Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Writer Teschner's thriller pits Indigenous family against billionaire

Photo of John Teschner and the cover of his second book "Valley of Refuge."
Pure Akua Photography via Macmillan Publishers
Duluth writer John Teschner and his book "Valley of Refuge."

Duluth writer John Teschner's new thriller is a timely story about a fight over ancestral land in Hawaii.

Born in the Commonwealth of Virginia and having lived all around the world, John Teschner now lives, teaches and writes in Duluth.

Aside from writing, Teschner has quite a resume, working as a newspaper reporter, professional mover, ropes course instructor and grant writer. He’s also ridden his bike across the country and served in the Peace Corps.

In a recent What We’re Reading conversation, Teschner admits that writing didn’t come easy.

Though he was a big reader and had long imagined being a writer, it wasn’t until college when he took a creative writing class and was stunned by how hard it was.

“Dialogue? Plot? I was out of my element,” Teschner said.

After college, he kept with his writing, and even though it took several years to finish, his first novel Project Namahana was published in 2022 by Forge Books, a subdivision of Macmillan Publishers.

Teschner brings a perspective to his writing gleaned from living in Hawaii for several years and from serving in the Peace Corps in Kenya. These experiences informed both Project Namahana and his new book Valley of Refuge.

"What does the billionaire do when a local family is preventing him from having what he wants? What does someone without power do when someone they care about is threatened?"
Writer John Teschner on his new thriller "Valley of Refuge"

Valley of Refuge is a high stakes thriller that features a fight over ancestral land in Hawaii between an indigenous family and an outside developer, who also happens to be a technology billionaire.

Teschner notes the real-life contrast in the story of being connected online, but disconnected from people in our community.

“What does the billionaire do when a local family is preventing him from having what he wants? What does someone without power do when someone they care about is threatened?” Teschner posited.

Valley of Refuge was released just a couple of months after the devastating firestorm that burned through Maui in August. Teschner’s time in Hawaii helped him develop an understanding of and compassion for the Indigenous people of the islands.

Teschner noted the land on the islands is growing increasingly expensive and residents are severely restricted in their ability to move.

“How many are going to be able to stay? I really worry how this is going to push more and more Hawaiian people out of Hawaii.”

Looking for a good book recommendation? Want to recommend a book you've just read? Check out our What We're Reading page on Facebook, or text us at 218-326-1234.

What We're Reading is made possible in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

Stay Connected
Tammy works at Bemidji State University's library, and she hosts "What We're Reading," a show about books and authors.