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.
Bio:
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.
Links:
Thanks for
being here today, Hank. Happy writing!

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