Interview with M.L. Dunker, Author of The Tales of Zren Janin

30 Aug 2023

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Tales of Zren Janin?

I love to travel and I meet so many interesting people around the world. But when I would read books, I didn’t see the same diversity of people and places. So, I started to write about the people I knew and loved. That’s why you find my books have many characters not found in mainstream Euro-American storytelling. I set the fictional world in the South Pacific – a place I felt comfortable and accepted. I wanted to bring characters to life who struggle with disabilities in a world that refuses to make simple accommodations, with gender spectrum personalities who are trying to find acceptance for their authentic selves. I began with mental skirmishes and then escalated to a physical war for social justice. And if that sounds bleak, rest assured some characters see a “Happy Ever After,” or at least a “Happy for Now.” We all need to be seen for who we truly are.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of The Tales of Zren Janin, what would they be?

For Zren Janin – The Beatles “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

For Rell Huena – Queen – “We are the Champions”

For Bima Ritwik (the Spymaster who runs softfoots for Vikland) and Ngahuru (The Spymaster who runs the Wrens for the resistance) – Anastasia “Namaka – goddess of the sea” (A song about revenge between two Hawaiian goddesses)

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

I read everything from alternate history to urban fantasy to steampunk to pioneer tales and sci-fi. I don’t read romance. It can be a side story in a book, but no big themes. The only exception is Margaret Rogerson. She’s amazing and I will read anything by her.

To write? Yes and no. I think there needs to be many more books about the South Pacific, Hawaiian mythology, pre-colonial stories. I see a very small wave, but I want to be a part of a tsunami of world literature in every genre.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

So I checked my Goodreads want to read, my physical book stacks, and my Libby tags. It was an ugly 400+ books. I am concentrating on indie authors, steampunk (anything with flying airships), and South Pacific/New Zealand/Philippines. I am not bored.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

There are so many! I would say anytime there was a significant plot twist, character redemption arc, or Bima Ritwik slithered into the room. He isn’t a villain, but he uses villainous ways to stand up for justice. I still can’t decide if he is a good guy with bad moral choices or a bad guy who aligns himself with the heroes for his own reasons. I’ll let the reader decide.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I do. I wrote the Tales of Zren Janin series in the early morning hours (think 4:30 am early). I would read what I had written right before I went to bed and then tried to dream about my characters. In the morning, I would begin writing down my dreams. NO ONE in my house was allowed to talk to me until I emerged from my ‘writing room’ at 10 a.m. Sometimes these massive dream dumps were *chef’s kiss* and sometimes they became fire starters.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I have several, depending on the situation: “Adventure awaits!” “Success begins by rolling up your sleeves.” And before every speaking engagement, I calm myself by reciting the speech from Dune that begins “I must not fear. Fear is the mindkiller… and when fear has passed, I will remain.”

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

“None of us has so many friends, we can afford to throw any of them away.”


M.L. Dunker is the author of the new book The Tales of Zren Janin (Boxed Set)

Connect with M.L. Dunker

Author Site



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