TQR Confidential

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Persistence of Vision with Hank Quense

FOREWORD: When you talk venture capitalist around TQR the name Hank Quense invariably comes up. Not because he is the most successful, but because he is the most prolific venture capitalist to ever drop some cap in our collective inbox. And just because he hasn’t cashed in with any capital gains (yet), that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.

TQR: Hello Mr. Quense, thank you for agreeing to sit down with me here in the Rump. Your persistence in subbing cap is legendary around here. Just ask Boligard Doomey. Anyhow. In the words of that chaw-chewing cracker sheriff's deputy in the Bond film Live and Let Die (modified slightly to fit our purposes): "What are you boy? Some kind of capital venture-spewing machine?!"

Hank Quense: I don't know what the question means or what I'm supposed to respond to

TQR: In other words, how much short fiction do you crank out in a week?

Hank Quense: How many stories do you crank out in a week? In a week? None. My stories take a lot longer than that. Sometimes years pass (literally!) between the initial idea for a new story and the first draft. A more usual time frame is several months. Many ideas for a story never come to fruition and I have scores of story ideas that never made it past the concept stage. As to how many stories in a given time frame? I set an objective every year to produce six new stories. However, since it takes several years to sell a story once it's finished, a large inventory of unsold stories can build up over time.

So far this year, I've written two new ones and sold two stories written in prior years. Last year, I managed to write six new stories and I also sold six, but I think it is a coincidence that the numbers match. Much
of my time this year has been spent in revising and rewriting stories written in the last few years. As one gains more experience, stories that I though great three years ago, I now think as pitiful and in great need of fixing.

TQR: That's quite a regimen, sir. One to be commended and emulated. And congratulations on your 20th sale! Would it be safe to say you may be the hardest working writer in the business?

Hank Quense: Thanks. It's been a hard slog to get to twenty. MY next objective is to reach the two dozen mark. Maybe later this year. I doubt if I qualify to be even near the top of the hardest working writers list. I'm in a private on-line writers group and one of the writers works much harder than I do. She's also a lot more successful.

TQR: You write exclusively in the sci-fi/fantasy realm. What is the reason for this?

Hank Quense: I read a lot. Mostly I read historical novels, fantasy, SF and history. So, I write what I like to read. But I have discovered another reason to use dwarfs, elves, aliens etc. in my stories. If I write a satiric story using a particular group of people, I could face a lawsuit from lawyers representing the group who will claim that I have disparaged everyone in the group. This doesn't happen if I use dwarfs as a metaphor for the group because there is no Sons Of Dwarfdom Association with lawyers ready to defend the dwarfen image.

TQR: Do you prefer form or personalized rejections. Or is a rejection is a rejection is a rejection?

Hank Quense: While there is no such thing as a good rejection, some rejections are less bad than others. I guess I qualify as an expert on the damn things because I've accumulated way over five hundred of them. I've identified three different types of rejections (not the two you questioned me about). At the bottom of the pile is the form rejection. Much higher in usefulness is the personal rejection. What's the difference? To me, a personal rejection indicates the editor (probably) read the entire story. With a form rejection, I'm never sure the editor read anything but the opening paragraph. At the top of the rejection pile (i.e. the least bad) is the rejection note that contains feedback on why the editor rejected it. This type provides valuable
insights on how to improve the story. Several editors use a check-off form that also provides useful information.

TQR: Based upon your rejections from TQR, would you recommend us as a VC-(writer-)friendly place to submit?

Hank Quense: Sure, you pay a reasonable stipend and you have a very good response time. There is a lot of room for improvement in publishing my stories however.

TQR: Certainly, our styles, so far, have not seemed to coincide, but that has not dampened your enthusiasm for submitting. What is your secret to the acquisition of the coveted writer's thick skin and dogged determination?

Hank Quense: I develop my thick skin during a career in sales. I was a sales rep and a sales manager for twenty years. I sold super hi-tech equipment to telephone companies including the ones in Manhattan. If you can't deal with rejection, then you have no business being in sales. To professional salespeople, rejection is motivation to ensure you make the next sale. Manhattan has the toughest customers in the world. I literally would get phone calls from them that went something like this: “Hey Ass-wipe! We bought your competitors equipment. Har Har.” click. Compared to Manhattan customers, editors are all pussycats.

TQR: So you developed your prerequisite pair of brass balls making sale's calls in Manhattan. Very interesting, sir. And that bit of dialogue at the end of your answer is positively divine. Have you integrated some of that work experience of yours into your fiction? And, if not, why not? And if so, why haven't I seen any of it?

Hank Quense: I only wrote one story about a salesman. Hell's Best Salesman was published in Neo-Opsis issue 8, January 2006. Most of my stories incorporate my observations of Manhattan customers in the way my characters react to situations. It's a predilection to something called Tunnel Vision in which the character filters all experiences in terms of what it means to him to the exclusion of all possible reactions. Thus, a customer who was an expert on the use of older equipment, would oppose the introduction of my new (and better) equipment because it represents a threat to his status as an expert and consequently, the benefits to the company offered by the new product are of no concern to him. Yet another customer may see an opportunity to impress his boss by becoming a champion for a competitor's product knowing his boss didn't like my company. Selling in this environment meant, on a daily basis, overcoming the selfish obstacles presented by these guys. I have grown so accustomed to dealing with this Tunnel Vision that it permeates all of my characters.

TQR: Regarding your only having writ one piece about a salesman, I must recapitulate my "Why?"

Hank Quense: My primary (and secondary) reason is that I have no interest in writing another story about sales or salespeople.

TQR: Enough said, then. I am off to read your most recent submission, which appeared in my inbox about halfway through this interview. Any last words?

Hank Quense:
Okay. I'm cool with this. I was fun.

AFTERWORD: Although Mr. Quense is still searching for his first TQR success story, he’s still got a pretty good sense of humor. I don’t believe that I was fun line was a typo. Damn you, Quense! Any complaints, please send them to Mr. Quense's Web site.


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