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!

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