My Newsday Interview with Daniel Bubbeo (Aug 10, 2020)

Though they’ve never met, Vega said Tiger Woods is responsible for him becoming a writer.

Vega, 54, of Stony Brook, was all excited about seeing Woods in a golf tournament on TV one Saturday afternoon about five years ago. He soon lost interest when he discovered Woods wasn’t on the roster and his mind started wandering back to a summer from his teen years in Stony Brook. “The images started playing in my mind almost like a YouTube video,” Vega said. “I was compelled to write down what I was seeing.”

As his imagination took hold, Vega realized he had the basis for a novel. “Sometimes I would start writing at 10 at night and work into the morning,” he said.

In six weeks, he finished “Last Exit to Montauk,” which deals with his experience growing up Hispanic on Long Island. “Whenever I’d see people talking about the Hispanic experience in the United States, it was always about the migrant workers or the illegal aliens crossing the border,” he said, citing typical stereotypes. “I didn’t relate to that.”

As someone who grew up in an upper-middle-class home with a mother who was a physician and a dad who worked in the federal government, Vega wanted to share his own Hispanic experience. “Last Exit to Montauk” is a romance that features many Long Island locations — from a Friendly’s restaurant in Stony Brook to the beaches of Montauk.

Although Vega left Stony Brook for Tampa, Florida, in 1993, all of his novels, including “The Captain and the Queen” (2018) and “Searching for Sarah,” set to come out in the fall, have taken place on Long Island.

“No matter what, I’m still a Long Islander,” he said.

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