Spotlight: Branka Čubrilo Visits to Talk About Multi-genre Collection, THE LONELY POET AND OTHER STORIES!
Today, fellow author Branka Čubrilo is stopping by to talk about her latest book !
Hello! Thanks for having me.
My pleasure! Let me ask a few questions since you're here...
Can you tell us a little about your latest book? When did it come out and where can we get it?
I have written 8 novels so far. Writing a novel can be demanding work, especially if there is a need for research of a certain historical period or research into human behavior, motivations and the workings of the mind. In intervals, in between creating novels I often write other things, like articles, or I translate some, to me, interesting work of other writers. I occasionally write short stories. I wrote a lot of them at the beginning of my writing career. I like short stories. One can say a lot or one can have a lot of fun writing a short story. To get to the point – my latest book is a collection of short stories called The Lonely Poet and Other Stories. It came out just a month ago and it is available on all big online bookselling sites from Amazon to Barnes & Noble. It’s available on Kindle and Paperback too.
The collection has two parts: the first part is narrated by the Lonely Poet, himself, a lone wolf, highly sensitive soul who feels misplaced in this fast and more and more artificial way of existence. In his unique but odd way, he expresses his need of his own sense of self which is in accord with the physical facts which overcome his feeling of alienation from the world around him. He is in a continuous search for his place in the universe, in search of the mysterious center of experience which we call ‘I, myself’, in search of the answers to life’s problems such as love, pain and death, and the complex question of whether his own existence has any meaning.
In the second part there are stories collected and narrated by various narrators and voices from Sydney to Amsterdam, from London to New York.
So, what inspired you to write this book? How did you get into writing short stories?
What inspired me to write my collection was seemingly a chance. It was one story. I called it “The Lonely Poet”. It was quite a longish story and sometime in the beginning of 2000, together with a friend, an Australian actress Jennifer Vuletich, we staged this monologue and it was very well received when played in small Sydney theaters and literary gatherings. The feedback was very interesting because there were a number of people puzzled as to whether I was exposing them personally – their weaknesses, suspicious nature or anger aimed towards authority. Some even asked me openly – “Is it me?” So, my Lonely Poet, Otto Visconti, is everyone because everyone could easily sympathize and empathize with him.
In the year 2002, I was granted a scholarship and went to Andalusia where I was researching the cultural and historical setting for my next novel. As writing is a lonely occupation, especially if you are out of your own country, I was quite lonely, and one late evening a character appeared in my mind and started to narrate his stories. I understood at once that it was Otto Visconti with all his troubles and madness, and he continued to entertain me with a number of new stories and odd adventures conceived in his mind. I had so much fun listening to him and following his quirky ways. It brought me laughter, it colored my late evenings, and made some of my friends to whom I presented the stories back then laugh madly.
Then, I left it locked in my file for a good ten years. I kept on writing short stories now and then and my daughter said: “Instead of publishing your stories in journals or online, why don’t you publish a collection of short stories?”
I looked for all of them scattered around the internet, published in some journals, saved in my documents and have written a few more and the collection came out with the aim to entertain my readers and share some of the strangest views of reality from a lonely person.
Wow! It's fascinating how the muse works.
Tell us...what, do you feel, sets your book apart from other books in the genre?
I really don’t know; what can set apart one collection of short stories from another collection? I can say that my stories are funny, odd and quirky as are the protagonists. Otto, for example, discovers and shows deeply hidden fears and insecurities, his paranoia and whether the world is against him or not, is exaggerated to the extent of making him at the same time a laughingstock and a character you empathize with. His innermost thoughts and dialogue in his stream of consciousness is something that we can often recognize in ourselves, but never to such an extent.
‘The Other Stories’ feature a handful of adventures and not-so-ordinary characters. We can label them as somehow ‘different’ - whatever this can mean - but they are definitely not your run of the mill crowd, hence they get into extreme situations and draw extreme conclusions or outcomes, always dissatisfied with the presents life gave them - they know, at the end of their journey they won’t find the Elixir of Life or the Philosopher’s Stone.
We were sitting at the table having breakfast. Father
“I have something to tell you ... Simona’s pregnant ...”
Upon delivering this sentence his face had become as
red as if he had said something very shameful.
same redness spilt over mother’s face; her neck, even her hands became red and
sweaty and her fingers started to tremble heavily, which caused the tinkling of
the spoon in the sugar bowl, and mother muttered a red-hot sentence from her
flaming throat with a voice tinkling with excitement (everything, everything
tinkled during that particular morning):
don’t have to say a word, I know it all. You can go, but you have to know one
thing—you are not going to take a single thing with you. Go!” Red and
trembling she stood up and ran towards the bedroom where her tears had caught
up with her after she had tried to keep them on the edge of her eyelashes while
she was still at the table. When she slammed the bedroom door, silence was
hanging over the table; the tinkling of the cups, the saucers and her own
fingers had stopped, the tinkling of her voice had stopped, too, the only thing
that could be heard was my father clearing his throat while looking at the cup
of now absolutely cold coffee.
Simona. We knew Simona well. Why did mother get so
upset? Why did her fingers tinkle in chorus with fine china while the redness
spilt all over her face? Why did father’s face get so red that he resembled a
little embarrassed boy who had just told a shameful lie to his parents?
We know Simona well; she is my father’s secretary. And
what a secretary she’s been; father always used to say that God, himself, had sent Simona to his office,
he used to say that he would lose his head without Simona ... I can’t see why
mother got so agitated ... so what if she is pregnant, she is not
I said to my father:
afraid that now she is going to leave because she is pregnant? Does it worry
you to look for another secretary?”
He did not look into my eyes but rather somewhere
around my chest, and with a still dull, quiet voice said:
are you really that stupid or are you just pretending to be that way?”
I did not understand what he was asking. He stood up
and walked out without a coat into a cold Milan morning.
We knew Simona. She came into his office some five
years ago, that’s exactly how much older she was than I - five years. She was
eighteen when she started to work for him. When I had laid my eyes on her, I
thought, “This is exactly how my future
wife is going to look.”
Oh merciful Lord, she had the most beautiful smile, I
had never seen a smile like hers. It adorned her face so beautifully that I was
not able to notice anything else: the coulour or the shape of her eyes, the
shape of her nose or chin ... bah, what shape? No other shape was there to
distinguish, nothing, there was only Simona’s smile on that face. Simona’s
smile was always there like the sun in a cloudless sky.
Whenever I came to father’s office Simona would treat
me with chocolates, which she kept in the first drawer on the left hand side of
her desk. I would always take one, but Simona would not take any, for she would
say she had already had one in the morning, which was exactly what she would
allow herself to have (I marveled at her discipline!)
My first cup of coffee ever! Simona had prepared it
for me. I came to father’s office carrying some papers which mother had sent on
father’s request. He was not there; Simona said:
down, Otto. Have a cup of coffee with me.”
There I had enjoyed my first coffee, the sweetest, and
I had never ever experienced that sweetness again but I had promised myself
once again that the woman I was going to love would carry on her face the
ever-present Simona’s smile (was it good or bad luck, the devil knows; later
I met Her with that smile which
overshadowed even Simona’s seemingly perfect smile.)
Whenever I would meet Simona my hands would tremble
just as my mother’s hands had trembled today. I never knew the real reason for
the trembling of my hands ... was it because of her smile or was it because of
her pitch-black hair, combed and sleek looking as if it was made of tar ... or
was it because of the fireflies in her eyes which flew towards you as she
talked to you or they flew towards the window to reach the wide sky? ... Live
fireflies in Simona’s eyes.
When father had walked out without a coat (was it
really too hot for him, or was he in such a hurry that he had forgotten his
coat, who would really know now?) I had entered mother’s room. I found her
lying on the bed crying, I sat down on the edge of the bed without a word.
After a short time she got up, wiped off her tears and said:
just sit there. I want to be left alone. Get out!”
why did you get so upset about it? He is going to find another secretary.” She gave
me one of her dumbfounded looks and asked:
are you, Otto?”
really brainless or are you pretending to be?”
get you ...”
father is going to leave us.”
It’s not like he and ...” I left the room without ending my sentence for my
mother needed solitude. Only in solitude could she find peace and comfort.
In the dining room, everything was still the same as
it was in the moment when we left it. Like some sort of theatre scene ...
without protagonists ... it looked as if they had left in search of new roles.
is not possible!
This is what she thinks. That’s why she said to him, “You don’t have to say a word, I know it
This is not possible!
Simona! With her smile, with fireflies in her eyes,
with her white teeth and dimples in her cheeks.
My father - the man whose face never showed a smile,
whose teeth are brownish from smoking and age, and gum disease has left them
rickety regardless of his daily hygienic routine and efforts.
Simona—one head taller than him, slim with a tiny
waist and long, long legs and a little bottom like an Easter bun, with elegant hands
and slim, long fingers adorned with numerous yellow rings.
My father ... stocky, short. He is already belting his
pants underneath his sagging breasts. Short-legged, shortsighted, sullen,
unapproachable and a know-it-all.
Simona ... with her pitch-black hair, dark but shiny,
she looks like a perfectly crafted doll from some exotic place ... with her big
almond- shaped eyes, the eyes of a child where fireflies are shining a light
with their little brilliant torches wooing observers to drown in it.
My father ... half-bald but convinced that, yet,
nobody can really notice it (nor can Simona), since he is combing his hair
across his head, over the bald patch, from left to right avoiding the wind at
any cost ...
No, it can’t be true. Can it be true?
Let's try another question, okay?
Okay, then! Back to writing novels! Yes, I have finished writing a novel which I have named Dethroned. It is a very dramatic tale populated by a number of characters - from strong and honest to the most sinister and evil individuals who have deeply hidden agendas. Believe it or not, but it all started as a short story “Pia’s Poem” (which is now a story published in The Lonely Poet and Other Stories).
I wrote “Pia’s Poem” and published it in 2013. But that story never really let go of me. It lingered. It lingered for days, then for months and one morning a conversation woke me up. I was having a conversation with Pia, asking her questions like ‘Why won’t she let go of me?’ or ‘Who is she?’ and ‘What does she really want from me?’
Well, Pia just wanted me to finish that long saga of her family from both sides – her father’s and mother’s side. And it is a long, bloody saga that goes back to the beginning of the thirties of the past century and leads us throughout the upheavals of wars, political intrigues, family feud, losses of wealth and love, displacement and revenge … and more.
I immensely enjoyed writing the novel; I loved writing it. It took a lot out of me. There are several unusual events that followed whilst writing it, a few parallel happenings, some degree of spookiness, but I won’t be talking about it now, I need to leave some mystery for the reader.
The novel will be published at the beginning of 2017 with my US publisher, Speaking Volumes. It will be my forth novel published by that reliable publisher.
Great! Sounds like a fascinating tale!
Thanks so much for stopping by to tell us about The Lonely Poet and Other Stories, Branka!
Thank you for allowing me to visit, Marie!
Readers, you'll just have to pick up a copy of this collection full of literary fiction, romance, inspirational tales and mystery!
Here is the blurb for The Lonely Poet and Other Stories.
"Otto Visconti creates a theatre of the absurd in which he is the main
character and the anti-hero, the victor and the victim, the celebrity
and an irrelevant, obscure and insecure poet misplaced in an isolated
and cold world created by his insecurities, obsessions and illusions,
governed by the strange inner forces throwing him mercilessly into
absurd situations and even more bizarre conclusions and outcomes. He is
the main protagonist and the narrator of his misfortunes in the first
part of the collection. The second part of the collection offers
stories collected from Sydney to New York featuring odd characters in
their constant search for meaning, for satisfaction, fulfillment or
adventure. They chose unusual avenues in their pursuit of personal
happiness; the avenues that often lead them astray."
Looks like a very interesting collection of stories!