“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.”
DK Mok Interview conducted by J Lenni Dorner:
What is your favourite visual oddity for a fictional character?
I’ve always had a fondness for Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. While Death’s physical manifestation is the archetypal tall skeletal figure, his eyes are pinpricks of blue fire glowing deep within his sockets, reminiscent of the birth of stars. He’s a character both ancient and artless, and I suspect staring into those eyes would be less like gazing into the universe and more like the universe inspecting you.
What is the most unusual character hobby you have ever come across in fiction?
This has to go to another Discworld character, Apprentice Postman Stanley from Going Postal. Stanley is an intense young man obsessed with pins. He’s a collector, a connoisseur, an aficionado of all things pins, be they “wax-headed, steels, brassers, silver-headed”. Not needles, and certainly not nails.
I’m fascinated by characters who have a passion for esoteric or obscure subjects. I sometimes come across manga with dramatic storylines dedicated to things like bread-making or ancient Japanese plumbing, and I usually find that I come away with a greater appreciation of the complexity of the topic.
In your opinion, what makes a character really feel unconventional?
For me, the most unconventional characters are the ones with a quality, trait or circumstance that I hadn’t realised I had yet to encounter.
Last year, I read Blood for the Sun by fellow Spence City author Errick Nunnally, and the main character in the book is an African-American/Native-American man suffering from a form of Alzheimer’s disease. I hadn’t come across a character like that before, and until I read this book, it hadn’t occurred to me that there should probably be more African-American/Native-American supernatural protagonists coping with neurological diseases.
I think that’s one of the powerful things about diversity in books: sometimes, you don’t realise something is missing until you see it represented.
In your opinion, what makes a character three-dimensional?
Nuance plays a big role in making characters believable for me. In reality, people often have facets and layers, qualities and flaws that come to the fore and recede around different people or in different situations. A righteous character might have moments of pettiness. A cynical one might show flashes of generosity. Good characters often convey the sense that they’ve been shaped by their history as well as by their temperament.
I also have a particular affection for characters who have a sense of humour, whether it’s a flash of wit, a streak of gallows humour, or a touch of the absurd. A glimpse of this always makes a character seem a little more real to me.
What is your main character’s most admirable quality?
Persistence. In Hunt for Valamon, Seris is a reclusive healer who generally prefers the company of books to people. However, when Prince Valamon is mysterious abducted and the empire lurches to the brink of war, Seris is determined to uncover the truth.
As a cleric of Eliantora, he can’t fight, doesn’t like to lie, and most of his friends are of the woodland-creature variety. So, when faced with ruthless enemies and dangerous obstacles, he has to be resourceful, creative, and most of all, persistent.
I’ve always admired people who aren’t afraid to fail, who get knocked down but refuse to stay down, who learn from their mistakes and try again. I love characters who refuse to give up the good fight, and although Seris has his world shaken and inverted, he tries his best to hold onto his convictions, his compassion, and his vow to do no harm.
Is there a way your main character can change the world to benefit other people? If so, what would most motivate him/her to try?
As a cleric, Seris is sworn to heal and comfort the sick, so he’s already committed to changing the world, one patient at a time. Aside from general physician’s skills, he has limited powers of healing granted to him by his eccentric deity, Eliantora.
Seris is motivated by a deep, quiet compassion that’s usually buried beneath his prickly, sleep-deprived exterior. Having been orphaned as a child in the midst of a brutal war, and subsequently taken in by a loving foster family, Seris is compelled to pay forward the generosity he’s experienced. Having known what it’s like to lose everything, he’s determined to alleviate the suffering of others. Even if he’d rather stay in bed with a book.
If your antagonist was there for the creation of the sandwich, what toppings would that character select to place between the bread slices?
Lord Haska from Hunt for Valamon would probably disapprove of the sandwich, what with all the messing about with bread and condiments. However, if pressed, she would probably select as the filling the still-beating heart of her nemesis, although she would, of course, decline to eat it.
Thanks for having me on your blog, J!
Giveaway sponsored by J Lenni Dorner
DK Mok is a fantasy and science fiction author whose novels include Hunt for Valamon and The Other Tree, published by Spence City. DK’s short story ‘Morning Star’ (One Small Step, FableCroft Publishing) was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award.
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.
She’s fond of cephalopods, androids, global politics, rugged horizons, science and technology podcasts, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she could hang out there. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.