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Volume 8, Issue 10  |  February 3, 2023Subscribe

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Take Five: Meet Duncan Forgey, Stu News contributor and author of Flyin’ Kai

By AMY SENK

This fall, it came to my attention that one of my Stu News colleagues had a newly published book, and that book was getting stellar reviews. Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale tells the story of a pelican that felt constrained by daily life, so it flew from his Anacapa Island home to the mainland seeking magic, but ultimately witnessed damage that humans have inflicted onto nature. I read up on Forgey and learned he is a sixth-generation Californian who worked in sales, business and real estate management and education along with writing columns and books, and that he lived throughout California before making Hawaii his home. I reached out to him to find out more.

Take Five Duncan Forgey

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Courtesy of Duncan Forgey

Duncan Forgey relaxing in the Marquesas Islands

Q: When did you get the idea to write Flyin’ Kai and what was your process to go from an idea to having a published and well-reviewed book?

A: Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale was written by a 20-year-old USC history major in 1969. The source of inspiration came from the philosophy of the 1960s, plus a highly popular book of the time, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. The characters, plotline and environmental emphasis were created by this idealistic college student with the intent to publish it right away. That student was me. For 53 years, I carried Flyin Kai: A Pelican’s Tale, working on it through three professions in different parts of the country. During that period, I experienced numerous writer’s classes, tutors, conferences and met professionals in an attempt to finish the book. I amended and rewrote the story, time and time again. While on Kaua’i, I updated the language, names and attitudes of the characters to correspond with a more contemporary audience. Even after several writing coaches and three editors, there was still countless hours of self-doubt. Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale was finished at age 71 and submitted to publishers. It was only then that I realized that there were two authors of the book. One, an idealistic college student and the other a wise old man with experience. Flyin’ Kai is appealing to a wide range of readers, from 12 to 80 years old, because of this collaboration of the young and the old.   

Q: Your online bio says you are a “thalassophile” and have a huge interest in the environment. How have you gotten educated and involved in ecological issues?

A: I was blessed to be a child of the ocean – a thalassophile, or lover of the sea. One of my earliest memories is looking at the Pacific Ocean with my great aunt in the early 1950s. Everything about the Pacific has excited, scared and intrigued me from that day forth. My several attempts to move away from the ocean left me incomplete. Add to that the absolute joy of experiencing the Pacific Ocean and Newport Beach’s natural boat harbor allowing us a total sea experience. Surfing, sailing, fishing, swimming and exploring the largest body of water on the planet is the milieu for this book. I have dedicated it to the oceans of the world – “Remember, Only You Can Save the Seas.” My entire youth was spent in Newport Beach. It was a time when hunting and fishing were not to feed the family. Our number of kills and the size of our conquests were extremely important for a youngster transitioning into adulthood. The lives of nature were not relevant.  At age 8, I shot at and accidently hit a beautiful red tail hawk cruising high in the sky. This kill created an immediate sense of guilt because it was so senseless. In my teens, I fished with my Newport Harbor High School buddy on his father’s boat. A group of us set out to catch marlin and become a man. That day, I was the only one that hooked up. Therefore, it was my chore to reel the fish. After a moderate fight, the marlin turned out to be a young mako shark. I pulled it aboard, and the 19-year-old skipper handed me a baseball bat with a large nail protruding from it. Kill it, kill it!” my friends chanted, and proceeded to do so. As I hit the shark over and over, its eyes stared into mine, as if to say, “This is not a fair fight – Let’s take it overboard.” That same feeling of guilt hit me for a second time. When I stopped hunting and fishing, other species – dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, turkey and even an alligator taught me a key lesson. If one looks into their eyes, you can see their soul. Nature’s critters and lifeforms come from a life source shared by humans. 

Take Five Duncan Forgey book cover

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Duncan Forgey’s “Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale” appeals to a wide range of readers, from 12 to 80 years old, because of the collaboration of the young and the old

Q: When did you move to Hawaii, and what are the big differences in your life in Hawaii compared to Newport Beach?

A: Living in California, I witnessed the disappearance of some of the most beautiful lands and creatures on the planet. As kids, we celebrated great numbers of sparrows returning to San Juan Mission and thousands of monarch butterflies traveling through town on migrations. We witnessed road runners in the Back Bay, burrowing and barn owls and desert tortoises within a half day’s drive. While at Horace Ensign, we even rowed a boat into the turning basin in order to get a close look at a killer whale in Newport Harbor. We loved the Catalina Island Channel because it was one of the most fertile breeding grounds in the world. We knew intimately exciting species of birds, insects and critters, no longer living in the OC. It was difficult to leave California after six generations of my family being there. But time had passed me by, and I thought there may be some place different. For me, it is Kaua’i, Hawaii. On my latest promotional tour to Newport Beach, I had a blast. Searching out dear friends and introducing them to Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale was a fabulous time because I miss them.

Q: Are you working on your next book? 

A: My second book was started decades ago by that same young writer. It is a fictional novel tracing SoCal and Newport life from the days of the Native Americans to the present. There is also a third book that is a compilation of articles written for Stu News Newport, Orange County Register, L.A. Times and Coast Magazine. This book follows local neighborhoods and lifestyles through articles and photography. 

Q: What’s been your favorite review, and what advice do you have for an aspiring author?

A: Of all my reviews; I am thankful for the Kirkus Review, which is one of the most prestigious in the industry. But my favorite reviews come from a wide range of readers, ages 12 to 80. It excites me to hear them use words like enjoyable, profound and fun when describing the book. In these days of dark and dystopian books, Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale walks softly, but carries a very big stick. Currently, Kirkus Reviews is working with me to get Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale ready for Christmas. Being a new author, I need help getting the word out. The best advice I have for writers is to stop using the term “aspiring” when thinking about yourself. New authors need to be and think like writers and then work exceptionally hard to make a complicated transition to an author. I am happy to share my experiences and advice.

Editor’s note: For more information or to purchase “Flyin’ Kai: A Pelican’s Tale,” visit Duncan Forgey’s website at www.duncanforgey.com. The book can be bought through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Dorrance Publishing.

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Amy Senk is a long-time resident of Corona del Mar and a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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