At this point of his life, if he wanted, Bill Fernandez could spend time watching sunsets, reading newspapers and going for walks with his wife Judie from their Kapaa home.
Which he does.
After all, he’s worked hard. He’s had a successful professional career. After growing up on Kauai, Fernandez graduated from Kamehameha Schools and Stanford University. He was an attorney and a judge in the California Superior Court. He served as mayor of Sunnyvale, California.
No doubt, he’s earned his retirement.
But instead of relaxing and resting, he continues to push the pace.
The 85-year-old remains involved in many community organizations. He regularly attends luncheons and dinners. He travels. He speaks on Hawaiian history and is frequently a source for those seeking information.
There is one other thing he does well and does often: write.
Fernandez recently released his fifth book, “John Tana: An Adventure Tale of Old Hawaii,” and will be signing copies 6 to 9 tonight at The Bookstore in Hanapepe.
His previous works include memoirs, “Rainbow Over Kapaa,” “Kauai Kids in Peace and War,” and “Hawaii in War and Peace.”
He followed those with his first fiction novel, “Cult of Ku: A Hawaiian Murder Mystery,” whose hero was Grant Kingsley, and continued in the fiction realm with his latest hero, John Tana.
Fernandez describes the story of orphan John Tana thrown off his inherited family farm on Maui in the mid-1800s and struggles to figure out capitalism and Christianity. He gets marked for death by the sugar baron who stole his land and falls in love with a cousin. Honolulu is just as complicated. He meets a king, French girl, and learns lua martial arts. The killer finds him.
His fiction, Fernandez said, is based on real events that were central to the history of old Hawaii, and based on the lives of family members. John Tana is such an example.
“We’re really getting into experiences that my family had when they first came to the island. My grandfather was a Portuguese whaler that jumped ship in Lahaina,” Fernandez said. “You’ll see in this latest story of John Tana about my grandfather and some of the whaling experiences in Lahaina.”
Another grandfather from France worked for the plantations, and later bought some land. But he would lose it when the plantations made it difficult for him to get water.
A little romance is added to the story.
“Because you always have to have that kind of thing in fiction to make things interesting,” Fernandez said, smiling.
Fernandez is working on more books, continuing the adventures of Grant Kingsley and John Tana. In one of them, the story includes a murder case and bootlegging in Hawaii.
“Again, a lot of history that’s rolled into it,” he said.
Fernandez enjoys the creativity that comes with writing fiction, especially after a career as an attorney and judge that required writing what he called, “boring, legal opinions.”
His first book told the story of the hardships faced by his parents and how they came to start the Roxy Theater in Kapaa that turned into a financial success during World War II. That, in turn, set the course for Bill’s path to life beyond Kauai.
His wife, Judie, expressed strong interest in Bill’s history and ability to put words to paper and encouraged him to write more.
“Before you know it, you start writing another story and another story,” Bill said. “It’s become something that, in our old age, turned out to be an exciting, fun time for both of us.”
Judie’s support, he said, has meant everything.
“She is my superwoman,” Bill said. “Judie is my editor, my marketeer, the greatest proponent of what I write.”
Judie said Bill is a “natural born storyteller.”
She watched him share stories with his grandchildren, and saw how he kept their attention. His writing is much the same way.
“He knows how to make it dramatic and tense and bring about a resolution,” she said.
Fernandez said he continues to write simply because he enjoys it and because it’s important to share what he has learned about Hawaii’s history from his relatives.
“I thought it would be great if I could impart some of that information to people that are here now,” he said. “It’s too easy to forget those days. It’s too easy to get complacent in living here on the islands.”
“I really want to tell the stories about old Hawaii,” he added.
The 273-page “John Tana: An Adventure Tale of Old Hawaii” is available at several locations, including The Kauai Museum, the Bookstore in Hanapepe and amazon.com. It is $20.