Author's Corner: Dark Fantasy Author Natalia Brothers - Atmospheric Scotland

It's summer and our authors are traveling to interesting places and writing about their experiences. Today on the Author's Corner, dark fantasy writer Natalia Brothers takes us along on a trip to Atmospheric Scotland. All photo credit goes to Natalia.

 Atmospheric Scotland

Late evening sprawls over a city that is older than Moscow. A formidable cathedral rises over staggered red roofs. In the crisscrossing beams of light, seagulls flash like pallid spirits, their calls akin to doleful warnings in the moonless blackened sky. This is how Valya Svetlova, my heroine, describes a place she had visited.

Her memories are my memories. I had stood once on the bank of Douro river, struck by a fascinating sight—seagulls soaring over the ancient walls, their ghostly silhouettes caught in the projectors, their momentary shadows in shafts of light slashing the night sky.

This wasn’t the first time I witnessed the phenomenon of an atmospheric setting, an instance when a place struck me with a force that would make me forever remember the impression, an overpowering emotion triggered by something similar to déjà vu, a feeling so strong it would compel me to return so I could experience the sensation again. Harpers Ferry. St. Petersburg. Porto…I have a list of places I long, crave, yearn to see again, no matter how many times I visited them in the past.

Several years ago, I watched an animated feature set in Edinburgh. Yes, an animation. It’s difficult to explain what had caught my attention, but ever since I dreamt of visiting the city of dark-stone homes, slender spires, and steep cobbled streets.

Call it a bucket list, call it an obsession. For me, a dark fantasy author, it’s a pull of primal potency. I sought an opportunity; I waited. One day, I left a message with a travel company. An hour later, there was a call from an agent. My husband returned from the gym and listened to my passionate pitch. A friend didn’t mind to take in our dogs. We boarded a 787. The British Isles awaited.

But could the city meet my expectations when my hopes were sky high? I’ve seen enough world-famous locations where the touristy atmosphere prevailed over their medieval charm.

And here we are, standing on the Castle’s Esplanade, looking down the Royal Mile. The day is sunny, but we got off the bus on the shady side of the street and the morning chill forces me to zip up my windbreaker. Bountiful hanging baskets are brilliant splotches of magenta, blue, and green against the aged walls. The colorful band of street performers get their assigned spots for the day. Soon they gather small audiences along the already crowded street. As lunch time approaches, the mouthwatering smell of smoked potatoes, sold at a craft market, floats through the air.

Whimsical turrets adorn the buildings, each one a perfect setting for fairy tales and lore. And the chimneys—so many sets of chimneys, some plain, others intricately decorated—grace every rooftop.

The annual festival attracts enormous crowds, but the spectacular city is too grandiose to succumb to the hassle and bustle of modern times. Nothing can overshadow its magnificence. I see so many places I’d love to explore on my own. From the Holyrood Palace gardens, I wistfully watch a file of hikers conquering Arthur’s Seat. I catch a glimpse of the obelisks at the Old Calton Burial Ground. I want to take a walk on Princes Street and savor the sight that matches the Edinburgh that lived in my imagination. It’s time to leave, but I already crave to return.

The next afternoon, we take a panoramic tour of Scottish Lochs. The day, the guide explains, is what they call “dreich”:  a cheerless mélange of drizzle, squalls of wind, and patches of fog. Wispy clouds wander the dark-green slopes, their vertical ghostly shapes ignored by white sheep enjoying the grass in the glens below. We stop at Luss, a picture-perfect village where the quaint beauty of lush gardens competes for our attention with the splendor of the mountains and Loch Lomond. Visitors browse along the sandy beach, where a pair of swans mingle with ducks and seagulls in the choppy waters.

 I stroll to the end of the wet pier. I wish I had more time to just stand there and gaze out at the somber landscape of low islands. From my vantage point, they look like fuzzy gray caterpillars crawling on the loch’s surface.

The rain intensifies, but I’m not ready to return to the bus. The air is filled with the scents of greenery and roses. Umbrella in one hand and the camera in the other, I snap countless pictures of flowerbeds and stone facades. In a gift shop, I can’t resist buying a pair of earrings in a shape of sheep, something to make me think of Luss more often than I would if I only had the photos.

We stay on the bus, out of the rain and the wind, while a ferry takes us across Holy Loch. I’m desperate for a cup of coffee, and maybe a cookie. I can’t wait to see the pictures I took.
I don’t catch on camera every interesting image I come across. I missed a magpie resting on the back of a sheep, and a merle-colored border collie riding behind its master on an ATV. But a rainbow sprouted before my eyes in Llangollen, Wales, while I stood on a bridge, admiring the scenic river. A ferry boat left the dock in Cork, Ireland, as our ship sailed by. I’m greedy when it comes to anything atmospheric. The settings play major role in my stories, and it’s those fleeting impressions I get on my trips that give me the needed inspiration.

Born in Moscow, Natalia grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Natalia realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a moonless summer night she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if, a writer’s unrelenting muse, took hold of her. Two of her passions define her being. Natalia is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy.


Natalia's dark fantasy, Soul of the Unborn, which takes place in Russia, is coming out this fall. 

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.