Born in Moscow, Natalia grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Natalia realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a moonless summer night she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if, a writer’s unrelenting muse, took hold of her. Two of her passions define her being. Natalia is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy.
- What brought you from Moscow to the US? What made you decide to settle in Colorado Springs?
I fell in love with and married an American Marine. Virginia was a beautiful place to live, but after eleven years I still couldn’t adjust to the summer heat. One day we saw The Broadmoor hotel on the Travel channel. The lake, the mountains—the breathtaking scenery prompted us to take a trip to Colorado Springs. A few months later, we called Colorado home.
- I visited Moscow in 1989, as a senior in high school with the Boulder-Dushanbe Sister Cities program. I’ve never been able to go back. Is it very different now than it was then?
Yes and no. I’m a suburb dweller now, and whenever I visit my family and friends, Moscow never fails to impress me with its lights, bustling streets and metro stations, new buildings, and gorgeous parks. But when I go to my summer place, the tall willows still grace the river banks, nightingales’ singing lasts until predawn, and the faraway sound of late trains stirs in me bitter-sweet surges of nostalgia. I welcome the changes. I love the comforting familiarity.
- Did you grow up with dark tales in your family mythology, or did you not hear the stories until you were older? What made you decide to write about them?
My grandmother, an excellent storyteller, took my childhood friends and me on scenic hikes along the river and told us tales of clairvoyance, séances, and witchcraft. I doubt she realized how her stories affected our susceptible young minds. It seemed the past was filled with magic—scary, astounding magic—something we’d never experience in our “modern” lives.
But what would happen if we did? How would we react when forced to face an actual paranormal manifestation?
Who would you tell about it?
Who would believe you?
No, no one in my family was stillborn and resurrected by a supernatural entity. SOUL OF THE UNBORN is a fantasy. A dark fantasy.
- How long did it take you to write Soul of the Unborn? How many revisions did the story go through?
English is my third language, and when I started the first draft, Autocorrect couldn’t figure out which words I was trying to spell.
“Why didn’t you write it in Russian?” asked Laurie Wagner Buyer, an award-winning literary author I met at a workshop.
“Not enough challenge,” I said.
Laurie liked the answer. She became my literary mentor.
I attended workshops and conferences. I read books on writing and grammar, entered contests, and found great critique groups. The novel—a finalist and winner of many contests—was improving with every draft, but I was adamant about rewriting the manuscript from scratch until it fit my vision of the story.
I read my seventh version and knew I had reached my goal.
- What was your path to publication?
I participated in a Twitter pitch contest, received eleven “favs” from nine publishers, did my research—and spent two stressful months waiting for the verdict from the publisher I wanted: City Owl Press. I signed the contract the day it was offered. Working with the team has been a fantastic experience.
- Will the story be translated into Russian?
Я была бы очень рада. I would like that very much.
- What is next in your writing career? Would you consider writing about aliens? Perhaps some dark SciFi?
Anything is possible. It’s places I visit that inspire my writing. This picture was taken two weeks ago on a beautiful lake in Colorado. My next trip is going to be to Loch Ness! (No, really, it’s already booked.)
- What is your favorite electronic writing tool? What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
Here they are:
- What would your ideal writing environment look like?
Typing and editing—anywhere, but brainstorming requires “me” time. Nothing like a long hike to solve an intricate plot quandary.
- As an orchid expert, what do you do? Have you ever trekked through the jungle in search of rare species?
To simplify my job description: I know the answer to the “Why my orchid doesn’t bloom?” question! From de-flasking (removing seedlings from flasks) to bringing orchids to bloom and creating arrangements—I’ve enjoyed every step of the process.
As for trekking through the jungle…I had a dream—to swim under a tropical waterfall. Off we went, to find one in a Hawaiian forest. It was a trek alright, and a very bad idea because I cannot stand the heat. (We finally reached the waterfall, and the water was unexpectedly cold. So cold, I barely managed to take a dip in the pool for a “been-there-done-that” picture.)
Since that walk, I never stray far from air-conditioned civilization. Jungles can keep their secrets.
Russian meadows are a different matter. I remembered an exquisitely scented plant from my childhood that we called Forest Violet. I suspected it was actually an orchid. It took a while, but I was thrilled to find it again and confirm my guess.
- What Colorado authors (besides me) do you think more people should discover?
- Who shot first? Han or Greedo?
I’d guess it’s whichever version you saw first. But because AmyBeth mentioned aliens, I keep thinking, What would Ellen Ripley do?
Natalia and AmyBeth at Kawa Coffee in Colorado Springs
Who, amongst your friends, family, and acquaintances, is most likely to be an alien or metahuman in disguise?
Soul of the Unborn
Coming this November from City Owl Press
Posing as a folklore-tour guide, Valya Svetlova takes a group of American college students and their professor, Chris Waller, to her summer home in the Russian village of Vishenky for a few nights of supernatural phenomena. She works hard to appear a perfect hostess. Valya doesn’t want anyone to discover she harbors selfish motives when it comes to one participant, the only person who can refute a wicked tale declaring her a stillborn resurrected by a paranormal entity, a puppet in someone’s horror show destined to perish in the otherworldly dimension.
Within hours of their arrival, Valya learns that the students, too, foster some dangerous agendas. Her nascent feelings toward the handsome professor inhibit her ability to control the supernatural manifestations and her inquisitive guests. When her unforeseen affection turns Chris into a target of the malevolent forces, Valya faces the excruciating reality. It’s no longer in her human power to ensure her guests’ safety. But to keep Chris and the students alive, Valya must brush off her humanity and become something she fights so desperately to prove she is not. A soulless monster.