An Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story: Charles Johnson and the Moana Surfrider

An Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story: Charles Johnson and the Moana Surfrider

On any given day at Honolulu Coffee’s Moana Surfrider location, adjacent to the historic Moana Surfrider Hotel, you will find a gentleman sitting with his laptop, a small pile of books and a sidecar, writing to his heart’s content. C.J. Johnson has been a patron of our Moana Surfrider location for quite some time, and we are lucky enough to have made it onto the pages of his collection of short stories, Romancing Waikiki, and his Novel, Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story. We are also lucky enough to be able to sell these books at that very same location.

Two books on the shelves inside the Moana Surfrider cafe

We wanted to ask the author a few questions about his life and his work, to help us get to know him a bit more. We, of course, started off with a coffee question.

You get a sidecar from our cafe nearly every day. What do you enjoy about the sidecar?

CJ: The sidecar is an irresistible three drink combination presented as a work of art in a wooden tray. It includes a small cappuccino with a design in the foam, a shot of espresso, glass of cold Perrier, and is accompanied by chocolate-covered coffee beans. The sidecar demands that you slow down and take your taste buds on a delectable journey. As a writer, the sidecar reminds me that creative writing cannot be rushed, and to savor it as well as the words I write.

Charles' favorite drink, the sidecarHis favorite drink, the Sidecar 

What originally brought you to Hawaii?

CJ: After graduation from college, I vacationed with my young family in Hawaii on my way to a professional position in Australia. I was mesmerized by the warm days in mid-December, gentle Kona breeze, the vibrance of Waikiki, the golden sands; and just twenty-minutes away from a trail through the rainforest to Manoa Falls. I decided then that I would return to Hawaii to live, but it was a decade-long circuitous journey through Australia, Washington, DC and Africa before arriving back in Hawaii.

What was the inspiration behind Romancing Waikiki and Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story?

CJ: People from across America, the Asia-Pacific and Europe come to Hawaii bringing diverse stories about what brought them here. Interviews with visitors at sunset on Waikiki Beach and mornings in Honolulu Coffee gave me ideas for three-dozen romantic stories. Next to the window in Honolulu Coffee, I selected my favorite twenty-one stories for Romancing Waikiki. I wasn’t satisfied with a novel of short-stories, and wrote a full-length novel, Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story to explore in greater depth, the rich complexities of romance and Hawaii. While the exotic settings are real, the romances are works of fiction, laced with threads from real-life stories. I tried my best to infuse the aloha spirit in both of these novels.

Charles and his daughter inside the Moana Surfrider cafe in Honolulu

Have you always been a writer? What got you started or guided you into becoming an author?

CJ: I’ve always been a story-teller, but didn’t turn to writing until mid-career as a geologist/economist when a Harvard lawyer and writer, suggested I try writing a novel. I struggled, and my first attempt at a novel sits unpublished on a shelf where it belongs. As the years passed, writing became easier and more enjoyable, and then became a passion. I’ve published three novels (Reunion Promise, Romancing Waikiki and Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story) and am presently writing a romantic-mystery based partly on my travels in Nepal and Tibet. Many people have told me I’m living the ideal life living in Hawaii and writing novels, and I agree. 

What do you enjoy doing in Hawaii when you're not writing?

CJ: I swim with friends daily, and love to read novels and biographies with meaningful stories. When family members and close friends visit, I enjoy driving around Oahu to revisit my favorite spots, and often spend a few days playing tourist on neighbor islands. At twilight, I usually relax on my 32nd floor lanai and watch the changing colors of the ocean and sky, followed by thousands of lights flicking on in Waikiki hotels—each light representing someone visiting Hawaii with a story to tell.

What else would you like readers (or coffee drinkers) to know about you?

CJ: I was fortunate to have lived with my family in Africa for 3 ½ years as a senior advisor to the Botswana government. I represented the government in negotiating the Jwaneng diamond agreement with De Beers. It was, and still is, the largest diamond mining agreement in the world. I didn’t receive a bonus or diamonds as a reward, but something more memorable—a heartfelt and tearful going away speech by Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe in Botswana’s Parliament.


Do you have any final comments for visitors to Honolulu Coffee?

CJ: On most mornings I can be found with a sidecar in Honolulu-Coffee in the Moana-Surfrider. Regardless of how busy I appear as I type on my laptop, I’m never too busy to stop and meet visitors, and share stories, and give a few suggestions of places to visit on Oahu. Of course, I’m delighted to write a personal note in a novel purchased in Honolulu Coffee.

Charles signing a book inside the Honolulu Coffee Moana Surfrider cafe

Romancing Waikiki and An Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story can both be purchased at our Moana Surfrider Location. Stop by, grab a sidecar and a book, and say hello to our friend and author, C.J. Johnson. 

Can't make it to a cafe? Shop "Unexpected Hawaiian Love Story" on Amazon.


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