Interview with Bruno Martin Soares
Laura and The Shadow King
Please tell me a little about your current work in progress.
My latest book, LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING is about a little girl fleeing from her cruel captors with her mother in a post-apocalyptic Southern Spain and Portugal devastated by a pandemic (two, actually – one after the other). And then she is saved by Special Forces team Shadow. Laura is a special girl who can make all the difference to find a cure, so the invading Russian army will not let her go easily. People usually notice my strong female characters and the girl’s mother, Maria, is someone to be reckoned with. The second volume of this two-part miniseries will come out at the end of the year. Here’s where you can get it: https://amzn.to/2Tb9628
Where did you get the idea for this book or series?
Do you write in more than one genre?
I started by writing traditional literary narratives and still write a few stories in that genre. But my main focus now is in Scifi-Fantasy. I end up writing in different subgenres. I wrote a SciFi Saga with Fantasy tropes (The Saga of Alex 9), then a Space Fleet trilogy (The Dark Sea War Chronicles), now a post-apocalyptic action-thriller with a superpower mixture (Laura and the Shadow King), and am writing a supernatural/SciFi horror story (Insight) that should come out next year.
Tell me about something that you believe makes your writing unique or worthy of attention.
People tell me my writing is thrilling and suspenseful and gritty. People like my strong characters and page-turner style. But I also like the way my writing style evolved to something less orthodox but nevertheless interesting and even exciting. I pay a lot of attention to rhythm and what I call Melodic Writing. You can look me up in Medium to learn about this – I wrote a few articles on the subject.
Is there anything about your personal history or personality that manifests strongly in your writing?
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 what I try to show in my writings.
Both LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING and THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES are about war and its consequences, even though the most important themes in them are resilience and hope. A couple of years ago, the Portuguese version of THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES won the Adamastor Award for Fantastic Writing, which was my latest award and one I’m really proud of.
What else would be helpful for readers to know about you?
I was born in S.Sebastião da Pedreira, in the center of Lisbon. If you dig it up, you’ll find a surprising number of Lisbon-born Portuguese were actually born in that bairro. It’s the place where you’ll find the largest maternity in Portugal.
I moved to the Madeira Island when I was 2 years old. The island is made of two 2000-meter-high mountains in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. A tiny spec of dust in any world map, but it’s there, about the same latitude of Casablanca but far away to the West. My father was an executive and an entrepreneur, and my mother was a nurse, and I had a younger brother and a younger sister I could annoy. But most of the time, I resorted to books.
I don’t really know how old I was when I started to write stories. I wrote them for school, I’m certain, but the first time I wrote without any academic goal I was 12. Sometimes in the Summer we would go to my grandmother’s house in Continental Portugal, north of Lisbon, near Coimbra, and once in a while I, my siblings and my cousins would enact a show for our parents and uncles. When I was 12, I decided to write a play for that purpose. I never finished it. I never finished a lot of stuff, back then. I started novels and all kinds of stories but wasn’t convinced of the outcome. So, I started to write short stories, just so I could learn, making sure I finished them.
When I was 18, I came to Lisbon to study Law and then Business Administration. 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. I did and won an Honorable 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.
Excluding your own work, what underrated author or book would you recommend that more people read? Why?
I love Alexander Kent/Douglas Reeman. Even though he’s a successful writer with dozens of novels published, his work doesn’t have the attention of a C.S.Lewis, a Patrick O’Brien or an Alastair McQueen. Yet, I think he is way more talented than most of these and his protagonist, Richard Bolitho, is the model for my hero Byllard Iddo in THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES.
Which of your books do you most highly recommend? Why?
I have a soft spot for my first trilogy THE SAGA OF ALEX 9 which is still not translated to English. I had people saying THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES is my best work and others saying LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING is better still. I’m always in love with the book I’m writing. My work-in-progress, INSIGHT, is some of my best work by far. Sorry. I can’t recommend just one.
Which break, event, decision, or fortuitous circumstance has helped you or your writing career the most?
I think the moment I decided to submit my work to the Young Creators Award in Portugal made me a ‘real writer’ – in the sense I became known and read after that. The path wasn’t a bed of roses from then on and there were a lot of setbacks, but I can say that moment changed my life.
10. What question do you wish you would get asked more often?
How is Portugal doing in the Scifi/Fantasy genre?
Portugal is a small country (10 million people) with a small book market. You cannot survive as a writer in the Portuguese market alone. Still, we do have several very interesting emerging writers, gathering strength to write more and publish abroad. And we have a flourishing and surprisingly strong lot of comic book artists. Some of our designers are hired by the largest comic book brands. I wish the Portuguese movie and TV producing market wasn’t so fragile and amateurish, because I would love to work more in those formats, but I’m constantly surprised and impressed by what the new generations is preparing in terms of books and other media.
11. Do you have a catch-phrase or quote that you like? What is it? And why do you choose it?
I do, actually… Several. I like the famous ‘Be water, my friend’ quote by Bruce Lee. I used it in my THE SAGA OF ALEX 9 trilogy, and I really identify with it.
I have one at Goodreads I also love. From Churchill, it goes something like this: ‘Many men occasionally stumble on the Truth. But most just get up and keep walking as if nothing happened.’
But to be honest, the one I tell myself everyday in the mirror is from Ridley Scott’s ‘Black Rain’. It’s a phrase Michael Douglas says to a Japanese Yakuza boss, but I say it to myself: ‘I am the solution to your problems.’ It keeps me going.