Leonora Meriel

Fantasy Authors Unplugged: The Unity Game by Leonora Meriel

“The Unity Game” is science fiction with philosophy


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. 

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Reviews for The Unity Game

 “A complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel.” ~~ Kirkus Reviews

“Elegantly written, expertly crafted and a moving message. I found this book very hard to put down. Moving and poignant.” ~~ Lilly, Amazon US reviewer

“An engrossing, unique, and totally bizarre tale! I could not stop reading it once I started. Such a beautiful take on the afterlife, and its connection to those still living. A unity game, indeed!”~~ Brenna, Goodreads reviewer


What inspired you to write The Unity Game?

The plot of “The Unity Game” came from my desire to write about New York. I had lived there for several years and been inspired by the intensity and the drive of the Wall Street life. However there are many books about New York, so I decided to write about it using parallel stories that would put it into a new perspective: these were a planet of highly evolved aliens and an after-life dimension.

Is the main character based on anyone in real life?

Practically all of my characters start off with a real life person I have met, but this just gives a framework for the personality required for the book to fill in. After the first draft they usually have little in common with the original person. It works best when I meet someone just once, and then an idea emerges around them – of course there is little relation to who they really are, as I don’t know them – but the possibilities have sparked in my mind. The main character of The Unity Game started off in this way.

What moved you to include philosophy into science fiction?

I think the philosophy came first, and then the science fiction later. The burning question behind The Unity Game is – what is the meaning of life on Earth? Why are we here, and what purpose do our lives serve? These questions require philosophy to answer them, on one level, and on another level, I realized that I couldn’t answer the question of life on Earth, without exploring it from a place that is not Earth. That’s where another planet and a highly-evolved civilization came in.

How do you develop and write your novels?

I start off with many different ideas in my head, and I simply try writing about all of them. Some story threads fizzle out after a few thousand words and I understand that I didn’t have a very deep interest in the themes behind them. Others expand and expand until a novel starts coming into shape. I often then integrate the smaller ideas as themes into the larger works. A novel has to have a question or a theme so burning, that it will carry you through up to five or even ten years of your life, and thousands of words.

What did you learn from writing this book that you didn’t know?

I learned a lot about the life of the philosopher Socrates, as he is a character in the book, and I had to do a lot of research to make it accurate.

What draws you to writing speculative fiction?

I never wanted to write books that were formulaic or generic in any way. It is my life calling to write novels and I burn to create something different, thought-provoking and that will the open hearts or minds of readers. Speculative fiction fits naturally with my desire to push ideas and writing styles to a new place.

Do you have any hobbies from which you gain writing insights?

I run and walk a lot. These are both amazing companions to writing, as they give you fresh air, nature, space for new thought, great emotions and extra creativity. I also meditate, and I am often flooded with ideas by the end of a meditation. It’s intense and uplifting!

Are there any scenes or actions taken in this book based on a personal experience?

A lot of the New York scenes are based on personal experience, as I lived in Manhattan for several years, and worked for the largest law firm in the world, so I saw the Wall Street life close up. One of my most vivid memories was bonus day in the large investment banks. The bankers were getting bonus checks that were for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, however the overreaching emotion was rage. They felt cheated and underpaid and furious. It was such a surreal situation – for people to be receiving such vast amounts of money that ordinary people could only dream of, but not have a shred of happiness. I knew this scene had to go in the book! 

About the Author

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.

During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel. 

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Thanks for stopping by today and reading about Leonora’s book. Make sure to click the book link above and take a look at the available sample – I’m sure you’ll find it intriguing.

Fantasy Authors Unplugged: Leonora Meriel’s The Woman Behind the Waterfall

Today, I’m pleased to interview Leonora Meriel, author of The Woman Behind the Waterfall. Set in Ukraine, this magic realism come highly rated by readers. Read on to find out more about the author and the book:

About The Woman Behind the Waterfall

Heartbreak and transformation in the beauty of a Ukrainian village.

For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river.

All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.

Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?

Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.

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What is the plot and setting for The Woman Behind the Waterfall?

The Woman Behind the Waterfall is a tale of three generations of women in a Ukrainian village. They are all trying to find happiness in their own ways and they all face their own fears and barriers to happiness. There is a lot of transformation and magic in the book, but ultimately it is about what happiness means, and the role of family.

Was there a kernel idea for this book or a series of them that led you to the premise?

There were two core ideas behind The Woman Behind the Waterfall. The first was to describe the culture and land and language of Ukraine – a country where I had lived for ten years, and which was known to very few people. The second was being at a crossroads in my life: when I started the novel I had just turned 30 years old, and I was examining what had happened in my life up to this point, the choices I had made, how they were influenced by my mother, and how I was in turn influencing my own daughter. Thus, The Woman Behind the Waterfall is a novel about 3 generations of women and the difficult choices they make, set in a Ukrainian village.

What do you like about writing magical realism?

I love magical realism because it describes most accurately how I see the world. I am a firm believer that there is far, far more to the Earth and the universe than we, as humans, can perceive, and I am happiest when I am in a state of awareness that everything is possible, and that the physical elements we see around us are just a basic starting point. Thus, my character of Angela merges her spirit into birds and storms – she sees no division between herself and what is around her. The “accepted reality” of adult life has not yet clouded her understanding of the possible.

Did you choose to write this book as magic realism or was the story best suited to the sub-genre?

I had no preconceptions when I started the novel, except that it would be set in Ukraine, and would be about the choices and mistakes that we make in our lives. The magic came into the novel with the character of Angela, and then when her dead grandmother appeared, and then a guiding spirit. By the time it was complete, I understood that it was clearly magical realism, but this was only because the novel had become what it truly wanted to be.

With which character in the book do you most strongly identify?

The character of Angela is the one I most strongly identify with, as she was based on my own daughter. In the book, she is seven years old and she is at the turning point between the world of pure imagination that children inhabit and the adult world of accepted reality. For now, she can enter the spirits of birds and plants and wind and she experiences these as a part of herself, but she knows that she will not be able to do this forever. I based her character on observations of my own daughter growing up and the world of pure possibility that children live in. Until you tell children a fact, then they don’t assume that anything is fixed or limited. It’s the most beautiful thing and adults would do well to try to learn some of this flexibility again.

Is there a character in the book that repulses you and was it hard to write about this same character?

I haven’t yet written a character that repulses me, and I doubt I would be able to. As a writer, you have to do your best to be inside a character’s head when you write their story and their motivations, and once you understand why a person is acting, it is difficult to hate them. As a wise friend of mine says – all anyone wants is to be loved – and I believe this is true, even if they end up with awful, twisted ways of expressing that.

How much did you research the setting of the book and did you learn something new from the research that enhanced the book in some way?

I knew Ukraine extremely well when I wrote the first drafts of the book, as I had lived there for ten years. However, prior to the final draft, I went on a research trip to some villages to check the details and the language was all correct. While there, I learned how to make home-brewed vodka – samohon – and drank a fair bit of it. These details definitely made it back into the book!

What other writing projects are you planning?

I’m currently working on three different books. I spent between four and five years each on my first two novels and I wanted to work on several projects now to get some diversity. In my first novels I wrote in the genres of Magical Realism and Science Fiction, so I’m now experimenting with some straight literary fiction. It’s challenging, as my imagination likes to roam, but I’m trying to keep it at least on the Earth this time!

About the Author

Leonora Meriel is the author of The Unity Game (published May 2017, Granite Cloud) called an “ambitious and thought-provoking novel” by Kirkus Reviews. Her debut novel The Woman Behind the Waterfall (October 2016) was hailed as “strange and beautiful” by writer Esther Freud, “a literary work of art” by Richmond Magazine and “an intoxicating world” by Kirkus Reviews. She is one of a select group of independent authors chosen by Waterstones – the leading bookshop chain in the UK – to be stocked nationwide.

Leonora grew up in London but has lived in New York, Kyiv and Barcelona. She worked in business and then as an entrepreneur, before turning to writing full-time.