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Nicholas Dimitroff: “Why you should be honest with yourself.”

Dealer of Realities is a book about a future of which everybody dreams of, but is afraid to confess. It is a future where little is forbidden and almost everything is for sale. In fact, with the rapid development of digital technologies, this future is already knocking on our door and these knocks are quite alarming. […]

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Dealer of Realities is a book about a future of which everybody dreams of, but is afraid to confess. It is a future where little is forbidden and almost everything is for sale. In fact, with the rapid development of digital technologies, this future is already knocking on our door and these knocks are quite alarming. In the digitalized society, there is a very thin line between the right and the wrong, honesty and dishonesty, fidelity and betrayal. Are we ready to embrace this new reality and still remain humans — morally and ethically? That is the main message and warning that I wanted to convey through my book and its charismatic and controversial hero.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Dimitroff.

Bulgarian native Nicholas Dimitroff is an international producer, TV presenter and entrepreneur. The cyberpunk thriller Dealer of Realities marks his literary debut. Dimitroff grew up in an orphanage until he was 12 years old. Meetings as a teenager with Pope John Paul II and George Soros have significantly impacted his life. He received his education in universities in Washington, DC, Brussels, Vienna and Buenos Aires. Dimitroff is a vibrant representative of the New Age generation, a world traveler, and a polyglot with knowledge of 11 languages. He is the founder of Saves Lives, an NGO helping HIV patients in Ukraine and CIS.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

I grew up in Communist Bulgaria. When I was three years old, my recently divorced mom of 22 was labeled a “perspectiveless individual,” i.e. someone not suitable to raise a child in line with the ideals of Marx and Lenin. As a result, I was sent to a “caring center for infants,” which was anything but caring. Until I was 11, I spent most of my time at such institutions and was allowed to go home on Sundays only.

Periodically I escaped. When I did, I got to know policemen in the various regions of the city who after finding me always returned me to the orphanage. My early life became the basis of the lead character in my cyberpunk novel, Dealer of Realities. In the novel, the chief of police takes the main character under his wing to turn him into an accomplished corporate spy. Unfortunately, my life in a Communist orphanage was much more mundane than that of my Cyberpunk character.

The Communist system was very keen to pair underprivileged youth with the elite of society. As such, at age 10, I was integrated into one of the oldest and most established schools in Sofia. My classmates were children of actors, writers, composers, politicians, athletes, and more. I would come to school wearing the same clothes so most classmates derogatorily called me the “orphanage.” I don’t remember feeling envious or victimized or angry; all I wanted was change. Somehow that happened.

At 14, I told my grandma I would apply to the National School for Ancient and Modern Languages and Civilizations in Sofia known shortly as the Classical Lyceum. My grandma swallowed — after a long pause she said, Nikko, that school is only for the “nomenklatura” (the Soviet ruling class). In her attempt to console me of the impossibility she added “Anyway, who cares nowadays of Latin and ancient Greek?”

I did. And so, I persevered and actually made it. I left high school with competency in three ancient and five modern languages. Even so, I was still a “perspectiveless” boy from the orphanage. Because of my “ideological weaknesses”, I was not allowed to become the member of the Komsomol (the Young Communist League) — despite winning national and international language, literature and philosophy competitions. Without a membership in the Komsomol, one could not go to a university or get a decent job, which meant that I could never break further out of my social circumstances.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, I spent my last school year shouting from squares and classrooms that Communism is dead — urging from newspapers and radio stations the parents of our generation not to stop us going to the streets to do what they had not been able to do — demand our future.

In the fall of 1990, I left to Washington DC on Presidential Scholarship. Subsequently, I studied in Belgium, Austria and Argentina, getting lucky with miracle internships which turned in jobs at the United Nations and the World Bank at a very pivotal moment for Eastern Europe. I was lucky not only to witness, but to be part of the rebirths and rebooting of two nations — Macedonia and Ukraine — just a few years after they have won their independence.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?

Yes, indeed. I was lucky to have a book that changed my life. It was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It changed my world. It changed my perception of the world and it changed the way I perceived literature. I realized that I wanted to write like that. In fact, my first novel Dealer of Realities is dedicated to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I find it very flattering and rewarding when critics say that my book is written in a style that reminds one of Marquez’s magical realism.

What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?

I remember it very clearly. It was the early morning of Independence Day of Ukraine in 1998. I was in the Crimea, partying all night at one of the most amazing beach music festivals by the Black Sea. I was a little high, of course, but it was then that the idea of Dealer of Realities occurred to me. I clearly envisioned a story of a corporate spy who eventually became the Messiah of the first digital religion in the world, which offers eternal life in the form of digital beings. It was like a revelation — an incredible sensation that you could make reality happen the way you wanted. I felt powerful, inspired and able — nearly chosen, and I immediately wanted to share these feelings and this personage with the rest of the world.

What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?

Dealer of Realities is a book about a future of which everybody dreams of, but is afraid to confess. It is a future where little is forbidden and almost everything is for sale. In fact, with the rapid development of digital technologies, this future is already knocking on our door and these knocks are quite alarming. In the digitalized society, there is a very thin line between the right and the wrong, honesty and dishonesty, fidelity and betrayal. Are we ready to embrace this new reality and still remain humans — morally and ethically? That is the main message and warning that I wanted to convey through my book and its charismatic and controversial hero.

Perfect corporate spy Zoltan Vargo got engaged in a secret techno-cult to produce a digital drug that would give people eternal life in a synthetic tailor-made reality, but he soon regretted his decision — what he conceived as paradise brought about chaos and threatened the existence of the world itself.

Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?

Very much so. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic further sped up the digitalization of our lives. And some things that seemed impossible as recently as last year are now a new reality. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church, which “demonized” my novel in Russia because it promoted a digital religion, is now holding services online.

What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.

As I mentioned above, last year some high priests of the Russian Orthodox Church were saying that a digital religion as described in the book could never exist because one cannot communicate with God through a mobile app on a cellphone or any other gadget. One should just go to church and communicate with God through them there. In this way, the priests once again demonstrated their monopolizing of the faith and God. And yet, several months later, the Russian Orthodox Church had its own app called the Russian Orthodox Church Online, where one can order thousands of candles and prayers in thousands of churches simultaneously. It graphically proves the hypocrisy of the church, but I prefer to view it as the start of a new movement — I would call it ‘a religion on demand’ or ‘take-away religion’. Some sort of a spiritual McDonalds. The good thing about it is that it brings God closer to people and makes the worshipping process more private and less pathetic. I believe as a next step we will see custom-tailored “blendings” of religions– like, today I would go for 30% Buddhism, 25% Judaism, 15% Orthodox and 30% moderate Catholicism with a drizzle of Shamanism on top. I believe this is the movement to get us more freedoms in religious matters.

What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?

The very first comments I received were mostly comparisons with other cyberpunk books and authors — like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Interestingly, I had never thought of my novel as cyberpunk until I read these comments. Some early readers also compared Dealer of Realities to the Matrix movie.

Today, one year after the first release, most readers point at the novel’s prophesies are coming true — like global religions going online and the rapid blending of the physical and digital realities. But the comments that make me feel happiest are the ones where readers share their stories of how the book has changed their life perspectives and has made them realize that they are the dealers of their own reality. This is exactly the impact that I wanted to make with this novel.

What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?

When I conceived this book 22 years ago, its plot looked like pure science fiction — virtual reality, human immortality achieved by personality transfer into a matrix, all these sorts of things. Today, I am thrilled to observe how these “prophesies” are starting to fulfill in real time.

Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?

Yes, I have experienced a lot of negativism and even hate because the book is perceived by some as anti-religious. But it is not. On the contrary, the main character is a deeply religious person. I would put it that way: Dealer of Realities is not against faith, it is against religion as an institution that is not fulfilling its true mission to save the souls of people, to protect them from the evil, to make them good and spread the good around the world. Unfortunately, there are people who have not understood that part of the book.

Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?

Books and art in general are the embodiment, the highest form, the condensate of human knowledge, human intelligence and self-expression. It fuses everything that human spirit is and strives to be. Therefore, art, in any form, be it music or literature or painting, is a very powerful tool because it provokes, it excites, and calls for justice and freedom. It takes you higher and makes you better and inspires you to make the world around you better.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? Can you share a story or example?

If were in Communist Bulgaria and I would have shared the truth about that, I would be put in prison. So, I would just leave that question… as an enigma.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lessons that you learned?

The first country where Dealer of Realities was released was be Russia and the biggest challenge and frustration for me was the scope of book pirating that I encountered there. Of course, I was aware of the piracy problem in Eastern Europe, but I did not expect it would reach a ratio of 20 pirated copies per every officially sold book. Currently, we have around 20,000 officially sold prints vs 350,000 pirate screenings and downloads. This gives me a dubious feeling: on one hand, I am happy that more people can read the novel, but on the other hand, I feel bad because it affects not only my proceeds as a writer, but the entire legal book business in the region.

Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers need to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?

I really cannot think of five things, but one thing I can name for sure. This thing is Honesty. Being honest with yourself and your readers, and not being afraid of telling the truth the way you see it. In my mind, untruthfulness is probably the biggest source of human unhappiness, because it impairs our vision, preventing us from seeing things clearly. It’s like looking through a dusty window. Sooner or later, the truth would reestablish itself anyway, so there is just no point in being dishonest.

The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?

I have had a hard and unusual life, but a combination of hard work and good fortune made me the master of my own reality. Since that time, my directive is one of empowerment — bringing home to people that we can indeed break free from the chains of our circumstances.That is why I help kids from Ukrainian and Bulgarian orphanages, teenagers with HIV and people working with me.

I set my book Dealer of Realities in a dystopian future, ruled by vice, beauty and technology. But the novel is indeed reflective of modern society, discussing moral and ethical challenges, ultimately with a message that every one of us is a master of our own reality. If the novel manages to convey this idea to readers and improve the lives of some people, I will be extremely happy.

The next chapter of my life is social development on a grander scale, be it in Bulgarian politics or as a writer. I have some ideas in mind but the concept is still in the making. Maybe, when we talk in a year’s time when my book is released, I will be able to tell you more about it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I would rather they follow Dealer of Realities at @dealer_of_realities. We have created a beautiful English language Instagram account that can immerse followers in the whimsical reality of the novel.

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