All posts by Kelly

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With DK Mok

1)  How long would you last in this world?

Let’s see, it’s a magical fantasy world with technological capabilities hovering somewhere around the Middle Ages. To be honest, I don’t think I’d last very long in a world without lots of public libraries, fast internet, and easy access to chocolate biscuits. Then again, it just might be worth sacrificing my laptop in exchange for an enchanted castle.

The world in Hunt for Valamon resembles a medieval society in that the feudal system is commonplace, and adventurers bristle with swords and bows. However, the local cultures tend to be more progressive and diverse, and there’s a good chance that a bookish idealist like me would find a home in a cosy library somewhere.

2)  What was the inspiration for this novel?

There were a number of influences behind this novel, but one of them was my love of fantasy worlds. I grew up playing games like AD&D, Quest for Glory, and Might and Magic. While I enjoyed rampaging through dungeons and slinking through catacombs, over the years, I found myself increasingly intrigued by characters who weren’t typical heroes. The healers, the diplomats, the puzzle-solvers—people of quiet courage and ingenuity.

I decided that I wanted to write a story about a healer who finds himself thrust into an adventure better suited to fighters, archers, and thieves. I still wanted dungeons and catacombs and explosions, but I wanted to see how a healer would handle those challenges.

The idea bubbled away in my thoughts for several years, and when I finally began to write the novel, it had evolved into a darker and more complex story, exploring issues of vengeance, the cycles of war, and the power of compassion. But at heart, it’s a fantasy adventure with a spirit of discovery and hope.

3)  Your other book is sort of intellectual action.  Was this book easier or harder to write?

Every book has its own unique challenges. My urban fantasy novel, The Other Tree, involved far more research—delving into botany, archaeology, and Sumerian ancient history. My latest novel, Hunt for Valamon, required much more detailed plotting in the outlining stages. Being epic fantasy, it has a larger cast of characters, more intertwining story threads, and the arcs are more complicated. Overall, I think Hunt for Valamon was more challenging to write because I also needed to create the history and cultures of that world, although the process was one I enjoyed.

4)  What are you reading now?

I’ve just started reading the second book in the Sorcery Ascendant SequenceBlood of Innocents by Mitchell Hogan. His first book, A Crucible of Souls, won an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and it’s exciting to explore such a richly imagined fantasy world, especially one with an intriguing magic system.

I’m also keen to start on Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix, Fivefold by Nathan Burrage, several FableCroft anthologies, and a precarious tower of to-be-read books.

5)  What are your five favorite books? You can do authors if that’s easier.

I’d have a hard time choosing just five books, so I’ll have to go with authors.

Roald Dahl: I grew up reading The BFG, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach, and I adored the wildly fantastic adventures his characters went on. I loved the way he combined the darkly comic elements with gentler messages about courage and kindness.

Terry Pratchett: He’s one of my heroes, and his books played a significant role in shaping my attitudes and ideals during my formative years. I love the way his books combine quirky humour and entertaining adventures with thought-provoking themes and incisive social commentary.

Isaac Asimov: I discovered his books in high school, and they had a profound impact on me. His stories explore ideas of artificial intelligence, identity, humanity, and civil rights, raising difficult questions while taking the reader on an amazing journey through futuristic worlds.

Oliver Sacks: I first came across his books at university, where The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat was virtually compulsory reading for Psychology students. Not only does he communicate case studies of neurological pathology in a way that’s interesting and engaging, he writes with immense compassion, affection, and respect for his patients.

Emily Dickinson: Well, technically she was a poet, but she told marvellous stories through her verse. She created such surreal and evocative images, ranging from the absurdist to the exquisite.

6)  If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I think every person needs a different book—the book that changes their life, that sets them on a path to becoming a better, truer person. People are so diverse, it’s difficult to pick just one book that’s going to have that kind of effect on a majority of people. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee had that kind of impact on me. In a way, it taught me the meaning of integrity, and that was a lesson well worth learning.

7)  What books are you excited for in 2015?

Books tend to sneak up on me, and I frequently only discover exciting books once they’ve come out, and sometimes quite a lot later. I’m only starting to work my way through Robin McKinley’s early books now.

As for upcoming books, I’m looking forward to the third book in Mitchell Hogan’s Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, as well as FableCroft’s Cranky Ladies of History anthology. I keenly await anything by Terry Pratchett, and I’ve heard rumours of a new novel from him, The Shepherd’s Crown.

I look forward to discovering more exciting books next year, and catching up on all the ones I’ve been meaning to read.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Kelly!

Books To Watch For In 2015: Hunt For Valamon

One of the books I’m most excited for next year is Hunt For Valamon by DK Mok.

Hunt_for_Valamon-cvr-3D

SO GORGEOUS, right? (Errick Nunnally did the cover.)

“When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery.

Reclusive cleric Seris is happily tending to his book-infested temple until he finds himself drafted–for political reasons–to the rescue mission. His sole companion on the journey is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills and her own enigmatic reasons for seeking the prince.

Venturing into the wild, unconquered lands, Seris has no fighting prowess, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. Armed only with a stubborn streak and creative diplomacy, he must find a way to survive outlaw towns and incendiary masquerades, all without breaking his vow to do no harm.

Chasing rumours of rebel camps and rising warlords, dangerous curses and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan soon discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.”

I’m the publicist for this, so I’ve already read it (be jealous) but I know you’ll all love it as much as I did.  It’s out on April 7.

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With Martha Brockenbrough

1)  Team Love or team Death?

I’d root for Love and bet on Death. I don’t want to say too much more than that, of course. When readers encounter my versions of Love and Death, I hope they’ll be surprised. We all have our preconceptions of what love is, and what death is, and what characters based on those two things might be like. I wanted to break some of those preconceptions into beautiful, glittering pieces.

2)  What inspired this novel?

There’s no one thing that inspired it. More than maybe any other book I’ve written, it came out of things I experienced that changed me. I don’t want to yammer on too long, but a 15-year-old girl once told me a story about a boy she loved. When she was seven and he was eight, she was riding her bicycle and broke her leg. He carried her home. The next day, she found her bicycle leaning against her porch. He’d brought it home to her. These two went on to marry each other and have a child together. And I wanted to write about a boy like that, a boy who’d carry a girl home when she was hurting, and then go back for her bicycle once she was taken care of. He was also a boy who intended to love her forever, the kind of heart that is rare. So, that boy inspired the heart of Henry. I was also inspired by a painting I first saw when I was sixteen years old. My high school art teacher, who went on to write the classic ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW, I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN, showed us Picasso’s painting of Guernica. He painted it in a frenzy after the Germans bombed a Spanish village by that name. There was so much anguish in it, and years later, when I came back to look at it again, I learned that images had been hidden in it, including a human skull. That reminded me of a song I’d played at a very intense music camp I attended, Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar. There were secret messages in that, as well. Also, the song had some really beautiful parts, and it left a huge impression on me as I considered the way we not only hide things from ourselves and others, but also in the possibility that there are forces acting on us that we can’t see. All of this sounds kind of heady, I know. But this stuff either came into my life when I was a teenager, or happened to a teenager I talked to, so I felt there would be readers who’d be as into it as I was. Yes, the book also has secret messages in it. No, I will not tell you what they are.

3)  If you were in this book, who would you be?

I am every character in this book. They’re all different, but they all experience things I have felt: overwhelming love, overwhelming self-loathing, confusion, regret, devotion, affection, passion, blindness, clarity, joy, relief. The one I identify with most is probably Death, though. And it’s not just because I killed off my daughter’s favorite character.

4)  What are you reading now?

I’m reading a bunch of things: books about rats, books about gay soldiers in World War II, a crop of excellent YA and MG novels, including HOOK’S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz and FLIGHTS AND CHIMES AND MYSTERIOUS CRIMES by Emma Trevayne. I really loved THIS SONG WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales. And, as always, I’m reading books my friends are working on.

5)  If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?

I always want people to love the books I love, because that means those people are wise, tasteful, and sensible. Alas, some people I love enjoyed books that were not for me, and some of my bitter, bitter enemies and I share appallingly similar tastes in books (kidding about the enemies part). The book I want to make mandatory for everyone is the book that will make them love reading. I want everyone to find that book that reminds them they are not alone in this world. That someone else has felt the same things, wondered the same things, dreamed the same dreams. We all need to find a way to live peacefully and hopefully and maybe sometimes even happily inside our heads, and books can be the magical keys that throw open those ponderous doors. In short, people, read what you love. Keep looking until you find it. Then read some more.

6)  What are your top favorite books? (you can do authors, if that’s easier)

There are authors whose books I will always read: Jaclyn Moriarty, Matt de la Pena, Gabrielle Zevin, M.T. Anderson, Frances Hardinge, Derek Landy, Walter Dean Myers, Jack Gantos, Nancy Werlin, Justina Chen, Robin la Fevers, Lish McBride, Neil Gaiman, A.S. King, e. lockhart, Anne Ursu, Markus Zusak, and Jenni Holm. I am no doubt leaving people off the list. But you know how there are people who never let you down in life, who always answer when you call or write? These authors do that for me.

7)  What books are you looking forward to in 2015?

I am looking forward to finishing the one I’m working on. That is a lame answer, I know. But when I am working on a book, it is no good for me to think about other books coming out. They are horrible, beautiful, magnificent distractions, and I must stay away from them. But I am looking forward to the release of THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH. I am pulling out all the stops. There will be original jazz songs. Swank parties. And swag … see attached photos of prototypes. The contents of the cigar box are a custom-made candle, a leather box of matches, a photo of old Seattle, and a vintage linen handkerchief—all things that figure into the story in some way. I like stuff like this, and hope readers will, too.