Tuesday 28 January 2014

Sue Guiney and her second Cambodian novel, 'Out of the Ruins'

   So often, when people ask where I get inspiration from for a particular piece of work, I look at them blankly - because I don't know. Sometimes, I do know, but only well after the event. My first novel, for example, was a sort of hymn to a place I loved as a child but it was only well after it was finished did I recognise this. 
  Friend and colleague Sue Guiney, however, knows exactly what inspired her second novel, because... well... I'll let her explain for herself. It also has to do with a rather special place. Welcome, Sue. 

Sue Guiney

 Hi all. I’m thrilled to be able to tell my story here, mostly because it all happened by surprise – I fell in love with a place I knew nothing about. In 2006, we went on a family volunteer trip to Cambodia. We crisscrossed the country’s dirt roads, building houses in poor villages and working with children. It was to be one of those “learning experiences” for our teenage son, but I was the one who was changed.
A street in Siem Reep
I never wanted to write about Cambodia, but after my first novel was published, I knew my next book needed to be set there. In 2010 A Clash of Innocents, the first of a series of Cambodia-inspired novels, was published. End of story? No, because I decided I wanted to bring the fruit of that inspiration back to the people who inspired it. But how? To be another volunteer didn’t feel like enough. Then a friend told me about Anjali House (www.anjali-house.com), an educational shelter for street kids in Siem Reap, and I knew I had found my answer. Under their auspices, I founded a Writing Workshop for teenagers.

I teach them to write poetry and stories in English, we publish a literary magazine, and hold launch parties where the kids read from their work. I now run this program three times each year, once on-site, the other times via the Internet. Each time I go, I stay longer --  now that the kids are all grown up (not to mention a very supportive husband), I have the freedom to do that.. Very soon, I’ll be going back again, and this time I’ll be staying for two months! 
    But before I go, there is another bit of excitement happening, and that’s what really brings me here today.
The second novel in the Cambodian series, Out of the Ruins, is now being launched by my publisher, Ward Wood (www.wardwoodpublishing.co.uk).  People responded so well to the first book that I was urged to keep the feisty narrator, Deborah. I did, but this is no longer her story. This is set in another city, Siem Reap, with new characters and new challenges. Out of the Ruins begins with one Cambodian doctor’s frustration over how the poor women in his country are dying needlessly. He reaches out to friends to help him create a new clinic for the local villages around Siem Reap’s world famous temples, and they answer his call. Irish Dr. Diarmuid arrives with his English assistant, Dr. Gemma, and Canadian administrator Mr. Fred. Together they create a place where the poor women of Cambodia can find the basic care that so much of the world has long since taken for granted. The young and ambitious Cambodian Nurse Srey acts as interpreter and doorway into the trust of the local community, but her idealised view of Western medicine will be seriously shaken.
    In this novel, tradition collides with science as East meets West, and though the doctors are all too eager to help, they have much to learn about their own personal demons in this desperate and seductive society.
Research for this book took me to the parts of Siem Reap where middle-aged Western women are not supposed to go – tucked away corners full of karaoke bars and brothels. I saw some horrifying things, and all of it has found its way into the novel. But it has all also found its way into my heart, and so I keep writing, and I keep going back. 
    You’ve been a part of this journey from the start, Vanessa, and I thank you for that!  And thanks to all your followers for listening. I hope some of them will come along, too. 
Congratulations, Sue!

Congratulations, Sue, on all your hard work, and on the publication of 'Out of the Ruins'. See you at the launch party.

Out of the Ruins can be found in both ebook and paperback on Amazon, the Book Depository, and in bookshops within the UK. You can read more about me, my novels and poetry, and about my work in Cambodia on my website www.sueguiney.com