Nikolai Grozni was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. His given name is Nikolai Grozdinski.
He began training as a classical pianist at the age of four and won his first major award in Salerno, Italy, at the age of nine. He studied jazz at Berklee College of Music, Boston. He began writing while living in India, where he spent four years as a Buddhist monk, studying Tibetian texts at the Institute of Buddhist Dialects in Dharamsala.
His first book in English, Turtle Feet, about his experience in India, was published in 2008 by Riverhead. Wunderkind, his new novel published in 2011 by Free Press, is a roman a clef about music, obsession, genius and growing up behind the Iron curtain as a piano prodigy. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Brown University.