I came to know about Terry Ho and his work about the same time I saw Joyce Chng’s work get published. Before ‘The Crown of Earth’s Desire’, the thought of an epic fantasy set in Singapore was almost unheard of - after all, whatever happened in Singapore?
This time, I got to sit down with Terry and pick his brain (and fictional time machine) on his processes and his characters’ adventures through the land of Turasik.
When we first met, The Crown of Earth’s Desire was probably one of Singapore’s first few epic fantasies. How did it feel to tackle a genre that continues to be heavy - did you already have a story in mind?
As a child, I was particularly drawn to myths and legends from around the world. Greek and Norse myths were among my favourites. The Fantasy genre is probably closest to Mythology – I grew up on a diet of Tolkien (LOTR), Eddings (Belgariad), Feist (Riftwar), among others. Naturally, it has also been my inclination to write Fantasy.
When I conceived of The Forbidden Hill Chronicles, I didn’t have a fully fleshed-out story in mind – just a story arc and some themes and settings in mind. This is not unusual for writers embarking on fiction projects, as I learnt from the interviews of several well-known authors.
The basis of this story is significantly different from the histories many of us learn as well. How was research like, considering how our colonial history seems to be more prominent when it comes to access and research materials? Were there also advantages and challenges when it came to applying context but also keep true to the story of Turasik?
I didn’t actually do much research for the book. Pre-colonial Singapore / Temasek has always fascinated me, and since I wasn’t writing historical fiction, I could just loosely draw on local folklore. Along the way, I picked up nuggets of information about archipelagic Southeast Asia – traditional architecture, customs, trading practices, etc. – which I tried to adapt and incorporate into the story where appropriate. However, the book isn’t intended as an accurate depiction of life in 14th Century Temasek.
Each book shows points of view from each main character - Anna and the merpeople, Vijay’s clairvoyance (SPOILER ALERT). Was there any mythology you particularly had fun exploring and why?
I particularly enjoyed exploring the local and Southeast Asian elements through this series. Much of High Fantasy can be traced to Western myths and classics, so it was exciting to bring tales from our part of the world to life in a Fantasy setting. While The Forbidden Hill Chronicles also borrows from the mythology of other cultures (Norse, Egyptian, Chinese, to name a few), local legends remain at the core of this series.
Who would you rather have be your PhD advisor? Dr. Haw Meng Kah or Royal Mage Corai? Why?
The Royal Mage of course – child-like enthusiasm over a brooding presence anytime.
How about bodyguards - Makal or Muqa?
Makal – for conviction and loyalty!
The Forbidden Hill Chronicles is set to see another two books join the series (after The Crown of Earth’s Desire, and The Sceptre of Sea & Sky) - without too much of a spoiler, what can we expect?
A kaleidoscope of mythological themes, fantastical settings and, of course, magic! And a progressive revelation of the protagonists’ true nature – how each individual’s struggles and choices matter in the overall cosmic tug-of- war.
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
I invite you to immerse yourself in a fantasy world different from, yet similar to our own – a world of vengeful spirits, powerful wizards, haughty rulers as well as fallible human beings. Books 1 and 2 of The Forbidden Hill Chronicles are available on Amazon. Please visit my Facebook page!
Terry Ho is the author of The Forbidden Hill Chronicles, The Manic Memoirs of Terry Ho and other works he’d rather not disclose. A Singaporean of Peranakan heritage, he has lived and studied in Singapore, the UK, US and France. Find out more about his works here.
And I’ll see all of you next month with a new storyteller!
A few years back, I gave myself a mission to introduce my youngest maternal cousin (who didn’t like reading at all) to local authors and fun stories. I started with Sherlock Sam, then DimSum Warriors. And as she takes her PSLE this year, I was scouring the market for something she could enjoy, and relate to as a person who is about to go on a few changes in her life.
Enter Mount E.M.I.L.Y.
Set at Mount Emily Girls’ School, the series zooms in on best friends Patsy and Elena. In a spot of adventure, the girls find themselves transported almost three decades into the past, and trapped in the bodies of their mothers. Do they find their way home? Or do they end up losing their identities and friendship?
The book presents a fast-paced adventure, egging you to turn each page to satiate your desire to know what happens to these two girls next. As a story reader (a.k.a. A person who reads for the story rather than the language), this appeases me. At the same time, I know my cousin can go through this without getting bored with overly descriptive exposition.
At the same time, it tugs at the heartstrings, with Patsy’s inner struggles in the face of her longtime best friend. Issues like the questioning of keeping their friendship with two separate and often-clashing personalities - with Elena being the popular one, often expecting Patsy to be available and committed 24/7, but often ignoring Patsy for her other friends once the former presents herself to be less than enthusiastic. These are common issues teenagers face and it was comforting to know that the characters were not all just smiles and giggles.
But before I leave you, there has to be a shoutout to the various references Low managed to slip into the story - pay phones, the old Bras Basah Complex, and of course (and most importantly), A&W. I’d go back in time just to have my Coney Dog and Curly Fries at the A&W Ang Mo Kio branch, so I’d understand why at least one of them would want to stay in 1987 for a while.
The entire series spans Patsy and Elena’s lives in Mount Emily Girls’ School - with each book for each year that they were in Secondary School. Will Patsy and Elena stay best friends and graduate together? Start with Mount E.M.I.L.Y. and find out!
The Mount EMILY series is written by Low Ying Ping and published by Epigram Books. You can find out more about the series here.
Today, on "Writing Challenge on Jo's Blog", we'll make this dialogue short and sweet.
The Mission: Write a dialogue-only piece with the theme Starlight and an acoustic guitar and You just don't get it.
The Added Challenge: Let's see if I can write this in 15 minutes.
Cradled Cats and Tarnished Spoons
"Here it is, sweetheart, the beauty herself."
"Say, where did you find out about the Starlight? This was recommendation-only."
"My father was in the music industry."
"A comrade, then?"
"Perhaps I've heard of him?"
"Alright then, tell you what, I'll take five hundred off the asking price, and throw in the trimming kit for free."
"For the strings?"
"The wood. 25 years old and still growing, you'd think the trimming will have you give up this work of art quickly but once you hear her sing, you'll know it's all worth it."
"Sounds like something you'd do for your kids."
"Pah! Never had the time nor the style to have them."
"You never had kids?"
"Them screaming buggers who have no appreciation for anything but to ask you for money? Not my thing."
"If you want, you can hold on to it while I get you the case."
"That wouldn't be necessary."
"Huh? You kids need to take care of these things!"
"You still don't recognize me?"
"So this was what took you away from us. This should be easy."
"...and the cat's in the cradle and a silver spoon... Silver spoon? As if."
And with three minutes to spare! Thanks for reading guys, tuned in for next month's writing challenge!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.