Name Sonador Snow
Where are you from
I currently live in the north of the UK, but I grew up in numerous Central and Eastern European countries as the job of my parents and their status of dissidents under the Communist Regime that ruled this part of the globe at the time forced this lifestyle. However, I found it very interesting to move a lot, which come my teenage years became a bit of an obsession. By the age of twenty-one I already visited every country in Europe at least once. Backpacking around the continent and beyond met me with lots of extraordinary people, places and natural wonders, which definitely is helping my writing now.
These days I prefer the solitude of my lovely garden, I like pottering in it when I can’t write, although my main job as a journalist still keeps me active and on the move a lot. I and my partner are both passionate aquarists and with six fish tanks in the house (three marine and three tropical) we spend a lot of time taking care and enjoying them. My passion is natural preservation and I’m involved in several projects that aim to help preserving the oceans and rivers of our planet.
No kids, but our spoiled eight-year-old dog behaves a lot like one and he tries to steal every free minute you have. I don’t mind at all!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have two actually.
First, by the end of April my first short story compilation BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN will be released. It’s a book of several true-based short stories about the life under Communism.
Second, I’m currently putting the final touched of Part Two of my debut novel QUEST FOR BABYLON’S SOUL. Hoping to have it ready by mid-May.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Can’t remember when, but I’d say the main reason why was that when I was feeling sad and lonely in the past sitting and writing a fictional story was transporting me somewhere else and soon everything was better. In terms of serious writing I’d say I started several years after Uni.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
About ten years ago when I started working as a journalist. I actually started my first novel around that period too, just it took several more years until I finished it. However, in my heart I knew that this was what I want to do and I always knew that I’ll be doing it one day.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My combined passion for history, geography, archeology, thrillers and creative writing.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I use and like fast-pace style, also at least two different timeframes or physical places in which the events are happening simultaneously. Also I prefer shorter chapters than some.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It just came to me one day when I was working on one of the middle chapters. I usually don’t have the title when I start writing, but I found out that when I get into the story it eventually comes to me before I finish the book.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As I’m an avid reader too I’d say that everyone will find their own message based on their life experience and character.
However, I’d say that I tried to show how little greed in humans changed over the centuries and I hope people will make their correlations between the distant past, the near past and the present. The other message I hope some will grasp is connected with the destiny of a desperate Iraqi woman that is present during the entire course of the novel. As a journalist I wanted to show that sometimes the news we’re writing about are the final product of a sequence of many events that can answer why something is happening, but almost always nobody cares to trace back things. We all love to be judges, don’t we!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’d say not much is based on real events, although the description of historic and geographic places all throughout is very accurate. Also the mystery surrounding the famous gold statue the book is about is also accurately presented, although the quest of finding it came from my imagination.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
As an avid reader I read thousands of books and can hardly pick one, plus at different stages of life one needs to read different things. If we talk about most influence I’d saw the novels of Jules Verne, Karl May, Robert Ludlum, Dan Brown and James Rollins.
I don’t have a mentor. It would have been very nice though!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’d say no, but that is because I stuffed my library with a few hundred books two years ago and as I’m still reading through them I haven’t looked for new titles. I’ll do it soon though!
As I said above at different times I have different ‘favorite author’, but right now I’d say Haruki Murakami. His writing style is very different to mine, the topics too, but I just love to disappear in his fictional worlds, he always creates them with vividness and ease that allow me to simply forget my reality and simply exist in the book for several hours.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
It will have to be my guardian-angel. I believe we all have, some people call it destiny or luck but I think they are all the same thing.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Probably not simply because the short stories I wrote in BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN are based on real people and true events. When this is the case one has to stay as close to the way the storyteller presented things as possible.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From very young age I was inventing stories in my mind and also in high school I wrote lots of poems for girls J I was always an avid reader and naturally at some point in my teenage period I started writing a bit too. As they say from there on everything is history.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here are the unedited first two chapters:
Tuesday, January 25th 2015,
Lincoln, Great Britain
Temperatures plummeted even more that morning. The freezing wind lifted clouds of snow off the ground. A dead pigeon dropped with a thunk from the bare branches of the Japanese cherry on the other side of the street. Not surprisingly there was not a living soul outside at this early hour.
Professor Geoff Symons opened his tired eyes in the warmth of his bed. The smell coming from the kitchen was irresistible. Four thousand miles away a young woman he knew was dying under the scorching sun …
The blood poured from her split soft skin onto the pile of bones. Her hair was a mess, her lips cracked, her exposed skin dry as the ground around. She tried to climb out of the hole but failed. Her bearded friend grinned from the edge of the eight foot deep dig, the sun behind him touched the horizon and made her close her eyes. Her pain was unbearable, her deep wound pumped out another fountain of warm blood. A desert jackal howled from the ridge behind them. Her eyes didn’t open anymore, the blood continued to ooze over the pile of bones.
… Geoff stayed in bed for a little while, enjoying the smell and noises coming from the kitchen. Sting was singing with a muffled voice on the radio. The last year of Geoff’s life had been like Sting’s songs – soft, soothing and magical.
After a few minutes he got up and looked at his body in the oversized round mirror facing the large bedroom window overlooking the quiet street. His heavily sun-burned skin and slightly deformed elbows – he inherited from the pneumonia that nearly killed him when he was eight – looked odd under his sand-blond hair and deep blue eyes.
“You certainly put on some weight lately.” A voice coming from the doorway startled him. He turned and smiled at Diane. Her slim figure was still covered only by her favourite purple pjs but her oval breasts were outlined by the cooking apron wrapped around her waist. Diane loved the cold, not so surprisingly considering that she was Colorado born and bred. Geoff never heard her complaining about the freezing temperatures or wearing something more than what he called ‘a summer night outfit’ inside the unheated house, while her breath was coming from her mouth in clouds.
“Maybe if you stopped cooking these delicious breakfasts I wouldn’t be gaining weight. Plus I’m knocking on forty.”
“Yeah right, blame it on me.” She walked over to him embracing his naked chest and kissed his brood shoulders with her warm lips. “It’s bloody freezing out there, why are you hanging around naked?”
“I was getting in the shower. I have time, do you?”
“Go on then, breakfast will be ready in fifteen.” Diane tapped his tight butt and Geoff disappeared into the small bathroom of his little detached house on the outskirts of Lincoln, England.
Half an hour later the two of them sat in the living room enjoying their breakfast. Too busy to talk, both Geoff and Diane made sure that their mouths remained full all the time with the umpteenth gourmet meal the American archaeologist had mustered, they just gazed out of the window towards the empty street. The thick layer of ice was quickly disappearing under a soft blanket of fresh snow falling from the leaden sky.
“So have you heard anything from your government?” Diane asked chewing on an unnaturally thick piece of smoked ham. She might have only weighed a hundred pounds with wet clothes but she most definitely had a ‘gigantorous’ appetite.
“No, I haven’t heard from them officially, but Cooper and Welsh are coming to visit us tomorrow. They called at the University while I was out. I assume they’ll bring news.”
“Oh how exciting a visit from MI6.” Diane rolled her eyes and shook her shoulders as if shivering.
Since Diane Ryan discovered the ancient mass grave in Syria over six months ago which triggered the series of tragic events that unfolded after that, the problem had become an international issue. For the past forty days heated negotiations were ongoing between the American, the British, the French and the Syrian governments as to how to proceed and who would be in charge of future excavations.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the two gifted professors that started during this series of tragic events had grown into something more, or at least Geoff wanted to believe so. After he witnessed the death of his first true love Manama, she proved to be a double agent working as a mercenary for the French government, caused the tragic end of one of his best friends in the scholar world who was only translating some ancient texts for them, but mostly he felt personally responsible for the murders of several young students of his, the only thing Geoff wanted now was for his relationship with Diane to work.
A melodic ring chased away the dark thoughts that clawed their way back into his mind. He loved the sound of the cathedral’s bells, they were the one thing that had calmed him down ever since he was a kid.
“Your coffee’s getting cold.” Diane was staring at him.
He smiled at her and took a sip from the bitter black liquid that warmed his insides. No sugar, no milk, extra strong, exactly how he liked it.
“So what news do you think Cooper and Welsh will bring?” Diane asked while Geoff was spreading a generous amount of duck pate on his toast.
“Have no idea. To be honest with you I don’t think they’ll let us proceed with the excavations. These days Syria seems to be closed off to everyone who’s not military or a journalist. I thought that dust and gloom with ISIS from a few years back was bad, but now it seems to be even worse.”
“Yeah, the bloody religious tension.” Diane mumbled with a full mouth. She never ate like a lady when it was her favourite pancakes stuffed with fig jam and white cheese.
Her reference was about the events that occurred around the same time she and Geoff were involved in the biggest adventure of their otherwise boring lives. When they were in Syria excavating, a Muslim woman suicide-bomber had blown herself up near the entrance to the Louver Museum in Paris killing over a hundred people – including seventeen kids – and as a result of that the same old circus had begun again. The western world implemented severe economic measures against a group of Middle East countries, the opposite reaction was burned embassies, American flags, rag dolls and also a dozen more bombs had exploded in major cities all around the globe. Israel also used this opportunity to push the country-less Palestinians further into the desert, and this increased the tension in the region even more. All this made it obvious to the politically uninvolved Geoff and Diane that they shouldn’t hope to continue excavations any time soon.
“When do you have to be back in the States?”
“I suppose the sooner the better if you ask my Dean. He keeps sending me these emails about excavation sites and paperwork needing my attention, but I have a feeling that all he wants is to have me back in the University and never let me even smell a dig again.”
The bells of Lincoln Cathedral stopped, an ink-black crow landed on a frozen branch of the winter-ugly cherry tree in the front garden. Geoff and Diane finished their breakfast in silence.
An hour later both of them were dressed warm and just as they were putting on their shoes a loud explosion from just outside the house made the windows tremble. Diane felt a sharp pain halfway down her arm. The weight of Geoff’s body made her drop to the ground before she even had a chance to look at her arm. The moment her cheek touched the cold carpet a second explosion shattered the glass in the windows, they closed their eyes.
Tuesday, January 25th 2015,
Sahara, Niger, over 150 miles from the nearest town
Gill had stood hunched and motionless over the old parchment for over half an hour. The sweat made the shirt stick to her back, this had attracted lots of insects but nothing was going to distract her. The sun was beaming through the cracks of the tent, Paolo was standing in the shade wagging his tail and sweating through his long pink tongue.
Gill was a renowned treasure hunter and as far as she knew the only woman in the ‘business’. She earned her right to mix with half a dozen ruthless and tough men that also traced long lost treasures and artefacts all over the world. A few years back ex-bank manager Gill Whitley had taken two months off work after her second psychological breakdown in the three years that had passed since she turned thirty. The trip down the west-African coast she took during this time changed her life forever.
It all started as a joke when a friend of hers, knowing that diving was one of her hobbies, asked her when she was down there to look for the wreckage of a British ship that sank in the early eighteenth century, the captain was a distant relative of his. He gave her some vague old documents and publications from that era which he discovered while building his family tree. This proved enough for Gill to be on the front pages of the newspapers soon after. It was her ability to read old documents in a unique way that helped her to narrow down the probable position of the wreck and after nearly two months of daily diving and over a hundred square miles of sea bed covered she located her first wreck. It brought her fame but hardly fortune, and yet she still posted her letter of resignation from Nigeria. Three weeks later her new hobby turned her into a world famous treasure hunter when an old local book helped her to locate and claim the wreckage of HMS ‘Gloria’, another British ship that sank in the same era. Although when it sank the ship was overloaded only with slaves the few artefacts she recovered proved to be very lucrative and their auction brought Gill her yearly income in a day. After that she turned this new passion of hers into a career and soon it was up to her to choose the treasures she wanted to hunt and those she didn’t.
Gill lifted her tired eyes from the old sheets spread on the table and stretched. Paolo walked to her and rubbed his face on her leg. “Hey boy, you want something to eat?” Gill stroked the back of her black Labrador – the only male in her life for a very long time, “Come on, let’s get you something.”
She walked to the small fridge at the back of the tent and took out a tin of meat for Paolo and a cold soda for her. She put the dog’s food in his bowl and climbed onto the hammock with her drink. Her short and well-rounded body had no problems diving to the bottom of the ocean, but the heat of the desert really tortured her.
Halfway through her soda the tent flap opened and a tall, skinny ginger-haired man entered. His face looked crab-red, two big pieces of burned skin flapped loose from his right shoulder, left bare by his sweat-soaked vest. “We’re bloody wasting our time here.” He said with a heavy English accent.
“I’m sure there is something more here. I just can’t understand some of the German notes scribbled next to the Bedouin text. Will you go through them with me again, Günter?” Gill jumped off the hammock.
About a month earlier she was contacted in her Scottish home by the wealthy German businessman and eccentric Julius Dünker. Dünker was the owner of one of the biggest superstore chains in Europe, building it singlehandedly from the rubble of post-war Germany. He had asked for Gill’s services on the biggest job she’d been hired to do since she turned into a treasure-hunter overnight. The cash on offer was so much that she simply couldn’t say no, and twenty-six days later here she was in the middle of the remotest Sahara region, a hundred and fifty-four miles away from the nearest town.
“I’m worried that our water supplies didn’t arrive as they were supposed to yesterday.” Günter said while applying a thick layer of cream to his awfully burned bony shoulders. “A few of the helpers refused to work yesterday and the latest news coming from Agadez is not very good. Taliban attacks and more and more tension even amongst the Muslims themselves.”
“Just ignore everything, we must concentrate on our job here, everything else is of no concern.”
“Yeah right, when the water finishes in two days we’ll ignore it.”
“I’m not saying that, if by tomorrow the supplies don’t arrive we’ll call it off but until then I want only to concentrate on what we’re here for. I feel we’re very close.” Gill walked to the old parchment she had studied so vigorously for the past two hours, Günter joined her.
Outside the dry Sahara wind was blowing clouds of fine sand over the tops of the high dunes. Gill’s camp was practically set in the secluded lowest point between three ‘sand mountains’ and despite the slightly hotter temperature at least the constant wind wasn’t bothering the group of nine men and four women stranded in this remote corner of the mighty desert. The other reason for their camp to be hidden as best as possible was the fact that this excavation was taking place without the knowledge and approval of Niger’s government. The nature of the search required great secrecy and also Gill and Dünker were aware that the way the German magnate obtained the documents in the first place was hardly legal in any country in the world – even one like Niger, where democracy was hardly a recognized word – and that was another reason why the whole enterprise had to be kept a secret.
Gill’s ability to work with people helped her a lot when she had to organise excavations and this quality of hers showed again when she was picking the locals for the excavations, Koffi Daouda had been born in a Bedouin tribe nearby and very quickly he had won Gill’s trust for all things big and small concerning the running of a smooth life in their small community. Koffi actually offered and selected all of the workers, but even so he wasn’t fully trusted by the Europeans and still the exact goal of this undertaking was unknown to him.
“What do you think they’re up to?” A tall and covered in dirt Arab asked Koffi, while the two of them were in the bottom of a thirty foot deep dig shovelling out more sand.
“Dun no.” Koffi mumbled, chewing on his one addiction – raw marijuana. His parents and pretty much all of their tribe might have been forced to move and live in the cities ten years ago when the umpteenth dictator took control of the country but the vast fields of marijuana that the tribe had grown remained untouched and Koffi and several friends had turned them into a very profitable business recently. “I would say they have no idea too Moussa. Whatever it is, it must be very precious.”
The two men continued their hard work in silence, trying to preserve their energy. Koffi and his best friend Moussa Cisse were filling two fifty-litre wooden buckets with sand that were tied to ship ropes and every time they were filled other workers, again from Koffi’s tribe, were pulling them up to the surface. They were already over thirty feet deep in the hole, whose size a real estate agent would probably describe as ‘the standard size of a two-bedroom bungalow’. This meant that there was plenty of room to manoeuvre, but the deeper they were going more and more sand from the walls was sliding back in to erase their progress and the work was hard. This, added to the scarce water rations over the past two days really drained the energy from almost everyone and despite being late in the afternoon and with Koffi and Moussa already down for over three hours the progress for the day could hardly be measured as more than a few inches.
Koffi wasn’t paid to ask questions or to moan, he was hired to recruit workers and to help with all the arrangements for the supplies. However, his trained ear and late night strolls around the camp helped him to find out that Gill and the ‘Nazi bastard’, as the others nicknamed Günter, had a satellite phone at their disposal. Twice he heard them using it to contact someone with a husky voice but as the conversation was both times in German Koffi couldn’t understand any of it.
“Hey,” Gill’s roundy face appeared on the edge of the hole, “I think that’s enough for today, come on up.”
Koffi and Moussa didn’t need a second invitation and leaving the buckets half-full tossed their shovels next to the rusty coffee table in the east corner – a few small luxuries like a table, two rickety chairs and a beach brolly with more than a few holes in it had been left down once the hole got to over twenty feet deep – and after dusting off no more than a tenth of the dirt covering their sweaty bodies the two of them climbed the wobbly wooden ladder to the surface.
The camp consisted of three sleeping tents for Koffi and the other workers, Gill’s high-tech tent – as Moussa remarked on the first day ‘the fat bird brought a bloody fridge on batteries into the middle of the fuckin’ desert…’ – and also the biggest tent which served as kitchen, dining room and storage area. One of the two rusty trucks parked just past Gill’s tent provided Günter with a very Spartan sleeping area, but the German had hardly been seen spending time in there. The more superstitious of Koffi’s Bedouin friends were ready to swear that the ginger man was a demon that never slept. The third one headed towards Agadez for supplies three days earlier.
After a decent evening meal of chicken stew and carrot cake came the quickly adopted tradition of playing cards and board games for an hour or two. A few small amounts of money changed hands during this time, the Niger workers always needed the extra excitement of playing for cash, then everyone quickly headed towards their beds. The umpteenth day of hard work in the heat had taken its toll on everyone and as usual by eleven p.m. the whole camp was asleep. That night wasn’t any different, but about an hour after the final muffled conversation had ceased a torch-light appeared on top of the dunes and danced its way down the steepest one. Slow and careful footsteps tried to cause as little disturbance in the sand as possible in the pitch dark night, the person carrying the torch never shone it near his face, the narrow light beam always stayed fixed on the ground where the next step was going to be made.
Gill’s tent was strategically placed nearest to the dig with the two trucks parked in a large free area behind it, but the intruder with the torch chose the shortest way to the wobbly ladder and with light steps walked between the trucks and the tent, not worrying too much that he might be heard. However, Paolo lifted his head growling intensely, this disturbed Gill’s sleep. She shifted under her covers and opened her eyes but all she did was stroke the dog between his ears until he calmed down. Paolo growled for a minute or so but soon stopped sensing his master’s hand.
Outside the torchlight reached the wobbly wooden ladder and the carrier of the light extinguished it and started descending, risking serious injury or even a broken neck with just one wrong move in the darkness. The ladder creaked several times under the weight but the sound wasn’t loud and quickly dispersed in the vast desert. Halfway down the torchlight came on again but even its beam was hardly able to penetrate the ink-black darkness of the deep hole.
Günter stretched his dangly hands and lit a cigarette. The flower-white skin of the German that had burned horrifically red on the first day had found soothing comfort in the refreshing chill of the desert night as he took a dozen more steps in the quickly cooling sand. His midnight strolls didn’t go by unnoticed, a fact he was aware of, but he didn’t care as soon everything was going to end. Günter stopped suddenly and knelt quickly switching on his torch with hasty movement. His eyes narrowed and he spat the fag away.
The light illuminated the north corner of the well-shaped dig for a few seconds and then it went off. Soon the sound of digging came from the darkness. It stopped the moment a loud ring of metal hitting metal echoed through the night. Nothing disturbed the desert night in the next five minutes and then the torch came on again, the hand holding it was trembling with excitement.
On the surface Koffi woke up in desperate need of a wee and walked out of his tent …
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I might sound boring but it must be the discipline required to keep on writing even when things are not going well, or at all. Writing a novel is a long process in time and one needs to remain focused and living in his story, which is not always as easy as many think it is.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
As I said above I travelled a lot in the past, but now when I’m actually writing I don’t do a lot of travelling. Prefer the focus and calmness that my oak desk in my office at home gives me. However, a lot of the places I describe have been visited by me at some point in life.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publishers Creativia take care of that, but I have the final say when we narrow it down to 2-3 options.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Editing. I rely for that on other people and it is very hard when you put your trust in someone’s hands.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Learn I’d say no, but it definitely gave me confidence to pursue further this career as I enjoyed every minute of the process. Also I think that with every next book I’m polishing my style and sound more and more, but the readers will be judges of that.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Tough one – I’d say Diane Kruger (NATIONAL TREASURE) for the role of Carolina and Matt Damon as Taylor if someone decides to film THE WORLD AFTER. I think the novel is getting more and more relevant with each passing year.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be ready to be lonely, writing is a lonely profession and only those that enjoy their own company can be successful. However, it is equally important to have a support from spouse or a friend when things get really tough and you start having doubts. Find someone to rely on!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to let them know that one of my novels – THE WORLD AFTER – will be free for Kindle download for a limited time around Easter (12TH – 17TH April). I guess everyone that wants to give it a chance can obtain it and see if it’s up to their taste.
Regularly my works have such free or $0.99 promotions and those interested can follow me on Twitter or Facebook as I always announce there when such promotions are ongoing.
The other thing I want to tell all my readers, very important thing for me, is that I don’t keep any of the royalties from sold books for me and everything goes for ocean conservation projects and other green related activities all over the globe. Luckily I have my journalistic job to feed the family and as long as I manage to do both things I’ll be doing everything I can for OUR home as too many people simply take it for granted.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
THE BLACK ROSE OF FLORENCE by Michele Giuttari.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Nice casual gathering of friends and ordinary chat can always make me laugh, while I can always cry when a good person passes away, or when I witness a piece of nature dying. The last time I cried was staring from a ship’s deck at the endless sea of plastic rubbish in the middle of the Pacific, while a dozen frigate birds were choking and slowly dying with no power in the world able to save them.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would like to meet many people for certain, but right now I’d like to sit down with the likes of Dan Brown and Haruki Murakami and have a nice casual chat. I think I can learn a lot from them for the trade of being a writer.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“He was one who followed dreams, stars and ships!!!” Simply because that is who I am.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I already mentioned above my nature preserving projects, my gardening, my aquariums and my dog. One last thing will be photography. I tend to go everywhere with my camera and actually I even think at some point to make an exhibition of my favorite photos in a gallery.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Don’t tell anyone but I actually like watching naïve Christmas films. They’re easy to watch after a long day and also I can’t see anything wrong in constant reminders that goodness and niceness can overcome almost anything in life. I also watch a lot of thrillers and historical films, while in terms of series I’m a fan of HOUSE, WHITE COLLAR, THE LAST KINGDOM and maybe half a dozen others.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Fresh salad made from vegies I grow in my own garden all the time, plus an omelet stuffed with lots of fresh herbs / Sky blue / Rock
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have been either an archaeologist or a marine scientist.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I’m also planning to create a blog soon, but this will be nearer the summer.