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.