Leigh Holland’s Interview with Natalia Vereshchagina
Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed for my blog, Natalia!
Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.
Natalia: I was born in the former Soviet Union, in Moldova, although ethnically I am Russian. I studied biology at Saint Petersburg University where received a Master’s degree in genetics and much later a PhD in the same field. At the end of the 90s I moved abroad to continue doing research studies. And had a chance to work in different labs and different countries: the UK (University of Oxford), France, Singapore and Germany.
Leigh: When did you decide to become a writer? Why do you write?
Natalia: Science to me has always been the world where creativeness of life nurtures human creativity so that to bring life in turn to a whole new level. And I was lucky enough to see the bright sparks of brilliant science throughout my career. Unfortunately, however, I also worked in the environment that would be defined by me as a poor substitute for research, ugly commercialized and fouled with mediocrity and cunning race for privileges. It was then that I felt the urge to write a book, not with a view to composing an accusatory manifesto, but simply wishing to take a chance to speak in favour of true science, the one that influences our destiny and destination.
Another thing that prompted me to turn to writing was the lack of intellectual satisfaction I always felt after reading conventional detective/crime stories. No matter how captivating they are, once finished reading them, I always put them aside like a squeezed orange or the inner wrapping of chocolate bar, having no desire to return to those pages again (“The name of the rose” by Umberto Eco remains a stunning exception of it). It started a train of thought to attempt to compose such a novel whose content would be found by avid readers simply irresistible to stop feeding spiritually on it. Well, it was and still is just a dream of mine.
Leigh: What inspired you to write a scientific mystery centered around physicists?
Natalia: As I’ve already mentioned I have a PhD in science and also many years of research experience in Academia, but I am not a physicist, only a geneticist; and that fact of my education obliged me to be (in my novel) as accurate as possible in stating the scientific facts that are far beyond my expertise. Nor did it give me any right to be critical about the famous Nuclear Research Centre (CERN, as you correctly noticed), where I have never been and never worked, and whose research does not deserve to be doubted.
I have chosen this particular setting for my narrative because the exciting research at the Collider is one of the most functional elements in the development of my mysterious and tragic story. And secondly, in the background predetermined to reveal to the utmost the beauty, mystery and greatness of the Universe, the perception of greedy and cunning nature of human minds becomes especially strong.
Leigh: Which writers have influenced you the most over the years and what about their work inspires you?
Natalia: I would say that both “The name of the rose” by Umberto Eco and “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov had a profound impact on my writing. The former inspired me with the concept of a cross-genre fiction, so ingeniously developed by Eco to show how little, if any, human nature has changed over time. While the “love affair with the English language” in Nabokov’s Lolita turned out to be too contagious with all its tenderness and “aesthetic bliss” to resist the intolerable temptation to dream of going through the same.
Leigh: How has publishing your first book changed your writing process?
Natalia: Had I written my novel “Dating a chance” in my native language, which is Russian, I believe, I would have felt pretty confident about the book. But after publishing my English version of the novel, I’ve realized that I am standing at the very bottom of a literary Everest; and if I really want to reach its peak or, at least, get closer ever, I’ll have to make tremendous efforts.
Leigh: What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
Natalia: I would name “The Gift” by Vladimir Nabokov.
Leigh: How many hours per day do you write? Do you have a set time to write, a set number of words?
Natalia: As long as I am not busy with doing something else, like eating, working, sleeping or taking a shower, I am writing.
Leigh: What were you like in school?
Natalia: A ballerina who worshipped Sherlock Holmes, felt in love with Captain Blood (a main character from Rafael Sabatini’s adventure novel), and was entranced by sci-fi books.
Leigh: What are your ambitions for your writing career? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Natalia: I would like to create a masterpiece, including one that might come through scientific writing, for, if to cite the thoughts of Richard Dawkins, the author of “The selfish gene”, “If you push novelty of language and metaphor far enough, you can end up with a new way of seeing. And a new way of seeing can in its own right make an original contribution to science.”
Leigh: What do you do to relax?
Natalia: I enjoy walking and prefer to do it far away from cars, pollution and city noise; just trying to be close to nature.
Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?
Natalia: I believe my answer to this question will make the readers’ eyebrows travel dashingly “all the way to the back of their heads”, for I do not have any accounts on any of them. Actually, a year ago I had an account on Goodreads, but not sure if it is still functional.