Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
The seeds of all my writing go back to my post-war period when I started to read and write more actively. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of the Pink Panthers, this elusive gang, originating from my homeland, was actual as they terrorized the global jewelry industry over two decades. After hundreds of heists in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia with the prey of about $1 billion, this shadowy network of brazen robbers targeted some of the world’s most luxurious jewelry stores. The gang’s legendary trademark is the ability to carry out carefully planned, elaborate, and precise attacks lasting just minutes. The Pink Panther fictional fantasy, a classic, comedy-crime adventure film has lent its name to a real-life international ‘criminal syndicate’ given by Interpol. The ideas that the Pink Panthers introduced as a ‘patent’ in committing the robberies were more intriguing than even the greatest movie-minds could come up with. And I'm not just talking about disguising as women, fleeing by speedboat and the like, but that all the robberies were committed without a single victim and even with toy-weapons and that's what makes the Pink Panthers unique in the criminal world. With their imaginative audacity in carrying out outrageous crimes fitting for a Hollywood movie script, they intrigued the world including myself – but who are the real Pink Panthers? Nobody ever really answered that question. So, I set out for a personal investigative crusade and presented all the findings in my book “PINK PANTHERS: The Greatest Thieves in the World”.
What makes writing your passion?
The word can transform and resurrect a person; unconscious and unprocessed emotion entwined with words can harm one’s being. Written words can enlighten people’s lives. Writing is one of the mighty arts, tools, or weapons to better the world through influence on people’s minds.
How long have you been writing?
I have been practicing writing as a hobby for some 25 years or so, writing essays and stories predominantly about the war experience. I used to be shy about my writing, keeping it just for myself or closer circle.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
It would be simplified to call that feeling happy. I was self-actualized. I was the winner. The one prevailing his own frailty and flaws, fears and insecurities, and all the rejections by publishers and agents
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I was intrigued with this story of the Pink Panthers gang of diamond thieves, they absorbed my attention and I started thinking of it relating it to my observations from my travels and work experience. I fantasized about them and connected them to settings familiar to me and directly or indirectly related to my experience or to some people I know or just heard about, sometimes even just read about. Yet, I am deeply connected with all my characters, I have carried all of them in myself, or seen them around in my family, friends or acquaintances. That is why they are such loveable people and drawn in warm and humane colors, even though they are to depict sheer criminals. Although the main narrative is based on true events and reports available in public, the whole scenery, dialogues, human drama pictured in it are born in my imagination and fantasy but closely related to my experience of life and real people– so, the fiction and non-fiction are intertwined.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Writing can absorb a man’s life, yet it is not appreciated enough, primarily materially beneficial as to make one’s career. All the rejections from publishers, agents, as well as bookstagramers and reviewers, when they take a book for review and don’t respond in 6 months or more, after saying to send it and that it would be reviewed next month. But there are people with lack of integrity in all professions, so book publishing is not an exception.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
By reading and writing more. Write one page a day, then when no idea is there, go back and edit the previous pages. Blank page can’t be edited – write one page a day at least – you will still have a manuscript in a year or so.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
My life has been one full of struggle, effort, adventure, and adversity, which all have enriched me and gave breeding ground for narratives and scenery for my stories and novels. I had to give up a career of a successful basketball player and participate in brutal and devastating fratricidal civil war, facing violent discord of my homeland – Yugoslavia. So I passed through hell of two years in war, then faced obligation to work to support my family afterwards in an economically devastated society.
Writing this novel only was a creative torment of ten years, as my experience and reflections grew mature and sought its birth in written word. Yet, even when finished, I and pitched the novel for almost a year with no success, nobody in my homeland in Bosnia and Serbia accepted to publish it. Nevertheless, I didn't let rejection or lack of support stop me! I had it edited and translated into English and published it in the USA in March 2020, prior to in my homeland. Only after that, the publishing offers from my homeland started popping up.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
It’s hard, but what aches the most will make you a strong and rich a person, and yet it all makes sense that you cannot perceive right now. When it is the hardest, just survive that day, tomorrow is another day… day by day, it will get better. Always tell the truth or at least don’t lie, it will save you some stress. And also, although it might seem a trivial or shallow phrase, it’s to try your best to live up your dream, don’t focus on obstacles and excuses instead. Never give up your dreams. Don’t be afraid of challenge, don’t subdue to your own fears and insecurity. Do what it takes, make every reasonable effort, go for it because in future, you will regret not for the things you did but for those that you wanted to try yourself in but never dared. Another one is to love yourself so that you may know how to live with self-respect and self-care and only once you’ve become a healthy, strong individual, only then you can help others. As one of my characters in the novel say: "Remember what those flight attendants always say before a plane takes off, that in case of a plane crash, you have to put your oxygen mask to yourself first and only then to someone next to you?” she asked, looking into his tired, closed eyes. “You have to look after yourself so God will guard you then,” she said.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I am always excited to read any book review, always curious, and valuate even the bad reviews. I want to learn more and understand perception of many people even with differences and criticism. Healthy criticism can only make any serious and responsible work better, it goes so for writing too.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I am utterly thankful, deeply touched, feels like I found a lost family member or met an old friend.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
I myself of course don’t have a personal touch with the criminal world, or do I approve of their way of breaking social norms and getting illegal gains in an unethical manner. But I do sympathize with the struggle and misery of small man, who sometimes, following immoral examples of those in power, and understand how they have no other way to rise above the determinants of their misery. The story of diamonds is just picturesque enough to paint all the smirch of the world. Many of the picturesque adventures in the book (other than robberies xD) I have experienced myself, though.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
There is not a single and integral fictional character of mine that is based on me exclusively or that I completely identify with. However, I can identify with some traits of theirs or some experiences of theirs, and have expressed my personal experiences and attitudes through many of them and they are all based on real-life persons.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The story is without any doubt immeasurably more important, but an interesting book cover, design and appealing highlight of the text, as well as promotion as a whole, are very important in attracting the attention of readers.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love communicating with people and enjoy talking to all sorts of people, related to writing or just in common life. I love to talk to my readers too.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
As I was a rising basketball star and then later in life owned bars and clubs, hanging out with starlets and celebrities, I had gained a certain level of popularity and knew how to deal with it. Currently, as an author whose work is being more and more recognized globally, I feel very proud and very actualized as a person. I feel rewarded for all my struggle so far.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I admire Dostoyevsky as one of the greatest writing geniuses of all time, he is in my opinion far beyond competence, comparable to Shakespeare or Goethe. No one has ever described the depth and width of the human soul as he did, nor anyone ever will. I am also very fond of Bukowski and appreciate his brutal and colorful view of the modern world.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I’ve always been and will remain an extroverted enthusiast, pursuing a dream of a better, nobler world through writing and/or pursuing projects improving culture and social justice. I endlessly admire social activists, equally as I do admire and look up to the writers who in my opinion marked the modern world such as Bukowski or Orwell.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I would now rather have my novel divided in two books as it is very much extensive now as it is and the past and the present could have been divided. There is never enough editing in the writing world.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
I admire very much to Bukowski’s, Orwell’s and Huxley’s depictions of the fantastic yet real vision of the contemporary world. I guess I can’t precisely switch places with such geniuses or renown writers but certainly cherish keen admiration for them. Maybe I would switch places with Yesenin or Hemingway and not kill myself, then create some more beautiful art.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I’ve already written the message to haters, all dream-breakers in the foreword of my book. Thanks a lot, you blew the wind in my wings, you were the primal motivating factor not to quit!
What would you say to your readers?
Dare to pursue your dreams! No one else can or will do it for you! I judge by myself, take my word! Nothing is impossible! Try your best to live up your dream, don’t focus on obstacles and excuses instead. Never give up your dreams. Don’t be afraid of challenge, don’t subdue to your own fears and insecurity. Do what it takes, make every reasonable effort, go for it because in future, you will regret not for the things you did but for those that you wanted to try yourself in but never dared.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live with my family in Brcko District in Bosnia, with my wife and kids. I have two precious daughters. The three of them are the joy and the invaluable abundance of my life.
What is your day job if you have one?
I managed to attain a successful career as a logistics specialist having worked for large international organizations and corporations such as the United Nations, great American corporations such as Halliburton/KBR, or DynCorp/Amentum where I am currently employed.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I read and write a lot, I still listen to music and watch movies/series, also I like amateur sports of all kinds, preferably sports with a ball. I am not a big gym fan though.
Did you have a happy childhood?
I would call it a rather happy and carefree childhood, I was a vivid, temperamental child, a natural leader of my group, and also a leader in mischief. My friends, playing outside, sports, all marked my childhood and youth a very happy era of my life. Until the war stopped it all when I was forced to replace my basketball with a gun and participate in a brutal civil war in Bosnia.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
I have personally experienced many of my characters’ struggles and adversities: the frustration of ending youthful successful sports career due to a brutal war, demolition of all my boyish dreams in the cruelest reality of civil war, and the poverty and anomia in my country afterward. Thinking of all of these was a torment to comprehend and apprehend such brutal reality. All that deep and extensive reflection of the modern world, the destiny of my country, my people, my relatives who suffered a lot due to war and post-war anomia and moral as well as the economic crisis in our society brought about the fruit through the writing of this book, which has made that torment be sublimed through creativity.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I have been writing stories since the return from the military service in the civil war that tore my country apart. Currently, I am writing the second and third parts of the Pink Panthers trilogy. I have a novel in the works about my vision of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia and a big novel on the return of the son of God, Jesus Christ. The Christians tell me I should not write about Christ… but I love Christ, and the Christians not so much, so I guess I will still write it.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Education of children should generally be more oriented to developing skills and not piling material knowledge. Particularly I mean skill and art of critical thinking, and researching, picking and processing information. In our education system, pupils strive to a goal, to pass tests and graduate as the best at one’s class. They do not really learn that way, but do what is required to achieve that goal. Doing that, they learned something, but not all they could have. Mostly they learned how to memorize names, places and dates, only to forget all of it later so they could learn something new for the next test. School is now a place where most people will decide to get out of it as soon as possible. Schools often argue stressing results of their most successful students. That is what competitions are for. Competitions fulfil wishes of ambitious principals, teachers and parents. Unfortunately, success in competitions does not correlate with success in further schooling. If sometimes a successful young person gets out of this machinery, that is not due to quality of school system, but of abilities, talent and persistence (toughness) of those young people. All those who reach the goal, i.e. graduate, can see it as a positive experience, particularly if one is the best in class. Yet they cannot claim to be more intelligent than their peers. Only, that person was the best in executing instructions within the system, successfully passing the period of indoctrination. In the last stage we get a paper confirming us as able to work. But we are not just work force – we are human beings, thinkers, adventurers. Instead of learning and practicing how to become great artists and masters of their vocation, we teach them to take notes and be excellent in passing tests. Instead of homework they get from their teachers, they could read something of interest to them, but we train them not to miss a test. Instead of teaching them how to create music and write poetry, we push them for additional classes of theoretical instruction. What will turn out of them when they leave educational institutions? Very likely they will not know what they want in life, that they will not have interests as they saw each subject as a work to be done, and they were successful in subjects for the sake of success and not of learning. And very often, they will be very scared. Every human being on this planet is very special, don’t we all deserve something better, to use our minds for innovation rather then for memorizing, for creativity rather than for fruitless activity, for progress rather than for stagnation? Our purpose is not just to graduate, then get a job, so we could apply industry-approved methods. Most of students passed the same technics of brainwashing in order to make fit work force that will work for interests of big corporations and governments, – while they are quite unaware of it. Those children can never return those 12 or 18 years invested in education. They cannot run away to another country as there they find a very similar model to this one, which does not illuminate, but conditions. All students are requested to be the same, to pass all standardized tests, and those who deviate and see the light through different frames are viewed with suspicion as problematic and worthless in the public education scheme.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
I have lived a rich and meaningful life, full of struggle, happiness and adversity equally. I would call myself actualized. I have reached self-actualization in a beautiful and loving family, with adorable wife and children, and have seen my dream to become a recognized if not renowned writer come true. I have seen two of my life’s aspirations more or less achieved already. The third might be to make this world a better place, by all possible means, through humanitarian contribution, social or political engagement, or just through a mighty written word of strong humane ideas and messages.
What is your favorite music?
My favorite music is rock, jazz, and blues, these genres have marked the most beautiful times of my youth, although I enjoy equally the everlasting beauty of classical musical genii such as Mozart or Beethoven and Bach.
Share a secret with us 🙂
The true names of the real Pink Panthers diamond thieves are…
…read the book.