today is pleased to have as our guest Hank Quense author of fourteen books with his latest being Moxie's Problem.


Norm: Good day Hank and thanks for participating in our interview.

When did you first consider yourself a writer and do you have a specific writing style?

Hank: I've been writing a variety of stuff most of my adult life. I didn't consider myself a ‘fiction writer' until after I had sold 30 short stories to paying markets. By then, I believe I had mastered the craft of designing and telling a story.

I've never thought of a writing style for myself, but I'd have to describe it as irreverent and satiric.

Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?

Hank: I love mind maps and before I begin a first draft I spend extensive time designing the story and I finally end up mind mapping it.

For a novel, I build three mind maps, one for the characters, another for the plots and a third that has been described as a graphical synopsis. These mind maps keep me focused.

Reading my own work is tough. I'm a lousy editor and I know the ending of the story so it's hard to concentrate on reading it.

Norm: Did you read any special books on how to write?

Hank: I've read a lot of books on writing. Most of them are marginally useful. Some of the authors actually make up words to replace the usual story elements like plot. I guess this makes it sound like they're on to something new.

I have read some great books. Story by Robert McKee is my bible. The best and shortest book on writing is Writing to The Point by Algis Budrys. Alas, it is long out-of-print. I may have bought one of the last copies available.

Norm: Is your work improvisational or do you have a set plan?

Hank: I have a set plan. Before starting the first draft, I have to know the ending and what events connect the beginning and the end. I spend a great deal of time developing the design elements such as the characters, plot, setting, scenes etc. For one book, I timed it and I spent three months ont he design work before I started the first draft.

Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?

Hank: As far back as I can recall, I've questioned everything. I was forever asking 'why should I do that?' and 'Why should I believe that?' This type of thinking is reflected in my work which is highly satirical and tends to turn normal situations upside down or take an accepted concept, shake it apart and rebuild it. I always end up with a few parts left over.

Norm: What motivated you to write Moxie's Problem?

Hank: I first wrote Moxie into a short story about ten years ago. I never sold the story because Moxie was a bad main character for a short story. She doesn't change over the course of the story because the story was too short for a character arc. However, I always loved her character and I was determined to get her into a major work ever since the short story failed.

I've been planning a novel with Moxie as the main character for at least five years. I've had the entire scope of the story mind mapped for quite a while and I've worked on it off and on during that time. Now that Moxie's Problem is published, I'm writing the concluding book in the series.

Norm: How did you go about creating the character of Moxie?

Hank: Moxie's development was the same as almost all my characters. I come up with an unusual character and I give them a flaw that makes them bizarre in some way. it's important to understand that the flaw is a mental one, not a physical one.

After that, the plot has to get the character into situations that make the mental flaw take over.

In Moxie’s case, the flaw is her belief that being noble-born makes her the center of the universe and that low-born people are there to cater to her whims and to obey her commands. Traveling with three Knights of the Round Table is the start of Moxie’s realization that being noble-born isn’t as great an asset as she originally thought.

Norm: What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?

Hank: I want my story to serve as an entertainment vehicle. People need a release from the tensions of modern life and that's what I try to do with my stories using humor, satire and unusual plots. What matters to me is that I develop a solid story design. From what early readers said to me, I believe I reached my goals with Moxie’s Problems.

Norm: How much research did you do when writing Moxie's Problem?

Hank: I researched Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table and other British legends such as the Lady of the Lake. I also researched the history of the Saxon invasions and how they conquered Britain. From all this research, I had the background necessary to turn history and legends upside down.

Norm: What was the most difficult part about writing Moxie's Problem?

Hank: It was Moxie's character arc. During the story, Moxie undergoes a drastic change from her obnoxious beginning to a woman who realizes she has to do something in order to have a meaningful life. This character arc continues through the next book and ends up with Moxie successfully changing her life. Making this development gradual but noticeable was a tough job. The reader has to notice the change in Moxie’s behavior and thinking, but it has to be a subtle development.

As an example, Moxie at the start of the second book is a much different character than the Moxie at the start of the first book. And during the second book, Moxie will change even more.

From the reader’s perspective, Moxie is annoying at the start of the first book and by the end of the book, the reader thinks Moxie is an interesting character. By the end of the second book, the reader will think Moxie is a fascinating character.

Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Moxie's Problem?

Hank: Because I played so fast and loose with English history and the Camelot legends, I had a concern that it would annoy readers who thought they were about to read a re-telling of the traditional Camelot legends. I had to explain it and I couldn’t come up with an reasonable way to do that. Until I sprinkled some scifi dust on the story and set it in a parallel universe. All my concerns disappeared with that discovery.

Also, when I began the novel, I didn't know Tristan was the world's worst bard. I also didn't know that Tristan would write mummeries (plays) that sound a like the stuff Shakespeare's would write a thousand years later.

Norm: Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?

Hank: I do believe I owe something to readers. The author makes a contract with the reader that goes something like this: “Read my book and I promise to entertain you.” How the author entertains the reader depends upon the genre.

Romance writers, for instance, entertain the readers in a much different manner than I do with my satiric fantasy stories. The important thing to me, is that I live to my end of the contract. That means I strive to make the story as great as I can make it; no taking short cuts by developing cardboard characters or a trite plot.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Moxie's Problem?

Hank: My publishing company Strange Worlds Publishing has a WEBSITE for my books. A reader can also search my name on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N and other book sellers.

Norm: What is next for Hank Quense?

Hank: First up is to complete Moxie’s story. I hope to have that book out by next summer. After that I have to write the third book of a trilogy I left unfinished. The trilogy concerns a despicable race of aliens called Zaftans. After that, who knows? I’m sure I’ll come up something I write about.

Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.

Hank: Please ask me what advice I’d give to beginning fiction writers. The answer is to always know the ending before you start to write the first draft. And if you plan on writing humor or satire, NEVER watch TV sitcoms.

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors

Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of Moxie's Problem

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