Author Interview: Stefan Vucak

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

Advertisements

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: ‘Starblazer: Through The Black Gate’ by Reiter

A really enjoyable sci-fi epic.

Reiter Starblazer
‘Starblazer’ is a genuine sci-fi epic, action packed and loaded with conflict, power struggle and suspense. The world building is incredible, immersing the reader in a realm that is both fantastic and believable at the same time. The writing is clean and the story is coherent and really well developed.

The real strength, though, lies in the characters. Their flaws balance their abilities and strengths in a way that makes them believable and still complex enough to remain unpredictable. The subversive humour that emerges in certain characters is refreshing and very engaging.

In contrast to the stereotypes of science fiction, which I acknowledge as the main reason I read less of it that I otherwise might, I really liked the fact that the female characters are central to this story, They are intelligent, self-sufficient and powerful in their own right.

This is a big book, but it’s a real page-turner with an entertaining story and lots of action and energy.Acorn Award I Golden

Starblazer has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Replacement’ by Bianca Sierra-Luebke

A sci-fi novel that is well worth reading.

51tsXWRXbDLThis is a fascinating and enjoyable sci-fi read. The story is compelling and the characters are well-developed, becoming better understood by the reader over time as their histories and motivations are revealed.

The author uses both Angelica, the main character, and the Lymerian race and its interaction with humanity on earth to explore questions of identity, destiny and free will. There is a powerful divide between “then” and “now” developed in both levels of this story, created in Angelica’s story through the flashbacks in her dreams, and amongst the Lymerians in the almost wistful tone in which they speak of what used to be while clinging to the structures and rules of their society.

The world-building is quite neo-classical, yet enhanced by technologies and extraordinary abilities among the people that make Krisenica an original and complex place. The Lymerian social system and history add interest and a sense of mystery, while the main character’s struggle to reconcile her experiences and understand the events happening around her add emotional depth and ensure the reader’s loyalty toward her.

Acorn Award II Silver

‘The Replacement’ is well worth reading and will hold definite appeal to sci-fi readers who are looking for something new and original to read within their preferred genre. It has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce’ by J.S. Frankel

This brilliant book that should be on every teen’s reading list.

Jesse Frankel The Incredible Aunty AwesomesauceWhat a brilliant read! Highly original and very imaginative, the author takes YA sci-fi to a new level by demonstrating how very believable is the concept that we are “not alone” in the universe. By setting this story in our world, he positions the reader to explore thought-provoking questions about identity, self-knowledge and acceptance of others for who and what they are. This story is so engaging and action packed, it was really hard to put the book down once I had started reading.

Sam and Kym are both very realistic and relatable teenage characters. Both have endured bullying in different ways by their peers, and both finding their own ways of dealing with that. Their friendship and the way in which it develops is natural and the pair complement each other really well. The author has made Kym in particular a really strong and proactive character, and it’s great to see that she remains a positive female role model by really taking it up to the antagonists in the story and using her intelligence and strengths to counteract some really negative behaviours and attitudes.

Acorn Award I Golden

‘The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce’ is a book that should be on every teen’s reading list and in every library, and is fully deserving of a Gold Acorn.

 

Find your copy at Amazon, Kobo, or Nook – if you prefer a different store, it’s probably there, too!

Book Review: ‘The Captain and The Ambassador’ by Carol Ann Kauffmann

A very satisfying and enjoyable read.

Carol Ann Kauffman The Captain and The Ambassador‘The Captain and The Ambassador’ is an enjoyable blend of science fiction adventure, space-travel and lighthearted romance, with some well-developed mystery and drama woven through the story, infusing it with greater depth and tension.

Regardless of the fact that the book is largely set beyond earth, Kauffman demonstrates the universal truths of human nature through her characters. It’s easy to see that a character in a book is putting other concerns ahead of those of the heart, but on reflection, the reader understands that this is very often the sort of limitation that an individual puts on oneself for one or more different reasons. It takes only a little empathy for the reader to want the heroes of the story to end up happy, but this also carries the reminder that it’s important for each individual, reader included, to choose the life that makes them happy, too.

Whether it’s because they have enjoyed them or because they haven’t, everyone understands the value and importance of acceptance, love, personal freedom and justice, and it is those qualities that make ‘The Captain and The Ambassador’ a satisfying and very enjoyable read.Acorn Award I Golden

I’ve awarded this great book a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Ether’ by J.S. Frankel

If I could give ‘Ether’ six stars, I would.

Jesse Frankel EtherWhat an absolutely brilliant read!

Frankel is a master of inventive stories that surprise and enthral the reader. This book has all the ingredients of a page-turner – mystery, danger, teen angst, an unlikely romance, thugs, and surprise twists – and they’re bundled into a highly unique storyline that hooks the reader in and keeps them hostage until the story is done.

The characters are all crafted with expertise. Sam is a regular guy with flaws, hopes, and struggles that readers will definitely relate to. His responses to the unpredictable turns that his life takes reinforce the reader’s respect for him. Esther is refreshing and very individual, and presents a very strong female character who does far more than merely complementing Sam’s character. Her leadership and initiative are driving forces in the story, which no doubt would have ended very differently without her.

Acorn Award I Golden

‘Ether’ is one of those books that will leave you wondering what on earth you’re going to read next that might possibly compete with the incredible ride you’ve just had. It is most deserving of a Gold Acorn.

Grab your copy today on Kobo, Amazon or Devine Destinies.

Book Review: ‘Red Sarah’ by C.A. Kauffman

A delightful fantasy story that blends the historical, magical and contemporary worlds.

C.A. Kauffman Red SarahThis is a delightful fantasy story that blends the historical, magical and contemporary worlds with an interesting sci-fi twist.

While the mystery around Sarah and the Reds is answered as the story develops, questions about the fate of Lucas and the kingdoms of Mist and Marlowe remain until the very end. The story does have a surprisingly satisfying ending, although most likely not the one most readers expect or prefer.

As with many stories this length, none of the characters are particularly thoroughly developed, but the reader does come to feel that they know Sarah and Lucas fairly well, and that they are invested enough to want particular outcomes for them.

‘Red Sarah’ is an interesting and enjoyable short read that can be read comfortably in the space of a little over an hour, or managed easily enough during breaks in a busy day.
Acorn Award II Silver

This book has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Get your copy here.