Exclusive Interview with
Bruno Martins Soares
When did you start writing?
I don’t really know how old I was when I started writing stories. I wrote them for school, I’m certain, but the first time I wrote without any academic goal I was 12, I remember that much. I just loved reading and stories and the books I laid hands on didn’t last that much and I had so many stories in my head I just started playing with them until it was impossible not to write them down.
I kept writing different stuff. When I was 22, a friend of mine incited me to enter one of the largest and most prestigious Young Writers’ contests in Portugal. I did and won an Honourable Mention. I tried again two years later and won it. I went to Torino and them Rome and Sarajevo, representing my country as a Young Writer. One of the best times of my life. Then, one day, I decided to write a Scifi novel I had been chewing on for some time: The Saga of Alex 9. I showed it to a publisher who’d just included a short story of mine in an anthology, and he loved it. I was a published novelist one year later, and soon was featured in a series alongside names like George R.R. Martin or Bernard Cornwell, hailed as an author to recon with in Portuguese Scifi. How about that? I wrote more novels and worked in movies, TV and plays. I’ve done a lot of things in my career, but overall, I’ve been writing professionally for 20 years.
What makes writing your passion?
I'm not sure it's my passion. It's just who I am. It's a part of me. Like eating or breathing. I just couldn't do without it. But I guess I'm in love with people in general, in how we behave and what ails us and inspires us. I guess that's it.
How long have you been writing?
37 years, I guess.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Elation, of course. But it didn't last long. Soon I was eager for some more! I guess the first time I wrote an article that was published in one of the largest newspapers in Portugal it was more breathtaking. I just kept imagining everyone reading my text.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I like badasses with soft spots. One of my references is Frank Miller – his characters are such badasses. I like characters like that. I also like them to be smart and analytical. I guess my stories reflect my values, my preferred themes, and whatever messages I feel important to put in there.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
For most of my writing career, I had to choose between earning money or dedicating myself to my writing. Sometimes I chose to earn money, sometimes I chose to write. Writing is not a very good way to make money. It doesn’t have what Warren Buffet calls ‘Good Underlying Economics’ – that kind of ease in making money you can get by becoming a doctor or a lawyer or an oil-driller. And other work takes a lot of my time. Only recently am I starting to earn good money with my writing, so I’m able to slowly invest exclusively in it.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
That's a long answer, as I'm convinced there are several types of Writer's Block. I invite you to read an article of mine on the subject: https://brunomartinssoares.medium.com/taming-the-demons-on-writers-block-and-procrastination-26a016d9b9d6
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
I guess I always wanted to be listened to and prove I had value and something worth listening to. So when I write I express myself in all my different facets: I believe in family, I believe in people, and in freedom. I believe we should respect each other and each of us is original, special, and creative. I believe all of us have our own monsters to contend with and that we should treat each other well despite it. And a few other things. So yes, you could say a lot of me goes into my writing.
As for young writers: start with short stories. Be sure you tune your skills through short stories before you put your hands in the dirt and write novels and other large stuff. Be original. Always. Use tropes, but always be original – if you can, stay away from elves, dwarfs, dragons, vampires, werewolves, and witches. Create something different. And write. Just write and write and write.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
It's the structure, stupid. I don’t always write down my structures or make maps or anything, but I’m deeply aware of the structure as I go along. I’m always analyzing and testing my writings against the rules of structure, and I plot and plot and plot. I love when plotlines and storylines come together, and I love subtle foreshadowing, and devising twists, and having characters surprise the reader. Structuring helps us avoid many of the traps and dead ends our stories can step into. It lets us focus on the writing itself when we get to the page and since I learned that, my writing has grown immensely.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes, of course! The bad ones have to be as natural as good ones. We're in the 'rejection business' and we need to be ready for that. Do read my article on the subject, I guess I have a lot to say on it: https://brunomartinssoares.medium.com/taming-the-demons-on-writers-block-and-procrastination-26a016d9b9d6
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I'm proud and happy.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
I won the Young Creators National Award for Writing in ’96, and represented my country in fairs in Torino, Rome and Sarajevo. I was in Sarajevo when Clinton decided to bomb Belgrade, which was a little bit scary, but not so much as the earthquake we felt a few days earlier.
Overall, it was a special experience for me. I was there 3 years after the Civil War and scars were everywhere. Every single wall had bullet holes in it and some quarters the windows were still covered with United Nations’ plastic, as no window had survived the war. But the worst scars I saw were in the eyes of people around me. You could see they had all gone through Hell. Sarajevo is separated in two by a river and during the war, no-one could go from one side to the other without being shot by snipers. And children could only play outside when there was fog. These kinds of stories were very impressive to me. I wanted to go there because I wanted to learn for myself, up close, the real consequences of war, and I did see them. My parents were involved in the Portuguese Guinea Independence War, and I knew they had been scarred by it. And I’m fascinated by those extreme events. War brings out the best and the worst in people. That’s a little bit of what I try to show in my writings
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
Difficult to say. I guess there's a piece of me in every character and at least each male character gives me pause. I tend to Identify with them and fall in love with each female character.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Crucial. That's what gets the reader's attention. Even if they know you, they need to see your name. If they don't, they need to have a feeling about the book before reading the synopsis. So, yes.