriptions of characters’ facial expressions and body language, as well as speech patterns, in place of, say, sentence-enders like “…he said angrily.”

“And from Scott Turow I learned the importance of fleshing out the story with multiple layers of character development so that the players are real people and not just exponents of plot points. These were all invaluable lessons.

“Thanks very much again for the great opportunity of participating last year. All of us KCC participants learned so much.”

Here is the publisher’s description of Greg’s Sea of Fire:

A lone wolf spy’s frantic race to prevent a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula while saving the love of his life from a North Korean prison.

In Sea of Fire Patrick Featherstone, a former JSOC sniper is pressed back into service to find CIA agent Tyler Kang who has apparently defected to North Korea with sensitive missile technology. Patrick has been practicing Buddhism in Japan, but finally agrees to find, and if necessary, kill, Tyler Kang despite his Buddhist vow of non-violence.  However, Patrick has a hidden agenda — to rescue the love of his life from a North Korean prison.  Before leaving, he learns of a possible coup at the highest level of the North Korean power structure, a coup which could easily spill over into an invasion of South Korea and a retaliatory nuclear response.  In the end only Patrick is positioned to avert a nuclear disaster of cataclysmic proportions.

With breathtaking plot twists, complex characters, heart-felt romance, and revealing insights into the most mysterious country on the planet, Sea of Fire sweeps from the gulags of North Korea to the corridors of power in Washington.

Greg has led a fascinating life. He spent his early years in New Jersey, London, England, New York City’s Lower East Side, and Honolulu. He lived in Japan for four years studying Zen Buddhism at a temple in Kamakura and was the recipient of a fellowship from the Japanese Ministry of Education for the purpose of researching contemporary Japanese music at Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. He is fluent in Japanese. While a research fellow he traveled regularly to Seoul where he smuggled democracy literature into the country to a group of Catholic nuns and priests who were actively seeking free and open elections. His interest in North Korea dates from that time during which he learned through contacts that the situation north of the 38th parallel was actually far worse than in the south. Sea of Fire is the culmination of that experience as well as voluminous research on North Korea — an unimaginably bleak, brutal, sometimes quirky and always a captivating place.

For seventeen years Greg was the classical music critic and occasional feature writer for the Honolulu Advertiser, Hawaii’s main daily newspaper. He has two master’s degrees in music and is currently a Professor of Music at Kauai Community College where he has taught since 1988. In 1991 he was a three-time champion on the TV game show “Jeopardy”. His memoir, “A Straight Road with 99 Curves” (Berkeley: 2013) received excellent reviews: “Deeply involving, instructive, and capable of touching any reader who cares about the search for meaning.”—Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America “In being so frank about his own struggles and fantasies, Greg’s personal tale becomes something more universal.”—David R. Loy, author of Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution “His portrayal of his brash younger self is a fresh and intensely human portrait compared to the perfect, innocuous paragons of peace ordinarily presented in Zen texts. . . . Shepherd’s memoir transcends its subject matter and serves as a poignant reminder of something more fundamental to the human condition: the continual search for validity and meaning.”?Publishers Weekly “Dug your book, Greg. Dug your version of the ’99 curves’. It’s shone light on mine.”—Jeff Bridges, actor