Author Interview: Stefan Vucak

Book Squirrel chats with Stefan Vučak, author of science fiction and political drama novels.

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Today we welcome Stefan Vučak, an Indie author from Melbourne, Australia, who has written eight Shadow Gods Saga sci-fi novels and six contemporary political drama books.

Welcome, Stefan! It’s great to have you here.

Thank you, Book Squirrel.

Why don’t you start by telling us what inspired you to write?

I always wanted to write. Well, not exactly always, but ever since I came across an illustrated book of Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, the printed word fueled my imagination. In high school and university, I breezed through essay and writing assignments, truly puzzled why some of my classmates struggled. Books, of course, particularly science fiction, got my ideas factory churning. If others could write short stories and novels, so could I. I first turned my hand to writing short stories. I yearned for the day when people would walk past a bookstore and see my books on display. Vanity? Perhaps, but the fire burning deep within me that urged me to write, also compelled me to share the products of my imagination. Regrettably, just making my way in the world, I could not indulge my passion. I had to find a way to live and support myself. Hence my IT career, but that fire never went out, although I did allow it to die down a bit, frustrated at not being able to find a publisher. Publishing is a savage game, as I came to learn, and publishers are not keen to publish my books just because I wanted to see them in bookstores.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

This is like asking a father who is his favourite child! I like to think that all my books have something for readers. For science fiction lovers, I have a soft spot for ‘Immortal in Shadow’, part of the Shadow Gods Saga. For those into contemporary political drama/thrillers, ‘Strike for Honor’ will get them turning pages.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Wow, that is a hard one, as I have gone through lots of books this year. However, the one that has caught my attention is Andy Weir’s ‘Artemis’. Yes, he is the one who wrote ‘The Martian’. I love the book and the movie. In ‘Artemis’, Jasmine Bashara is a very smart girl who cannot decide on a career, so she spends her time smuggling for her Moon base customers. She gets caught up in a very dangerous deal that would bring her a lot of money, provided she doesn’t get caught. Andy Weir tells his story with an engaging blend of interesting characters and compelling science.

What are you working on writing now?

Actually, I just finished ‘Lifeliners’. It began as an idea for a short story on a long flight from Europe to Melbourne, Australia, my home. I always have my notebook handy, never knowing when inspiration would strike. Tired of browsing through inflight entertainment, I began jotting down notes to flesh out a story about an emerging new human able to draw energy from someone by touching them. Birthrates in Western countries had been falling for a while, accompanied by growing sterility. A product of our high-pressure technological lifestyle and high density urban living, explained the pundits. Nature decided that lifeliners were the answer who would over time replace the ‘normals’. As expected, this development was not received well by the general population, and governments everywhere began to blame lifeliners for failure of bad economic policies, introducing draconian laws to curtail their rights and freedoms.

That sounds really interesting! You didn’t write the whole book on the plane, did you?

Well, I wrote the short story, posted it on my website, and I thought I was done with it. Time to finish what was then my latest book project ‘Legitimate Power’. Once I had it published, I began reviewing ideas for a new book – and kept coming back to the lifeliners story. It was one thing to write a short story, but fleshing it out into a full-length novel was not something I had in mind, wanting to write another contemporary political drama/thriller. But the bug had bitten me and lifeliners began to haunt my days. The only way I would have peace was to write the damned book.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?

When I knuckle down and put on my writing hat, I don’t pour sand into the creative machinery by indulging in wine or spirits. Once I have new material in the computer and get on with editing, I allow myself a tumbler of nice bourbon. With a particularly good section of writing behind me, I may have more than one tumbler.

Who designs your book covers?

I use Laura Shinn’s services for my ebook and print covers. She does a great job without charging too much. She is very sensitive to my needs and is prepared to make changes.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

Being a nerdy sort of person, I like classical stuff, particularly when editing and proofreading, or reviewing someone’s book. I have a fondness for Austrian and Bavarian folk music. South American folk music is enchanting and allows my mind to soar.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

I love to travel! It broadens my horizons and lets me see not only diverse landscapes, but allows me to observe different cultures and how people live. I would rate my trip to South America as one of my top list experiences. The trip took me from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina, ending in Rio de Jeneiro. I experienced deserts, the Amazon jungle, Lake Titicaca, the Uyuni Salt Flats, and had a chance to stroll along the Copacabana beach.

*singing* At the Copa… Copacabana… oh. Sorry about that.

That’s okay.

I’m a highly impressionable squirrel. 

Barry Manilow, though?

Anything disco, really.
Now… where were we? Ah yes! What’s your favourite TV show?

These days, TV shows leave me unmoved. How many CSI variations are there, four? It is all about crime, reality shows, and cooking programs. Give me a break! There is too much reliance on computer special effects, which sacrifice genuine plotting and characterization. I believe that some of the TV shows from years gone by like Colombo and The West Wing will stand the test of time when others will quietly fade away.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Ah, movies … I cannot say there is one special movie I could watch forever, as I like a number of them across many genres. If I had to pick a sci-fi movie, I would say that ‘Avatar’ has something special, and I have seen it lots of times. ‘Kelly’s Heroes’, a WWII movie, is eminently watchable, as is ‘The Enemy Below’. The black-and-white version of ‘Jane Eyre’ with Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine gets me moody and thoughtful. If any of your readers like westerns, ‘From Hell to Texas’ is memorable.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I have always been interested in technology, astronomy, sociology … the bookworm stuff. I loved physics, although the math part wasn’t all that enjoyable. However, chemistry was something I absorbed through my skin, and was set to make it my career. About to finish high school, computers were an expanding field, and it was something I found fascinating. When it came time to choose my university major, I went into computer science, and I never regretted my career choice, but I have not lost my interest in chemistry.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

I love the Aussie summer, but I think our autumn has some of the nicest weather. It is still warm, and the days are clear without the hot northerly winds. It is a good time of the year for long walks, games of golf … and writing. I write the year around, but autumn has something extra in the air that stimulates the creative process.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

If there is one thing I learned over the years as a writer, if anyone is contemplating taking this on seriously, he or she should be prepared to spend many lonely hours with a pencil and paper, and sitting behind a computer screen. There will be disappointments, frustration, angst … and moments of sheer exhilaration and satisfaction when the words flow and the creative process produces something wonderful. Writing is a gift, but it can also be a curse. However, once bitten with the urge to create, there is no cure.

These days, it is easy to self-publish, and outlets like Amazon and Smashwords are replete with good books. Unfortunately, they are also full of amateurish efforts, which has contributed to a negative reputation of ebooks. Most authors dream of finding an agent and being published by a traditional publisher. I have those thoughts myself. However, traditional publishers rarely take up new writers, always keeping an eye on the bottom line. They are running a business to make money, not cater to hopeful authors. It is tough, but that is the hard reality. Another tough reality is the ongoing need to market and promote my books. As I mentioned in one of my Tweets, ‘Writing fills my soul, and marketing empties it’.

Where can we find your books?

You can visit my website or find my books on Amazon.  

Where can readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thanks for being here today, Stefan!

Thanks for having me!

Book Review: ‘Sweet Suffering’ by Lucretia Stanhope

Another excellent part of a series I have really been enjoying.

Book eight in Stanhope’s Elemental Witch Trials series continues Rose’s story with some powerful and compelling developments.

This instalment explores the balance of power and strength not just between key characters, but also within some of them more personally and individually. It also pays deeper attention to issues of heredity and consequence at a deeper level than previous books in the series. Some episodes of this novel are confronting, while others are devastating for the characters and the reader alike.

As with every other part of this excellent series thus far, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

‘Sweet Suffering’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Sparky’ by Millie Slavidou

A delightful story for children about acceptance and friendship.

What a delight to discover this original and imaginative children’s fantasy story that is entertaining while embracing important ideas about difference, resilience and acceptance. Just like every child and many adults, Sparky must learn to accept and work with his limitations and his abilities alike. 

The characters in this story are delightful, with Nicky and her grandmother leading the way in showing others that prejudgment and first impressions are unreliable, and in demonstrating openness and acceptance of Sparky while others show fear and distrust. 

The illustrations are charming and highly engaging, and thus add another level of interest and involvement in the story for the children who comprise its target audience. 

This is a great book for both independent young readers and for families to read together. As such, it would make a delightful addition to school, town and home libraries. 

‘Sparky’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Spring Fling’ by Claire Buss

A relatable, easy to read poetry collection.

‘Spring Fling’ offers vignettes of daily life and glimpses into the thoughts of a young woman. Her children, family life, personal feelings and places they visit all feature in this collection of poetry. 

Some of the poems carry a kernel of a deeper truth that provoked more thought, while others skip through a scene, describing it in a way that leaves the reader nodding and smiling. In every case, it is easy to relate to the ideas expressed by the poet. 

‘Spring Fling’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review:’Merry Apocalypse’ by C.A. King

A sobering tale set on Christmas Eve.

What happens to a world where things are valued more than people? In the midst of songs and stories about jolly old Santa comes a tale of foreboding and darkness that speaks to a materialistic and selfish world.

The story immerses the reader in an environment where “naughty” far outweighs “nice”, and where the consequences affect all of humanity. Yet still, even in the depravity and darkness, a small flicker of hope survives— perhaps just for one more night.

‘Merry Apocalypse’ is a well-crafted short story with a powerful message. We may not be experiencing the apocalypse, but its warning is relevant and timely.

‘Merry Apocalypse’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘A Sprig Of Holly’ by J.A. Clement

A delightful tale full of winter magic.

This is a delightful tale full of winter magic with well developed fairy tale qualities that enrich the story telling.

While the characters are not very complex, they are likeable and engaging, and the reader does develop a sense of empathy and concern for them at the beginning of the story that helps to hook them into the events of the tale.  Of course, it is a short story, so the characters are not required to be developed in any depth or detail. It is enough that they do what they do and that the story is beautifully told.

The story also has some lovely Yuletide elements, although not so much that it is only a story for the Christmas season. 

This would be a lovely story for family reading, particularly on a winter’s night. 

‘A Sprig Of Holly’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

There are more stories in this series, which I’m keen to read!

Book Review: ‘The 12 Terrors of Christmas’ by Claudette Melanson

A great holiday read for anyone more interested in “boo” than “ho ho ho”… but definitely not for kids.

What if your most basic assumptions bout Santa turned out to be wrong?

Is he just a jolly old fat guy who delivers presents, or is there much, much more to his story?

Claudette Melanson presents a somewhat different version of Santa in these twelve stories, which are well-crafted and well told. There is some lovely connectivity between the stories, which is sometimes quite overt and at other times sneaks up on the reader and takes them by surprise.

This is a great holiday read for anyone more interested in “boo” than “ho ho ho”.  Do take the title seriously, though: this book is definitely not for kids, as there is some quite graphic content.

‘The 12 Terrors of Christmas’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here