She has several non-fiction titles in print and her latest publication, Ghost Love steps into the world of fiction with a tale of supernatural romance across the iron curtain years of communist Russia.
So Nelli, tell us a little about yourself and your writing
I was born in Moscow, where I trained as a linguist and a musician. I settled in England in 1998. I’ve had a number of successful careers, among them recording a critically acclaimed nu-jazz album Jazz Noir, becoming an award-winning jewellery maker, writing a book Glass Bead Jewellery Projects, and doing all this whilst being a mother and a wife. Ghost Love is my first novel and draws heavily on my experiences as a young woman in Soviet Russia and the obstacles my-husband-to-be, Rod, and I faced during those difficult times.
How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
I started writing when I was 10, inspired by my Russian teacher’s praise of my homework essays. My family was living in Mongolia at the time and I faced a long bus journey to get to and from school so I started writing short fairy tales (with my own illustrations) to read out to my friends on the bus. They liked them but when I read some of them to my mother she said they were all a bit like the fairy tales by Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. But I kept at it and Ghost Love is the result.
What is at the root of your current book/story?
My experiences during the Second Russian Revolution – the traumatic transition from Communism to Capitalism – that took place in the early 1990s. A really interesting – and dangerous ‒ time and one which is fast fading from memory. This was one of the key motivations I had for writing Ghost Love: I think it’s important for people to understand what life was like then as it’s these experiences that shape a nation’s psyche. I also wanted Ghost Love to have a “Russian” feel, which is why I flavoured it with a dash of the supernatural: Russians have a fascination for ghoulies, ghosties and things that go bump in the night.
EBooks or traditional?
I have to admit I like the feel of a ‘real’ book in my hands: I love to touch the pages, to look at the pictures. But one has to swim with the current otherwise you simply waste your energy and current (ha!) developments mean that the eBook is here to stay. And what, of course, the eBook has done is allow new authors to make their work available to the world which has to be a good thing. The bottom line is that I really don’t care on which format people read Ghost Love as long as they read it!
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
When I announced I planned to write a book my husband Rod, author of the Demi-Monde series and Invent-10N, told me that if I was serious I had to write a certain number of words per day and to do it no matter what. Discipline is what is necessary for a book to grow from an idea into the finished novel. Ghost Love was written on the train which takes me to and from London every day. The goal was to write one thousand words per day, 500 in the morning and the same in the evening, and that’s what I did. At the end of six months I had the first draft of Ghost Love completed (and the journeys started feeling a lot shorter too!).
Romance: Pride and Prejudice or Fifty Shades?
Ghost Love is somewhere in between … sort of 5 Shades of Elizabeth Bennet. My story is more about the longing two people in love have to be together rather than them enjoying each other physically. And like Pride and Prejudice, you’re never fully sure if and how the lead characters will overcome the obstacles keeping them apart, which I think adds tension to the story. All this with a hint of the supernatural. It’s a bit like The Russia House (John Le Carre) meets Ghost (if you remember this movie from 1990).
Pitch your latest book to the world at large in 100 words or less:
In the madcap, chaotic days when Communism crumbled in the USSR, university student Tonia meets and falls in love with dashing young Englishman Peter Monroe. Theirs is a forbidden love. Despite the protests of her family and the more strenuous objections of the KGB Tonia agrees to marry Peter only for him to mysteriously disappear. Twenty years later Tonia must revisit these bitter-sweet memories when she finds herself and her daughters endangered by the consequences of that love affair. In her despair Tonia comes to realise that true love really does conquer all … even death.
Do you have music playing when you write?
Yes, all the time. If you’ve read my blog you’ll know that music figures large in my life. I trained as a pianist and a singer and when I came to England I sang jazz on a semi-pro basis for a while (my album Jazz Noir was the result). Music, especially jazz music, features heavily in Ghost Love, so I had to dig out my CD Jazz Noir and listen to it again, remembering what I thought when I was recording the album, doing gigs, and facing an audience. I also had to delve into my musical memory for Soviet tunes. In Ghost Love Irina is caught whistling “Bravely, Comrades, in Step!” … one of my favourite Revolutionary songs!
Your favourite quote from any book
I have one from Rod’s Demi-Monde series of books:
‘And the favourite student, Too Zi, enquired of the Master, saying, ‘Master, with so much hate and violence in the Demi-Monde how is it possible to retain faith in the ultimate triumph of Goodness in the Kosmos?’
The Master smiled and said, ‘All those who seek ABBAsoluteness must mimic the delight of a small child when placed in a room full of dog shit.’
Too Zi frowned, ‘I do not understand, Master. How can any remain cheerful in a room full of dog shit?’
‘As any child knows, Student Too Zi, when a room contains that much dog shit, there’s got to be a puppy in there somewhere.’
This is a quote within a quote, Rod citing The Second Book of the BiAlects, Verse 31 in “The Demi-Monde: Summer” – great life philosophy!
Who has been your favourite character from your book and why?
Georgie. She’s the tough, no-nonsense, fast-living and utterly disreputable girl who’s … no, I won’t spoil the surprise of who she actually is (you’ll have to read Ghost Love to find out). Georgie’s almost everything that I am not, but (say it sotto voce) would like to be (apart from the drunk bit!). This, I suppose, is one of the joys of being a writer: you can assume an alter-ego and mine’s Georgie. She has guts and then some. I miss Georgie, but I might give her a reprise if there’s ever a sequel to Ghost Love.
Nelli’s blog can be found HERE and Facebook page HERE
links to books.cds mentioned:
Glass Bead Jewellery Projects
Demi-Monde (omnibus edition) also available in 4 volumes in paperback)
Invent-10N (also available in p/b ed)
Ghost Love is published by Phaze and available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in paperback and ebook.
TRUE LOVE CONQUERS ALL… EVEN DEATH. MOSCOW 1989: As the Soviet Union crumbles a young, naïve and idealistic Russian girl, Tonia Voronina, meets and falls in love with an English boy, Peter Monroe, while they are studying together in Moscow. Theirs is a forbidden romance: forbidden by the Soviet authorities and by Peter’s family. But such is the strength of their love that despite the ever present threat of discovery and public humiliation Tonia and Peter continue their clandestine meetings ignoring the protests of Peter’s over-protective sister, the suspicions of Tonia’s friend and rival, and the involvement of the KGB. Peter asks Tonia to marry him only to mysteriously disappear. Now Tonia must confront the fear that she has been abandoned. England, present day: A life-toughened and recently divorced Toni Graham comes to live in ‘The Nook’ and there discovers that Peter had always loved her and tried to protect her from the jealous and vindictive Maintree clan. As strange and disturbing events begin to threaten both her and her daughters, Toni must look to the shade of Peter for help, Toni being forced to revisit the bitter-sweet memories of those heady days in Moscow and to realize that true love really does conquer all … even death. Two Intertwined stories of a love lost and found – with a flavouring of the supernatural.