THE SKY WORSHIPERS: An Interview with F.M. Deemyad

Mongolian landscape
F.M. Deemyad looks beyond the majestic landscape toward the history of Mongolia in The Sky Worshipers. (Photo courtesy Canva)

Ghengis Khan was the founder of one of the largest dynasties in history, the Mongul Empire, which united many of the nomadic tribes in Northeast Asia during the 13th century. Now, debut author F.M. Deemyad has courageously dared to retell his epic story in her new novel, The Sky Worshipers, and she is here with us today.


J&H: Ms. Deemyad, welcome! To begin, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself? Since this is your first book, your name is new to most of us. So where are you from? And more importantly, where did your love of literature come from?

FMD: I was born in Kermanshah, Iran and have lived in Maryland for more than three decades. My father, who was from India, introduced me to classic English literature at a very young age. I have been an avid reader of novels ever since.

J&H: Since we are lifelong readers ourselves, we are always anxious to know. Who are some of your literary heroes?

FMD: They are too many to count. Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, George Elliot, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Atwood and definitely Daphne Du Maurier are at the top of my list of literary heroes.

J&H: Was there one book that made you think, “This is what I want to do with my life?”

FMD: “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier brought history to life based on a painting and has been an inspiration since I read it several years ago.

J&H: So, going back to The Sky Worshipers: What was it about the 13th century that made you want to tackle writing such a monumental part of history? And how did you get it all into a 366-page book?

FMD: I was impressed by the personality of Lady Goharshad. She married King Shahrokh, son of Tamerlane, who considered himself the last Mongol conqueror. In my novel, finding a manuscript, written by three generations of princesses, transforms Lady Goharshad from a mere member of royalty to a champion of peace. Using the manuscript as a medium that connected these women, I was able to turn the complicated Mongol history into an easy to read novel.

J&H: The three princesses who write the manuscript in this book, recounting the Mongol invasions, were all captives themselves. Do you think they will resonate with modern women? Why or why not? Also, in what ways might they most differ from today’s woman?

FMD: They were brave women who overcame the fear of their captors and chronicled the wars. Therefore, their story will resonate with modern women. Krisztina, in particular, differs from contemporary women because initially she resented those who were not like herself in their cultural and religious practices. Today, increase in global communication has fostered greater understanding among most people. I feel that prejudices of the past are slowly giving way to greater tolerance and empathy.

J&H: Reflecting on my own college years, I remember Genghis Kahn as being one of the big power players in history. To your mind, what made him and his legacy so extraordinary?

FMD: The mind boggling speed with which the Mongols subjugated great civilizations of their time certainly makes this era extraordinary. Despite the carnage and destruction, I must add that Genghis allowed people of different faiths to practice their religion freely in Karakorum, the Mongol capital. This would probably remain among the positive aspects of an otherwise dark era.

J&H: When readers finish reading The Sky Worshipers, if they remember just one thing, what do you hope it will be?

FMD: I want them to remember the bravery of the women who had their influence on human history but their accomplishments were never fully recognized and appreciated in historical accounts.

J&H: Now that your first book is under your belt, what are you working on next?

FMD: Understanding life in the 13th century was not easy and researching this era took a long time. I plan to remain a bit longer in this time period and focus my attention on ancient Italy, or to be more specific, Sicily which was an independent country in the 13th century.

J&H: Thank you so much for dropping by today! Good luck with the book and your career, and we look forward to visiting with you again soon. 

FMD: Thank you for this opportunity to speak about my debut novel.

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ABOUT THE SKY WORSHIPERS

F.M. Deemyad's THE SKY WORSHIPERS
History Through Fiction LLC

In the year 1398 A.D., Lady Goharshad and her husband, King Shahrokh, come across an ancient manuscript in the ruins of Karakorum, the Mongol capital. The manuscript chronicles the era of Mongol invasions with entries by three princesses from China, Persia, and Poland who are captured and brought to the Mongol court.

After being stolen from her family at the Tangut Emperor’s coronation, Princess Chaka, the Emperor’s youngest daughter is left with no choice but to marry Genghis Khan. Thus, the Tangut join Genghis as allies. She is the first to secretly chronicle the historical events of her time, and in doing so she has the help of an African eunuch by the name of Baako who brings her news from the war front.

Princess Reyhan is the witty granddaughter of the last Seljuk King in Persia. She is kidnapped by Ogodei, Genghis’s son and heir, who falls in love with her. The romance does not last long, however, since a Mongol beauty wins Ogodei’s heart, and Reyhan is sidelined. Reyhan continues the tradition of recording the events in secret, turning her entries into tales.

During the Mongol invasion of Poland and Hungary, Princess Krisztina, niece to Henry the Pious, is taken as a prisoner of war by the Mongols. Reyhan learns about Krisztina’s predicament through Baako and asks Hulagu, Genghis’s grandson, to help free her. Krisztina has a difficult time adjusting to life in Mongolia, and at one point she attempts to run away but is unsuccessful. When the child she is bearing is stillborn, the Mongol court shuns her. She is able to return to her homeland in old age but comes back to Karakorum and writes her final entry in the journal.

Through beautiful language and powerful storytelling, this fact-based historical novel lays bare the once far-reaching and uncompromising Mongol empire. It shows readers the hidden perspectives of the captive, conquered, and voiceless. It brings to light the tremendous but forgotten influence of Genghis Khan and his progeny, while asking readers to reconsider the destruction and suffering of the past on which the future is built.

F.M. Deemyad
F.M. Deemyad

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

F.M. Deemyad was born in Kermanshah, Iran. She grew up in the capital, Tehran, attending bilingual schools run by Christian and Jewish minorities. Her father, born and raised in India, had come to Iran when he was in his late twenties. Being the son of a linguist who had taught English Literature in India for a number of years, he exposed the author in her preschool years to the English language, and she learned to love classic literature under her father’s instructions. She received her Master’s degree in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2016. She currently resides with her husband in Maryland.

For more information, visit CandleandQuill.com or follow the author on Twitter and Goodreads.

THE SKY WORSHIPERS
By F.M. Deemyad
366 pp. History Through Fiction. $27.95

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Order The Sky Worshipers direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, or Walmart.

The Sky Worshipers is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to THE SKY WORSHIPERS: An Interview with F.M. Deemyad

  1. Thank you so much for hosting FM Deemyad today!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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