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 inoperable cancer, 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.
Title: The Other Tree
Author: DK Mok
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Publication Date: January 2014
Please welcome DK!
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved stories, and some of my strongest childhood memories are of the visits my family would make to the local library. I remember the wonder and excitement I’d feel as I walked past shelves and shelves of fantastic worlds, all waiting for me to visit. I’d love to spend the rest of my life spinning worlds for other people to visit.
How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
It varies a bit, but it usually takes me somewhere from a few months to a year. I tend to do a lot of plotting these days because I love writing stories with multiple plot threads and lots of character arcs, and although this means I take longer to finish each project, I find that I’m far more satisfied with the finished stories.
How do you come up with themes for your stories?
I have a backlog of stories I can’t wait to write. I’m fascinated by scientific curiosities, fantastic legends, mind-blowing technology, and exhilarating adventures—I’m always jotting down notes for future books. The idea behind The Other Tree was actually triggered by a comment my sister made: she mentioned that she’d like to read a book about people searching for the Biblical Tree of Life, and I thought, that sounds like an invitation for a rogue botanist to have an awesome adventure.
Do you have a schedule of when you write?
I write most evenings and weekends, but I also carry a pen and paper wherever I go, so whenever I have a spare moment, I can work on my projects instead of playing Fruit Ninja.
How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
Balance, yes… I’m afraid my scales are decidedly lopsided sometimes. An author I admire once said, ‘family, career, health—choose two’, and unfortunately, it can be a juggling act. Ultimately, my advice is: know your priorities, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and if you try to subsist on instant noodles, you will develop scurvy.
What elements do you think make a great story line?
There are so many different kinds of great stories, from breathtaking adventures to delicate studies. Often, good stories have conflict, authenticity, solid pacing and a sense of stakes, but there are exceptions to every rule. For me, characters are the linchpin. I can forgive a great deal if the characters draw me in and make me care. I also love stories with touches of humour—it’s such a mercurial part of the human experience, but it’s an important one.
What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
I think self-doubt is always the hardest part. If you believe in your writing and your book, you can weather the rejections and the disappointments and the endless obstacles. But once you start believing there’s no place for stories like yours, then doors you haven’t reached yet will already start closing. Persistence is one of the most powerful assets a writer can have.
How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
The Other Tree is my first published novel. I’ve written a second novel—a stand-alone epic fantasy—and I’m currently working on my third and fourth books. Each novel is a story I’ve been desperately wanting to write, so I can’t really pick a favourite. They all mean something special to me.
Do you have a favorite character?
I love quite a few of my characters for different reasons, but Luke from The Other Tree has to be one of my favourites. He’s an improbable combination of cranky, wry and compassionate—I love just throwing stuff at him—and he gets some of the best lines.
Where do you write?
I do most of my writing in my study, but I tend to scribble down notes wherever I am.
When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
There are so many publishing options these days: traditional print, digital first, self-publishing, or a combination of these. It’s an exciting time to be a writer. I still love printed books, so I tend to be drawn to publishers who have a presence in the printed market. Also, because my parents don’t use much digital technology, it means a great deal to me to be able to give them a physical copy of my book. I’m also very fortunate that the lovely people at Spence City (publishers of The Other Tree) really connected with the kind of story I was trying to tell.
Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
My sisters are often my first beta readers, and they’re always very constructive and supportive. My parents haven’t read The Other Tree yet, but I’m hoping they’ll enjoy it.
What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
Reading! For fiction, I lean towards fantasy and science fiction. For non-fiction, I gravitate towards psychology, natural history, and sociopolitical analysis. I also have my regular posse of podcasts which I love to listen to, including Science Friday (NPR) and Click (BBC), and I have a fondness for visiting rambling slices of wilderness.
What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Start writing and keep going. If you’re passionate about it, if you have stories you want to tell, if you believe you’re contributing something positive to the world, then persist. Work on your craft, learn to take critique, always be professional, and most of all, write, write some more, and keep writing. There will be good days, and there will be not-so-good days, but only those who persist will make progress.
What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
One of my favourite authors is Terry Pratchett. His work can be simultaneously funny, profound, incisive and moving. His books have had a considerable impact on me as a writer and a person, and I aspire to create stories that connect with my readers in the same way that his stories connected with me.
Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
I tend to be on the shy and introverted side, but over time, I’ve tried to become more involved with various writing communities. I’ve met a lot of fantastic, talented people, and made some great friends, who are always happy to give advice and support.
Are you working on anything now?
I’m usually working on several projects at various stages of completion. At the moment, I’m polishing a noir mystery novel with touches of cyberpunk, and I’m deep in the architecture of an epic fantasy trilogy. It’s really exciting to see each project taking shape, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Brooke
Thanks so much for stopping by! It was great having you here and hearing what you have to say! Good luck!
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. Her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.