This month, Estonian writer, Sky Sommers launched her new book the King of Time. Blu Mint Digital’s CEO David Bailey and Katri Delimoge, CEO of HCD Services were invited to discuss her latest creation. In this article, David sought to get to know the woman behind the author: Ilona Nurmela.
Apart from your writing, what else do you do?
I have many interests in life, and that carries over to what I do.Currently, I’m part-time legal counsel for a listed real estate company, but in the past, I’ve been an attorney-at-law, an IT consultant, an academic lecturer, a translator and even tended a student bar during my Ph.D time. I am currently also an accredited commercial mediator and arbiter and run my own professional negotiations and training service called Mediator.
That’s a lot to do in your life, why then, become a writer?
Well, life has to be interesting, don’t you think? As a girl, I loved it when my parents read fairy tales to me. I started keeping diaries in English since I was 12, probably because and thanks to the encouragement of my English-biased school and its various creative writing, literature, and language teachers. I’ve always loved and still love fairy-tales, in book or movie or series form. It’s just amazing, how magical kingdoms people can imagine come to life and how the stories from our childhood that we know and love are spun into an entirely different tale.
I guess I became a writer when I was working on yet another short story and discovered on page 60 that it was no longer a short story but a novel. I was in a very rational, logical job that contained intense number crunching and I felt I needed to do something different. Writing helps me unlock my creative side.
So is writing a form of escapism from being a lawyer?
I believe we are all searching for some form of escapism, whether we train in the gym, watch movies, read books, do Lara Croft style bungee ballet or scuba diving and so on.
Why use a pen-name rather than your real name for your fictional writing?
I’ve published academic books under my real name, so I thought it would be confusing if an academic writer came up as a fiction writer in the same google search. So I use the pen-name Sky Sommers instead for my fictional novels.
But why this name? Well, blue is my favourite colour and the director of one of my favourite films, the Mummy (I’m a huge Egypt fan), was directed by Stephen Sommers. Hence, I borrowed his name as it worked well with my ‘first name’ Sky.
Why fairy tales?
Thanks to my parents I had always read them and re-read my favourites at least once a year when I was already an adult. When you have kids of your own and read the tales you used to love to your own kids, you realise that in the world around us, we’d still like to believe it is as comfortable as good versus evil, yet people and things are frequently more complicated than that. For instance, I love how J.K. Rowling, in her Harry Potter series books ‘matures’ Harry as he ages, his journey becomes darker and more adult as the audience grows with him.
Also, when I read and reread my favourite fairy-tales, I keep thinking – there must be more depth to these characters, some of them are, after all, adults too. For example, was Cinderella’s stepmother really so wicked? Was Cinderella really a goody-two-shoes?! Or, how come the witch had Thumbelina handy to hand over to the old woman who wanted kids so bad she went to a witch – could there possibly be some child abduction undertones?
Plus, today there are a lot of books and TV series like Once Upon A Time, Grimm or Game of Thrones where adults are revelling in magical and mythical kingdoms or experiencing magic in what we consider a reasonable everyday world – although my fairy tales do not contain any sex, gore or profanity!
Your books often have two endings, one for optimists and one for pessimists, why is that?
All of my books have dual endings, and I plan to keep it that way. In adult life, people get very good at seeing the reality, the good and the bad points. Thus, my books have two endings, for both optimists and pessimists. When reading my book, I ask the reader what type of person you are, and from their choice, they should read the ending that most defines them.
This came about because, with one of my earlier books, the e-book about Goddesses, one test-reader felt that the ending of the first draft of the book did not really fit the narrative, that it should have been darker. Often, the path we choose –optimism or pessimism – is precisely that, a choice and in particular pivotal moments, the decision we make determines how things then unravel, which explains the endings to my books.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
You can create whole world’s in a blink of an eye. That is amazing, inspirational and liberating, all at the same time! Also, weirdly, some of my books come to life in unexpected ways, friends take on characteristics of imaginary characters, so life starts to imitate art…
What’s your secret to managing your projects? You’re a mother and wife too!
It’s tricky, whenever I need to write, I do. I cannot just turn off my creative writing, it’s always with me! For example, when I was walking with my new baby when he was a couple of months old I was visualising the next part of my book, and all I had on me was my phone, so I began to write shorthand notes in preparation for writing more extended prose later.
The secret to any success is support, and for that, I have my husband, family, especially my brother, and, of course, children to thank.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Luck is my most significant achievement! Without being so lucky, I do not think I could not do what I have been so fortunate to do – my career, my family, and of course my writing.
I would agree with the expression ‘you make your own luck’ because to be a successful achiever you need to make your own.
What next for you as a professional, writer, and individual?
Finding a new sense of balance in managing a job, my own firm, the house, raising a toddler and writing up the next two books due in 2018 and 2019 (new versions of Thumbelina and Cinderella, respectively). So, lots of fun and lots of personal development.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Never compromise who you are!