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!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.