Home » From student to author

From student to author

-Submitted photo

Ruech “Ray” Malou, a student at Iowa Central Community College, holds a copy of his newly published novel “How Sweet Is Salt.” Malou, of Storm Lake, based the novel on a story he began writing in high school and turned it into a complete book following a creative writing class at the college.

Iowa Central Community College student Ruech “Ray” Malou, a freshman literature and philosophy major from Storm Lake, was inspired to write by many influences from high school classes to his father and grandfather, but it was a college creative writing class that solidified that interest.

The son of South Sudanese refugees, Malou and his family moved to Storm Lake from Buffalo, New York, in 2007 when he was a small child. He attended St. Mary’s Catholic School through junior high, which he said provided him with a “strict path and stability.” He transferred to the Storm Lake Community Schools in eighth grade, which exposed him to a bigger picture of the world around him.

“Catholic School, that provided me with stability; a safe place,” he said. “When I went into public school, that really opened my eyes. There were so many people, so many cultures, sounds, languages, abilities.”

The culture shock of a larger, more diverse learning environment began to influence Malou as he found his place in high school.

“I spent high school finding out who I was and discovering what I wanted to do,” he said. “I talked a lot about analytics and politics with my dad and I started writing.”

Malou made it a point to be writing something every day, even if it was just a simple word on paper. From there, words became sentences, sentences became paragraphs and paragraphs became short stories and poems.

During his junior year of high school, Malou started to really take his interest in writing seriously. He took an American Heritage class at Storm Lake High School in which the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel “The Great Gatsby” was a reading assignment.

“The ‘Great Gatsby’ was my inspiration,” he said. “That book; the characters and their experiences, really intrigued me. I got to be really interested in writing, but I wasn’t necessarily making the grades, but that gave me even more drive to write, to improve and work hard at it.”

Malou began writing stories based on a stockbroker, a character who stemmed from Nick Carraway, “Gatsby’s” main character. The stories in his initial drafts included the experiences, emotions and encounters of people he had met.

In his first semester at Iowa Central, Malou was enrolled in Kyrie Borsay’s Creative Writing class, where he continued to work with the stories he had penned in high school.

“I decided to take them and make it more about the things we really experience in everyday life,” he said. “I revamped what I had been writing and wrote a grounded story that was more societally accurate. That started with about eight pages I wrote for class. Then I had 11 pages, then it was up to 22 and I had a short story.”

Malou said he did not plan to continue adding to the story after the assignment, but the more feedback he received, the more he knew it was meant to be written.

“I was going to forget about it, but my friends said not to,” he said. “The more it was reviewed by peers and family, I was encouraged.”

From that, Malou’s first novel, “How Sweet Is Salt,” was born. The story follows Nam Forest, a stockbroker from Boston who is walking through life awaiting a fruitful outcome. The book’s title refers to contrasts between things that look the same but are very different, like salt and sugar.

“He (Nam) is synonymous to any person,” said Malou “The story covers his emotions; sadness, happiness and how interactions can change your entire day.”

Malou spent many late nights making final edits on his book, and when he was satisfied with the final product, submitted it to Kindle Direct Publishing, a company that works with self-published authors, in early January.

He has been working with bookstores around the state to get the novel onto shelves and it is also available on Amazon. Seeing his title on Amazon, Malou said, was a big moment.

“Making that first sale was so surreal,” he said. “Then it was ranked 16th in Amazon’s Top 100 New Release list, I was very humbled.”

Malou said he hopes his work will inspire others to work toward their personal goals.

“Nothing that you do is beyond what you see,” he said. “Whether you are young, old, regardless of where you are from, your story, none of that matters if you don’t attempt it. Stay steadfast in your aspirations and seek results.”

Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox