Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Awesomesauce Authors: An Interview with DK Mok!

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It’s been four years since Chris Arlin graduated with a degree in cryptobotany, and she’s still no closer to scraping up funding for her research into rare plants. Instead, she’s stacking shelves at the campus library until a suspiciously well-dressed man offers her a lucrative position on a scientific expedition.

For Chris, the problem isn’t the fact that they’re searching for the Biblical Tree of Life. Nor is it the fact that most of the individuals on the expedition seem to be fashionably lethal mercenaries. The problem is that the mission is being backed by SinaCorp, the corporation responsible for a similar, failed expedition on which her mother died eleven years ago.

However, when Chris’s father is unexpectedly diagnosed with an incurable illness, Chris sees only one solution. Vowing to find the Tree of Life before SinaCorp’s mercenaries, Chris recruits Luke, an antisocial campus priest undergoing a crisis of faith. Together, they embark on a desperate race to find Eden.

However, as the hunt intensifies, Chris discovers growing evidence of her mother’s strange behaviour before her death, and she begins to realise that SinaCorp isn’t the only one with secrets they want to stay buried.

Welcome to the blog, DK! Tell us a little about your writer's journey so far:

I spent a lot of my childhood in libraries, and I grew up loving stories and all the fantastic journeys they took me on. That sense of curiosity and wonder led me to getting a degree in Psychology, which fed into my fascination for science and the natural world.

However, my thoughts kept turning towards my love of writing, and after graduation, I decided this was something I had to go after. I’d written stories before, but now I dedicated more and more time to it, after work and on weekends. Short stories, screenplays, novels—most of which will never see the light of day. But I kept writing, got better at it, and eventually wrote The Other Tree.

After many drafts and revisions, it was picked up by independent publisher Spence City, an imprint of Spencer Hill Press. The Other Tree was finally released in January this year, and I feel incredibly lucky to be on this journey.

My second novel, Hunt for Valamon, has also been signed to Spence City and is due out in February 2015.

Okay, let's hear your Twitter Pitch! (140 characters or less.)

Outcast botanist Chris Arlin recruits sardonic campus priest Luke on a quest to find the Biblical Tree of Life—and a cure for her father.

What inspired you to write this book? How is it a book only you could write?

My sister Anne actually gave me the idea. She’s also an author, and an avid reader, and she mentioned one day that she’d love to read a story about people searching for the Biblical Tree of Life. I immediately thought, the protagonist would have to be a botanist and, naturally, she’d need to recruit a priest to locate Eden. The idea kept kicking around inside my head and eventually broke free, having mutated into an action-adventure story exploring mortality, faith and family, with a dash of palaeontology.
I’ve always loved scientist heroes and improbable academics, from Isaac Asimov’s Susan Calvin to cinema’s Indiana Jones. I revel in adventures of discovery and I’m constantly awed by the passion and dedication of real researchers who venture into volcanos, or send robots to distant planets, to see what’s there.
I believe imagination and curiosity can take you on amazing journeys, and I’m fascinated by the nexus where science and fantasy fuse: from contemporary attempts to explain the origins of mythology, to fanciful re-imaginings of the past and present.
The Other Tree was the perfect opportunity to combine all of those things, weaving together passionate academics, ancient worlds, meditations on mortality and purpose, and rollicking adventure.

What's your favorite thing about writing?

Letting my imagination run free. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy and science fiction because I love the sense of awe and wonder they inspire. I love the improbable, the impossible, the quirky and the strange, and I had an absolute blast inventing plants and animals for The Other Tree.

Now it's time to brag a little--What do you love most about your book?

I love character-driven stories, and while The Other Tree is a fun adventure, it’s ultimately a story about two people trying to figure out what they really want. I’m a believer in the Pixar ethos of creating characters who make you laugh and make you cry, or at least make you think, ‘Oh no, is that me?’
I love Chris’s joyful curiosity and her passion for knowledge, while Luke gets to say all the things that someone really should say. They bicker and banter and learn from each other, and, in an alternate future, I can imagine them in a retirement home together, raising havoc.

Who was your favorite character to write? Why?

I have a great affection for all my characters, but Luke was one of the most fun to write. He has such a dour, dry wit, and he’s far too sensible to be on an adventure like this, yet he’s drawn to the same powerful questions that many of us are. He’s a curious combination of irritability and compassion, and it was really rewarding to follow his emotional journey.  

Okay, now a little about you. (And yes, I stole these questions from In the Actor's Studio with James Lipton.)

What is your favorite word?

I don’t really have a favourite word, but ‘euphony’ is a good one. Referring to the loveliness of words.

What sound or noise do you love?

I like the soundscape of local birdsong. Especially the warbling of magpies.

What sound or noise do you hate?

I find certain noises quite distracting, like loud traffic or construction work. I prefer quiet surroundings when I write.

What profession, other than your own, would you most like to attempt?

I’ve always been fascinated by marine biology, as many people are. The ocean is such a diverse and alien environment, critical to the health of our own species, yet still so poorly understood. In particular, I find cephalopods intriguing and charming.

Finally, what's the one question you've always wanted to answer in an interview? (And of course, you have to answer it!)

There isn’t a particular interview question I’ve always wanted to be asked. Although, on airplanes, I’m always hoping the cabin crew will ask me if I’d like more complimentary snacks. My answer is usually ‘yes’.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Dannie!

The pleasure was mine, DK! Wishing you all the book sales!

About the Author


DK Mok lives in Sydney, Australia, and writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories. DK's urban fantasy novel, The Other Tree, was released in 2014 by Spence City, and her short story 'Morning Star' (One Small Step, FableCroft) was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award. DK’s second novel, Hunt for Valamon, is due for release by Spence City in February 2015.

DK grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds, populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour.

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