Please tell us about yourself.
As a kid, I liked doing things all other kids liked doing – until I discovered books. After that, I was gone, lost in the universes those books opened for me and dreaming of writing my own novel. 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. The 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 enough to win an award, and I tried for a long time to break into the traditional publishing market while holding down a demanding job in the IT industry. But writing has always been a passion and a drive, and I kept at it in my spare time. When e-book publishing took off, I had a chance to get my books to readers. Having learned more about e-book publishing and problems writers can have in that arena, I decided to self-publish, not giving up trying to find an agent. These days, I am no longer in the IT industry and I spend my time writing, reviewing and being a hardnosed editor. It hasn’t been a bad journey, enabling me to produce eight sci-fi books and five political drama/thriller novels. As long as that fire of creation burns within me, I will keep writing.
Tell us about your book.
The Chinese populist Tuanpai faction is dissatisfied with the rapid pace of change by the elitist princeling coalition to transform the country into a full market economy. The Tuanpai embark on an audacious plan to trigger a global disaster that will bring down the princelings and humble America. In the aftermath, America identifies China as the culprit, but doesn’t know if this was a rogue operation or a government sponsored plot. The Chinese president knows the perpetrators, but has no proof. Fearful of American retaliation, he invites U.S. investigators to help him find proof while outraged countries apply economic sanctions. Under a cloud of mutual suspicion, the investigation stumbles and America readies itself for a military confrontation. This is a mind-bending expose of international politics and distrust between two vastly different cultures.
What inspired you to write Proportional Response?
I once happened to see a documentary on tsunamis, how they are generated, and the massive destruction they can cause. All very interesting, but it was merely an additional piece of information I picked up and stored away. Then came another documentary about the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands and what could happen if its western flank gave way. Given the island’s unstable structure, such an event is measured in hundreds of years. Seeing that film got me thinking. What if somebody induced the collapse of the western flank? Somebody who wanted to see the United States destroyed without getting themselves caught up in the resulting tsunami or having to engage militarily.
This gave me the triggers I needed to start developing notes for Proportional Response. Before I could write even a point outline, I had to learn a lot more about tsunamis and Cumbre Vieja. I also immersed myself in trying to understand the Chinese; their philosophies, government, and internal infighting – which exists in any political system. Having accumulated a box of material, I had to read it all, assimilate it and pick out what I could use in the book. That wealth of knowledge gave me confidence that I could make my Chinese characters believable, and I am not sure that I succeeded fully, the Chinese mindset being so foreign to Westerners. I guess readers will pass judgment if I got it right or not.
How much time per week do you spend writing / editing your work?
I am a morning person, which is my most creative time. However, after catching up with social media chores like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, my enthusiasm can get blunted, and I leave those tasks for later if the urge to write is strong. I try to write something every day, but that doesn’t always work out, given demands that normal living imposes on me. Later in the morning or afternoon, I transcribe what I have written into the computer, doing light editing at the same time – I tried composing directly into the computer, but that doesn’t work for me. I must have my notebook and pen in hand. Luckily, I can read my own writing! Once the stuff is in, I go over it in more detail, making corrections and additions as required. How much time this takes? It varies depending on how many words I manage to churn out. In a productive week, I can spend upwards of 20 hours writing and editing.
It took me quite some time to learn to be my own harshest editor, and I don’t hesitate to chop out a sentence, paragraph or page(s) if they don’t contribute. Generally though, I can tell when something isn’t quite right as I write. Hence scratches and slashes in my notepad. These pauses can lead to minor, and sometimes not so minor, mental blocks, but they work themselves out once I allow my mind to gnaw on the immediate problem. Back to editing…I go over material I have written several times, and I also print out the stuff. It is amazing how many little things jump out in print the eye misses when gazing at a computer screen. Once I have written several chapters, I leave the early ones alone for a while, then go over them again until I am happy the material is okay, although when I have my editor hat on, I am never happy that the material is completely edited, but there is a point when I must leave it alone or I would not write anything new!
What are you working on at the moment?
What happens when a person living on the outskirts of Jerusalem digs up two ossuaries and finds a strange yellow crystal the size of a smartphone able to repair itself when scratched and turns into a perfect mirror under laser light? Suspecting that it is not a natural crystal, an American collector buys it, wanting to tap into its hidden potential. However, the Israelis want it back…as do the Chinese, which sets off a race to get it, no matter what the cost in shattered lives.
Legitimate Power takes the reader into a tangled world of international intrigue, personal obsession, and final realization that the only thing valuable in life are people and the bonds that hold them together. Sometimes though, the price of this discovery can be more than one realizes. Throw in machinations by impersonal governments, a person is not always given a chance to make that discovery. I am half-way through the book and don’t expect to have it available for release until early in 2016.
Title: Proportional Response
Author: Stefan Vucak
Genre: Political Drama / Thriller
A political drama that will leave you gasping!
In a joint exercise with the Korean navy, Admiral Pacino’s son is one of the casualties from a North Korean missile strike.
Conducting negotiations with North Korean in an attempt to normalize relations, the Secretary of State learns that the CIA is secretly funding a faction to topple the Supreme Leader. Furious, President Walters fires the CIA Director and installs a replacement.
In the Yellow Sea, the United States and South Korea commence their annual joint naval exercises. A North Korean corvette launches a strike against an American destroyer, causing casualties. In charge of the exercise, Admiral Pacino learns that his son is severely wounded. He dies a day later.
Although Pacino understands the need for restraint by everybody, he is dismayed to read that the President is more interested in making a settlement with North Korea than acknowledging the lives lost—on both sides. To remind the administration and both Koreas that every life is valuable and should not be thrown away in a diplomatic gesture, he mounts a strike against unmanned military installations in the two Koreas. Summoned to Washington to face a hearing, Pacino’s flight is sabotaged and his aircraft crashes.
President Walters understands what Pacino has done, but faced with ‘big picture’ considerations, he cannot condone the action. The reformist faction topples the Supreme Leader and the new leadership makes overtures to America to hand over their nuclear warheads and dismantle long-range missiles.
Surviving the crash, Pacino faces charges that would see him serving time in Leavenworth. However, his action has struck a responsive chord with many in the military and the public. Although nothing could be done to save his career, President Walters does not want Pacino crucified.
The hearing exposes the heartless treatment of veterans by the government and the military. To limit political damage, the Navy awards Pacino administrative punishment in lieu of a general court-martial. Appreciating Pacino’s qualities, Walters offers him a position as Advisor to the President to get things fixed.
A stunning geopolitical thriller that examines American foreign policy and national values.
Stefan Vucak has written eight Shadow Gods Saga sci-fi novels, which includes With Shadow and Thunder, a 2002 EPPIE finalist, and five contemporary thrillers. He started writing science fiction while still in college, but didn’t get published until 2001. In 2010, he decided to branch out into contemporary political thrillers. His Cry of Eagles won the coveted 2011 Readers’ Favorite silver medal award, and his All the Evils was the 2013 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.