Bruno Martins Soares
Romelia: WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
Bruno Martins Soares: Not really sure. I knew I wanted to write since I was 12. I guess it was a little bit after that I started fantasizing about being a writer. But I can only say for sure that when I was in my 20’s I wanted to be published and recognized.
It still took a number of years for me to be comfortable saying I was a writer. Until I was published and had awards and wrote regularly, I only said I wrote stuff. I didn’t feel I was a writer yet. So I was almost in my 40’s when I started to accept that title.
Romelia: HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?
Bruno Martins Soares: Depends. Depends on the book and on the story. I would say the standard time is one year, from the moment I start writing. But I’m always conceptualizing and plotting. From the outset of the idea to the finished draft, the books take, on average, about 8 to 10 years to write. Some take longer. Right now I must have a dozen books developing in my head. I have a pipeline, of course, and I only write one at a time, but I’m plotting several.
Romelia: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INFORMATION OR IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOKS?
Bruno Martins Soares: Everywhere. I read I watch a lot of TV, I watch videos on YouTube, I study places on Google Earth, I travel to places, if need be, etc. I used to think research was a bore, but now I love it.
Romelia: WHAT LITERARY PILGRIMAGES HAVE YOU GONE ON?
Bruno Martins Soares: Not a thing for me, really – I don’t get starstruck easily. I researched in Alentejo, Southern Portugal, for one, and I travelled to Torino, Italy and Rome and Sarajevo, Bosnia, as a writer – speaking and workshopping and sharing my views. But I don’t think they were pilgrimages. I went to Stanford Upon Avon as a kid, with my family, to see the place of birth of Shakespeare, does that count?
Romelia: WHAT IS THE FIRST BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?
Bruno Martins Soares: Not really sure either. I’m a cry baby. It’s because I put myself in the shoes of the characters, really – or that’s what I tell myself. I remember crying at the end of ’The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, and at the end of ’Samurai’ by Shusaku Endo. And I always used to cry when they told me the story of the ’Little Match Girl’, by H.C. Andersen – that story killed me every time.
Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST UNETHICAL PRACTICE IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?
Bruno Martins Soares: There are a lot of bad practices in the industry, but for me the worst is to ask authors for money for being published. As the publishing business is changing, the big publishers have only one big advantage over self-published authors, and that’s Marketing. Still, they manage to build businesses extorting money from authors instead of offering them the Marketing they need. Any publisher who does not need to sell a single book to make a profit shouldn’t be in this business nor call themselves a publisher.
Romelia: DOES WRITING ENERGIZE OR EXHAUST YOU?
Bruno Martins Soares: Most of the time it energizes me, but sometimes it is exhausting. If I have a writing spurt and write for hours and hours or days in a row, I will get tired. But also, very satisfied. Writing spurts are rare and exciting. When one happens they bring me great pleasure.
Romelia: WHAT ARE COMMON TRAPS FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Bruno Martins Soares: It’s easy to get infatuated with incredible stories in our heads just to find out that when we start putting them in the blank page there is something missing. Writing is a bit more difficult than it seems. Many aspiring writers get the sense that they are not any good after the first few tries. But that’s a trap. Writing is a craft with a set of skills you need to learn. You can learn them by yourself, reading books and watching movies, or you can have lessons or mentors, or use other learning resources. Still, it takes time. There’s no substitute to writing and writing and writing. You won’t be good enough unless you practice.
Another trap is being discouraged by rejection. Becoming a writer means you’re entering the rejection business. If you’re doing enough writing you’ll probably be rejected 95% of the time. That’s the nature of the thing. Don’t get discouraged. Accept it. It is normal for someone in this kind of business, just like in acting or modelling, or sales, to be rejected most of the time. Get used to it.
Romelia: DOES A BIG EGO HELP OR HURT WRITERS?
Bruno Martins Soares: Both. You need to have a strong-enough ego to overcome rejection and be resilient in your work. But you need to be humble enough to be able to learn and evolve. Either way, there’s no excuse for being rude or arrogant or unpolite. I know people with big egos who are sweet and polite. I try to be like that as well – big enough ego to want to do my thing; but polite and helpful and humble enough to get better and better.
Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR WRITING KRYPTONITE?
Bruno Martins Soares: Money. Most of my writing career I had to chose between earning money or dedicate 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.
Romelia: HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN READER’S BLOCK?
Bruno Martins Soares: Yes. A few times. I once got it so bad I didn’t read a book for two years. I think I was very depressed back then.
Romelia: DID YOU EVER CONSIDER WRITING UNDER A PSEUDONYM?
Bruno Martins Soares: Yes. Did it. It can work – but people in interviews started calling me by my fake name and it was confusing. I find that when you use a pseudonym you’re trying not to be connected to your writing, to protect yourself. And it makes me wonder why, actually. In Portugal, where I live and work, there is prejudice about Scifi and Fantasy writing, so when I first started, I used a pseudonym. Only when I accepted my own writing and myself as a SF&F writer did I start writing under my own name.
Romelia: DO YOU TRY MORE TO BE ORIGINAL OR TO DELIVER TO READERS WHAT THEY WANT?
Bruno Martins Soares: Both. I believe readers really like originality, but they also want the tropes they are fascinated by. So they look for books with those tropes but get a bit disappointed when the book is not original. So I absolutely think we as writers have to deliver both.
Romelia: DO YOU THINK SOMEONE COULD BE A WRITER IF THEY DON’T FEEL EMOTIONS STRONGLY?
Bruno Martins Soares: Of course. But maybe not a very good one.
Romelia: WHAT OTHER AUTHORS ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH, AND HOW DO THEY HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER WRITER?
Bruno Martins Soares: I have several author friends, like Pedro Cipriano, José Mário Silva, and many others. Right now I’m starting a new podcast called Bangcast!, with two authors friends of mine: Luis Corte-Real and Luis Filipe Silva. My author friends help me get some things in perspective, learn what we all suffer versus what my own monsters force me to endure. That podcast I’m talking about is a way to explore the challenges of being a writer in Portugal and the world and there’s a lot of things going on right now: the publishing business is changing completely and it’s important to be connected to get a grip on what’s happening.
Romelia: DO YOU WANT EACH BOOK TO STAND ON ITS OWN, OR ARE YOU TRYING TO BULD A BODY OF WORK WITH CONNECTIONS BETWEEN EACH BOOK?
Bruno Martins Soares: For now, my books are standing on their own. They all share my style of fast and gritty militaristic action-thrillers with SF&F contours. I think that with what I have in my pipeline, my portfolio will become even more cohesive. With one exception: the WIP I’m working in right now – it’s a supernatural/SF horror psychological thriller. I think people will recognize my writing, but also see something really different. Still, this is just a one-off stand-alone book. After that I’m back for the second trilogy of Byllard Iddo’s SciFi chronicles, about a Space war in another solar system – the first trilogy was a kind of WW2’s Battle of the Atlantic in Space, the second one will be more like WW2’s Battle of the Pacific in Space.
Romelia: IF YOU COULD TELL YOUR YOUNGER WRITING SELF ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Bruno Martins Soares: Write more. Write faster. Write every day. Life’s too short.
Romelia: HOW DID PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST BOOK CHANGE YOUR PROCESS OF WRITING?
Bruno Martins Soares: A lot. I started getting feedback from editors and readers and this made me forget some of my more exotic techniques and focus in writing the story in a clear manner. It also encouraged me to start writing in English. The Portuguese market is very small and even if my first book was a local success, the earnings were pitiful.
Romelia: WHAT WAS THE BEST MONEY YOU EVER SPENT AS A WRITER?
Bruno Martins Soares: I’m tempted to say: the one I spent buying author copies. But that’s not true. I think the best money I spent was buying two screenwriting books: McKee’s ‘Story’ and Blake Snyder’s ‘Save the Cat’. They really propelled me to a new level.
Romelia: WHAT AUTHORS DID YOU DISLIKE AT FIRST BUT GREW INTO?
Bruno Martins Soares: This one I pass. I really can’t remember one. I tend to stop reading when I’m not liking the book – life’s too short.
Romelia: WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR FIRST ADVANCE?
Bruno Martins Soares: Pay debt.
Romelia: WHAT WAS AN EARLY EXPERIENCE WHERE YOU LEARNED THAT LANGUAGE HAD POWER?
Bruno Martins Soares: When I started writing in English I quickly got the feeling that I was entering a brand new world.
Oh, are you referring to my childhood? Well, when I was very young, 4 or 5, my family used to call me ‘the Philosopher’, which really annoyed me because I couldn’t understand what that meant. But I got that I was asking different questions and reasoning differently and I guess that made me understand language had power.
After that, in my youth, when I became a professional trainer in personal communication, team dynamics and leadership, I learned a lot about language and most of all about communication – knowledge which influenced me immensely and still stays with me.
Romelia: WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT MAGAZINES FOR WRITERS TO SUBSCRIBE TO?
Bruno Martins Soares: I’m not sure. I don’t get any, except the Portuguese Bang!, which is a great magazine about SF&F.
Romelia: FROM WHERE YOU GET INSPIRED WITH YOUR FIRST BOOK?
Bruno Martins Soares: You mean what were my inspirations for the books I write? Movies, spy novels, Frank Herbert, Tolkien, Bernard Cornwell, Japanese manga and anime, Frank Miller, strategy games – you name it.
Romelia: DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.
Bruno Martins Soares: I am a Portuguese Scifi writer. After 20 years writing and publishing in Portugal, I am now an international emerging author.
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 I don’t like about the world? I don’t think there’s any point in hating the world, we just have to live in it and do the best we can. But if I had to choose, I’d say corruption, emotional blindness and elitism are the worst. I don’t like people that just think about themselves and don’t care about the others.
Here is my email:
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 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 (spoiler alert: it involves superpowers/magic), 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
Here are my other pages and links: