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After a romantic breakup 10 years ago, James Confer felt the need for a change of scene. The suddenly single economics major packed his bags and boarded a plane for Maui. Now he’s back on the mainland, working as a calendar clerk in the San Francisco office of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. But his time in Maui wasn’t wasted — it culminated in his first novel, which is now on bookstore shelves. Confer spent a decade exploring the Hawaiian islands and studying their unique geology. The result was “Pele’s Atlantis,” a 350-page adventure romance that takes place on the island of Hawaii. The title is a reference to the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele and to the mythical lost city of the sea. It’s not exactly “Dante’s Peak,” says Confer, but the book features plenty of action, passion and volcanic activity. Since the book hit store shelves, Confer, a bespectacled calendar clerk with a passing resemblance to actor Rick Moranis, has become a minor celebrity at McCutchen. “Everybody knows me by name now,” he says. So many of his co-workers have picked up a copy of “Pele’s Atlantis” that the closest bookstore to McCutchen’s downtown San Francisco office is out of stock. “We get a lot of attorneys that go to the islands — that have time-shares there — so they can relate,” Confer explains. “A couple people have said they were going to read it when they go on vacation.” Confer finds inspiration for his writing by devoting himself entirely to his subject. While working on “Pele’s Atlantis,” he researched the scientific peculiarities of the Hawaiian islands, taking classes at the University of Hawaii on subjects like tectonics and astrophysics, and interviewing scientists at the island’s volcanic park. It’s not surprising, then, that his next novel, also in the romance genre, will take place at a San Francisco law firm with a female attorney for a protagonist. In his two years at McCutchen, Confer has learned a great deal about the intricacies of the legal system, as well as about life at a law firm. Besides providing material for his novel, Confer says McCutchen is a great place to work, with a real “family kind of atmosphere.” In fact, Confer does not necessarily view his writing and legal careers as mutually exclusive. “I like the reality of McCutchen and the fantasy of writing,” he says. Balancing the two jobs is not that difficult. Rather than keeping to a strict, daily schedule, Confer writes only when the mood strikes him. Often, he’ll tap out several pages in the early morning, before reporting to work.

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