Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Croatian Author Sanja Srdic Jungic on New Novel, Ti Si Moje Sve

August 11, 2021 - We met Sanja Srdic Jungic when she published her first novel, The Stars Among Us, in her home country. Now, two years since our interview Sanja has not only written a second novel, Ti si moje sve, but also translated and published her first novel, The Stars Among Us, on Amazon. We wanted to catch up with Sanja and see what prompted her to try her writing odds abroad and what else has changed since 2019.

In your first interview with Total Croatia News, you've mentioned the possibility of writing a fantasy novel in the future or at least a novel with a fantasy twist. So, were you true to your word?

Actually, I was! I think your news portal was the first official channel through which I mentioned the possibility of bringing some fantasy elements to my novel. I can't talk much about it since it would be a huge spoiler, but yes, there is a bit of magical realism in my second novel and reactions are super positive, even though it's completely different from my first novel.


Now that you've mentioned it, what are the main differences between your two novels?

My first novel, Zvijezde među nama, was a true chick lit novel and a perfect summer read, following the story of a young Croatian woman Nora who follows her passion of working in movie production and subsequently falls in love with a famous American actor. Ti si moje sve, my second novel, is a tad more serious, even though we are following a much younger protagonist this time, seventeen-year-old Elena. We meet Elena at the worst part of her life, right after a tragic accident in which her beloved father dies, and Elena is struggling with keeping up with school, family relations and friendships. The only positive thing in her life is Aleks, boy-next-door who sparks up her life a bit. This is a novel about coming of age and a mixture of romance and drama.

How much of you can be found in the main characters in your novels? How do you write a character to be more lifelike?

Both of my protagonists have some similarities with me, but I try to distance myself from my novels as much as possible. Nora inherited my sarcasm and stubbornness, while Elena is very empathetic and cares deeply for her family. And as for making my characters more lifelike, I use dialogues. They are really my strong suit, so the dialogues in my novels will often make you laugh, even in the most inappropriate situations my characters sometimes face.

How has your life changed with the publication of two books?

Well, definitely not as much that I can quit my day job, ha ha! I've become more aware of the audience of my novels, to whom I'm very grateful, and also the media following me and my social channels. I've once written a post about our president's website and it soon caught the attention of Večernji list, who published a whole article on the topic, it was mental! But I can still walk my dog in my PJs without it being reported by the paparazzi, so that's nice.


Is that what prompted you to seek international success?

Well, not exactly. The Croatian book market is really small; if you sell a thousand books this is considered a great success. And everything usually stops with those 1000 books, if you are lucky enough to sell them. I wanted something more.

You were publicly recognized by a bestselling British author, Robert Bryndza who is, in his own words, a fan of your work. The Croatian media picked up this story where you explained that Robert became a mentor of yours in the process. How did your collaboration start and what is the value of mentoring for the new writer?

Robert Bryndza is a wonderful man who I met in one of our bookstores (I work as a marketing manager for a Croatian bookstore chain) during his promotional tour and he is the first person who instigated me to start working on the translation of my novel with renowned Croatian translator Neven Divjakinja and who not only became my mentor, but a friend during the process. To me, having a mentor who understands all of my fears and frustrations is invaluable. Not only can Robert recognize when I'm slacking off and give me much needed kick in the butt, but he is a true example of what a writer can accomplish when he sets his mind to it. For Robert, it's millions of sold copies and translations in more than 30 languages. One can only dream of such success, so not only I have an excellent role-model, I can also discuss my every move with him. Being one of a few Croatian authors published outside of Croatia can be lonesome, so I'm really lucky to have Robert there with me every step of the way.

Is there any difference between Zvijezde među nama and The Stars Among Us and how the process of publication differed?

There are some differences between the Croatian and English edition, not so much plot-wise, but they had to be done. I was working with a wonderful editor, Stephanie Dagg, who is also the editor of Robert's chick lit novels, so we changed some of the characters names and situations they were in so it could be more relatable to international audience. I won't even start with the difference in the process – I will only say that it's much more professional than any of my experience in Croatia, and it was more tiresome than publishing both of my books in my home country. But all the hard work paid out when I saw my novel on Amazon.


And for our audience who might not know what The Stars Among Us are about what would you tell them?

I would ask them if they ever had a crush on a celebrity and what would they do if they had a chance to meet said celebrity. That's basically what happens with Nora, who quits a perfectly good job to become an extra in a Hollywood movie being filmed in Dubrovnik. She hopes it will help her move on from a painful break-up and give her breathing space to find out what she wants to do with her life. To Nora’s delight she discovers that she loves every minute in her new “temporary” career. It doesn’t hurt either that the handsome assistant director, Ivor, takes more than a passing interest in her. But then events take a dramatic and unforeseen turn when Lucas Winter, a world-famous actor and Nora’s teenage heart-throb, unexpectedly arrives on set…

Finally, your novel was somewhat inspired by some real-life experience...?

I had the privilege of being an extra in not one, but two seasons of Game of Thrones and it was one of the most exciting experiences in my life! I really wanted to pass down my impressions through my novel, but the whole romantic plot between an ordinary girl and not-so-ordinary American actor is obviously pure work of fiction... or is it?

You can find Sanja's novel on Amazon in both paperback version and Kindle. We look forward to reading it and wish Sanja the very best of luck!

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Meet First-Time Croatian Chick Lit Author Sanja Srdić Jungić

February 19, 2019 - Getting published as a first-time author these days is tough. Doing so in Croatia with a genre that barely exists among Croatian writers is tougher still. Meet a young lady who succeeded - Sanja Srdić Jungić.

The last time I met Sanja Srdić Jungić was a couple of months ago. As marketing manager for popular and innovative book store, Hoću Knjigu, Sanja had kindly agreed to help me look for a publisher for my next book, Around the World in 80 Disasters.

We haven't met since, but it turns out she has been hiding a little secret of her own and has quietly not only written her first novel but also managed to find a publisher and get it published. I meanwhile... A terrific achievement for a first-time author these days in Croatia, especially in a genre where few Croatian authors venture - chick-lit novels, which is a genre I confess I am yet to explore myself. 

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Inspired by her experience as a Game of Thrones extra in Dubrovnik, the plot of Sanja's first novel, which has been VERY well received by Croatian literary critics before its official release:

Nora has always been approaching her life from the safe side, up until a painful breakup, after which she decides to leave everything behind to find happiness in Dubrovnik. By becoming an extra for a Hollywood movie filmed in Dubrovnik, she is hoping to find a more suitable job in the world of production while enjoying the incredible opportunity. And all that in the pleasant company of cute assistant Ivor who is showing an unusual interest in her. Her ambitious plans are potentially in danger when Lucas Winter, world’s famous actor and Nora’s teenage celebrity crush, suddenly becomes a part of the filming crew...

1. Before we ask you about the book, tell us who Sanja Srdić Jungić is.

I’m a 30-year-old dreamer (hence the name; it’s like my mom knew my personality prior to my birth) from Zagreb, currently working as a marketing manager of a bookstore chain Hoću Knjigu. Books are my passion, so I’m very fortunate to be working for a bookstore chain that is doing things a bit differently, with lots of cool and fun events. I have been writing for most of my life and I started my career as a journalist, but this is the first time I have written a novel.

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2. Your first novel “Zvijezde među nama” (roughly translated as The Stars Amongst Us) will soon be available in bookstores. Describe briefly what readers can expect.

Hopefully, a romantic story with a few butterflies, some laughter, a tinge of sadness and a whole bunch of fun :).

3. You chose to write a chick-lit novel which is very unusual for a Croatian author. Where did you get the idea? Do you like reading chick-lit yourself?

I’m reading all kind of books of different genres, chick-lit included. I didn’t really think about it beforehand; I just started writing, and by the time I started to believe that I’m onto something and that I might be published I started to ask around about the situation with chick-lit authors in Croatia. It’s true, there are none. As far as I know, the last chick-lit books published by a Croatian author were those of Lana Biondić and that was almost 15 years ago. Jagna Pogačnik wrote in 2005 that chick-lit doesn’t really exist in Croatia, not even in the form of Lana Biondić’s books so I hope my novel will change that. 

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4. They say that the best books come from the author's real-life experience. How true is this for your novel?

My friends and family will definitely recognize me in some parts of Nora’s (main character) story, but I like to think that Nora is a smarter and more cheerful version of me. She also tends to make tough decisions without analyzing them to bits, which I very often do. But there is one experience that affected the first part of the book, and that is my experience of being an extra in Game of Thrones which was filmed in Dubrovnik, as well as working briefly for few production houses. Being part of Game of Thrones is still one of my favourite lifetime experience and I wanted to share the joy and enthusiasm with my readers. 

5. Some of the first reading reactions before the release were pretty positive. How do you feel about it?

Happy and terrified at the same time :). Hopefully, my future readers won’t have too high expectations after reading those reviews, but since the reviews came from highly experienced readers/book bloggers, I tend to think their reviews were honest and that the novel has a high potential of being well-liked among the audience. 

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6. Because "Zvijezde među nama" is part of a romance genre, specifically chick-lit, we assume you have some role-models. Which authors inspired your writing?

I do like reading romance and chick-lit novels as much as everything else, but I wouldn’t say I have specific role-models. I like the style of Colleen Hoover, Emily Giffin, Renee Carlino, Jill Santopolo, Alice Peterson, Sally Thorne and Sophie Kinsella. 

7. We know that it is very difficult to find a publisher for a debut author in Croatia. How did you manage to publish your book?

Croatian authors are very much underrated and publishers usually don’t consider publishing the works of first time authors because they are rarely profitable. I would say that the profitability of books depends on not just the quality, but also the PR behind it, which is usually non-existent with young authors in Croatia, but that’s a whole other story. Therefore, I knew that publishing my novel would be a difficult task. I contacted a few carefully selected publishers under a pseudonym since I work directly with most of them, presented the story with a synopsis, my ideas for PR and how could I contribute in it and all I got was no reply or a generic reply, which was sad but unfortunately expected. 

A few weeks later I heard about Neven Kepeski (MB books) and his success with young and very popular YouTube star Nika Ilčić and her recently published book. I correctly assumed he was thinking outside the box when it came to publishing, so I presented him my story (this time in person) and he sent the manuscript to his editor Ivanka Vranković, who is a romance novel editor for Gloria magazine. 

Her first impression (and I hope that hasn’t changed) was that the story was fantastic; she gave her green light to Neven and Neven decided that after publishing Nika’s story, as well as the book written by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Robert Torre with the genius title (Ima li života prije smrti/Is There is Life Before Death), my chick-lit novel is the way to go. 

8. It may be too early to ask, but we’ll take the opportunity anyway. Are you writing or are you ready to start writing yet another book?

I actually do have a second book on my mind. I wrote just one and a half page so far since my job involves many book promotions outside of working hours and I also can’t concentrate on working on two books at the same time, but I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year. I told the story in brief to my best friend and to my editor and they are convinced it’s a wonderful story, we just have to see if I can pull it off. 


9. We know you're a great fan of Harry Potter's series. Is there a possibility that you will surprise us with some future fantasy story?

Even though Harry Potter is my favourite book and I’m a fan of Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings, I’m not much of a fantasy fan, so I would say not likely. But I can say that my second book will feature a brief fantasy moment, so I hope the Harry Potter fandom could appreciate it as well :).

You can follow the Sanja Srdić Jungić literary story on the Facebook page of the mysterious Miss S

"Zvijezde među nama" is scheduled for release next month.