Title: Squid’s Grief
Author: DK Mok
Genre: Cyberpunk Noir
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Formats: Paperback & Ebook
In the seething metropolis of Baltus City, car-hacker Squid is desperate for a fresh start. She dreams of a normal life and a respectable job, where retirement comes with a pension plan, not an exit wound. Determined to break free from the criminal syndicate that commands her, she agrees to one last heist. But when she rescues a cheerful amnesiac from the trunk of a stolen car, her decision to help him sends her own plans into a tailspin.
Squid and the amnesiac—soon nicknamed Grief—rapidly find themselves caught between warring criminal factions, shadowy vigilantes, and Squid’s own hopes for a better future.
As she investigates deeper into the mystery of Grief’s true identity, Squid begins to uncover a past darker than her own, setting her on a collision course with the enigmatic crime lords who rule Baltus City.
* * *
How often do you hear from your readers and what do they say?
I hear from my readers quite rarely. I assume they, like me, are somewhat shy and very busy soaking up books at their local library and bookstore. Thankfully, when they do get in touch, it’s usually to let me know that they’ve enjoyed one of my stories.
For me, one of the best things about being a writer is hearing that my book brightened someone’s day. Books have always been a sanctuary for me, and I grew up adoring authors like Roald Dahl and Terry Pratchett. Their stories took me on marvellous adventures and allowed me to leave behind my troubles for a few hours. It’s always been my goal to write stories that bring a little levity, a little respite, to others. So when a reader tells me that my book made them laugh or cheered them up, I feel like I’m on the right track.
Is there anything special readers might learn from reading this book?
I usually aim to make my books entertaining rather than educational, although I do have a habit of chasing topics I find interesting. One of the driving themes behind Squid’s Grief is how memory shapes identity. The main character, Squid, is a car-hacker struggling to leave behind a messy past and create a better future for herself. Her unexpected ward, Grief, is a misplaced amnesiac with no clue as to his former life. I wanted to explore the questions of who we are without our memories, and what it means to escape your past.
I’ve always been fascinated by amnesia stories, and at university, one of my favourite books was The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. It’s a brilliant and poignant collection of neurological case studies, and if you’re interested in learning more about how the brain influences our experiences and behaviours, I highly recommend it.
Is there any diversity or underrepresented ideas featured in your book?
I really value seeing diversity in books as well as in the wider world, and we often don’t realise that many kinds of people are underrepresented until our attention is drawn to the fact. It’s something I try to be aware of in my writing, but I know I still have more work to do on this front.
I’m often mindful of gender parity in my books, and Squid’s Grief has roughly equal numbers of female and male characters, both as protagonists and antagonists, in positions of power and of disadvantage.
I’m also a fan of cultural fusion, having grown up in the vibrant, complicated melting pot of Sydney. Squid’s Grief is set in the multicultural metropolis of Baltus City, a place shaped by generations of immigrants. Some of the characters are of mixed cultural heritage, but this is often implied rather than explicitly stated, and I think cultural diversity is something I’d like to feature more prominently in my future work.
In the wider field of speculative fiction, it’s exciting to see more projects championing diversity. The anthology Kaleidoscope from Twelfth Planet Press includes neurodiverse and LGBT teen heroes, and the upcoming anthology Defying Doomsday focuses on protagonists with disabilities and chronic illnesses. One of the most exciting projects I’ve heard about recently is Cleverman, a new science fiction TV series about an Indigenous Australian superhero, featuring an 80% Indigenous cast and set in a dystopian future Sydney.
What is your best marketing tip?
One piece of advice that I value highly is, “be authentic”. Whatever avenue of marketing you pursue, whether it’s interviews, guest posts, conventions, bookstore signings, talks or social media, be genuine about your interests. If you talk about things that you’re passionate about, that energy shines through, and the people who share your interests will click with that. It’s not always about reaching the largest possible audience; it’s about connecting with the people who are most likely to enjoy your work.
That’s probably why I can often be found enthusing about cephalopods, enchanted labyrinths, giant stick insects and spaceships.
If I had to find your main character in big crowd, what descriptions would you use as clues to help me search?
I’d suggest keeping an eye out for a scruffy, nervous young woman who looks as though she’s trying not to lurk. If you manage to make eye contact, she might try to smile – don’t be alarmed if this appears to make her slightly twitchy. If you approach her, she’ll probably dash away down a sinuous alleyway, leaving only the wafting scent of burnt electronics and jam rolls. She may or may not leave a scribbled note on the damp cobbles, reading “Sorry. [Smudged] next time”.
Please imagine and describe the tombstone of your antagonist.
Pearce is the criminal overlord who rules the underbelly of Baltus City. If he had his way, he wouldn’t have a tombstone so much as a monument of godlike magnificence. His idea of an appropriate memorial would probably resemble an amalgamation of the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and Minas Morgul, with pretty much the same level of employee mortality.
What is your protagonist’s favorite animal?
Squid’s favourite animal is the octopus, although she has an affinity for all cephalopods. She likes that they’re impossibly weird, but they seem quite happy about it.
DK Mok is a fantasy and science fiction author whose novels include Squid’s Grief, Hunt for Valamon and The Other Tree. DK has been shortlisted for three Aurealis Awards, a Ditmar, and a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award. DK graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interests in both social justice and scientist humour. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale. Connect on Twitter @dk_mok or find more information at www.dkmok.com.
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