Do you have a specific writing style?
One book in it’s a little early to say. I like unconventional story patterns (“Ghost Love” has two intertwined stories set twenty years apart) and I like strong, memorable characters. I also write for pace; I hate books that dawdle.
Do you write in different genres?
Not yet but I’m working on it! “Ghost Love” is a modern day romantic thriller (with a dash of the supernatural) so I’m thinking of branching out into historical romantic thrillers, specifically one set in Regency England. I had one of those kerching moments when a story idea suddenly materialized in my head fully formed, one which I hope will pop the reader’s socks off (and bust their stays, of course). A word of warning to any would be Jane Austens out there: the research needed to get it right is simply mind-blowing …
How did you come up with the title for your latest book?
“Ghost Love” was in my head for a long time sort of gestating, so I had the title before I started writing it all down. It just felt right – or should that be write – and encapsulated the two themes running through the story … love flavored with a dash of the supernatural.
Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?
The part set in Moscow circa 1989 … most of the events and actions are based on my life. It was a really freaky time when all the old certainties of Communism disappeared to be replaced by chaos. It was simultaneously exciting and scary. Like travelling in a fast car which ain’t got any brakes.
The part set in present day England … less so, but there’s still quite a bit of fact flavoring the fiction.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
That’s easy. It’s Rod, my husband, who writes SF (the “Demi-Monde” series). He’s been with me every step of the way encouraging, suggesting, editing and acting as beta-reader. Okay, he isn’t a natural romantic and his use of commas is suspect but he made a excellent sounding board. And he’s a great nagger when I get keyboard-shy.
What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?
Apart for the Regency thriller, the next book I’m working on is called “Hotel Rus”. Again it’ll be two intertwined stories, the first set in Russia of the early 1990s and the second in present day England, exploring the seedier side of ‘Londongrad’, the Russian enclave that’s grown up in London.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
This is the opening of “Hotel Rus” (hot off the press):
UltraGraphics Business Center, Pobeda Hotel, Moscow: 7th August, 1995
Lost as she was in transcribing a particularly badly written English sentence into intelligible Russian, it took a moment for Katia to realize what had just happened, that a ball of tightly crumpled paper had landed in her cup and splashed coffee all over her translation. She was just about to look around to find who the hooligan was doing the throwing when a second ball bounced off her head. She was being bombed!
A very annoyed Katia swiveled on her chair just in time to witness a third ball arching its way over the partition wall that separated the UltraGraphics Business Center from the Pobeda Hotel’s reception area. Incensed, Katia sprang from her chair, pulled open the door and marched into reception determined to confront the bombardier.
‘Hi,’ said the tall and elegantly dressed man leaning negligently against the Business Center’s counter. That he was in the process of scrunging up one of the fliers extolling the virtues of using UltraGraphics for ‘all your business needs’ ‒ this presumably a precursor to lobbing it over the wall ‒ was all the proof of his guilt that Katia needed.
The ‘Hi’ greeting indicated that the man was American so Katia switched to English putting as much frost in her voice as she could. ‘Just what do you think you’re doing?’
The man shrugged. ‘Trying to attract attention. Nobody seemed to be on duty. I tried shouting but …’ Another careless shrug, this accompanied by a mocking smile.
Ignoring the smile and silently cursing Vika for bunking off – the girl was so damned idle – Katia took a deep breath and tried to contain her anger. Pauline, the American who was head of UltraGraphics (Russia) was always lecturing them that ‘the maintenance of good customer relations is the cornerstone of UltraGraphics’s business ethos’ and as this man was undoubtedly a potential customer Katia did her best not to let her irritation show.
Linguist that she was, Katia automatically analyzed the man’s accent. Not American and not German either. The way he was dressed was odd too: not as formal and buttoned-down as the Americans or as unimaginative as the Germans. That had to mean he was English. Katia had never met an Englishman before but she had heard from the other girls in the center that Englishmen were inclined to be rascals. And if ever a man was a rascal it was this man … a rascal possessed of a truly wonderful accent. It sent a shiver running down her spine.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Stop writing … I don’t need the competition.
Seriously though, the best trick I’ve learned for improving my writing is reading aloud! New writers need to get vocal.
When I proof-read my own stuff – and I guess by the time I’d finished “Ghost Love” I’d read it maybe a hundred times – a couple of pages in my mind starts to wander which can be lethal. So what to do? The answer is to read what I’ve written aloud. I pretend that I’m reading for the radio and give voice to my words. Reading aloud necessitates reading each and every word and listening to the dialogue of all of your characters. Doing this it soon becomes apparent when you’re using the same word or phrase too often – those devilishly persistent ‘echoes’ – or if your characters’ speech patterns aren’t consistent. And when you’ve come to that ‘final polish’ stage before sending it off to a publisher, reading to a beta reader is invaluable. Rod, my husband, functions in this (and other!) capacities, each of us taking it in turns to read a chapter aloud with the other simply listening and critiquing.
Jazz is featured quite heavily in “Ghost Love” and in writing these scenes I drew on my career as a jazz singer.
When I first came to the UK I fronted a band that played the jazz-themed hotel Rod and I ran. This sorta grew and my career as a jazz vamp climaxed with me recording a critically acclaimed album of nuJazz tunes called “Jazz Noir”. You can check out my rendition of the great Marlene Dietrich number “Falling in Love Again” on youtube.
Genre: Romance (with a hint of the paranormal)
Date of Publication: 20th January 2015
ISBN: ISBN-13 978-1-60659-849-8
Number of pages: 332
Word Count: 90,000
Cover Artist: Niki Browning
In the madcap, chaotic days when Communism crumbled in the USSR, Tonia meets and falls in love with Englishman, Peter Monroe. 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 a life-toughened Toni must revisit these bitter-sweet memories when she finds herself and her daughters endangered by the consequences of that love affair.
In her despair Toni comes to realise that true love really does conquer all … even death.
Present Day: Dorset, England
Excitement being a kindred spirit to fear, Toni was undecided as to whether it was a trickle of fear she felt shivering down her spine or a trickle of excitement.
As she sat staring at the screen of her laptop, the darkness shrouding the room seemed to draw in on her: her head swam, her palms became clammy. Tears welled up in her eyes. She blinked them away, hoping that by doing so the message on her screen would disappear. It didn’t.
Peter Monroe wants to be friends on Facebook
Hesitantly she maneuvered the cursor over the ‘connect’ button and pressed ‘enter.’ The screen mutated to show the Facebook page for ‘Peter Monroe.’ It was Peter! She recognized the profile photograph instantly. She’d taken it. She remembered posing him in front of the bandstand in Gorki Park on that spring day back in 1990, remembered laughing at the stupid faces he pulled, remembered the way his long chestnut hair flopped over his forehead, remembered…
How could she forget? He had been her one true love.
Love. A word made empty by misuse…by overuse. She wondered how many had ever endured the touch of real love, that soul-eviscerating sensation that comes when you know you have found your soul-mate. Very few, she decided. Perhaps this was all for the good: true love brought anguish in equal measure to joy. As the last twenty years had taught her, finding true love was a bitter-sweet blessing. Her fingers trembled as she typed.
Is it really you, Peter?
The reply was instantaneous.
Yes…I’ve missed you, Tonia.
She couldn’t stop herself: the tears flowed down her cheeks.
She paused, terrified that what she would type next might cause this marvelous mirage to vanish.
But I thought you were dead.
The seconds ticked by, then:
About the Author:
Nelli Rees, born in Moscow, trained as a linguist and a musician. With her future husband Englishman Rod she worked and travelled around Russia, finally coming to live in England in 1998. Nelli has had several successful careers: recording a critically acclaimed nu-jazz album “Jazz Noir”, becoming an award-winning jewellery maker, writing a book “Glass Bead Jewelry Projects”, and doing all this whilst being a mother and a wife. “Ghost Love” is Nelli’s first novel and draws heavily on her own experiences as a young woman in Soviet Russia and the obstacles she and her husband-to-be faced during those difficult times.
Video of Nelli performing "Falling In Love Again":https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2J5Phukc8Y