Hank Quense lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife Pat. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. He writes humorous fantasy and sci/fi stories. On occasion, he also writes articles on fiction writing or book marketing but says that writing nonfiction is like work while writing fiction is fun. A member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, he refuses to write serious genre fiction saying there is enough of that on the front page of any daily newspaper and on the evening TV news.
Iulian: Give us a little bit of background on yourself. How/where did you grow up, what was your upbringing and were there any particular influences in your life, especially ones that steered you towards your current self?
Hank: I was born and raised in Jersey City. I went to college at Newark College of Engineering (now NJIT), got married and had a family. That’s pretty much it. Not exactly the stuff of a gripping memoir.
How did you get involved with writing? Give us a summary of your path.
On my fiftieth birthday, I decided I needed something to do after my employer told me to take a hike, which I anticipated would happen long before I reached 65. I decided I wanted to write stories in my next life so I began writing on the bus trips to and from Manhattan. A few years later, my company made a great early retirement offer. I took the money and ran.
You mostly write humorous fiction. Personally, I find humor/satire quite hard to write, but you do a great job at it. Why humor and how is good humor achieved?
When I decided to become a storyteller I resolved to never write serious genre fiction. There are entirely too many serious fantasy and sci/fi stories and not nearly enough humorous stuff. This decision was helped along immensely by Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guides.
In my view good humor comes from the characters. The humorous character has to have a bizarre mental flaw. The purpose of the plot is to move this character into situations where the mental flaw takes over. Think of Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies. Clouseau’s flaw is that he thinks he’s the world’s greatest detective and consequently, he can’t conceive that anything he does is less than perfect. So when he falls down a flight of stairs, he bounces up at the bottom and says, “Well, that was refreshing.” His boss Dreyfus doesn’t share Clousea’s opinion of himself.
By the way, I consider Clouseau the perfect humorous character and I try as much as possible to model my humorous characters after Clouseau.
What do you consider to be the defining moment in your writing career, the moment when you knew this is what you will do for the rest of your life?
When I read the first book in Adam’s Hitchhiker’s trilogy. That was when I decided the world needed more parody, humor and satire.
You self-publish your works. Tell us why you chose this route and can you give our readers any hints about how to do it the right way?
My first two books were published by a small index press house. That experience was so distasteful I started my own imprint, Strange Worlds Publishing.
What is your editing process? Do you use editors and if so, how important is that?
Absolutely. Editors are a mandatory part of my publishing process. Since I’m the world’s worst typist, my stories are filled with typos. When I’m correcting typos the editors found, I often make more typos correcting the original typos. Typo hunting never ends. If only I could figure out how to turn off auto-correct on my MacBook laptop, life would be so much simpler.
In our issue #7, we’ve included your story “Hell of a Salesman.” Tell us a bit about it. How did it come to be? What does it mean to you?
This one is a bit autobiographical (the selling stuff, not being in Hell) since I was an account rep and a sales manager for many years way back in the last millennium. Most of the snide comments about sales managers being obstacles are based on my own experiences. I wrote this story a number of years ago and I can’t honestly recall what my impetus was.
Do you have any works in progress? If so, can you tell us something about it?
I usually have several projects working. I have a lot of short stories that were published a while back in anthologies, magazines and on the web. Most of these markets have disappeared or are out-of-print. So I’m republishing them in my own anthologies (ebooks only). The series will be called Strange Worlds Stories and Volume 1 will become available in September. Other volumes will follow. Eventually.
My next novel, Moxie’s Decision will be available in November. This is a parody of the Camelot legends and it continues the character arc begun in Moxie’s Problem. I’m working on the final revisions now prior to it getting turned over to an editor.
After that, my next novel will combine the main characters and plots from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and The Merchant of Venice. These characters will be humans, dwarfs, elves, and half-pints (i.e. hobbits). The setting will be in the future on a space station with Zaftan aliens. Naturally, all this will take place in a parallel universe. A parallel universe is an essential element in many of my stories because I get away with almost anything without having to explain it in detail. A parallel universe is the explanation. Anything can happen in one of those.
I’m anticipating having a great deal of fun with this new story.
What is your advice for today’s young writers who are trying to break through this ever more difficult market?
Here are two pieces of advice. First, don’t give up your day job unless you’ve hit the lottery big time. Two, don’t begin to write the first draft of a new story until you know the ending of that story.
Find below a selection of works by Hank Quense:
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