Before he was an award-winning novelist or acclaimed writing teacher, Tom Peek was an “eruption duty” ranger and wildland firefighter at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. These were two of several unique jobs he did to keep bread and milk on the table and paper in the printer—all while gathering experiences that informed and inspired his work.
(L to R) Firefighter, eruption ranger, exhibit writer, Mauna Kea astronomy guide. Tom’s various jobs at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park spanned the period 1990 – 2008.
During his “starving artist” period he also worked as a meter maid in Santa Cruz, California, an astronomy guide on Mauna Kea, an all-night disk jockey on KWXX FM in Hilo, and an occasional piano player at Volcano House Hotel and at other Big Island venues. He later wrote exhibits for the national park’s Kilauea Visitor Center, along with various freelance writing and editing gigs.
As part of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park’s centennial celebration, Tom was invited to tell the “story behind the story” of his novel Daughters of Fire in a May 10th After Dark in the Park presentation, “Inspired by the Island of Fire.” The archived PowerPoint presentation (and the introductions and reading that preceded it) can be streamed at https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn/photosmultimedia/20160510_after_dark.htm. The PowerPoint show begins 25 minutes into the video.
Before his talk, Tom and his wife Catherine Robbins (also a former eruption duty ranger) hiked to the rim of Kilauea to acknowledge Pele and get centered for his talk (left photo by Catherine Robbins). Tom and Catherine received a warm greeting from Ranger Dean Gallagher, coordinator of the park’s award-winning After Dark in the Park program, and longtime program volunteer George Jensen (center photo). Two members of the current eruption crew, rangers John Margolis and Pono Christianson (right photo by Dean Gallagher), stopped by the presentation to offer a warm greeting to the two former rangers.
Before and after the talk, in the lobby of the Kilauea Visitor Center, Tom signed numerous copies of his novel and answered questions about the book, his former park work, and Hawaiʻi.