He said a “No Trespassing” sign was the start of his new career in historical fiction writing.
Paul Feenstra, a New Zealand-born-turned-Long-Beach-resident, said he had returned to his native country in 2009 after more than 25 years away, after the marriage to his American wife ended and a job as a television production soundmaster came to a halt.
“I literally had achieved all of my career goals,” Feenstra said. “I no longer felt the edge.”
His goal now, he said, is to become a great historical fiction writer. He’ll get a leg up on it at a 2 p.m. book-signing event this Saturday, Feb. 4, at Barnes & Noble, 6326 E. Pacific Coast Highway.
After arriving in New Zealand, Feenstra said doctors told him he needed to shed some weight, so he took up tennis. He soon ruptured his Achilles tendon, he said, and wound up in rehabilitation. It was on a walk during this rehabilitation he said he noticed the “No Trespassing” sign.
“This is New Zealand,” Feenstra said. “That’s an invitation to enter.”
He said he soon found himself at an old military installation, which he later discovered was a defense site for a possible Russian invasion.
“This became the premise for me writing my first novel (‘For Want of a Shilling’),” Feenstra said. “I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone to know of my failings.”
However, he wrote three more novels, including “Boundary” and “The Breath of God,” both of which published last year. He also authored “Tied to Mae” and is working on a fifth, “Into the Shade.” He said he was unsure the number of books sold.
He returned to America in November 2016 to promote his books, finding a home in Belmont Shore. He said he plans to travel up and down the West Coast first, followed by trips elsewhere in the U.S.
Feenstra said he was surprised Americans enjoyed his Kiwi-based stories, thinking they’d appeal more to his native people.
“People love them to be able to explore other places,” Feenstra said. “And I think that’s rewarding when you’re retelling history. It’s an opportunity for me to look at the facts. I spend an awful lot of time researching. I don’t want to make assumptions.”
Besides discovering the historical military site, Feenstra said he’s made many others. One was a hoax by a reporter in 1873, he said, who wrote an article about the Russians entering Auckland and kidnapping the mayor. The newspaper was owned by the New Zealand prime minister, he said, and it was the reporter’s first month on the job.
“They wanted to draw attention to the Russians being possible enemies,” Feenstra said.
Every discovery leads to another.
“I love it,” Feenstra said. “I can’t get enough of it, to wake up every morning and be able to create. But it’s about the quality. I have to limit myself so I don’t lose the quality.”
He doesn’t see himself doing anything else.
“You’re weaving a story through those events,” he said. “I can inject all sorts of opinion. That’s sort of the fun part.”
Feenstra’s books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other retailers for various prices, but starting around $20 for paperback and $1.99 for Kindle. For more information, visit paulwfeenstra.blogspot.com.
Emily Thornton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.