1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I was born in Croatia, and when my parents immigrated to Australia, I faced a new world, a new language, and a totally new way of life. My parents found it particularly difficult to integrate, but for me and my sister, as kids, we took it in stride. I had devoured books ever since I learned to read, which helped my transition, but writing in English was a path filled with spelling and grammar potholes. It took me a while to master it, and I am still not sure that I have it all. Anyway, while at the university, still reading avidly, I turned my hand to writing short stories, thinking it didn’t look all that hard. Thankfully, some of my early experiments will never see the light of day, but the process did help me hone my writing skills. I sent some of my stories to U.S. magazines, but without success. One day, I told myself, I will get published.
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.
2) What inspired you to write Lifeliners?
‘Lifeliners’ 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.
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.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
When I write a novel, I don’t set out to promote a particular message to readers. If something emerges from the story that readers can relate to, it would be a byproduct of the story and the characters in it. Of course, most novels deal with familiar themes: personalities, conflict, betrayal, self-reflection, overcoming adversity; the list goes on. These are all present in any book, whether a crime novel, a political thriller, love story, or just a good adventure yarn. The hard part is for a writer to utilize these themes into what will hopefully end up as an enjoyable and entertaining read. After all, isn’t that the aim of every book?
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
Although ‘Lifeliners’ is science fiction set in 2032, it is not hard sci-fi of my previous books. I suppose I could have set the novel in present time, but I did not feel comfortable with the idea. It would not feel ‘real’. Moving it slightly into the future and taking advantage of several emerging technologies has, I believe, provided enough time for lifeliners to emerge and generate an impact on societies and governments, and the negative reaction their presence has produced. The story background is also familiar to readers without having to create a new social setting far removed from present time.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
With a science fiction series and six contemporary political drama/thriller novels behind me, I have created a number of interesting characters. During the writing process, they sometimes say and do unexpected and surprising things, and I allow them a degree of indulgence. I believe it spices up my writing. However, I don’t give them free reign, having to keep in mind the plot and the story. With ‘Lifeliners’, Nash Bannon has turned into a character with whom I could converse at length. Having the society at large after him, and lifeliners in general, his views on life, colored by negative experiences by his fellow humans, would provide a unique perspective on people, ethics, and behavioral norms. Our veneer of civilization is very thin, hiding what is a barely controlled savage. I would enjoy exploring all these things with him.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I cannot say that any one social media outlet has helped brand my name or acted as a marketing platform for my books, or that any of them have helped boost my book sales. It is a tough game out there where some books do well for no apparent reason, and others simply fade away. I just plug away on several outlets, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and trust that what I have to say will attract readers and buyers. Doing an occasional interview also helps! I use my website extensively to post general articles of interest, and blogs on writing, and the publishing industry in general.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
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’.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Having just finished ‘Lifeliners’, I need a break to recharge. I have a brief outline for a short story, and now that I have the time, I will flesh it out and post it to my website. Like most writers, I have a number of ideas for a new novel, but two stand out that I need to look at closely before deciding which one will end up as a book. For now, I will let both ideas simmer for a while, but not too long. The urge to write, to create, will not allow me to be idle for too long. Before tackling my next project, I will spend some time doing book reviews, hopefully provide editing services on the side, and indulge in reading, golf, and doing odd things around the house that I have been putting off. No hurry.
Author bio and links:
Stefan Vučak has written eight Shadow Gods Saga sci-fi novels and six contemporary political drama books. He started writing science fiction while still in college, but did not get published until 2001. His Cry of Eagles won the Readers’ Favorite silver medal award, and his All the Evils was the prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist and Readers’ Favorite silver medal winner. Strike for Honor won the gold medal.
Stefan leveraged a successful career in the Information Technology industry, which took him to the Middle East working on cellphone systems. He applied his IT discipline to create realistic storylines for his books. Writing has been a road of discovery, helping him broaden his horizons. He also spends time as an editor and book reviewer. Stefan lives in Melbourne, Australia.
To learn more about Stefan, visit his:
Read more about ‘Lifeliners’ here: https://www.stefanvucak.com/books/lifeliners/