During my years as a journalist I assumed a pen name Natalie Nera, the last name being a shortened version of my maiden name, which was very difficult to pronounce, spell correctly or remember. It happened upon advice from my then editor-in-chief.
In my own country, I am a published author now (two works of fiction: 2011 Uspěšná smrt Davida Dostála and 2013 Smrt s vyhlídkou, both published by Petrklíč, Prague) but I have only been writing in English for the past three years. It took me a decade of living in the UK to go from translating the Czech originals into English at a high enough standard to actually write creatively in the second language.
After arriving in the UK in 2004, I joined the Dean Writers’ Circle in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, where I lived at the time. It’s going to celebrate its fortieth anniversary next year. There were people with various degrees of skills and ambitions – such a group is also about socialising and companionship – but there were published and respected authors too, such as the crime writer Joanna Trevor and the young adult writer Louise Lawrence. Thanks to the members’ encouragement I eventually progressed from painstakingly translating my work to writing in English. A few years later something unexpected happened: I became their Chairperson. During that time we had our work read on BBC Radio Gloucestershire twice, we produced a Christmas book and participated in the local Festival of Words.
I don’t define myself as a poet or a fiction writer, nor as a journalist. I am a storyteller in various forms and I love it. As a mother of two little boys, writing helps me to escape into another world where I am completely myself. I often find myself, in the early hours of the morning, sitting down to write poems or ideas for stories.
My literary journey started at a fairly young age. I was ten when two of my poems were selected for publication and eventually printed a year later (1986, Naše Rodina, a magazine). Upon recommendation I then joined The Young Authors’ Club led by the renowned Czech children’s writer, editor, critic and translator Dr. Zdeněk Karel Slabý whom I regard as my inspiration, mentor and personal friend. In 1991 an extract from my diaries was published in a collection of European young people’s diaries in German under the name “Liebe einfach schrecklich” (Verlag Konstruktiv, Berlin). My entry dealt with the emotional turmoil of a teenager caught in massive political shifts of that time.
My first novel in Czech was a social satire with an absurd murder plot: a lady ends up in prison for murdering a fictional media personality. The problem is that no one believes her innocence because if it’s on the Internet and in the papers, then it must be true. But how can you be convicted of killing someone who never existed in the first place? I have now translated it into English as The Inconvenient Death of David Dostal.
When my first son was born, I wrote a crime story set in the English countryside and in Prague. It’s a more commercial project than my first book.
In the past two years I have edited and prepared a poetry anthology of twenty-one Czech female poets in aid of victims of domestic violence. (published by Petrklíč, Prague).
In 2016, my two friends Imogen Mitchell and Victoria Holt, who are visual artists, and I founded a collaborative arts group Edit & Doodle. Its aim is to create a platform for artists of various forms and genres to inspire each other and collaborate. An exhibition of images together with the poems that inspired them took place in March 2018 in the Forge Studios in Allendale. We also produced and self-published a booklet of poems and illustrations in November 2016 in support of a local charity RAN UK that helps people in Aleppo (Traces in the Sand). I really enjoy creating work with a social conscience; to my mind creativity counterbalances the lack of compassion currently witnessed on the global stage.