Inside the Literary Mind of Branka Cubrilo
February 19, 2018
I have long admired the talent and storytelling ability of Branka Cubrilo.
Her stories cut your psyche deep and disturb the soul.
Her new novel, Dethroned, is classified a mystery.
But when Branka Cubrilo writes it, the mystery is enshrouded within the power and the passion of literary fiction.
Here, she talks about her new book and her writing process.
Question: Dethroned is the title of your latest book. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Branka: My latest book was classified as a ‘Mystery’ book. I think it does it justice because there are many different topics in the book, like a God of Rock in the making, his dominance on the rock scene over a decade, and his fatal fall; a relationship that does not present a future with a talented but mysterious woman of a few words; an unusual family dynamic; mysterious murders, atrocities and vendettas in the name of a nation; displacement of characters to distant locations; some elements of Eastern spirituality, and the dark side of Christianity.
The underlying current of the book is about the corruption of power and political upheaval, the destruction of all kinds of values from moral to economic, then about how greed and selfishness ultimately cause most of the characters to suffer a grand failure, and ultimately the futility of a war battled for unclear reasons.
There are numerous characters, some of them understanding life as a big mystery and letting that thread of mystery lead their life without interfering – like leaves carried by the wind. The others are trying to unlock the mystery allowing themselves to be wrongly led by manipulations and lies of others.
The book came out on the 22 January 2018 and it can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, via my publisher’s website and all big book online retailers.
Question: Is there anything specific that inspired you to write Dethroned?
Branka: Yes! I wrote a short story “Pia’s Poem” and the character, a mysterious young woman never left me alone. She had a much more complex and much longer story to tell me than the one I had fit into a short tale. When I obeyed her plea one early morning and sat at my desk ready to hear what she had to say, she started to narrate a story I knew from a long time ago. She was just a catalyst for my memory to take me down the path of the history of the two powerful families – back to three generations to their uprising, their influence and might, numerous misdeeds and their inevitable fall, through their journey of peace and war, love and hate, bitter revenge and ultimately; loss.
Question: Who do you hope to reach with this book? Do you have a specific audience in mind?
Branka: To be honest – I don’t! It is such a complex and diverse plot, there are so many different topics and paths in the book that my publisher suggested to classify it as the ‘Mystery’ genre. There is a hint of a love story and big anticipation over ‘what will happen?’.
It starts ‘innocently’ in times when young people cared about everyday life – like music, art, parties … when everything, abruptly, came to an end, the dark shadow of war overcast their lives and there was an understanding that WW2 never really ended, that the situation to ‘make it right this time’ was absolutely ripe, hence the plot goes back into some episodes of that war connecting dots and finishing off the unfinished.
Just like in all of my books, so in this one too, my characters are dispersed and displaced: there is a Chapter called ‘London’ as some of them set off in pursuit of peace or a ‘better life’; there are characters who, inevitably, went to Sydney in search of something, or in need of letting go of something, or for absolutely unknown reasons, unknown even to them. It talks about the fall of all values, morals and human decency, about broken promises, unmasked illusions, lost lands and souls and eventually about spirituality – is there anything that could nurse a broken self to its original state?
I think that everyone would be able to find something in this book which might talk directly to them. It is a big tale of war and peace, and the futility of war because, in the end, those who profit from it stay hidden in the shadows, those who fought it for often unclear reasons get dethroned from the illusions they adopted willingly and in haste.
Question: What does your writing process look like? Do you plot everything out before you write?
Branka: No, I don’t plot anything! I talked about my writing process a few times, and I don’t know if it bears any similarity to other writer’s processes. I start with thinking about ‘someone’ or ‘something’. I start with conversations in my head. I observe and listen and tune into some ‘frequencies’ that are not accessible all the time. I walk on a beach for hours and I think. I spend a lot of time during the day alone and in my solitude, I think and listen.
Then something ‘magic’ happens. I open myself, my mind, to subtle influences of my surroundings, to fragrances, to sounds, colours and I open the path to access the treasure of my deep subconscious content. My memories flow without restrictions enriched by my imagination, I marry the two of them; I add strong emotions and I do research when needed. Is this a recipe?
Well, I let my story unfold, my characters talk to me, lead me and show me the path they want to walk. I feel like a diligent and obedient chronologist. To make it simpler: I already ‘know’ the story and it looks like I have the ability to summon my characters to come and to help me remember the story.
Question: What subject have you always wanted to write about, but never had the chance to?
Branka: All the subjects I wanted to explore and write about are written. I write about things that I care about, that concerns me and contemporary readers alike. I care what is happening in our world and am trying to portray it through my characters. To tell the tale in an objective way; history is often written by those who won the battle or were paid a handsome sum of money to write it in a certain way. I see the world through my eyes, I read between the lines, I don’t take things at face value, and I am writing about my own truth. It might be someone else’s truth as well and often it proves that it is. People write to me or meet me in the street, telling me what they think about my books.
Question: What project do you have planned next? Or is that a secret?
Branka: No! It isn’t a secret. I have joined a Tango community in my area in Sydney. It will be two years now that I have been going to classes and dancing at Milongas. I fell in love with Tango and this is a fertile ground for all sorts of intense emotions. There are many different (often eccentric) characters and I am a great observer, so I attentively observe their stories, looks, behaviour, sentences … and out of that, I make my own stories and characters.
I adopted my ‘Tango persona’ as I call it, for when I dance and interact with that crowd, I feel almost like I am someone else. I ‘leave’ my original self at home and I adopt the mentality of a Tango dancer. Oh, don’t even try to ask me what is the ‘mentality of a Tango dancer’ as I can’t answer it rightly, but I assure you that the spirit of Tango brings out of us something suppressed, something that doesn’t have its place in daily life where we respond to our duties with all the seriousness of an adult.
When I dance, I feel as if I go back, way back, to my youth when I was a carefree girl thinking only about easier and fun-inspiring things that life brought. I am sharing this story about dancing because I have already prepared a new collection of short stories, and soon it’ll be on its way to my publisher.
The collection is titled Three to Tango and Other Tales. Probably we can expect it sometime towards the second part of 2019.