Interview with Author Branka Čubrilo

My guest today is author Branka Čubrilo. Hello! Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you here again.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?

My latest book was classified as a ‘Mystery’ book. I think that 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 January 22, 2018 and it can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, via my publisher’s website and all big book online retailers.
Congratulations on your new book! 

Is there anything else which prompted Dethroned
? Something that inspired you?

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 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.  


Who do you hope to reach with this book? Do you have a specific audience in mind?

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.

All right.

Let me ask this...

As a fellow author, I know this is a tough question, but we'll try it anyway. Which of your books is your favorite? Give us a sample as a teaser. 

You are so right! It isn’t easy to single it out. But if I really think of what’s the closest to my heart, which character, which book, then I have to be honest and say – me, my own experience written in the book The Mosaic of the Broken Soul. This is the book where I opened my heart and weaved the story right from that place – from my, back then, broken heart, broken health and broken soul. A story how I made myself healthy and whole again. A book of love, not a sensual love, but love in its numerous appearances through motherhood, kindness, friendship, care of absolute strangers, mysterious coincidences and faith in human goodness. Someone, somewhere wrote about the book that it is “An ode to humanity”.

-An excerpt from Mosaic of the Broken Soul

Listen to this now:

Some might say it was early in the morning but as I got up with the song of the first birds, ten o’ clock was almost midday for me.
We were sitting on the sun-lit verandah sipping our second cup of coffee. The day started lazily as all days do on this Earthly quota. I decided to stroll down to the main, cobbled piazza where I was familiar with the sounds of my heels and my heart, and start my search for inspiration in the quick
and changing slides produced by casual protagonists.

The doorbell rang.
My Mother asked:
“Can you get the door?”
She always gets up first. She always gets the door.
I looked at her again, as if I needed to confirm what I heard, and the doorbell rang again, and again she said in her calm tone:
“Get the door, please,” with the clear intention of staying right where she was.
Knowing her ever-accommodating attitude I hesitated a while, then she said:
“Hurry up.”
She had a strange expression on her calm face, the one of secret conspiracy - that was what I thought while I was going to answer the door.

I opened the door and a tall man, with dark but mellow eyes, was standing in front of me.
When I recognized his face, or shall I say, his mellow eyes, I thought it was a mirage, for the day was bright and hot already and the air was tremulous and I thought of his tremulous fingers that would gently put away a strand of my untamed hair.

All my words deserted me at once, especially those that would best accompany my feelings, so he was the one who said:
“Will you let me in, or….”
“Of course, of course,” I said, and he walked in.

I took the lead and walked him to the sun-lit verandah where I was sipping the second cup of coffee with my Mother, but as if it was just a dream, the verandah was empty, the table was bare and all I said was:
“Shall we sit?” He sat down and crossed his legs.
He crossed his fingers and I crossed my heart.
He smiled.
I asked:
“Is this a mirage?”
He said:
“I told you, you were my dream.”
I said:
“So, we woke in the same dream this morning.”
All he said was:
“We did.”

We did not need a lot of words. He looked at the calm surface of the sea and said, “So peaceful,” and I repeated “So peaceful.”

I forgot to offer him a cup of coffee, maybe a piece of cake, or maybe breakfast, for my Mother was like a ghost in her own house and I believed that the house was enchanted; unusually quiet this morning, for in my parents’ house mornings were spiced with inviting smells and impatient
voices - my father wanted his coffee, my daughter wanted her pancakes, the radio played the music and Mother listened to the local news.
It wasn’t the same house that morning. I was young again that entirely different and profoundly meaningful morning which left me short of words as youth can be short of words when confronted with sudden, deep feelings.

Some time had passed in this atmosphere of sweet uneasiness when I realized that we had to say something or do something, for it could not be a permanent state where we placed ourselves among silent thoughts and irregular heartbeats.

“How did you know?” said I.
He smiled.
I asked:
“How did you find me?”
He nodded his head barely noticeably.

I knew that a man with his possibilities and his access to any kind of information could find me any time anywhere only if he wished to do so. And that was what made me speechless, that he wished so.

My Mother came in, after what seemed to be an eternity and without any introduction started to talk to him in a different language (the one which was
compulsory, years back when she went to school.)

How odd, I thought, how odd.

Again, all of that resembled a dream, and I really did not know whether I fell asleep on the warm verandah or was I just daydreaming and mixing the other reality, when I used to dance with him in his garden overlooking the ocean, edged with tall palm trees and our poorly hidden yearnings?

I could not understand what they were talking in that language which was compulsory in her school days, so I said to my Mother:
“Mother, what are you talking about?” but instead of her he spoke, asking me to take a little walk on such a beautiful, sunny day.
I put on my light, linen dress and black leather sandals, took my bag and without combing my short hair headed towards the main door. He followed, then turned back and thanked my Mother. They shook hands and we found ourselves walking slowly through the narrow, cobbled streets of my youth
and all I thought was - how unpredictable, oh, how unpredictable life could be.

He transported me into this slow-motion reality I had experienced when I was with him. Everything was slow, meaningful and in the right place as if touched by grace: I heard the noise of the traffic as if it was in yet another faraway dream, I heard his soft voice mixed with birds singing, I felt the hardness and softness of the cobbled stones under my soft leather shoes, I felt the breeze on my cheeks and his fingers trying to keep the little, short strand
of my hair from my forehead. I said:
“You cannot win, the tramontana always played with my hair.” As we walked these familiar streets, he held my hand in his and I felt at the same time whole and displaced, for neither of us belonged to these cobbled streets while hand in hand.

We sat on the sun-lit terrace with little, round tables and he said:
“I hoped to see you last summer in Dubrovnik,” and I said:
“I do not like that crowded city with narrow streets.”
He said:
“I like your hair,” and I smiled.
He said:
“The thing is, I do not have excuses now for touching your hair or your face. Looks like your long locks were my ally.”
And I moved my face next to his and touched his lips with my frail fingers.

We talked about my health, about my letters, about his new duties and his new placements. We talked about his children, about my daughter, we talked about a few Hispanic writers, we talked about the ice-cream that we ate, about food, about Andalucia and again about my letters, for he said:
“I miss your letters,” and I said:
“I miss them, too.”
“Re-reading your letters I understood that I never really knew you well.”
“Neither did I, neither did I.”

When I think of that I could have said that all my life I tried to understand who I was, for there were within me all sorts of conflicting emotions and needs, even though I dare say that the main patches of my personality were sewn with a thread of melancholy. But all I chose to say was, “neither
did I.”

I learned that he was going to Vienna and when he heard I was home all he wanted was to see me again, to see my eyes, which had left him restless since the first time he saw them. I said:
“They were a sky for yellow clouds….”
And he said:
“Let’s not talk about the past, you know better, I know your letters; let’s talk about your plans and your bright future.”
And we did.

A short time after the church bell counted twelve, we agreed to have a lunch.
The birds flew off the cathedral.
We walked again hand in hand and between us was a deep peace, the one experienced by mystics and seers.

I chose the restaurant, and it was odd to walk in with him hand in hand, for I first walked in some twenty-five years before, so I felt as if I was young again, as if the past and present merged together and gave me a new, sweet feeling.

There was a white, linen tablecloth covering the table, covering our knees, which started touching and dancing under the table and I said:

“Do you remember our last dance?”
“Should it be the last?”
“We do not know the answers; it would be brave and foolish to pretend to know the unknown.”
“But we certainly can decide, we can choose.”
I smiled.
He said:
“When are you coming back?”
I looked out, through the narrow window, onto the narrow street.
He said:
“What keeps you there any longer? Why don’t you come back to Europe … to me?”
I said:
“Look at my hometown, how beautiful it is with its cobbled streets and old buildings which resemble the pages from an old picture book. Look at the sea, so peaceful, can you feel the tramontana, can you hear the birds? When you ask me whether I miss it, I can freely say I do. What keeps me there? Look at these narrow, cobbled streets and listen! There is something beneath the
perfect picture-book image. This is a little town with many rules and its people are quick in temper and judgmental, and because of it in this beautiful land we had wars for centuries. In these narrow streets many were killed, women were raped, the flags were changed but nothing new came. People of authority always had and will avert their eyes from crime and corruption. Common people never learned what tolerance and democracy was, and probably never will, for there is a lot of hidden and open anger and hatred in this little country and the little neighbouring states, and I do not have time
for anger or for hatred.
I discovered new, wide avenues and left these narrow streets behind many years ago, all I need when I come here is to remember my past, for I do live in the past, as all writers do. Writers are like historians; interpreting the short history of human existence set in the frame of time and a certain
ambience. And how shall I live apart from my past when it made me who I am and placed me exactly where I stand? I have a child born in a country where democracy was written and has been practiced over many years; when she comes here, even though she is very young and inexperienced, she
notices that what they lack is tolerance. Everyone, from the shopkeepers to the bus drivers, is short-tempered and quick to insult without thinking, because this is their first impulse. And nothing really ever happened in this small country that would bear significance in the intervals of sleepy repentances of its days between two
wars. The wars would awake the dormant beast and the little that was done to advance the civilization there was ruined and humiliated by raw impulses
of suppressed hatred. No, I don’t think I will be back, for all my needs are met; for all I need is to put my laptop on the table and answer the phone when my daughter needs me.”
He said:
“You don’t have to live here. Come to Paris, come to Vienna.”
He was silent, for his thoughts sank among the pictures of what might have been possible.
I smiled, thinking of Paris, thinking of Vienna, I said:
“I have been in Paris and I have been in Vienna. I have been in Venice and Rome; and I have been in Turin, Toronto and Sydney. I have been in Andalucia, all by myself writing love letters to you, I have been in Madrid, thinking of you, I have been in Cadiz and Landon. And none of them is home.”
And he asked:
“Where is home?”
I said:
“Nowhere and everywhere.”

He kept looking at his plate. I was looking at the window and the shadows of the poplar tree on the window’s glass. It reminded me of Madrid, of the day we arrived at the airport and a taxi took us downtown and we were delighted at the sight of all these tall, leafy and elegant poplar trees. That
day I had written in my diary that I loved him. He said:
“I hope we’ll stay in touch. I hope you’ll write me your pale-blue letters….”
I said:
“On the day we landed in Madrid I had written in my diary that I loved
He said:
“Perfect platonic love….”
“But not less real because of it. I had always dreamt of idealistic, platonic love, fearing if it came to life, it would lose its sweetness.”
“You never really told me that you loved me.”
“No, I never did.”
“I did not want to cause any harm, to hurt anybody. I was already deeply hurt and you were there like the stone of wisdom.”
He said:
“Come back to Europe. Settle down in Andalucia for it looks to me that you loved it there the best.”
“It only looks like it, but all I want to do is to write.”
“You can write wherever you are.”
“Listen to this. Last night while I was sleeping God, the Almighty, visited my dream and told me to stop making up my stories and its protagonists, but to write about real people and my own experiences.”
He asked:
“Will you write about me?”
“I dream about you,” I said and he smiled.

Intriguing tale!

Let's tackle some general questions, all right?

What book that you read in the past, would you say, inspired your love of reading or writing?

When I was only eighteen I wrote a book titled I Knew Jane Eyre. I sent it off to a literary competition and I won first place! That was my first attempt to write a novel. When I was a child I loved the Bronte sisters; I especially loved Jane Eyre. Back then, I don’t recall now for which reasons exactly, I wasn’t happy with the ending and tried to ‘fix it’ writing my own book and telling the story the way I would narrate it. Later in my life I loved European Existentialists and read all of them. They inspired my love of reading, my love of thinking for myself, my love of examining life’s situations, people and myself alike. In my writing I always wanted to leave a mark, to leave something meaningful and of a deeper nature.
I know what you mean.
So...what does your writing process look like? Do you plot everything out before you write? Or, are you a pantster?

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, colors 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.

What subject have you always wanted to write about, but never had the chance to? 

All the subjects I wanted to explore and write about are written. I write about things that I care about, that concern 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.

I see.

So...I looked over your author website, and especially your Angie's Diary posts, and noticed some of the compelling imagery you use in your work. Love it! I also love the titles of your blog posts and books. As a writer, I sometimes struggle with titles. 

What process do you implement to come up with a story title or book title? Or do you just let the muse guide you? 

OK, let’s call it the Muse. I ‘feel’ my title, it simply jumps up! If I write a blog post, as I say, out of the text a simple sentence or a word just jumps into my face and I know – that’s the title. When it comes to naming my novels, I have a great feeling about it. I close my eyes and I sit in silence. When I come out of that silence I have the title. In that silence I condense the whole book, reduce it to a sentence, a sentence to a word, hence – Dethroned.                                                              

What project do you have planned next, Branka? Or is that a secret? 

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, behavior, 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.


Is there anything you'd like to add? 

I would like to thank all the people who read this interview, all those who are contemplating buying my book(s) and those who had already bought it, then to all of my fans who follow my writing over the years and give me encouragement and recommend my work to others. And to you too, Marie - thank you for the opportunity!
My pleasure!

Thank you so much for stopping by to visit us here today at Writing in the Modern Age. It was wonderful having you!  :)

Readers, here is the blurb for Dethroned.

When Gregor Truba, the God of eighties Rock, exchanged his guitar in the nineties for a machine gun, he couldn’t know he was going to be dethroned not only from the center stage which he dominated for a decade, but from his own soul as he set off on a bloody rampage with his elite troupe of Brothers in Arms. He loved a young gifted poetess Pia, the great-grandniece of Nikola Tesla, who wasn’t able to return Gregor’s love, for she was dethroned from love after witnessing the most shattering scene possibly staged by her father. Would she ever be able to find love on her mysterious journey from Amsterdam to London, Sydney to Japan? How many dark secrets did the Catholic Priest, Friar Marag, keep under his tightly-lipped smile, whilst purposely manipulating the faithful, shaping and sculpting their minds and realities as if he were a co-creator working in alliance with the Devil himself to generate chaos and leave his personal stamp on the existence and history of his country? Was he dethroned from humanity for his numerous and well-planned misdeeds? Was Veronika Truba dethroned from her original self when she changed her name to Nikki Barlow upon her arrival to London, where she formed an unusual friendship with a flamboyant man and the commitment-phobe Dean Bloxham? “And where do I go to be myself again?” The question no one could answer at that time, a time when everyone lost, everyone was dethroned and everything was meant to be broken.

Purchase Links:


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It certainly sounds like an intriguing read! We'll be sure to check out this historical mystery!

Author 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 the sequel, 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 2011 Branka published her first novel in English with Speaking Volumes, Mosaic of the Broken Soul, followed by Fiume – The Lost River (2014). In 2016 Branka published a collection of short stories, The Lonely Poet and Other Stories. Dethroned is Branka’s fourth book published in English by Speaking Volumes. Currently Branka is preparing another book of short stories, Three to Tango and Other Tales. Branka lives in Sydney with her daughter Althea.

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