Author's Corner: Natalia Brothers

Today, Dark Fantasy Author Natalia Brothers talks about how it feels to go to her childhood home after two decades spent overseas.


My cousin calls. It’s 9 p.m., I’m jet lagged, but the day’s chores didn’t leave us any time for an earlier visit. I put on my winter coat. In the lowlands, the temperature plunges at night, even though it’s mid-May. I grab my camera and stroll to the river. Nightingales sing. I snap pictures of the young moon reflected on the water surface, tall willows growing along the banks, and gnarly tree trunks dropped by beavers into the unhurried current.

Alex unlocks the gate and lets me in. He built a new house, but he misses the ancient log dwelling where he spent so many summers. The building still stands, and that’s where we sit and reminisce, in a tiny room with the slanting floor and a forty-year-old refrigerator. We both are Muscovites, but our best childhood memories live here, in the village, where four generations ago our ancestors bought summer homes. Distant cousins, Alex and I share a great-great-grandmother, whose name we don’t know. She died of cholera when her youngest child—my great-grandmother—was two years old.
The last winter was snowy, and Alex tells me about a days-long storm that trapped him in the village. He’d prefer to stay in Moscow, but he returned to feed a feral tomcat that has been living in his cellar for the last few years. That night, out of food and unable to drive through snowdrifts, Alex decided to walk to the train station on foot. As I listen about his treacherous walk through the thigh-deep snow in the blinding wind, in the dark, I contemplate how lucky he is that he’d made it. Alex shrugs. He cares about the cat.

My cousin calls and asks if I’m awake. It’s 8 a.m., and he wants to drive me to one of the “holy springs” not far from the village, a well with ice-cold, clear, great-tasting water. I’m awake, but I’m in Moscow. Two sisters, twins, invite me to Vorobyovi Hills, a restored park on the Moskva River.
I cross a bridge and we meet by the walls of an old monastery. The slopes, wet and lush after rains, offer gorgeous views. A gray-and-black crow patrols a pond’s banks, eyeballing tiny brown ducklings. The girls wave their umbrella, shooing the predator away. We walk down to the embankment. Lilacs and nightingales, and rain that starts without warning—it’s May.

My former classmates call. Today, we’ll cross another bridge, walk through another park, and I will have another meal with my best friends. Someone else from my high school stops at the restaurant for a business lunch. He asks why it’s just four of us. We laugh—we’re there to plan our usual spring reunion, and we’ve decided on the date minutes before his arrival. Sergei tells us he can’t make it. We choose a new date, but we’ll keep the first one as well. I moved across the Atlantic two decades ago, but the time and distance only strengthened our friendship. In the weeks that I spend Moscow, we see each other as often as possible. My friends and I are as close as we were in elementary school. We laugh just as much.

My cousin calls. He’s in Moscow. He dug up a suitcase full of old family photos and can’t wait to share with me his find. But today I’m out in the country, celebrating my high-school friends’ wedding anniversary. It pours every time we try to go for a walk, but the scenery is worth it. Fish splash on the surface of a huge pond. The basin is full, spilling over into the meadow. No wind at dusk to bother the lacy branches of weeping birches; a colony of blue irises has crawled under someone’s fence and now graces the side of a soggy dirt road.

Irina complains about her wet feet. We return to the house, and her husband offers to put on the samovar. We cheer—he’s the only one in the group who’s acquired our grandmothers’ skill, a task that seems mysterious and impossible to the rest of us. An hour later, we’re sitting on the enclosed veranda, inhaling the smoky smell of pinecones and thanking Andrei profusely—every one of us remembers the samovar’s scent from childhood, and the faint memories make us mellow and nostalgic.

My cousin calls…


Natalia's dark fantasy, Soul of the Unborn, which takes place in Russia, is coming out this fall. Stay tuned for the cover reveal later this summer.

Can you call yourself human if your every breath, every emotion, every desire is generated by supernatural forces? 

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.