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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interview with Hank Schwaeble (Interview by Mihir Wanchoo)

Visit Hank Schwaeble's Official Website Here
Visit Hank Schwaeble's Blog Here

Fantasy Book Critic was lucky enough to be able to interview Hank Schwaeble. Hank's debut horror novel, Damnable was released by Jove imprint, a division of Penguin/Putnum Publishers, in September 2009. Look for a review of Damnable next week here at Fantasy Book Critic.

Thanks go out to Hank Schwaeble for taking the time to interview with us here at Fantasy Book Critic.


Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in the interview. To start with could you tell us a bit more about yourself other than what is given in the author bio and how you came to be a writer?

I always had an interest in writing, from the time I was very young. I can remember reading novels as a child and thinking, I can do this. But when I got to college, I realized there was a lot more to it than having a facile command of the English language. Someone once said the best advice for an aspiring writer is to go live an interesting life. That's what I tried to do. It took me a little longer to get back to it than I would have predicted, but I always knew I would.

You have published a few short stories earlier before Damnable. Could you share with us your experiences of getting published and about how those differ (if they differ?) with the longer novel version?

Short stories are a different animal. I enjoy writing them, but the market for them is weak. You mail a story off and wait to hear back. Sometimes, the wait is long. Too long, I decided, for my personality. When you're not a name-brand writer, you have to wonder whether your submission is even being read, or getting fair treatment when it is. With a novel, if you want to be published with a major New York house you have to have an agent. Period. So with a novel submission you're getting some professional guidance, and you tend to get more feedback, more promptly.

What is your daily writing schedule like? And which kind of school of writing do you prefer [Outlining or free-writing]?

When I'm on my regimen, I set a five hundred-word minimum per day and try to stick to it. I usually get more, but anything over five hundred I consider gravy.

When it comes to outlining, it's not the most natural thing for me, but it is important to have structure. Organic writing is what most writers, certainly most beginning writers, gravitate toward, but the result tends to lack the focus of outlined writing. There's a certain wandering, desultory quality to the progression of an un-outlined novel I can usually spot.

I tend to outline sparingly, setting out plot points ahead of time that I call milestones. That leaves me with enough freedom to let my characters be spontaneous, but keeps me moving toward my ultimate destination without getting lost along the way.

What do you do when you are not writing or reading books? What are your other hobbies?

I enjoy playing guitar. I also like to keep in shape.

What books have recently impressed you the most? What are you currently reading? What titles are you most looking forward to?

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazel was a really fun dash to the finish line. Dope by Sara Gran was an outstanding piece of noir I always recommend. A Twisted Ladder by Rhodi Hawk is a wonderful work of supernatural southern gothic , but I'm a bit biased. I just started Patient Zero by Jonathan Mayberry. I always look forward to the next Lee Child novel, and the next Dennis Lehane novel, as well as anything by David Liss.

How would you classify Damnable in terms of genre andhow would you convince a new reader to give your book a try?

I would describe Damnable as a hard-boiled supernatural thriller, one that mixes elements of horror, mystery, suspense and noir. Some parts of it may be a bit graphic for the squeamish, but I would say if you like no-holds-barred action and a twisting storyline, there's a good chance you'll enjoy it.

Who are your literary idols & which books are your favourites amongst the many genres that you read in?

Growing up, I always loved reading Edgar Allan Poe in school, and was, of course, a big fan of Stephen King from the time I was about ten. I have to name Ayn Rand and Herman Melville for the powerful themes explored in their works. There really are too many books I love for me to list favorites, but Lee Child's Reacher novels are always ones I look forward to, and I enjoy reading Andrew Klavan.

You have previously won a Bram Stoker award in collaboration with Gary Braunbeck for the anthology “Five strokes to Midnight”. Can you recall your experience when it was announced and also tell us a bit about your stories set in the anthology?

I was thrilled when I realized we won a Stoker for Five Strokes to Midnight. The concept for the anthology was multiple stories from five authors, each author with his or her own theme. My theme was Demons, and I had three stories in the book. I think those stories are a lot of fun, my favorite being, “Midnight Bogey Blues.”

Where did you find the inspiration for Damnable, and for that matter for your short stories as well (i.e.: nature, events, people, etc.)?

Writing is less inspiration than it is perspiration. I usually find something to hook my imagination, like a scene or a premise or a plot point, then I work to tease out the details. With Damnable, I sat down to write an opening scene that came to mind, and became intrigued with the notion of a protagonist who assumed he was going to hell discovering that he may be the only chance everyone else had of not joining him there.

What specifically was your intention behind writing this book & what research did you undertake while writing about it?

I researched a lot of different things as the need arose, but some of my most involved research involved the underground tunnel systems in New York. While I didn't include a lot of the research in the book, I am proud to say that what I wrote about the tunnels is completely plausible. My intention was to write a realistic, gritty horror/thriller that readers wouldn't want to put down.

What can we expect in the future from you now? Will you be writing a sequel to Damnable?

Yes, I've been asked for a sequel to Damnable, tentatively titled Diabolical. I'm finishing up my second novel right now, a straight thriller titled The Suicide Tourist. The plan is to write both regular thrillers and supernatural thrillers, alternating between the two.

Your blog has quite a title “These boots are made for violence”, how did you come up with it & is there any quirky meaning/story hidden behind it?

My web designers couldn't get over my boots in the pictures I submitted. They insisted I try to work a reference to them into the title of my blog, so I did. The ironic thing is, I grabbed those boots as I was heading out the door to the shoot, as an afterthought. Now that's all anybody seems to notice when they go to my site. (For a detailed & literary answer hop onto over here )

Your main character Jake Hatcher is an engrossing character who fits the description of Rick’s Bar characters as given by David Gemmell “When authors talk of great characters, what they really mean is easy. Some characters are tough to write. The author has to constantly stop and work out what they will say or do. With the great characters, this problem disappears. Their dialogue flows instantly, their actions likewise. A friend of mine calls them "Ricks Bar characters," from the film Casablanca. Some characters you have to build, like a sculptor carving them from rock. Others just walk out of Rick's bar fully formed and needing no work at all.” Was this the case for you or was the creation of Jake Hatcher a struggle through the trenches?

I'm glad you found him interesting. I have to say, he was pretty easy. Surprisingly so! Once I formed the idea of him in my head, the notion of who he was and where he came from (which didn't take too long), he was relatively simple to write. I understood his motivations instinctively, and never had a problem with his dialogue. The toughest part was settling on a name. Names are extremely important, especially for main characters.

You have a rather similar background as Jake with the difference being you were in the Air force & also involved with DOD activities, how much of your background has seeped into your main character’s history?

A lot of my experience with interrogations went into the representation of Jake Hatcher's skill set. But while I was a special agent in a law enforcement/counterintelligence capacity, Hatcher was a Special Forces operator who was trained to be a field interrogation specialist. This was a combat vet who'd seen a lot of action, and left a lot of himself in third-world hellholes. My military time was quite tame in comparison.

I rather liked the John Steinbeck bit encapsulated in your story, was this intentional on your part or just coincidental?

It was intentional.

In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your book?

While good fiction is often thought-provoking, my primary goal was to tell an entertaining story with intriguing characters. I think I explore some significant themes in the book, but in the end I hope people who read it are simply happy they spent some enjoyable hours in an interesting world I created for them. If I make them ponder some deeper issues for having read it, that’s good for both of us.



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