What were your inspirations for the book?
I’ve always loved history, but especially stories of how geopolitical conflicts impact people’s lives. I took a course in my undergraduate years that introduced me to the history of Mongolia, and I was captivated by the richness of the culture, and how little Mongolian history has truly been covered, aside from the era of Genghis Khan. I conducted research and was struck by how much the past informs the present. Many modern day conflicts today can be traced back to our past. In this novel in particular, I wanted to explore what it means to live one way for subsistence – herding on the Gobi – and how collectivization altered the lives of so many Mongolians during Soviet Union Occupation. A feeling of being uprooted, scared about the future – and still trying to find oneself – are universal feelings, but Mongolia’s transformation and how it impacted lives, is a story worth telling.
What drew you to the setting for the novel? Why this particular time and place?
Even back in high school, when I was studying the rise of the Soviet Union – and beyond – I always questioned why so much history is told from an American perspective. I’ve always been drawn to moral complexities and learning about narratives from different points of view – as well as what gaps in historical education might indicate. These thoughts came back full circle as I came to study more about what is considered Modern Mongolia today. My novel traces the beginning of influence of the Soviet Union within Mongolia, and traces a few decades of dramatic change and transformation. How people both resist and adapt to change – and still fight for their cultural identity-are some themes that are still deeply relevant today.
Why did you start the story from Bolormaa’s viewpoint?
Bolormaa is one of the main characters in this novel, and perhaps the character I can relate with most. I liked her as an opening character because she’s at a crossroads in her life – in some ways, clinging to her childhood and life on the Gobi – and in other ways, dreaming of more from her life than the marriage her parents have arranged. In many ways, her struggles between tradition and change, stability and instability – echo the larger themes of the novel.
STAY TUNED for a COVER REVEAL of Erin’s wonderful debut novel, Sky of Ashes, Land of Dreams. Release date: November 1st!