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!

Author Interview: Tim Walker

Book Squirrel chats with historical fiction author, Tim Walker.

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What Inspired you to write?

I have previously been a journalist but only turned my hand to creative writing in 2013 as a response to being grounded with health problems. Whilst undergoing cancer treatment I did an online creative writing course and started writing short stories during my recovery. By July 2015 I was ready to self-publish my first book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. To me, this will forever be my survival book.

What´s your favourite thing that you’ve written? 

In 2013 I had an idea to combine my love of history with a creative writing project. After visiting the site of a former Roman town in southern England, I sketched out a rough plan for a book series that connected the end of Roman Britain to the start of the Arthurian legend. After three years of researching and writing, A Light in the Dark Ages three-book series is now complete. Having launched book three, Uther´s Destiny, in March 2018, I then went back to book one, Abandoned, and extensively re-wrote it, adding in new chapters and characters that more closely link it to book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans.

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Abandoned, second edition, was lanched in July 2018. Now complete, this series is something I count as a major life achievement.   

What´s your favourite book that you´ve recently read?

A favourite book I´ve read recently is John Grisham´s, Camino Island. He has an easy-going style I admire and it is a skillfully-constructed thriller that´s a perfect holiday read. After finishing, I sketched out the main plot strands to get an insight into how he introduces sub-plot and peripheral characters. The copy I´ve read was autographed by the author at the recent Harrogate Crime Writer´s Festival, where he spoke for an hour (interviewed by Lee Childs) on his method and approach to creative writing. Fascinating.

What´s your favourite TV series?

My favourite TV series is ´Homeland´. I love a good political thriller and this series is so well written and acted it sizzles. After my heath battles, I found myself identifying with main character, Carrie, who struggles to manage living with a serious health condition whilst juggling home life with the demands of her job. Superb.

What film have you recently enjoyed and why?

A film I really, and unexpectedly, enjoyed was ´La La Land´. I usually watch action, adventure and thrilers, but was ambushed by the charm, cleverness and excellent acting in this worthy oscar winner. I recently watched it again on DVD to analyse what I liked about it the first time – it´s pure, magical, movie escapism at its best but with a bitter-sweet sting in the tale, with superb central performances from Gosling and Stone – recommended!

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I would pay little attention in the classroom, counting down the minutes until I could get outside and play football. Sport and mischief were my passions. I wanted to be a football (soccer) player!

What do you like about being an indie author?

I like the control of all aspects of the process. In previous jobs I have gainsed experience of researching, writing, editing, production, design, printing, marketing and sales. A little knowledge in these areas combines well to give me control of creating something from start to finish, but without the stress of deadlines. I work at my own pace, and have often fitted it in around clinic and hospital visits. It helps keep my morale up, and if I´m feeling tired or unwell then I leave it for a day or two. Also, I buy in services like cover design, proofreading and copyediting to ensure it is to a standard that satisfies me. Once launched, if it sells and generates favourable reviews then great, but if not, then that´s fine too – the enjoyment is in the creative process.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Relationships and filling in forms.

What´s your favourite season?

Spring. I´m ready for renewal after the long, cold, wet and dark British winter. The sight and sound of lambs frolicking in the field behind my flat are the reward for surviving another winter. After staring my flimsy mortality in the face and just about pulling-through, Spring reminds me that life always finds a way.

What´s your favourite colour?
Why, green of course!

To learn more about Tim Walker and his books, visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Also, don’t forget to grab your copies of A Light in the Dark Ages book series!
Abandoned      Ambrosius      Uther´s Destiny