Friday, February 1, 2019

Interview with short story writer Hank Quense

Short story writer Hank Quense joins me today to talk about a series of sci-fi and fantasy mixed filled with military and political satire stories, Zaftan Troubles.

Hank Quense writes satirical fantasy and sci-fi. Early in his writing career, he was strongly influenced by two authors: Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Happily, Hank has never quite recovered from those experiences.

He lives with his wife in northern New Jersey, a mere 20 miles from Manhattan, the center of the galaxy (according to those who live in Manhattan). They have two daughters and five grandchildren all of whom live nearby.

For vacations, Hank and Pat usually visit distant parts of the galaxy. Occasionally, they also time-travel.

Besides writing novels, Hank lectures on fiction writing, publishing and book marketing. He is most proud of his talk showing grammar school kids how to create a short story. He used these lectures to create an advanced ebook with embedded videos to coach the students on how to create characters, plots and setting. The target audience is 4th to 7th graders. The book's title is Fiction Writing Workshop for Kids.

Welcome, Hank. What do you enjoy most about writing fiction?
I love developing the story, this includes coming up with off-the-wall characters, bizarre plots, funny dialog. It all goes into the final act of writing the story. Of course, seeing the story published is a hoot also.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your short stories – perhaps some of your favorites?
Here are a few of my favorite short stories:
* Romeo and Juliet: My take on Shakespeare’s famous play. Romeo is poor dwarf miner; Juliet is a rich elf maiden. (in Tales from Gundarland)
*  Sponsored By…. A military and political satire
*  Uncle Sidney’s Tailor Shop: SF satire. Originally published in After SF. No longer available (I think)
*  Early in my career, I wrote mostly short stories to learn the craft of writing. Over time I change to writing novels. I still write short stories, but they’re not as you would picture a short story. My short stories are actually subplots in the novels but I write the scenes as if it’s a stand-alone short story. After I finish writing it, I figure out where each scene goes in the novel. I screwed that up once. I inadvertently placed the new subplot scenes on top of an existing subplot scenes instead of after the existing subplot. What a mess! It was agony straightening it out.

What genre are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
Fantasy and sci-fi or a mix of the two. Why? Very little research is required. I just make everything up and that makes it so much more fun.

Synopsis of Zaftan Troubles: Books 1 to 4:
This novel takes place in a fantasy country that has reached the early Industrial Age of technology and recently instituted a democratic government.

An alien space ship arrives over the planet. The ship is owned by a mining corporation and searches for exotic mineral deposits to mine and bring back to its home planet, Zaftan 31B where rare elements are extracted from the minerals and sold.

The two main characters are MACDRAKIN GEMSEEKER, a dwarf miner and LESLIE HIGGINBOTTOM, a half-dwarf, half human constable in the small town of Skensfirth where the two have a budding romance. The alien captain, YUNTA, orders her second-in-command, SHTAP, to negotiate an agreement with the president of the country, ALBERT WEBLEY, a human. Webley agrees to allow the aliens to mine the minerals if they can find them, provided the aliens respect property rights and don't harm folks.

Yunta faces a time limit, the ship's supply situation dictates they start the return voyage in less than two weeks, and has no intention of slowing down the exploration and mining to protect property. Explorations are carried out by robots who cause considerable damage to property as they follow their search programs. MacDrakin destroys a robot when it trespasses on his land. After a few other robots are destroyed, Shtap demands that Webley take steps to protect the expensive robots and Higginbottom gets a telegram to that effect. Upset that she must protect the robots rather than the property, she learns that MacDrakin has destroyed yet another robot. Despite their mutual attraction, the alien presence and the telegrams are straining their relationship. The strain becomes acute when MacDrakin declares war on the aliens and Higginbottom gets another telegram ordering her to arrest anyone who damages or destroys a robot. Meanwhile Webley's staff get reports the folks in Skensfirth are on the verge of revolt.

The robots discover two major mineral deposits. One is on MacDrakin's land, the other is beneath the town of Skensfirth. On their first attempt to mine MacDrakin's land, he and several hunter friends destroy all the robots who operate the mining machinery. Yunta, with the deadline approaching, is outraged by the truculent natives and sends reinforcements to get the mining operation back on track. Faced with more aliens, MacDrakin abandons his land and sets out to prevent the aliens from entering Skensfirth. A group of retired dwarf solders answer his call and join him. He is also joined by several government officials sent by Webley to solve the Skensfirth problems.

In the ensuing battle, the aliens are thwarted by weather problems, mutinous crew members and the MacDrakin's determination. After many machines are destroyed, Shtap, the alien commander of the ground operation, calls for a truce and tells Drakin that he admits defeat and that the aliens will leave. The aliens abandon the remaining mining machines, damaged robots, weapons and a damaged cargo pod. Engineers and scientists are ordered to examine these artifacts and decipher their secrets.

With the departure of the aliens, the reason for Higginbottom's and MacDrakin's feud disappears and they resume their romantic interest.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My current WIP is a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, but mostly sci-fi. It’s the next installment of the Zaftan Troubles. It will be Book 8 in the series. The series tells of the conflict between the vicious aliens known as zaftans and the gundies, the inhabitants of a planet populated by humans and fantasy races such as dwarfs, elves and others. Actually, I’m writing books 8 to 10

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess that occurred when I sold my first short story for which I was paid a few bucks. Later on, I realized the story was bad, really bad and the magazine that published it was even worse. I no longer acknowledge that I wrote the story.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I mind-map my novels before I start to write the first draft. It’s actually a graphical synopsis. Most other authors are horrified at the concept.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An aeronautical engineer. I had to settle for a degree in mechanical engineering and ended up in sales. Writing is my third career.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I don’t write a story unless it’s fun. If the story isn’t fun to write, I stop writing it because there is something wrong with it. If I figure out what that is, I’ll go back to working on it. If I don’t figure it out, it just gets tossed on the junk pile.


Thanks for being here today, Hank. Happy writing!


hank quense said...

Lisa! Thanks for having me on your web page.

KaKa said...

This post is very helpful to me.
A letter from Saint Nicholas Lettre du Père Noël