Interview with Author Branka Čubrilo

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





Hello, Marie!



Since you've been here before, we're going to change things up a bit this time...


What inspired you to write? When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I never decided it. I started writing way back in primary school. I wrote short stories and poems as a child and a young girl. I had written my first novel at the very young age of eighteen. I took a pen and started writing and never stopped. Who or what inspired me, it is so difficult to say now, but I think it just happened as I always had these conversations with my own deeper self or if you want – with my soul, and writing was the medium.

Oh, I know what you mean! 


Do you write books full-time, or as a lot of writers are forced to do these days, do you also have another job? 

Both is the case. I do write a lot as I have written by now more than 10 novels and several short story collections. I need solitude for writing but then I like to mingle on some days with people, as inspiration comes from people, not just from sitting in a solitary room looking out onto a peaceful landscape. I worked for a number of years in media, and as an interpreter. I love the job of an interpreter as I get to hear countless astonishing stories, especially, given that beside fluent Italian, I speak all those Slavic languages that where spoken in ex-Yugoslavia.

Let's try another question.  

How do you come up with your book ideas? Are you the type of writer who plans everything out in advance, or do you just let the story develop naturally?

I don’t plan anything, Marie! I have the gift of listening, observing and interpreting what I hear and see into a story. I am not the one who controls the story; on the contrary, the story and its characters more often than not control me. I am like an obedient listener, a fine tuner who polishes the story and presents it to the reader, or to my publisher first.

All right.

Name three quick words that describe you.

Disciplined, dedicated and self-sufficient.

Rather admirable! 


So...I know it's difficult to choose, but tell us if you can. Who is your favorite character out of all your books?


It is not hard to choose this time. It is Pia. People who know me read my book Dethroned, and they say, “You are Pia” and I say, “No, I am not.” Then, people who do not know me (well), read Dethroned and they say the same. And I say the same: “No, I am not.”


But this character is probably the closest character to my personality. I am not Pia, but I managed to get completely under her skin, into her mind and her unorthodox heart, and she did exactly the same to me: she got under my skin, penetrated into my mind and dictated my feelings and sentences for several years. On some days, I couldn’t discern where Pia ended and Branka began. I have other characters, both women and men that are part of my psyche, because I believe that each and every main character in an author’s book is a part of their own psyche. Well, at least mine, not to speak for those that I am not familiar with.


Aptly put! 


I agree that our characters leave quite a mark on us.


Let's try something else. 

Paint a picture for us, a day in the life of you as an author when you're focused on writing a book (Writers have lives too!). What writer's tasks do you tackle first, middle and last?


I can’t answer that fairly and correctly, Marie. I get up in the morning often woken by the first sentence or by the last that I had written the previous day. Often, like a zombie, I go to my computer and read the last several pages or paragraphs. Someone brings me a strong cup of tea. I bite my nails and my lips (sometimes I swear internally). I do struggle to get out exactly what I want, but as time passes by (let’s say 15 minutes), I forget the rest of the world and it flows and I am fine. I feel that I am exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I was meant to do.




So I see you write mainly historical novels. Do you find that challenging, or does it come naturally to you?


I do write historical novels, but I write other things as well. If I am honest, I don’t have a specific genre. I am interested in existentialism, psychology, history…whether it comes naturally, I can say yes. 


Whatever I write comes naturally, otherwise I don’t bother.




Will there be more books like your latest in the future?


I am not sure right now. Dethroned was a very demanding book to write, even though it was almost the most rewarding one. It was dwelling on an untold history and truth that was buried and re-written history, the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, the sins of our fathers, the killing fields, guilt, deeply seated hatred for many generations, divisions between nations, brutal revenge – an eye for an eye, post-traumatic stress disorder… 


I was thinking the other day about making it right for some characters and commence a new story. I am not too sure right now as I was having some fun writing something lighter – another short story collection as a break or a prelude to the new ‘serious stuff’.


Can't blame you there! I definitely had to switch moods after writing my romantic drama, Directions of the Heart. A lot of heavy issues...


Let's try another question.


Please list a few of your favorite authors and a top book tittle for each, so we can check them out too!


I like UK writer Michael Arditti and have just finished reading his latest novel Of Men and Angels, a remarkable piece I highly recommend to everyone as I believe it deserves to be known widely. 


I like Tomas Moore; whenever I feel like reading soulful, psychological material I reach for one of his books. He is a great psychologist and has deep insight into the human soul and the nature of human mind. Care of the Soul is an important read, with some practical advice for those who are keen to explore beyond the words. 


Bertrand Russell, an astonishing philosopher, writes with such freshness and personal engagement and his general historical knowledge is absolutely evident in his History of Western Philosophy. 




Besides writing, give us a random talent or hobby you have.

A rare talent/gift of mine: I am a very faithful friend who cherishes old sincere friendships more than anything else.

Outstanding! Thank you, Branka! 

And thanks for stopping by Writing in the Modern Age! It was such a pleasure to have you here again! :)

Readers, let's have a look at one of Branka's books. 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 centre 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.


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Here is an excerpt from the book. 


Drunk and deeply hurt, he made an absolutely demonic decision, but sober as one could be, he followed it up. He took out his father’s old sniper rifle, which was hidden in the garage for decades, he cleaned it, put ammunition in, drove out of the town and tried it out.
For three days he sat in front of her house and when she came out on the third day, sometime in the late afternoon, he slowly followed her to a travel agency. She was a tall, lanky woman, still with a straight back and a steady walk. She walked in, there were a few people waiting in front of her; he crossed the road and climbed the opposite building. Up to the top he went, climbed the iron bars, opened the iron gate and found himself on the top of the building. He lay flat on his stomach and looked at the street through the gunpoint: the world looked different from that perspective. It looked as if it were on the palm of his hand.
His hand was steady and precise. She fell down like a long lanky tree cut in the haste with a chainsaw. He climbed down, took a padlock and locked the iron gate that led to the terrace. He threw the key into a wastepipe; without any inhibition or fear, he came out of the building with the sniper rifle on his back. There were other uniformed men carrying sniper rifles or firearms in the town, he wasn’t the only one.
Now he felt free to go wherever his country wanted him to go, wherever Simon Odak assigned him to go.
His walk was brisk, he never turned his back, shortly he heard sirens, but the traffic on the street was slow at this hour; all he wanted to hear was a birdsong, but they were muted by sirens and loud music coming from a passing-by car.
With a slow but steady step he came to the church: Friar Marag was outside tending the garden. He saw him and waved his hand; Gregor asked:
“What are you going to do with this pile of leaves and twigs?”
“I shall burn them.”
“Can you burn a rifle?”
“It won’t burn completely, but yes, we can burn it and what would be left of it we can bury in the cemetery.”

Gregor took a rake and collected more leaves, twigs and wood. He lit a fire and when the flame was big, steady, he took his sniper rifle and threw it into the fire. They sat at the low wall overgrown with ivy and looked at the fire. No one was there to see them, no one to witness what was burning in the fire. Gregor whispered into the Friar’s ear, while the latter just nodded his head in approval; not a word came from his mouth. Smog was rising up high; it reached even higher than the tall cypresses which had grown around the church ground for several hundreds of years. They were silent witnesses; they choked on that smog, which was, at the same time, the secret and the truth about the burned rifle.
The very same day, Gregor Truba, had packed his rucksack and left: to the very same battlefield where he came from. He waited not for Mr. Simon Odak to tell him where to go – he went where his guts took him, where his pals were – his Brothers in Arms.

Riveting! What are people saying about Dethroned?



An excellent novel, one of those books that are impossible to categorize - the easiest and simplest way would be to say that Dethroned is a well written anti-war novel, a family chronicle, carefully crafted psychological study which tells the story that begins in the eighties and somehow ends in our time.

The human inability to overcome dualism and divisions is a powerful motivator here, the dualism of war and peace, love and hate, grandeur and misery, political differences and national divisions.
The leading characters, three key figures of the book are a young rock star Gregor, his sister Veronica, and her mysterious and sensitive friend Pia – the novel follows their complex interpersonal relationships and various, often very dramatic life situations. There is a number of family episodes in the novel, the family is all present, but most often not the place where the peace can be found: "family is actually a collection of a variety of characters, and when they are forced to sit at the same table, the real comedy begins".
What I particularly like is that, despite the unmistakable political observation that this book offers, it still does not assume a single political option and condemns the other, but without excessive moralization, shows that any conflict of this kind is meaningless and none of the wars have winners - they have only losers - wherever they are, in the Balkans or in any other corner of the world.
There is definitely a lot happening in this exceptional work of storytelling: unrequited love, bizarre characters, unexpected situations, excellent psychological studies, brutal war situations, emigrant episodes, metaphysical experiences and insights…, the reader is skilfully guided through the maturation of the main characters, to the collapse of a dream, the rough awakening of the whole generation.
After the bitter taste, the question remains of whether one can escape their past? "Nomen est omen” – is the change of one's name alone sufficient to change his destiny?
And, as a conclusion: it makes me a bit sad that this book could be a success everywhere except in the country where the story is actually happening. But that is a whole other topic that I don't want to get into.
Great novel, highly recommended."
- Robert Vrbnjak, writer

  Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf, readers!
The book certainly sounds like an intriguing read! We'll be sure to check out this historical war drama!




Author Bio


Branka Čubrilo is a novelist, short story writer, journalist, translator and an interpreter.
Dethroned is Branka’s latest novel, published in 2018 by Speaking Volumes, USA. Branka lives, works and writes in Sydney, Australia.


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