A SWEEPING SAGA OF THREE GENERATIONS OF EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN WHO LIFTED THEIR GAZE BEYOND THEIR TURBULENT HISTORY, EACH TO FULFIL UNIQUE DESTINIES.
AVAILABLE NOW FROM SHAWLINE PUBLISHING AND ONLINE BOOKSHOPS.
The Diary of Katy Yehonala is a must-read multicultural romance novel and one of the best interracial and multicultural novels for 2023, brilliantly evoking another time and place in haunting and vivid portraits of unforgettable women.
EXTRACTS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ROBERT BARCLAY
Why did you write the book?
I wanted to write a love story and bring to life the almost unknown tragedies of late 20th century China and Cambodia that I knew, through the lives of three extraordinary, resilient women. When I say “love story”, I mean love of family, family values as well as their romances.
Why China and Cambodia?
These countries are little known even now. What we do know is usually wrong so having them coming from this background would add an exotic element. I wanted Katy’s romantic interest to be a link to a much bigger story. The third main character, Katy’s daughter, Clara, would symbolise the achievements of the new, post-Mao China and the family’s desire to make the world a better place.
Were China and Cambodia so different?
In the 70s, while we were reading The Joy of Sex, experimenting with wife-swapping parties, smoking pot, and crying as the Beatles broke up and Elvis died, two of the world’s greatest catastrophes were happening in those places. They went by unnoticed for most people. The first, China’s Cultural Revolution and famine, killed more people than in World War 1. The second happened in Cambodia, that magical land of the gentle Khmer people. The world continued with its distractions while this fairy-tale country was ravaged under the brutal hand of Pol Pot. Two million Khmer men, women, and children, plus a couple of Australians as it happened, were executed in the Killing Fields or perished from starvation, disease, and overwork. Unlike China, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries on Earth. Adding to its woes, or because of them, Cambodia became the hub of the evilest industry imaginable, the trafficking of children for sex.
How did you learn about those tragedies?
At the time, I was involved in that other 70s best-seller, the Vietnam War, a country with borders to both China and Cambodia. I saw the Cambodian genocide unfold from my place of work in the labyrinthine waterways of the Mekong Delta. Later, I lived and worked in China. Immersing myself in the histories of these two introverted countries changed my life.
Is the novel about the war?
No, not at all. The Diary of Katy Yehonala isn’t about the silent calamities of Cambodia or China, but it forms a backdrop for part of the story. I wanted to portray Katy, her mother and Clara Yehonala, as “universal women” who cast aside their cultural millstones from their brutal past. The three women become determined to make a difference and honour the humanity we all share.
Who inspired you to write the story?
It was an idea, not a person. That idea is every child deserves a childhood. My charity works in Cambodia, with others, fighting the evils of the child sex trade, which is part of the back story. I know many people who work unheralded, sometimes risking their lives rescuing kids from traffickers. These people personify the idea of acting according to one’s conscience, even in the face of personal risk. These kids and those unsung heroes inspire every word I write.
What are your plans for future books?
My first book introduced the characters, Katy, her mother, Simon, and Clara, to readers in what I hope will be a must-read multicultural romance novel. My wish is to create a series of good vs. evil perils for them they are ill-suited to, letting them grow in each book, always within a framework of compelling back-stories of the social evils that exist out of sight of many of us. Katy and Clara, are I believe, a unique “duo” in literature and represent a new wave of empowered Asian women, feeling their way in the world and making a difference.
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Robert Barclay Author
Robert Barclay is an Australian author of some of the best Australian crime fiction books. His new Australian multicultural novel follows the lives of Katy Yehonala and her daughter, Clara, his strong female protagonists as they confront the evils of society.