From immigrant to successful businessman turned self-published author Marin Darmonkow aims for the heart and the head with his wordless holiday book ‘Twas the Night
Marin Darmonkow pulls no punches in shedding detail on his rocky road through life. Nothing came easy, to put it modestly.
Orphaned at the age of one, Darmonkow, born in “a little town in Northern Bulgaria,” reflects on the road less travelled that brought him to The Herald’s office on a sleepy December morning.
“My story was my story,” he begins quietly. “To me, all my doors that I met in my life were either closed, locked, barred or even cemented. I had to break them with my own head because I didn’t have a mother and father to say, ‘oh, my boy’s coming to your office. Do you mind to accommodate him?’ I was on my own, so I’ve never been hurt by this situation. I accept it as normal.
“As a young man I wanted to prove that I have a reason to be in this world,” he explains. “I studied nuclear physics and art and literature, but art attracted me mostly. So I went to Sofia, Bulgaria in capital, and I worked there until I emigrated.”
Darmonkow, who by the late 80s had become a prominent member in the community of Bulgaria’s capital city, was the first person to lift a slogan against communism in his home country at a time where doing so carried with it a certain amount of risk.
It was this stance on the communist regime and Soviet occupation that would lead to his exodus from the country.
“It was a type of environment in which you don’t trust even your brother,” he explains. “You don’t trust even your mother because you don’t know maybe she will go immediately after a political conversation with you to tell the authorities about you.”
With his wife nine months pregnant and political pressure mounting, Darmonkow immigrated to Canada and St. John’s in 1989.
A once sought after businessman and his prominent lawyer wife now had to build up a new life and foundation brick-by-brick in a province that was struggling mightily at the turn of the decade.
“At that time we had sixty five dollars and two toothbrushes and no social level at all,” he recalls. “We were Mr. and Mrs. Nobody when we arrived in St. John’s. So I realized very fast that at that time in 1990, Newfoundland was in a very dire straits economically. Everything was rotten, everything was for sale, it was a pretty unpleasant picture downtown.”
Never one to give up the fight, Darmonkow partnered up to launch what would become notably successful advertising firm. Within a few years, they were a prominent name in the industry.
“We made our first million on our sixth year, 1996,” Darmonkow shares, modestly.
Decades later and Darmonkow reflects on the eb and flow of what has been a remarkable success story in his new home away from home.
Marin’s next chapter
His million dollar company was swindled out from under him through shady business partners, with Darmonkow joking that he “couldn’t collect from a million dollar company one paper clip.”
He would, naturally, bounce back, investing and partnering in another organization where he would work before retiring in 2017. It was in this period where he’d write the next chapter of his life, quite literally.
“For many years of fighting to survive and to prosper around business, to be good to my family members and to pay attention to kids, I said probably as a creative person I am done. I will never be creative anymore. But that truly was not true. Thanks God,” he smiles.
“Two years ago I retired and decided to dedicate the rest of my life to creating children’s books. Not only books with small B, but books with capital B. Books, meaningful books, thought provoking books that can teach the next generation moral values.”
Darmonkow is the author, creator, illustrator and publisher of Fontreal Books, a DIY publishing-house with a mandate to create unique stories for affordable prices that enrich as well as they entertain while leaving as small an environmental footprint as humanly possible.
His first in a series he calls 2Gether Picture Book Collection was inspired by his first born son, Alexander.
“When we immigrated with my wife, three weeks after we came my first child was born. I said I will develop one story based on his name,” Darmonkow shares of the lineage of The Adventure of Alex and Er. “I finished this story and decided to illustrate, and then to design the story. It took some time, but while I was doing this another story popped up in my mind. I did it too. And then the third story and then fourth, and then fifth, and then sixth and it became an avalanche of stories.”
‘Twas the Night
Darmonkow’s latest holiday appropriate release, titled ‘Twas the Night, is a beautifully crafted wordless picture book that invites readers of all ages to let their imaginations carry them, creating their own narrative that can be as emotionally impactful as it is thrilling.
“‘Twas the Night is a wordless book and I did it this way in order to help kids create their own stories,” he shares proudly, explaining that the creativity he hopes to broaden through his readers has in fact helped guide him through the hurdles of life.
“I consider myself a creative person, but I am not an artist and I am not a writer and I’m not a designer. I just love to create. And I have to realize that in many cases the difficulties I faced in life, creativity helped me to create solutions to escape failure.”
Drive and passion are terms at the forefront of appropriate ways to describe a man like Darmonkow, who at a time in his life most save for comfort and contemplation, embarks again on a journey where rewards come from the hearts and minds touched, and not the dollars counted.
It’s yet another in a long line of risks taken for a man who has smashed open a few doors, from the formerly communist Bulgaria, to the rocky shores of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I am a person who never failed. My sentence might sound arrogant, but I will tell you why,” Darmonkow explains. “I never fail because I never stop. If I stop, I may realize that I had a lot of failures in my life. But I run and I will run.”
For more on ‘Twas the Night and Fontreal Books visit fontreal.com