Today, we are going to be wrapping up our initial phase of interviews. It’s been an interesting sidestep, and I love the idea of Otherworld. I hope that we get to continue down this path, interviewing other purveyors of fantasy. While Tellest strives to grow, there are plenty of other incredible universes out there that deserve just as much attention.
We end this trifecta with the wonderfully able storyteller Ken Lim. His work takes a cue or two from the lectures of Brandon Sanderson, where he pushes the boundaries of the setting. The Starfall Knight was a fantastic read, and I hope many of our readers get the chance to experience it!
Tellest: The Starfall Knight takes place in a very interesting setting. These floating islands are more than just aimlessly floating land masses. They offer interesting new occupations, elements and more. What made you think to utilize the aerocks as a locale for your story?
Ken Lim: I’ve been a reader all my life, with my favourite genre being fantasy, but it struck me that almost every fantasy story was set on an Earth-analog — a spherical world, Earth-like conditions, and so on. On the other hand, sci-fi, horror and weird fantasy were more likely to push the boundaries of a setting. After watching an early writing lecture by Brandon Sanderson where he mentioned the same sort of notions, I knew it wasn’t just me being contrarian.
Until The Starfall Knight, I’d written my own fair share of generic fantasy, so I decided to create a handful of settings where the world was different and the supporting ecological system was reasonably plausible. The idea of floating landmasses caught my imagination and it led to the creation of world of the Starfall Knight.
T: The story you’ve crafted can afford to be fairly cinematic because of that change in locale. Would you recommend that other fantasy writers consider placing their stories in a peculiar setting as well?
KL: The big advantage of writing is that we’re only limited by our imagination and our ability to convey our ideas to readers. Having an unusual setting or culture is one of the features of sci-fi & fantasy so I’d highly recommend pushing the envelope in that aspect.
T: Sanderson has become a huge part of fantasy writing in recent years. Do you find that his lectures and support are a good place for novice fantasy storytellers to begin studying that realm of imagination?
KL: At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, novice writers have incredible resources nowadays. Brandon’s lectures bring together a large portion of the writing and craft advice that only 10 or 15 years ago would’ve required an inordinate amount of time to find. The internet of the late 90s/early 2000s was a much different place!
T: You have a second full-length novel out now as well, called The Steelbound Sun. Does it connect in any way to The Starfall Knight, or is it just good, standalone fantasy?
KL: The Steelbound Sun’s setting was the next most interesting setting from the batch that I’d brainstormed, so it was the next one that I wrote. While The Steelbound Sun can be enjoyed as a standalone book, there’s a little surprise for readers of The Starfall Knight.
T: There is some mystery there at the end of The Starfall Knight regarding a couple of the characters. Without giving too much away, would you say that The Steelbound Sun offers up some answers as to their whereabouts?
KL: I’ll just say that the answer can be inferred from The Steelbound Sun. The next installment will be out later this year.
T: Beyond your two novels, you’ve also worked on a series of shorter stories in a series called The Fae Liaison Initiative. Since you have experience working with both, which length do you prefer to find yourself involved with?
KL: I prefer writing the longer form; it’s what I prefer to read as well. But that said, while longer stories have more room for the exploration of ideas and characters, the short and succinct story has its own place and its own challenges in writing.
T: You alluded to the idea that there may be a minute amount of overlap between your feature length novels. While they can be read as a standalone, do you think they are moving you forward into a more complete saga?
KL: The groundwork for the complete saga has been in place since The Starfall Knight, so hopefully that won’t change as I continue writing. One advantage of self-publishing is that I can choose what to release.
T: There are plenty of people out there who really want to be a writer, but perhaps don’t understand how viable of an option self-publishing is. What can you tell us about your experiences that might make a difference in the way someone new to the scene perceives that process?
KL: While self-publishing bypasses a lot of the ‘gatekeeping’ in the traditional publishing model, it does mean that the author is responsible for a lot of things that would traditionally be handled by the publisher. It might appeal to some, but not others. Personally, while I find it interesting, it does take a lot of time away from actual writing.
T: You’re very involved with various forms of fantasy media, whether that’s casually reviewing movies to expressing interest in television. You’ve even written a screenplay about the game Team Fortress. Do you notice a lot of blending from one medium to another?
KL: There’s definitely a blending of storytelling from one medium to another. While movie adaptations have been around forever, I’m a big fan of the recent trend (if the last 10 years can be called ‘recent’) of adapting novels to long-form television.
For writers, there’s a lot that can be learned from each medium. Adapting the best parts of each format has certainly helped in my own craft.
T: So for instance, something like Game of Thrones or Legend of the Seeker? What would you say they capture well, and where could they improve?
KL: Game of Thrones has been the flagship of the long-form adaptation with good reason. With a lot of adaptations, respecting the source material is paramount — although that does mean that the show depends more on the quality of the source.
I found that season 1 of GoT worked brilliantly, partly because A Game of Thrones (book 1) was written in a structure that lended itself to TV. Season 3 was choppy in the beginning as the cast of characters expanded. This led to too little time spent on each thread, and as a result, the capacity for plot movement was reduced.
T: They did spend a decent chunk of time in certain places while ignoring several characters every other week. Still, considering there are other novels that are out there that only get the one film treatment, the time that a series like that affords its seasons is actually pretty generous. Since we’re on the topic, what would you have done differently?
KL: It’s impossible to meaningfully progress plot where there are too many threads. With only 1 hour of screen-time, I think the lesser evil would’ve been to cut characters from episodes. The current season of The Walking Dead is a prime example — although taken to the other extreme — where each group has plenty of screen-time in a single episode.
T: Would you say that you envision your stories as eventual television shows? Your novel had that sort of cadence that allowed it to fit the medium fairly well.
KL: A big budget adaptation is always the dream! I wouldn’t mind a movie. As far as a TV show goes, I think the main plot of Starfall would serve as the background/main arc, with extra stories expanding on the existing characters.
T: You’ve been involved in several mediums, the screenplays included. Have you ever thought about shifting any of your tales to that format and submitting them anywhere?
KL: The thought has crossed my mind but I’m happy to stick with the written word. That said, I wouldn’t say no to the right offer!
T: Any favorites you can tell us about? Favorite authors, movies, games?
KL: Needless to say, I read mainly fantasy and try to keep up with all the regular names. At the moment, I’m catching up with the Dresden Files and the last 15 or so Pratchett books — however, I’ve taken a short break from those two series to read Words of Radiance.
In terms of movies, I’ll watch anything but, of course, sci-fi & fantasy are my favourite genre, even when they don’t necessarily self-identify as a genre movie. Although I’m only casual comic-book reader, I’m a sucker for any comic-book adaptation, even unnecessary reboots!
In gaming, Team Fortress 2 is always on standby. RPGs are a favourite, although it has been a while since I’ve been truly engrossed in a modern-day RPG. Nowadways, they’re mostly either masquerading as action games or adventure games with only 1 set path. I love a good sim or strategy game even if I don’t have as much time to play as I used to (I don’t know how many hours I’d sunk into the Civilization series).
T: I’ve always felt that RPGs most closely embody the feel of the fantasy novel. If you were going to make an RPG out of The Starfall Knight and any potential sequels, what would you do to make it the best game it could be?
KL: My ideal RPG of The Starfall Knight would include things like isometric 3D, full terrain deformation and heights (very important for a setting in the aerocks), mechanics for resources like food/energy/survival, and of course, a robust combat system (the game Temple of Elemental Evil had a brilliant combat system).
T: You cite one of the more popular titles from the Dungeons & Dragons line of games, and the developer, Troika Games made that one really memorable. It would be great to see The Starfall Knight expand into something of that caliber. Here’s to hoping that we might see something like that some day!
Thank you so much for checking out our interview with Ken Lim. It was a great deal of fun speaking to him and learning what he values as a storyteller. You can find his featured work, The Starfall Knight, on Amazon.
If you’re the creator of fantasy worlds and you would like to be interviewed for your work, contact us via the link in the menu bar.
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