Stefan Vucak is an award-winning author of seven techno sci-fi novels, including With Shadow and Thunder which was a 2002 EPPIE finalist. His Shadow Gods Saga books have been highly acclaimed by critics. His recent release, Cry of Eagles, won the coveted 2011 Readers Favorite silver medal award. Stefan leveraged a successful career in the Information Technology industry and applied that discipline to create realistic, highly believable storylines for his books. Born in Croatia, he now lives in Melbourne, Australia.
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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
As a kid, I liked doing things all other kids liked doing - until I discovered books, an illustrated copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas. After that, I was gone, lost in the universes those books opened up for me and dreaming of creating my own. I had a great time at school, even though English and its convoluted grammar rules did give me some trouble, but those rules gave me a grounding how to write. My first effort was pretty awful and I am glad it will never see the light of day. That thing went through two rewrites, but it still isn’t something I want to share. Call it my training wheels.
My first successful book, although not perfect, a science fiction work, was presentable and I tried for a long time to break into the traditional publishing market while holding down a demanding job in the IT industry, which kept me very busy. But writing has always been a passion and a drive, and I kept at it in my spare time. When ebook publishing took off, I at least got my books out to readers. I have been writing for more than ten years and still learning, but I like to think that my latest works are something I am proud to share. These days, I am no longer in the IT industry and I spend my time writing, reviewing and being a hard-nosed editor.
Where did you grow up?
I have vivid memories of my childhood in Croatia, but when my family immigrated to Australia, I really grew up in Melbourne. The place was a lot different then, not the bustle and impersonal steel and concrete of today. Perhaps that’s progress. I was educated in Melbourne and spent most of my professional life working there, except for the three years in the Middle East - an eye-opening experience.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Looking back on those times, there are a number of fond experience that spring to mind. I do recall with a smile when I used to walk to school. I didn’t have a bicycle at the time. I gathered pebbles off the road and took potshots at bottles in the gutter. But I liked summers best. I would walk to a creek not too far from where we lived and explore the meandering waters, enjoying the hot sun and being totally carefree. I’m not so carefree these days...
When did you begin writing?
I always wanted to write. As far back as I can remember, the printed word held a fascination that allowed me to escape into other worlds, other characters. For an imaginative kid, it was better than candy - almost. Where I attended primary school, there was a small library at the top of the street, which I made my own. I remember bringing books home to my mother’s vast amusement and my father’s disapproving frown. He never had much time for books or learning, but I cannot hold that against him. He did not have the opportunities I had, but at least he made sure I had them.
At school, I loved my essay writing assignments, even though many of my classmates found it an agonizing chore. I could never figure out what was the big deal. My specialty was using elaborate flowery language. I loved adjectives, sometimes to excess. But nobody could describe a sunset, a moonlit night or the booming of crashing surf like I could. The one thing my writing lacked was people. It took me a while to make the connection. Prose was great, but great writing had to involve people, drama, conflict, emotion and everyday life. When I learned to write dialogue, everything clicked, or so I thought. Man, how I labored to learn what good dialogue was all about! You can have brilliant narrative, but crummy dialogue will sink you. I still haven’t stopped writing and learning how to do it.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I am a morning person, a result of having to get up early over the years to go to work, and that’s when I like to write. That discipline hasn’t left me and I still get up early. I am fresh and my mind is charged, ready to go - most of the time. I find I am most productive during the first half of the day. In the afternoon, I spend transcribing material from my notebook into the computer and doing initial editing. Although I don’t normally write in the evening, sometimes I do. It all depends on inspiration and what I am writing about at the time. There are also moments when I wake up in the middle of the night when an idea pops up and I simply have to jot it down.
What is this book about?
Cry of Eagles is about a Mossad conspiracy to drag America into a war. Iran’s nuclear capability represents a clear national threat to Israel. Although concerned, the United States and Europe are reluctant to increase sanctions. Frustrated that nothing is being done, Mossad decides to force the United States into action. A black ops team sabotages a refinery complex in Galveston and plants evidence that incriminates Iran, confident that an enraged America will retaliate. Congress and the public urge the U.S. president to bomb Iran, but the administration lacks direct evidence. With carriers positioned in the Gulf ready to strike, the world waits to see if the Middle East will explode into open conflict. With tension mounting, the FBI uncovers a shocking truth. It wasn’t Iran at all, but Israel! A government falls and America forces Israel to confront the Palestinian problem.
Well, having written seven science fiction books in my Shadow Gods Series, I decided to make a foray into contemporary fiction, hoping it might give me a better chance of getting with a traditional publisher. I’m still hoping. Having been interested in Middle Eastern politics, and world geopolitics in general, for some time, seeing what is happening in Israel and the misery inflicted on the Palestinians, I saw a story in it. Cry of Eagles touches a possible raw nerve, looking as it does at some of the history behind the Israeli/Palestinian problem, unwillingness by the American administration to broker a settlement, Mossad prepared to do anything to further Israeli interests, how the FBI operates, makes for what seems a unique treatment of the topic. I hope it is also an entertaining yarn.
Who is your favorite author?
Looking back, a number of writers influenced me. During my science fiction phase, two stand out: Roger Zelazny and Keith Laumer. When his writing was good and before he descended into sorcery and mysticism, Zelazny had an evocative, deceptively easy style that was a pleasure to read. When I can reread a book several times and still enjoy it, that’s my view of a great book, and Zelazny had several. His mixture of characterization and action was finely balanced, allowing the reader to fill in missing pieces, to become part of the story.
Keith Laumer had an irreverent, sardonic writing style that blasted my sensibilities and often amused me. Some of his stuff was terrible, but a lot was extremely entertaining. In the end, that was all that mattered. His writing style left an impression on me, as looking back, I find my main characters being slightly dismissive of authority and impudent, but still good at what they were doing.
Since my sci-fi days, I sampled writers from other genres. I like Stephen Coonts, at least his early works. Sadly, he descended into trash popularism, culminating with Saucer, a truly awful book. But a couple of hundred books later, the techno thriller genre gave me a solid grounding into the workings of governments, spy agencies, the military, and war machinery of all kind. It was a good launching platform for my own contemporary novels.
I guess every author I came across must have left an impression, especially if I bought more than one of his works. They all talk to me from somewhere in my mind as I put my own words down on paper.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
Having finished my first book, a science fiction work, which has expanded into seven books in a series, I thought all the hard work was behind me. How many years ago was that! It seems like a different lifetime. Back then, there was no Internet to help writers, and although there were books telling you how to format and submit your manuscript, I didn’t have them. My formatting did not conform to the requirements and my submissions resulted in a pile of rejection letters. All very frustrating, seeing some of the stuff that got published. Along the way, I tried getting an agent, but that didn’t work out. With the Ebook market opening up, I found immediate success, but I am still trying to break into the traditional publishing market.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Readers can purchase my books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other Ebook outlets. They can also be found at my publisher sites:
Solstice Publishing: http://store.solsticepublishing.com/stefan-vucak/
Double Dragon Publishing: www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
I have a website www.stefanvucak.com that lists my books and where readers can contact me. My blog has some posts and articles.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
If there is one thing I learned over the years as a writer, if anyone is contemplating taking this on seriously, he 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. But once bitten with the urge to create, there is no cure.
What is up next for you?
Having finished a contemporary drama novel, due out next year, I decided to return to my Shadow Gods series and write one last book about Terrllss-rr, his loved one Teena and his battle against the Celi-Kran. At least I think it will be the last book. Fates can be funny that way. It’s a big universe I created and there is lots of room for more books. It has been a number of years since I finished the last novel in the series, but I never felt comfortable that things were complete. My current work should put a cap on it.