Since her first debut with a memoir in 2009, Cambodia-born author Sambath Meas was determined to break into the literature scene in the United States.
Her passion for writing was nurtured from a young age by her mother’s love for novels, Meas says.
“I love reading novels. My desire to write was shaped by reading enriched European literature when I spent one semester in Rome, Italy,” she said in a recent interview.
Meas also believes her mother’s love for reading had a tremendous influence on her passion for writing today.
“While my mother was carrying me, she read many Khmer novels. She even named me after a female character from her most favorite novel.”
Meas has been prolific in her writing and has not felt restricted to a particular genre, producing titles that include murder, mystery, fantasy and science fiction writing.
This year she published a short mystery novel, The Governor’s Daughter: The Scribes of Brahmadhan, and continues to work on what will be her first science fiction piece, Rise of the Eugenicists, as well as a book aimed at young adults titled Tommy’s Mind Palace.
The Governor’s Daughter, set during the French protectorate in Cambodia, is a murder mystery centered on the teenage daughter of a Khmer detective.
The detective is tasked with investigating the rape and murder of her friend, Esmè Laurent, the daughter of the governor of Siem Reap.
“This novel reflects my love of the country’s ways of life during the time when there were many educated [people] and a literate population, before the country fell under the Khmer Rouge,” Meas says. “In fact, I wrote this novel in a way as a short series linking them to my larger debut science-based fiction novel, Rise of Eugenicists.”
Rise of the Eugenicists “centers on three characters who hold the keys to unlocking the mystery of the multiverse and save humanity from self-destruction,” she says.
Meas’ 2009 debut, The Immortal Seeds: Life goes on for a Khmer family, tells the true story of her family’s experience surviving the Khmer Rouge atrocities between 1975 and 1979.
Meas and her family escaped the Khmer Rouge genocide and were accepted as refugees in Chicago, Illinois in 1981 after spending two years in refugee camps in Thailand.
She has been working as a paralegal for 17 years and earned a degree in political science at Loyola University of Chicago in 1999.
Due to the nature of her paralegal work, she only began writing in 2002, despite knowing she had a burning desire to write for many years.
“I found myself working crazy hours at Greenberg Traurig, LLP. As a result of my busy schedule, I could only find time to write and study on the train.”
Meas enrolled at Northwestern University of Chicago in 2010 to do a master’s degree in creative nonfiction, and is hopeful to finish the program this year despite facing financial challenges.
“Meanwhile, I am pouncing away in the hope that one of my books will become successful and that I can use the royalties to finish up my three classes and earn my master’s degree,” she said.
She also hopes her fiction work can inspire young writers-in-the-making to cultivate their imagination and put pen to paper.