Is Tango the Answer when an Author is in Search for Inspiration? by Branka Čubrilo

On May 13th, we were visited by Branka Čubrilo when she offered some of her mysterious journey as a writer. Today, she’s stopping by Writing in the Modern Age again. Let's see what she has for us this time. Take it away, Branka!  


Is Tango the Answer When an Author Is

 In Search for Inspiration?

by Branka Čubrilo

Pirandello's six characters were in search of an author. I, as an author, was in search of six new characters as I commenced writing another collection of short stories populated by characters from various walks of life and different geographical locations. But lately, my characters went in search of my own past that played intensely in my trilogy written in 2000, and in my memory, playing along in tunes with the notes and the rhythm of Flamenco.

In the year 2000, I immersed myself in writing a trilogy called ‘Spanish Stories’, where two central characters were a father and son, Garcia de Veres, the owners of the Academia de Baile de Flamenco. Their lives were charged with strong emotions, many mysteries and misfortunes. The life of the younger de Veres was particularly turbulent, disturbed, for he had numerous talents, thus murky rivers were coursing through his veins; he regularly caused upheaval and scandal, exhibiting his art despite being a loner; a man who searched for solitude and the deeper meaning of art and life within himself. Simply, his destiny played out in his life as if it was already written for him whilst he tried through his art to free himself from the chains of his so-called fate. Secrets are unveiled slowly and mysteriously when he meets Annamaria Monte, a beautiful but bored woman, who wasn’t in favor of receiving any other gift from life apart from her physical beauty, which made it harder for her to enjoy life in its plainness. However with a stroke of ironic luck, she was rewarded with yet another gift – a cold heart and an insecurity which gave the feeling of unease when someone found themselves in her company. 

The first volume of the trilogy, Little Lies – Big Lies, led me to obtain a scholarship, hence I found myself in the picturesque Cadíz in the heart of Andalucía, being enrolled in the famous Academia de Baile de Flamenco, where I met incredible talents, temperamental characters, warmhearted women and capricious, strong-willed men. There were a variety of characters – enough to write more than one trilogy, an endless source of emotion and zest for life or for dramatic death.

I would often look back with nostalgia, for those months spent in Andalucía were condensed moments of pure emotions, for with Andalucían people, everything is charged with strong emotion: art, writing, singing, dancing, friendship, food, motherhood and particularly – love. A fertile soil for an artist of any kind!
Since that time, I have published several more novels and lately a collection of short stories, The Lonely Poet and Other Stories, and I thought that I have finished my ‘love affair’ with Flamenco, or with dance. Those beautiful memories I have glued in my photo album, where I go to once a year to remember those extraordinary people who left an everlasting mark on my life and the life of my daughter, and to relive those memories for a moment.

As a novelist I am always in search of inspiration – knowingly or unknowingly. I am looking at the world through the lens of what would serve my story best. More often than not, I don’t think that a particular situation or person is what I am searching for, but I do download it into the file of my mind keeping it for future references. Sometimes, just one sentence would do to get the engine started, to fuel my imagination and memory, and it sets me off on a long, unpredictable journey. I have the ability to recall conversations to the last letter, and access my vivid dreams where extended, more elaborate stories, are hidden and kept filed.

Created by Bedneyimages -
A year ago, whilst looking for any kind of challenge, I stumbled upon Tango seemingly accidentally. I can say – It is hard work! Not that I am afraid of hard work, for the sake of a good story I have always worked hard, researched thoroughly, but Tango did not grab me at once, the way Flamenco did almost two decades ago. Passion in Tango grows slowly. I started and gave up. I gave up because for several months ‘nothing happened’, I did not learn enough, and I always compared teachers with my old Andalucían friend Angelita, who spent hours with me and my daughter to teach us as much as she could in those months when we were her students and eventually became close friends. There was Angelita’s fantastic friend and aid, the breath-takingly beautiful Andalucían woman Elly, who spent hours helping to ‘perfect’ our still clumsy steps. They were warm, temperamental, spontaneous, and above all in love with dance, having this rare ability to ignite their passion into students’ hearts. We ate delicious local food with them, we went to Flamenco Fiestas, we shared stories, emotions, secrets and great laughter. They didn’t let you be anything else but a warm person, passionate about life through their art of Flamenco.

Created by Nikitabuida -

Therefore, my love affair with Tango started on rocky ground. Several months of instructions, not much involvement from my teachers, just kind enough directions which were, to me, quite blurry and to my disobedient feet - too much to follow. 

My friend, who was, at that time, keener to learn Tango than I was, went to Europe for a few months, therefore I was free to sabotage it, to give up without being called. I continued writing some stories in anticipation of release of my latest novel, Dethroned, which took a lot of my time and peace, equally. I needed an outlet after Dethroned, as it left me dry and exhausted, for this is a very complex and emotionally charged tale. After any novel has been completed, I always opt for short stories, for they could be fun, quirky and end whenever I wish. I don’t have to put up with moodiness and unpredictability of my characters, for I never get involved with easy or simple ones.

When my friend came back to Sydney, her first question was “When shall we enroll again?”

“Enroll in what?”

We tried out several Tango schools in the vicinity and finally, I found a couple that struck a chord with me. They reminded me of Angelita and Elly. They have that similar sensibility and warmth, similar passion and love for Tango, for people and for life in general.

I took out my Flamenco frocks, my high-heel shoes and watched as many films as possible about Tango, and my old streak of determination blazed: I am going to dance Tango as good as anyone could. I am going to be a dancer once again! Maybe, just maybe, I shall travel, just like Sally Potter did, to Argentina to perfect my newly discovered art!

The fire has been lit! And here I am dancing up a storm with all the wrong steps, stepping on partners toes, flashing an innocent ‘sorry-smile’ every time I stuff it up (and, oh, it is so easy to stuff it up!).

My collection of new stories has, once again, characters with Spanish names and titles, the battles of elegance and egos; the characters overwhelm me. By all means, they are demanding, talented, capricious and I am among them – twirling and picking up bits and pieces in order to fit them into the collage of my collection-in-the making that demands the right amount of art, reality and surrealism. I am on the right track; I, as a chronicler of a particular time, can’t sleep after 4 a.m. I'm hearing a dialogue played in the past, various sounds that wake me up, loud music that no one hears in my quiet neighborhood yes, that old song for whose sake, I do what I do – the song of elegant, elegiac expression of my own soul wanting to express one form of art in another.

Back to Pirandello: I need another six characters, so the question is - do I look for them or do they slowly reveal themselves to me?

Created by Asier_relampagoestudio -
I shall dance and keep a curious eye on the possibility to where this dance will take me: to which part of the world or which fragile compartment of my inner world, or perhaps, to some old story which I might dig out from my suppressed remembrance, an old tale which was forgotten by all the protagonist apart from me. Hence I shall finish by paraphrasing Heidegger...

What remains is written by poets.


Fascinating! I took a couples ballroom dancing class a time or two, and I learned the Tango then. Such a riveting dance! Of course, we always love hearing about how the writer's mind works as well. ;)


We certainly look forward to reading your next book! Let us know when it comes out! 

Readers, feel free to check out Branka's YouTube channel, and listen to some of her stories!


A pleasure to have you on Writing in the Modern Age once more, Branka! 


Guest Blogger Bio


At the age of eighteen Branka Cubrilo wrote her first novel, I Knew Jane Eyre, which won the Yugoslavian Young Writers Award in 1982. Soon after she wrote a sequel called Looking for Jane Eyre. In 1999 Branka published the book Fiume Corre – Rijeka Tece, a year later Requiem for Barbara, and in 2001 Little Lies – Big Lies (as a part of a trilogy called Spanish Stories for which she obtained a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to research the cultural and historical settings of Cadiz in Andalusia). The Lonely Poet and Other Stories is Branka’s third book published in English by Speaking Volumes, following her earlier novels The Mosaic of the Broken Soul (2011) and Fiume – The Lost River (2014). Branka’s latest novel, Dethroned, will be published with the same publisher in 2017. Branka has been living in Sydney with her daughter Althea since 1992. Now she predominantly writes in English and translates her earlier works in English. Praise for Branka Cubrilo via 5-Star Reviews on

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