Today, we’re doing something a little different. If you remember, we interviewed Christi Williams’ character on October 8th and it was so fun that I thought we may as well make an occasional habit of it. I have had the pleasure of knowing Branka Čubrilo, the author of Fiume – The Lost River, for awhile now and I asked her if she’d let me borrow one of her main characters, Beatrice Szabo, from the book. We’ll get a chance to talk to Branka in a bit, but now we have on the stage…Beatrice Szabo!
Marie Lavender: Hello, Beatrice. Please have a seat.
Beatrice Szabo: Hello. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Marie: We’re going to start out with some simple questions, okay?
Character Beatrice: All right.
Marie: So, Beatrice, what is your occupation? Are you any good at it? Do you like it?
Beatrice: I was a milliner, a hat-maker for sophisticated clientele at the beginning of the 20th century, first in Fiume, then in Vienna and in the end in Sydney. I was a master of the art that I had learned from my mother who was considered as the ‘best hat-maker’ in the entire region. I did like it, I always considered it to be my biggest love after I lost my beloved Vincenzo, who passed away too early, too young.
Marie: Oh, so sorry to hear that. What is your family like?
Beatrice: From the time of my first recollections of events, conversations, attitudes and characters, my memory takes me back to mother’s shop. My mother was the proprietor of a shop on the ‘Fiumara’, an artist in millinery. She was a quiet and gentle woman, somewhat shy, and it seemed that the most important thing for her was the way I expressed myself. With her refined manners, her vocabulary was always proper and polite, though not particularly rich. She kept her voice down lower than necessary, so people often failed to hear what she was asking or saying, yet she’d never repeat her utterances. I never discovered why.
My father died of tuberculosis when I was seven. He was a high ranked officer in the Austro-Hungarian army. He left us a lovely house and a noble family name. That was all. He also left us some pleasant memories of his personage. He was an honest man. He was exactly eighteen years older than my mother and this was apparent at first sight: a heavy-set man, dark hair and moustache, clear and bright eyes that seemed stern under his thick eyebrows. Since my mother was fragile, blonde and shy, next to him she looked more like his child. Father’s attitude towards her was somewhat in that vein. He liked to fulfill her and my wishes. I looked forward to our shared Sunday dinners, when I was allowed to ask him the most diverse questions, and he would have a reply for each and every one of them. Mother would listen, smiling at my curiosity and his patience. Then he took ill and died soon thereafter. I cried long and inconsolably. That was my first encounter with death. I could not believe that he no longer existed and that I’d never see him again.
Marie: Again, I’m sorry to hear that.
So…Do you have any hobbies? What do you enjoy doing?
Beatrice: I had many hobbies, but reading was my dearest. When I left Vienna, and settled in Sydney I explored different possibilities: I was vain, at a certain point in my life, hence went to parties, listened to intrigues and laughed at petty people. I collected expensive gifts, rare treasures, antique furniture and paintings.
Marie: What is your greatest dream, Beatrice?
Beatrice: I fulfilled all my dreams: I loved deeply and sincerely, and was loved and adored several times. My art was recognized worldwide – I collected honors and awards. I had many friends and helped some people who were not so fortunate, and in the end I met a man I was supposed to meet – the Stranger, I named him. I was the owner of the biggest private book collection in the Southern hemisphere. What else?
Oh, yes! I have come to make peace with an internal judge and inquisitor.
Marie: So, what kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
Beatrice: I was a very stubborn, righteous, proud and fair person. I did whatever I wanted to do, as I was a free spirit. I followed my dream and my heart and had chased it to the end of the world. I was brave and disobedient, yet kind and generous to the less fortunate. I was passionate to live a life that was given to me and considered it as a gift. Nothing had ever stopped me from being myself. This was simply the way I was born: strong and unstoppable, yet loving and forgiving.
Marie: I’m going to throw another random question at you now, and I think you mentioned him before. Who was your first love?
Beatrice: Vincenzo K., the most famous Austrian writer. I was his lover, not a wife. Can you imagine how difficult that sweet task was in the early twenties of the last century? They would gossip and talk behind my back “She isn’t his wife, she is his mistress.” I was simply – his love. The love of his life.
Marie: Beatrice, what’s the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?
Beatrice: The most difficult experience that any woman could ever go through: I lost my child.
I am 94, and I told my story retrospectively, all those hard life knocks were child’s play compared to losing my girl. All those years I have never forgotten her and have spoken to her on a daily basis. Still, I do hope we’ll meet again, only then my soul will find peace.
Marie: Oh, I’m so sorry you had to go through that. (Gives a sympathetic gesture, patting Beatrice’s hand.) But, I’m sure you will see her again. Well, let’s move on to something a bit lighter, shall we?
What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?
Beatrice: I wanted to find a man who would love me like my father did. That was a common dream of a common girl; hence it was mine too. I just felt that I ‘had to go somewhere far away with someone so special’ and I let myself into the biggest mystery unfolding it day by day with utter astonishment.
Marie: Oh, I like the sound of that. I am eager to hear more.
So, who is your role model?
Beatrice: I never had a role mode. I was too wild and too proud to look up to any role model. I wanted to make my own rules and lead my life as a free being. Awakened, strong and free.
I wanted to open my eyes wide in order to see the truth, to see everything just the way it is. I knew that awareness opens the door to countless possibilities, and that was what I wanted: to be the artist of my own life, making the choice of those possibilities.
Marie: You’ll probably think I’m digging for dirt on the next question…Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?
Beatrice: Oh, my tongue was razor-sharp. I never needed to pretend, hence the brutal honesty was something that had a high price which I paid numerous times, but I didn’t know any different way neither I did I want it.
Marie: (Nods.) So, what is your deepest desire?
Beatrice: I longed for a better world and I still do. I acquired wealth beyond necessity, and found that my days of being simple and carefree couldn’t be purchased or the people I cherished the most never befriended me because of my money. My deepest longing and desire was to establish outstanding human relationships built on trust and integrity.
Marie: A worthy goal, I’d say.
Let’s switch to another question. What is your greatest fear?
Beatrice: That I would die without visiting Fiume ever again.
Marie: I see. Well, thank you for visiting us today, Beatrice. (Waves goodbye to Beatrice.)
Now, let’s shift over and get the author’s perspective. We have Branka Čubrilo on the stage today. Hi, Branka!
Author Branka Čubrilo: Hi. Thank you for having me here.
Marie: My pleasure! We just got to talk to the heroine of your story, Beatrice Szabo. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about her?
Branka: Such a demanding character: a complex and capricious woman, wise yet free, capricious yet kind and generous. She is full of contrasts; full of physical and mental energy, someone that can lead as she led me through the entire century with ease, elegance, and dignity regardless of enormous difficulties she had encountered on her journey.
Marie: She does seem fascinating.
So, what are your character’s greatest strengths?
Branka: Endurance, honesty and zest for life.
Marie: All great traits. Let’s take the opposition on that.
What, do you feel, are her greatest weaknesses?
Branka: She lived in the past and couldn’t fully let go of some of the haunting experiences in her life. She built a world where nothing could touch her any longer, unwilling to fully participate. She was an observer in the second part of her life rather than a participant: high up on the top of her (expensive!) tower of righteousness.
Marie: I see. What are some of her favorite foods?
Branka: She loves seafood and Mediterranean/Italian cuisine. Then the Wiener schnitzel and the Sachertorte.
Marie: What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?
Branka: She is so generous and kind-hearted, but her strong character doesn’t allow her to admit it. She is a philanthropist and humanist, but she doesn’t want anyone to know that; she believes that being ‘soft’ would ‘ruin her reputation’ as a strong and just woman.
Marie: Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?
Branka: I think that she is a very likable character. Life laid in front of her many adversities and she responded with resilience, and wisdom. I think that she is someone that every woman would like to be to a certain extent. She is self-sufficient and doesn’t rely on a man, on others’ opinions; neither is she an opportunist on others’ expense. She is a real hero, wise and capable of using all resources.
Marie: Great! Well, now that we have a real taste of Beatrice Szabo, we have a few questions for you as well as the author.
What first gave you the idea for Fiume – The Lost River?
Branka: Would it be too strange to say that Beatrice started to ‘talk’ to me and tell me the story on one fine day in a Sydney suburb I never wanted to live in. It was a place where I didn’t belong and never felt at ease… never belonged and never wanted to belong there…so, I tuned into those fine whispers and let her lead me out of that rut I somehow found myself in.
Marie: That’s not strange at all! No except a writer would understand the idea that our characters talk to us, and tell us how their stories should play out.
So, what is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Branka: I can handle a plot. It has to be intelligent: conversations absolutely witty and convincing, descriptions accessible for the reader…I take my reader by the hand and lead them down the story line; they let my hand turn the page…
Marie: That’s great! For myself, I am part pantser, part plotter.
So, I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Fiume – The Lost River or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?
Branka: This is an interesting question. I didn’t come across any challenges as the story took me exactly where it had to go – I lose myself and I trust the writing process. I haven’t had any problems with publishing the book; the first publisher loved it. It has been published in two languages (hope it will be published in a few more). I had the chance to ‘do it differently’…but when I was translating the book and preparing it for a different publisher in USA, I had an opportunity to change and adapt it…but, I stayed loyal to the original script because I believe it was written exactly as I wanted it to be written. Nothing to add, nothing to take out.
Marie: Wow, Branka! I’m so glad it all worked out.
Well, it was a such a pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog. And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Fiume – The Lost River appears to be. Readers, you will just have to pick up a copy of this awesome book by Branka Čubrilo, a great author!
Here is the blurb for Fiume – The Lost River:
When a chance meeting with a mysterious, yet familiar, ‘Stranger’ at a party in Sydney sets off a cycle of memories, Beatrice Szabo opens Pandora’s Box which she had kept under lock and key for over seventy years: she left her native town of Fiume eloping with a famous writer, an event that provoked a local scandal and broke hearts and souls of a few families for several generations. When Beatrice came to Vienna with her lover in the aftermath of the Second World War, she never dreamt that beautiful Vienna would not be her last destination. Under unfavorable circumstances she marries David Goldberg, a Viennese Jew; while the atmosphere of war engulfs Austria, they witness ‘Crystal Night’ and the fear and panic that widely spread; she sets off alone on a journey through war and panic-stricken Europe only to find herself in a Faraway Land—strange, exotic and sleepy Australia where her life takes an unthinkable turn—“Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose.”
Universal Amazon Kindle Link: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00LIBE02Y
Amazon paperback link: http://www.amazon.com/Fiume-Lost-River-Branka-Cubrilo/dp/1628151900/
About Branka Čubrilo
Branka Čubrilo is an author of 7 written novels (written from 1981 – 2014). Five of them were published by three different publishers (Branka writes in two languages). She writes short stories, poems and articles while she also works as radio producer/presenter at SBS, radio and tv Corporation in Sydney. Branka is a linguist working as an interpreter and translator. After significant success of her novel (written in English) The Mosaic of the Broken Soul (2012), Branka has published another novel by the same publisher Fiume – the Lost River in July (2014). Currently Branka is editing her latest novel titled Dethroned.
And, if you want to know how to connect with the amazing Branka Čubrilo, here are some of her author links:
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Branka-Cubrilo/e/B0052Y00I6/
Once again, I want to thank both of our guests, Beatrice Szabo, the female main character of Fiume – The Lost River, and Branka Čubrilo, the brilliant author of the novel, for stopping by! It was so fun to have you here! 🙂