I asked novelist Branka Cubrilo 5 questions. Below you will find her unedited answers.
1. Do you write for an audience or for yourself?
I have to say that I love my audience and people who follow my writings, books and my career, but I do write for myself. It started this way: I was always introspective and turned inward. But, I have to underline, if you are honest to yourself whilst writing for yourself it will appeal to a certain audience. Then regardless of the intention itself, for whom you are writing, it will find the way to readers with similar sensibility, interest or literary preferences. But, when I write I communicate with myself.
2. What talent or skill is most needed to be a great novelist?
That should be only logical: to be a great novelist one has to be great with words, with rhythm and the ability to engage people. I would say that being a novelist is a lifestyle, as a novelist leads a life of constant (re)writing, observing, keeping dialog alive and analyzing people they come in contact with (characters). My own life is a constant novel in the making, every person I meet I measure, evaluate and delegate as a potential character of the next novel or short story; every situation I encounter I look at from different angles as a curious director able to chose the flow of the story.
3. Can anyone be a successful novelist?
There is a difference between successful and good novelist. A good novelist is not necessarily a successful one too. Why? There is a lot on offer today, a lot of self-published work and lot of people rather go for something entertaining that doesn’t necessarily involve quality. The publishing industry isn’t the easiest one; a writer needs sound knowledge of the topic they are writing about, hence good research is needed, a talent, daily practice of their art and lots of discipline. If you put all those ingredients together, you still need a good portion of luck. Well-established writers follow their own pattern and associations, while new, aspiring writers, probably need some advice. It isn’t easy to give advice to anyone – as there are so many aspiring writers who consider writing to be an easy task, but it isn’t, really. Especially when it comes to something ‘deep and meaningful’, one has to be in tune with one’s own being, well read, well informed and equipped with all sorts of worldly experiences not to mention to possess great imagination.
4. Do you have a writing routine?
The most fruitful time for me is early morning as it is quiet here where I live; it is almost otherworldly in the early mornings, hence I take the advantage of that almost perfect atmosphere. I travel a lot too, therefore, I write a lot while abroad as I get inspired by different scenery, languages, cultures and customs. Sometimes my writing is structured and has routine but sometimes it is completely wild, as my inspiration doesn’t come on demand. Often, I get up in the middle of the night urged to ‘jot down just a few sentences’, then it carries on until late afternoon.
5. Will you ever return to your home in Rijeka, Croatia, to live permanently?
So far, this would be the most difficult question you asked. I have been living in Sydney for the past 25 years, my daughter was born here, I have interesting work here and some great friends. Sydney is a great city, so beautiful with mild winters and beautiful scenery. Rijeka is my hometown; my parents, brother and sister still live in Rijeka. I have a talent of keeping friendships alive, so in Rijeka I have at least 15 great friends; our friendship goes back to our youth, even childhood. It is so fantastic to visit (almost every year) and to be with those extraordinary people. I am, sort of, torn between, and am the happiest when I manage to live in Sydney throughout the year and travel back to Rijeka for a couple of months in the (European) summer. Rijeka is a beautiful costal city, the climate is perfect, food is perfect and my family and friends make me feel relaxed and happy. I wish I could extend that lifestyle of living both in Sydney and Rijeka as long as possible, but if my daughter wants to live in Sydney, that would be my destination too; if she wants to go to Europe, I’ll go too – as long as we are on the same continent.