Interview with Mil Brač

Published 2018-08-14.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Communist 80s Romania, a Stalinist dictatorship considered, even in those times, the harshest in the entire Warsaw Pact block. That totally influenced both me as a person (I hate Communism bitterly, but am fascinated with Russian history) and as a writer: most of my works concern Russian characters in various alternative Soviet pasts and futures. Ambivalent characters in tough, ambivalent situations, always having to struggle hard to survive. Since during my childhood everything including literature, was state propaganda worshiping the Great Ruler, I became fascinated with the only two escapist gates: scifi and Russian books from the fifties about explorers, adventurers and teenager pioneers. Hence my chosen themes (sci or fantasy with Soviets); the fact I am, in real life, a professional Army officer, adds the third, military - almost all my stories and novels are war stories in one way or another.
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing in 2015 - a very short text published in GazetaSF, about a WW2 scout dying in a graveyard, his sadness in tandem with that of the local cemetery devil, both failing to understand the horror of WW2's new ways of evil. I received praises from the readers and critics, so I decided I should try longer texts, too. So far, 26 stories (all published in magazines, some also in anthologies or short-stories collections), a novella and a novel. With more novels to come in the future.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Depends. If we consider "Red Dead Ten" my latest book, the story is that I wrote in my language a lot of stories about Russians, that were appreciated for being objective: capturing the Slav soul, yet not being blinded by being one. Some critics said they should reach the Western because of that, so I translated some of the stories and... here they are.
If we consider my latest book the novel already written for an year, but being published, in print, in autumn 2018, "The dark flag", then the story is just that: a story. A dark (military) fantasy one that was very well received for its originality, so I decided to expand it into a series (first book already written, second in working, more if it will be a good seller).
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I am not an indie author in my language - I was published in print (3 own books, 3 anthologies) by established publishing houses. I chose to go indie just for "Red Dead Ten" to offer a free comprehensive sample of my work to anyone reading in English and curious about that niche subgenre (military scifi and military fantasy, with Soviets). I intend to start a novel straight to English in 1-2 years, in the same subgenre; for writing it in its best, I need your feedback on "Red Dead Ten" - therefore this indie. So please review and comment - your thoughts will have a real impact on my next book.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The readers' (and, I'll admit it, also critics') reactions. I love to see people thrilled by my stories - that's the reason I do it, that's why "Read Dead Ten" is free. My best payment is your opinion.
What do your fans mean to you?
They are my comrades in arms: I, my readers and my characters all struggle together through tough adventures, suffer the defeats and enjoy the victories as a group.
What are you working on next?
A dark fantasy epic military novel. A lot of words, right? They mean it's a novel about an dictatorial ancient empire crumbling after its ruler disappears, with plenty of civil war, intrigues, treason, heroes, bastards and so on. Plus some not so usual demons... and gods.
Who are your favorite authors?
In scifi Philip K Dick - i love his unique imagination and twists. Also Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds and Dan Simmons. Plus the classics, like Heinlein or Asimov.
In fantasy, RR Martin (like everybody else on this planet), Joe Abercrombie, Gene Wolfe, and Andrzej Sapkowski.
In horror, I adore the one and only, the King. Stephen King.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Getting everything done as completely and perfectly as possible. I am a perfectionist, but a realist, too.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read a lot, about 2 books per week, I play a lot (Witcher, Skyrim, Mass Effect, Deus Ex and so on) and devour history in any form (magazines, sites, books, documentaries, films).
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I do not remember the first story ever read (it must have been around 1984 and probably a fairytale, as I was 6), but I definitely remember the first story that impressed me forever: RR Martin's "Sand Kings". I read at in 1990 (I was 11) and it completely blew my mind.
Guess what. I am a scifi writer now, and mainly of short stories. What a coincidence...
How do you approach cover design?
I consider the covers to be extremely important. I generally prefer them to be dark, in strong colors, never over-complicated, easy to notice and remember - there are some tricks, which I will not reveal :))
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1. "King Rat" - James Clavell. Not a scifi, actually, but a great military novel about unexpected friendships in very difficult times.
2. "Shogun" - James Clavell. Again, not a scifi, but an excellent first contact with an alien civilization (the Japanese).
3. The "Long Sun"-"Short Sun" - "New Sun" series - Gene Wolfe. Don't worry, I do not write anything like Wolfe. He is a somewhat oversophisticated/overliterary writer, but I love his bizarre worlds and his mastery of the words.
4. "It" - Stephen King. A group of friends fighting a much stronger foe and still standing up to it... what more could I ask for?
5. The "Witcher" series - Andrzej Sapkowski. East European detailed and colourful mythology, Western style action oriented story, a bitter, yet humane strong character. Perfect.
What is your writing process?
I look around in real life and grab an idea, then squeeze it for a few day till it becomes heavily deformed. Then I start building adound it: a few main storylines and the twists, then the secondary, then the characters, always writing them down, for 1-2 weeks. Then I sit down for a day*, drink a lot of coffee and write an entire short-story or novel chapter at once. Then I correct it and... ready!
*actually I just lie in bed, I use a tiny laptop as a writing machine :)
What do you read for pleasure?
Scifi, fantasy, horror... a lot of them all, about 2 books per week. Plenty of history in all its forms, too: documentary, memoirs, fictional. Mostly about WW2 and about the USSR, but alos about... quite anything historical. Rarer, I read serious books, too: sociology, anthropology, psychology.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle. It is not necessarily the best, it just happens to be in a sweet spot regarding price/performance.
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Books by This Author

Red Dead Ten
Price: Free! Words: 62,540. Language: English. Published: August 12, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Military, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
A collection of 10 dark military SF&F stories about Soviet futures and pasts, including: inquiries in strange occurrences in a future, global USSR; first contact stories about new planets with hostile secrets; WW2 tales where real war slips into bizarre battles; time-travelling commandoes with unexpected results; future war-robots stumbling over some well-known arch-enemies; and more!