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Author Interview: Kai Wai Cheah

Author Kai Wai Cheah is¬†Singapore’s first Hugo and Dragon Award nominated writer.¬† I am quite honored to include him among our featured authors here on No Wasted Ink.

Author kai wai cheahI’m a Hugo and Dragon Award nominated writer from Singapore, writing under the names Kai Wai Cheah and Kit Sun Cheah. While specializing in fantasy and science fiction, my personal writing preferences lean towards lean, dynamic and authentic, combining the finest traits of modern fiction and pulp stories from the early 20th century. I’m also a member of the PulpRev movement, which seeks to revolutionize fiction by gleaning lessons from the pulp masters of the past. Other than writing, I also enjoy reading, movies and gaming, and practice the Filipino martial art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at 12 years old because I was bored.

As a child, I was a bookworm. I routinely devoured books much more advanced for my age. Physics, biology and chemistry encyclopedias; folklore, myths and fairy tales (not the watered-down versions for modern children; but stories of good and evil and horror and bloodshed); books about the military, war, firearms and technology. I started reading adult novels in primary school, and never looked back.

One December morning, I found myself with nothing to do. The Primary School Leaving Examination was over; I was just killing time waiting for the results and my secondary school posting. I’d already read every book I had in the library. I decided I could write a book of my own. I fired up my computer, grabbed research material, and wrote the opening chapter of what would become a 300-page military science fiction epic.

The novel was also utterly terrible, but I kept writing and never looked back.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Shortly after beginning work on my novel, I decided it was something I wanted to do as a career. I began referring to myself as a writer at the age of 13, soon after completing the first draft of my first novel.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest published novel is titled Hammer of the Witches, the second novel of the Covenant Chronicles. The story follows deniable operator Luke Landon, who is tasked with investigating international vigilante network Hexenhammer to determine if it were responsible for a major terrorist attack on a refugee camp. However, he quickly discovers a conspiracy that will stop at nothing to rule the world. And behind that conspiracy is the Unmaker, a fallen angel who aims to drag all souls into the Void.

The Covenant Chronicles is one part spy thriller, one part dark fantasy, one part military science fiction, set in a world where magic and daimons exist, but not gods… until they awake.

What inspired you to write this book?

Like all my stories, inspiration came from many sources. The first major source came from the thriller authors I read in my youth: Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Daniel Silva, Greg Hurwitz and Stephen Hunter. Harry Turtledove showed me the possibilities that lay in the genre of alternate history, while Jim Butcher influenced my approach to worldbuilding and writing, and John Ringo introduced me to military science fiction. The physics-based magic of Larry Correia’s Grimnoir trilogy was a significant influence on the magic system of this series — but I also stole ideas from Dishonored, Final Fantasy, and Alan Wake.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style varies a lot. I find that it morphs to fit the kind of story I’m writing. The Covenant Chronicles series trends towards dark and introspective, with bouts of high-octane action; my upcoming A Song of Karma series is a little lighter and contains poetry; another story I’m working on focuses heavily on atmospherics and senses and technology. Other things like structure, dialogue, formatting also morph to fit them.

For the Covenant Chronicles, I’d like to think of it as what would happen if Tom Clancy and Larry Correia collaborated to write a futuristic urban fantasy series with strong espionage and counterterrorism elements.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Hexenhammer quite literally means ‘Hammer of the Witches’.

It’s also a reference to how the group (and Luke Landon) sees themselves: a hammer to crush the (metaphorical) witches threatening civilization.

A pity I couldn’t include a literal hammering, but that can wait for Book 4.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The entire series is a shadow war between good and evil — but the dividing line between the two quickly becomes blurred. To navigate these treacherous waters, and to keep his soul (and the souls of others) from falling into Hell, Luke Landon must develop a moral compass and stand true to his principles. I would like readers to understand the value of having firm ethical principles, of refusing to compromise with evil, and to understand that all actions have long-term repercussions.

A secondary message is that evil outcomes can arise from actions motivated by good intentions — and that good outcomes can also flow from evil actions.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, but I drew many plot elements and technologies from current affairs and modern-day developments. These include the European migrant crisis, quantum computing, brain implants, fake news, and more.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Everyone I mentioned above as inspirations. They bring different strengths to the table: prose, plotting, characters, research, worldbuilding, and more. I study their stories to improve my own.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I don’t have any mentors. However, I am studying the business practices of Silver Empire, Chris Kennedy, Nick Cole, and Jason Anspach. Marketing is one of my weaknesses. I think these authors and publishers have an excellent grasp of marketing, and there is much to learn from them in this regard.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Scott Vigil. I didn’t select the illustrator; Castalia House did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Don’t stop until you’re done. Then, write some more. This is the secret to achieving your writing goals, whatever they may be.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading my books. Please look out for my upcoming stories Hollow City and Dungeon Samurai.

Hammer of the WitchesKai Wai Cheah
Singapore

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Hammer of the Witches

Cover Artist: Scott Vigil
Publisher: Castalia House

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