Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lessons Learned on the Way to the Top: A Q&A with Hank Quense author of Falstff’s Big Gamble

Author Hank Quense
Hank Quense is the author of the Fantasy novel Falstaff's Big Gamble. Writing Daze caught up with Hank recently and asked him some questions On Writing and Self-Publishing. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by his answers.

About Hank Quense

Award-winning author Hank Quense lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife Pat. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. He writes humorous fantasy and scifi stories. On occasion, he also writes an article 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. Zaftan Entrepreneurs is the first book of a trilogy. In it, an alien mining ship discovers a planet that holds promise to be a mining bonanza.

Unfortunately, it is inhabited by humans, dwarfs, elves and other races and they object to the mining expeditions. Zaftan Miscreants is the second book in the trilogy. It is awash with unusual characters and filled with bizarre plots Hank’s previous works include Tales From Gundarland, a collection of fantasy stories. Readers Favorite awarded the book a medal and EPIC designated it a finalist in its 2011 competition.

Altogether, Hank has over fifty published short stories and a number of non-fiction articles. Hank has initiated a series of lectures and workshops to share his expertise in creating fiction and publishing books. Create A Short Story is a 4-session workshop in which the participants design their own short story. He also gives a two-part seminar on Self-publishing a book and Marketing and Selling the self-published book.

He has a number of links where you can follow his work and his occasional rants:
Strange Worlds website:http://strangeworldsonline.com
Follow him on twitter: http://twitter.com/hanque99

About the Book

Falstaff's Big Gamble Book Tour
This novel is Shakespeare's Worst Nightmare. It takes two of the Bard's most famous plays, Hamlet and Othello, and recasts them in Gundarland. There, Hamlet becomes a dwarf and Othello a dark elf. If that isn't bad enough, these two tragedies are now comedies with Falstaff, Shakespeare's most popular rogue, thrown in as a bonus. Both Hamlet and Othello are plagued by the scheming Falstaff, who embezzles money from Othello. After Hamlet becomes king (with help from Falstaff) the rogue becomes the dark nemesis behind the throne. Never read Shakespeare? Not a problem. No knowledge of Shakespeare's plays is required to enjoy this romp through the Guandarlandian countryside. Book Excerpt A number of minor characters in the book are trolls. Iago is the commander of a unique institution called the Troll Patrol. Here is the history of the Troll Patrol from the book:

 # # # The Troll Patrol was an institution unique to Dun Hythe. Long ago, the city leaders had recognized the need to control and direct the heavy wagon traffic that flowed to and from the port area. They organized a patrol of citizens for this purpose, and all went well for a while. No one recalls who allowed the first troll to join up, but word immediately spread throughout the troll community that one of their number had a paying job with unlimited donuts. Soon after that, every opening in the patrol attracted dozens of trolls who brazenly persuaded non-trolls to withdraw their applications. Within a few years, trolls had taken over the organization. Trolls proved to be particularly inept at traffic control. A member of the Troll Patrol could station himself in the middle of a deserted intersection and within minutes he would create a traffic-snarling mess. To keep the enraged wagon drivers under control, the trolls relied upon truncheons. A whack or two in the head always knocked a driver groggy and made him a lot less noisy.

The Troll Patrol did prove effective in controlling the riots that resulted from their traffic mismanagement. Trolls had evolved from rocks and they had rock DNA in their systems. Hitting a troll in his head was a waste of energy. All it did was damage the weapon and focus the troll's attention on the head-hitter, much to the head-hitter's discomfort. Trolls had a unique perspective on bribery. Often a visitor who had been apprehended by a troll on a charge — often a dubious one — would offer a sum of money to make the charge disappear. The troll always pocketed the money and then added bribery to the charge sheet. The bribed troll scrupulously shared the bribe money with the shift desk sergeant. Early in the process of changing to the Troll Patrol, politicians discovered that it was impossible to fire a troll and remain alive. The fired troll took the firing personally and considered himself insulted. An insult to one troll insulted the troll's entire family, who then felt obligated to avenge their family honor by slaughtering the insulter.

On Writing

Q: What motivated you to write the book? 

A: I love to write spoofs, to mangle a legend, re-write myths and most especially to revise Shakespeare's plays. I've re-written Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice (Merchant of Venison in my version) and I've written a sequel to MacBeth. In that one, I've given the three witches, the Wyrd Sisters, a starring role. Now I've attempted my most ambitious project, combining Hamlet and Othello. I put both plays in a box, shook them up and spilled them out on a table. The result produced quite a novel, I must say.

Q: What is the single most useful thing you have learned and how has it helped you as a writer. 

A: Don't start writing the first draft until you've finished all the design work. That includes building the characters, completed the plot, the setting and the scenes. Most importantly, it means don’t start writing until you know the ending of the story

Q: What would you say are your main literary influences? 

A: Terry Pratchett, Chris Moore, Tom Holt, Douglas Adams and Bernard Cornwell.

On Self-Publishing

Q: What are the biggest challenges you have faced with self-publishing? 

 A: Marketing, without a doubt. Besides sucking up money, marketing also involves huge gobs of time, much of it wasted.

Q: What surprised you about the self-publishing process? 

A: When I first had a book published by a small indie publisher, I was surprised by a number of things. First, the publisher demanded that I do all of the marketing and absorb all of the associated costs while she kept most of the sales revenue. That experience convinced me to self-publish. I still do all the marketing but I keep most of the revenue now. After I began self-publishing, I realized the publisher also ripped me off when I bought copies of my book to sell locally. She gave me a small discount off the book price and that price was much higher than the price she paid CreateSpace to print them. All in all, my experience with the publisher was painful. As to self-publishing, I was and still am, surprised by how self-published authors are treated like shark bait and are subjected to a barrage of never-ending "great deals and offers" for services they don't need at outrageous prices. I've recently started a lecture series on self-publishing a book and marketing it. The lectures aren't a how-to. They cover a plethora of issues the budding author must be aware of, questions they have to ask and issues they have to research. One of my stated objectives is to educate these new authors to save them money and let them know about the sharks.

Q: Right now there is a stigma attached to self-published authors, that just because you can pay for the book to be published doesn’t mean you are a qualified author. Do you think self-publishing will ever become a respected industry?

A: The ease of self-publishing has destroyed the gate-keeper function of the old, big publishers. It has also eliminated them as the arbiters of what books the public can see. However, it also allowed junk to get published by ego-trippers who have no writing ability. Many of them also don’t have a story to tell. This, is turn,has made sampling a mandatory practice so potential readers can see what they are spending money on. I think over time the stigma will lessen and all but disappear. The huge volume of junk books, however, will not go away. Eventually, I think a way of separating the good from the junk will evolve. I have no idea how that will work. Q: What is your advice to authors who decide to self-publish? A: Establish a budget. Figure out what you can spend on your book. Your budget should consist of two separate elements: book costs and marketing costs. The second will be much larger than the first budget item Thanks Hank, for stopping by. It was my pleasure, thank you. I realize I may have expressed some unusual views here. I'll be happy to discuss them some more in the comments section below.

Thank you Hank for this interview and good luck on your book tour.

Thank you Rebecca, it was a pleasure speaking with you today. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rebeca
    Thanx for having me on the blog. I enjoyed writing answers to your challenging questions. If any readers have further questions, please leave a comment and I'll answer it.


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