Carol DeMent joins me today to chat
about her new historical mainstream work, Saving
During her virtual book tour, Carol will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and
Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be
entered for a chance to win, use the
form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit herother tour stops and enter there, too!
DeMent worked in the field of South East Asian refugee resettlement for seven
years, and completed master’s level research into international refugee
resettlement policy. She lived for two years in Thailand as a Peace Corps
volunteer and has traveled extensively in South East Asia. Her first novel, Saving Nary, was a Finalist in the 2017
Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Carol. Please share a little bit about your current release.
is the story of a Cambodian refugee searching for his missing daughters. It
explores the complexities of wartime loyalties and impossible choices, the
bewildering cultural and linguistic challenges of resettling in a new country,
and the hesitant journey toward healing from war-induced trauma. Dotted
throughout with wry humor, Saving Nary
is a compassionate look at what it means to lose- and rediscover-a life, a
home, a sense of self.
What inspired you to write this book?
My experiences volunteering to tutor SE Asian refugees in the late 70’s, and
later, working in the field of refugee resettlement both provided a strong
impetus to write Saving Nary. The
more I learned about the Khmer Rouge and the devastating impact their reign had
on Cambodia and its people, the more I felt this was a story that merited a
wider telling, and I hoped that a novel could provide that vehicle. The
following excerpt offers a hint of the Khmer Rouge menace:
“Silence that boy,” the soldier had said
to his wife on that awful day.
her arms, but how is one to soothe a toddler who cries from hunger when there
is no food? Khath, Khieu and their three children had been walking for three
days in the heat and humidity, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other
refugees inching their way out of Phnom Penh by order of the Khmer Rouge.
Already hunger, thirst and exhaustion had thinned their ranks: the elderly and
the ill simply dropped along the sides of the road, patiently awaiting the
mercy of death.
exodus, the food Khath and his family carried was gone in a day. After that,
they bought, scavenged and bartered for whatever nourishment they could find
along the way. Now, they stood next in line before a table of grim-faced cadres
in the simple uniform of the Khmer Rouge: black cotton shirts and pants with
kramas, red-checkered scarves, wound around their heads or necks. The cadres
were checking identity papers and quizzing the refugees about their prior
soldier. “Silence him or I will,” he warned Khieu.
clenched jaw and stepped between his wife and the soldier, doing his best both
to shield his family and appease the angry cadre.
just a few grains of rice. Or perhaps there is some place nearby I could buy or
trade for food. I will go immediately. The child is hungry, that’s all.”
had the opposite effect. Red faced, the toddler screamed his hunger to the
side, turning slightly. Following his gaze, Khath saw a man standing a little
apart from the check-point, watching the scene impassively. As Khath waited,
his heart thudding inside his chest like the heavy, dread beat of a death
knell, he saw the man glance at the position of the sun and cast a look at the
road behind Khath, densely packed with men, women and children yet to be
processed through the checkpoint.
though he had a toothache, but perhaps it was his ear, missing its earlobe,
which was causing the pain. At any rate, he frowned and seemed to come to some
sort of decision, for he looked at the soldier and gave a barely perceptible
brushing past Khath and yanking Bunchan from Khieu’s arms. “You had your
chance,” he said to Khieu, and began striding toward a large tree not far off
the side of the road, the bawling toddler slung under his arm.
screamed and rushed after the soldier, grabbing at Bunchan, whose angry howls
had turned to terrified shrieks.
after their mother but Khath held them back. A terrible dread filled his heart
as he watched the scene rapidly unfolding before him for he knew that the Khmer
Rouge were ruthless when crossed.
What exciting story are you working on
I have two projects on-going at the moment. One is a novel about the
cultural impact on a pioneer family of the influx of Chinese mine and railroad
workers in the West. Set in Montana in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the
story is narrated through the uncensored eyes of a young girl exposed to a new
culture at a time of great turmoil in her own family.
second is a memoir from my years of serving in the Peace Corps in Thailand in
When did you first consider yourself a
I have been “writing” since childhood, it wasn’t until a college research
project on the Prohibition Movement ended up being nearly 100 pages that it
occurred to me that I might be able to write a full length novel. The
techniques I learned then for tracking down information and organizing it have
been invaluable to me as I research my books. Joining a serious critique group,
the Puget Sound Writers Guild, marked a new level of commitment for me in
moving from thinking of myself as a writer to being a writer!
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
currently do not write full time, though in the past I supported myself for ten
years as a grant writer. For the last twenty years, I have been a licensed
practitioner of East Asian medicine, essentially acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Due to my schedule, I end up usually working on my books in the evening, but I
really love to write on rainy days!
What would you say is your interesting
Unlike many writers, I do not write every day. Instead, I think and think
and think about the story for days until the pressure to write becomes almost
unbearable and I head to my computer for a cathartic, stream of consciousness
splat upon the page. I literally will “write” entire dialogues and scenes in my
head until it all overflows onto the paper.
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
After reading “Sue Barton, Student Nurse” I couldn’t wait to grow up and be
a nurse, mostly because of the memorable scene of Sue wandering lost in the
steam tunnels of the hospital where she was training, and being rescued by a
handsome young doctor. Then I wanted to be a dancer while in high school until
it became evident that my back was as stiff as a board.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I love hearing from readers about what they thought of Saving Nary, and if they gained any new insights from the book. I
especially love going to book groups that have read the novel and answering
their questions and participating in their discussions.