Tell me a little bit about your book.
After reading ancient texts like Popl Vuh and the Indian Vedas, I always wondered about man’s ancient and enigmatic past. Could one of those lost civilizations have produced a quantum computer? Or perhaps someone else may have left behind such a device? All are tantalizing possibilities, which developed into a plot for Legitimate Power.
On the outskirts of Jerusalem, a person digs up two ossuaries and finds a strange orange crystal the size of a smartphone able to repair itself when scratched, and turns into a perfect mirror under laser light. Needing money, he sells it to a local merchant, who puts it on the shadow gem market. Suspecting that it is not natural, Dr. Morrison, a part-time mineral collector, purchases the crystal and discovers that he has a quantum computer device that could revolutionize the information technology industry—if it could be made to work.
A Chinese official, also indulging a hobby in rare minerals, thwarted that his bid failed, realizing the crystal’s special nature, sends a Second Bureau operative to get the crystal from Dr. Morrison using whatever means necessary. A trail of murder leads Israeli authorities to the crystal…and they send a Mossad agent to retrieve a national treasure. Learning of the crystal’s existence and its potential, the American government becomes involved, resulting in a collision of conflicting interests, leaving Dr. Morrison to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.
I don’t explore the origins of the crystal in the book, content to leave that to the readers’ imagination.
If you had to write this one all over again, go through the whole editing and publishing process from the beginning again, is there anything you’d do differently?
I don’t believe that I would approach the editing and publishing phase differently, having gone through these things with my other books, but like most writers, I might consider rewriting or adding elements to the book. Perhaps a prologue chapter giving some details how the crystal came to be buried in a Jerusalem hillside, and about the people who buried it? A little more material about Dr. Morrison’s struggle to produce a quantum dot pigment? I don’t know. There are lots of possible avenues that could have led to a larger work, but I am fairly satisfied with what I have written. There is a point of diminishing returns where further fiddling will not add anything substantive to the work, except contribute to the author’s frustration, and I don’t want to go there. That effort would simply keep me from starting my next novel.
Are you a plotter and know what’s going to happen or are you a pantser that lets your characters lead you by the balls?
I am a firm believer in planning and developing a detailed outline for my novels, which provides a firm foundation for my writing. I guess that discipline has been hammered into me as part of my training in Information Technology, where things must be clearly defined if a system is to succeed. It is an approach that works for me, and one I am comfortable with. Having said that, I allow myself ample scope for deviation and ongoing development during the actual writing phase, and I give my characters a lot of freedom to be themselves, which sometimes requires judicious editing when that freedom is abused, but it is also a lot of fun. Although I may work within a framework to ensure a coherent end, my imagination is not constrained by that framework, but challenged, and I am amply rewarded by the process of creation when the words flow effortlessly, making me wonder how I came to write this when I come to edit it.
Do you think being a writer is a gift or is it a curse? Why?
I believe that being a writer is definitely a gift, but it can also be called a curse. I have enormous respect for anyone who has written a book. Whether that output has merit or not is up to readers to decide, but the effort to create something is a window into another person’s mind and a sharing of thoughts. What drives me to be a writer is a boiling cauldron that seethes within me, each bubble a story waiting to be told and shared. I want to share with readers what I have written, and that is vanity I guess, but my driver is the irrepressible force that compels me to set on paper as many of those story bubbles and make them real.
There have been moments in my life when I considered abandoning being a writer. At one time, I did not write anything for three years. Pursuing a professional career kept me occupied enough, but that was an excuse. I did not want to write because the pain of creation came to be a burden I no longer wanted to carry. There were other reasons, of course; trying to get published, marketing and self-branding, simply wore me down. The writing process itself, the lonely hours spent behind a computer, overcoming mental potholes when the words simply wouldn’t come, frustration in the belief that I was wasting my time, all these cursed me, and the Fates were laughing. A writer is cursed, because no matter how much he may want to shed the gift, it will never let him go.
Parents like to say they don’t have a favorite child, but we all know that’s not true. I could say the same for writers. So who’s your favorite character?
Like Roger Zelazny’s lords of Amber, they walk through Shadow until they reach a place they desire, and in a sense they create that place. Likewise, with my Shadow Gods Saga books, I created a universe within which Scout Terrllss-rr of the Serrll Combine battles forces that seek to destroy him, while confronting a terrible power he wields as he stands in the shadow of Death. I wrote eight novels about Terr and his tribulations, and he holds a special place in my writing universe.
With my contemporary novels, I guess FBI agent Thomas Meecham has developed into one of my favorite characters. His irreverent disdain for authority in many ways reflects my own outlook, and I enjoyed sparring words with him.
Do you usually root for the heroes or the villains?
That is an interesting question. I don’t make my characters blatantly good or evil, even when one of them embarks on a path that some might consider evil. A matter of perspective, I guess. In Immortal in Shadow, First Scout Kai Tanard, a renegade Fleet officer, raided merchant shipping to further his political cause. He did not consider himself a criminal, but a patriot. After all, in any conflict, winners write the history and render judgment on the losers. In Proportional Response, a Chinese official set out to create a tsunami that would have devastated the North American eastern seaboard had it succeeded. He was also fighting for a just cause…as he saw it. I did not glorify either character, but I also did not glorify the ‘good’ guys who brought them down, giving readers a glimpse of both sides in an attempt to show that there is more than one way to look at people and events.
Who are your favorite authors?
Having read widely, a number of writers have 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 is 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, and looking back, I find my main characters are slightly dismissive of authority and impudent, but still good at what they were doing.
While still enjoying a good sci-fi yarn, I sampled writers from other genres, like techno war thrillers. 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 like C.S. Forester and his Hornblower series, as well as Dudley Pope and his Ramage books. The list of authors that have a special place in my heart is lengthy.
I guess every author I came across must have left an impression, especially if I bought more than one of his or her works. They all talk to me from somewhere in my mind as I form and put my own words down on paper.
Tell me one thing that’s on your bucket list.
I love to travel. It has always been a passion, which I indulged in once I finished university and started working in the Information Technology field. My parents didn’t think much of me spending—wasting—money on idle journeys when I should have been saving for a house and my future. Well, I have my house, and my future is reasonably secure…and I also managed to see a lot of the world. What they did not understand is that seeing new places and different people filled a need in me that simply reading about those things could not. I have a few places I still must see, and Antarctica is definitely one of them.
If you were asked to write a book in a different genre than your current works, what genre would you choose and why?
After writing seven science fiction novels in the Shadow Gods Saga—you can tell that I love reading hard sci-fi—I turned my hand to writing contemporary political drama/thrillers, not only to embark on a different road, but to enhance the possibility of being picked up by a traditional publisher. The road I took certainly took me to places I never thought to venture into, but it did not help me with a traditional publisher. With Legitimate Power done, if I were to turn to another genre for a new novel, I would toy with the possibility of writing a ninth novel in the Shadow Gods Saga. What happened to the eight? Well, after four contemporary novels, the Saga series just wasn’t rounded off to my satisfaction, and that led me to writing Guardians of Shadow.
What are you working on right now?
My mind is tossing up scenarios for a short story, which I will call Lifeline. I don’t have a theme for a new book as yet, and writing a short story will keep my hand in. The story will be somewhat unusual, not fantasy, but not hard science fiction either. I cannot tell you the plot, but if someone is interested, Hunger will give readers the flavor of what I intend to churn out.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for one of your books?
Wow, that brings back a flood of memories. Most people will find it incredible that human fossils and crafted artifacts, millions of years old, have been discovered and authenticated as genuine, which the mainstream academia wish would simply go away. I came across a lot of material that claimed to have evidence of ancient civilizations, and dismissed it as fringe literature, but over time, articles in Scientific American and newspapers made me wonder if there was something to this. With further research, the body of evidence became incontestable, and it gave rise to my novel Towers of Darkness, where a Wyoming mine worker discovers a human hand bone embedded in a forty million year-old coal seam. Sent to recover the bone, anthropologist Larry Krafter also unearths a human skull. Instead of receiving acclaim and setting off a review of human evolution, entrenched establishment interests seek to discredit him and his find, using whatever means possible—including murder.
What’s the one book you wish you had written?
Although I am not much into fantasy, I wish I could have written The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, and her accompanying book The Hollow Hills. Her prose flows with internal magic, inexorably taking the reader with her on Merlin’s journey of self-discovery. I guess her writing style must have influence me in some way, as undoubtedly have other writers I encountered through their wondrous books, and sometimes not so wondrous.
When you were little, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
There was never a time when I didn’t want to write. Even as a kid, clutching my first illustrated book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I was hooked. 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. Having read a lot, I figured that writing a book didn’t seem all that hard—until I tried it myself. I am glad my first effort is safely buried in a drawer and will never see the light of day. But that was my learning process, which continues to this day. After producing several short stories, I tackled a novel again. That too is safely locked away. Mastering the writing craft never stops, and I would like to think that I have learned a thing or two along the way.
In your most recent work, would you tell us about some of the material that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor?
Actually, with Legitimate Power, a lot of material was added. When I write a novel, I go through a process of writing a point outline, then develop a detailed outline, supported by necessary research. This gives me a good skeleton with some meat on the bones to write the book, and keeps me focused on the plot and sub-plots. Sometimes though, my characters take me to unexpected places and say things I had not intended, but I am generally forgiving and allow them some leeway. If anything does end up on the cutting floor, it is an odd sentence or two as I edit the work.
Where can our readers find your work?
For those interested in my books, they can be found on:
What/When is your next release coming out?
Now, that is a hard one. Having just finished Legitimate Power, and currently recharging my creative batteries, I am yet to dream up a theme for my next project. When that happens, it usually takes me about nine months to write a new book, which means late 2017 for a next release … maybe.
How do you want readers to keep in touch with you?
Feedback from readers is always welcome, and can be made through the contact page on my website: www.stefanvucak.com/contact-me/