I recently reviewed Leonora Meriel’s The Unity Game and she also participated in a great author interview. Leonora has now kindly agreed to give away paperback copies of this excellent book to three lucky Examining the Odd readers! Simply click here to enter. Good luck!
Interview with Leonora Meriel
• Do you write alone or in public?
I write both – depending on where I can achieve the most undisturbed writing session. If I am alone in the house, then I will write by candlelight on the sofa. If there’s a chance of people pulling me out of my writing world, I’ll escape to a café and find a corner to hide in with a large cup of coffee.
• What are your books about?
My books so far are about the meaning of something. My first novel was about the meaning of happiness – what it is to a young child, to someone who has got their life wrong, looking back on a lifetime. My second novel was about the meaning of life on Earth – our patterns, motivations, structures – it was an exploration of the question rather than offering answers. In the novels I’m currently writing, I’m exploring themes of society, belonging, peace, spirituality, technology and culture. I like to write about themes and questions that have no limits to how deep you can explore them – and also no clear answers. It means that your work will be part of a conversation and a wider exploration.
• What is your favourite part of The Unity Game?
My favourite character in The Unity Game is the genderless energy channeller who boards a space vessel so that it can prolong its lifetime. My readers are really divided about whether they love this character and want more (about 20%) or whether they find this character slow, abstract and frustrating (about 80%). It was the hardest part of the novel to write, as I had to strip out any references to gender or time, and still create coherent sentences. So, my favourite part in the novel is when Noe-bouk (the character) discovers that despite thinking that it has been free and enlightened all of its life, it has in fact done nothing but obey the dry and passionless law of logic. Then it realises the potential of experience there is to be had in the universe. I hope that I will one day have a life re-evaluation on this scale.
• Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns during the whole writing process?
In this novel, The Unity Game, my characters and I were in agreement about where they wanted to go, and my original vision of the novel was fairly close to the end result. In my first novel, The Woman Behind the Waterfall, however, my characters had quite different ideas and I had to change a good portion to accommodate what they wanted to do. Once their personality has settled, during a first draft, my characters are entirely independent.
• What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
What fun it is! There is a great stereotype of tortured creative souls living in misery and eking out livings and masterpieces while having disastrous relationships and miserable lives (did I make that up?). However, having your work out in the public is enormous fun. People read it and comment on it. Some hate it and write long tracts on why, and what – which is fascinating! I agree with a lot of it. Some love it and are incredibly moved by it. Wow. There are book blogs, there are fans, there are readers, there are other writers. All I have ever wanted to do is write, and now I am in a heaving, wild, living community of readers and writers. It’s wonderful.
• Are there any websites or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
An amazing website I used for The Unity Game is Sky Map Online. There were some specific references to constellations in The Unity Game, and with this website, I was able to see the exact configuration of the sky from a specific place in the world, on a specific day in the past. Extraordinary! I believe this is the website used by the hugely talented Eleanor Catton in her Booker-award winning The Luminaries, which is structured around the constellations and set during the 1800s. Even if it’s not a feature in your novel – it’s fun to see what the stars were like on the day of your birth, or on the date of your character’s most important event.
• What genre do you consider your books to be in? Have you considered writing in another genre?
I consider my novels to be Literary Fiction, in the sense that they are written with the intention of being serious, high-quality fiction, and contributing to the body of literature in the world. As sub-genres, my first novel was magical realism, and my second novel was speculative science fiction. I certainly hope to try a wide range of genres during my writing career – I’m currently writing a piece of literary fiction, and trying to keep it on the Earth, with no magic – my personal challenge. I’m also writing a children’s book and a poetic novella. As I writer I plan to grow and expand and challenge myself until the very last word I write.
• Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
I’ve met the author David Mitchell at a book reading in London, and he was wonderful, funny, erudite and inspiring. I also knew the Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov when I lived in Kyiv. When I worked at the United Nations, I was present at the Millennium Assembly in 1999, and was thus in close proximity to every world leader of the time, however I was too shy and lowly to introduce myself to any.
• If you could write about anyone (fictional/non-fictional) who would you write about?
I am writing about the people I want to write about. Socrates decided he wanted to make an appearance in The Unity Game, so he snuck in there with Plato. I’m currently re-reading some Albert Camus, and I have a feeling he is going to get a cameo, especially as one of my current characters lives in Paris. There are several Ukrainian characters I’m interested in also, such as the writer Lesya Ukrainka. I’d be surprised if she didn’t turn up soon. With fiction, you can do anything!
• Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I’d say – please look at our relationship as just that – a relationship. I write the books, but you are a critical part of the equation as the readers of the books, the writers of the reviews, the hosts of the book blogs, the whisperers of recommendations and the requests to local bookshops to stock a great book you’ve just discovered. I have the power to create worlds (you do too!) but you have the power to create success for a writer. I’d like to thank each and every reader for that, and to say – please don’t underestimate your role in a writer’s life and career. Thank you!
The Unity Game
WHAT IF THE EARTH YOU KNEW WAS JUST THE BEGINNING?
A New York banker is descending into madness.
A being from an advanced civilization is racing to stay alive.
A dead man must unlock the secrets of an unknown dimension to save his loved ones.
From the visions of Socrates in ancient Athens, to the birth of free will aboard a spaceship headed to Earth, The Unity Game tells a story of hope and redemption in a universe more ingenious and surprising than you ever thought possible.
Metaphysical thriller and interstellar mystery, this is a ‘complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel’ from an exciting and original new voice in fiction.
This is the second book that I’ve read by Leonora Meriel, the first being The Woman Behind the Waterfall. It has cemented my views that she’s a great writer, particularly because the two books are just so different. For this reason, I really don’t think I could say which I enjoyed the most – they’re too different to compare.
The Unity Game is written in rotating sections, a style that I always enjoy reading, covering a host of very diverse characters. Some characters, such as David, a New York banker, are explored heavily, whilst others remain somewhat mysterious. Whether you’ve read The Woman Behind the Waterfall or not, I would highly recommend reading The Unity Game.
Spoilers (scroll past the cover image if you’ve already read this book and want to compare notes!)
David is such a well-written character. I felt true hatred and disgust towards him at times, particularly in his more violent sexual scenes, but I also managed to always want to understand what he was going through. Why was he doing these things? Was he going to be ok? Truthfully, I really liked him and found him to be a very believable character. His dream scenes were probably my favourite sections of the book.
Alisdair’s experiences were really interesting to me. I didn’t care about him so much and I’m not sure we’re really supposed to, but it was fascinating to imagine being in his shoes in the after-life that exists in the novel. It could almost be a starting point for one of Stephen Baxter’s immense short story collections, like Vacuum Diagrams or one of the Xeelee books.
The story of the alien pair was so very emotional but also strangely flat. I don’t mean that as an insult to the storytelling but more as a compliment to the range of feelings which are shown throughout the book. David’s life and experiences are so vivid and action-packed and here are these two beings… on a mammoth task yes, but ultimately experiencing something very basic.
I was a little bit disappointed that Elspeth wasn’t in the story more, but I can see why the novel needed to focus more on David. At least she got her wonderful ending!
Thank you for reading this review! I hope it inspires you to try one of Leonora Meriel’s books because they really are great reads.