24Oct2011: MilSciFi.com interviews Dan Henk,
author of the military science fiction novel, The Black Seas of Infinity.
MilSciFi: "Welcome. Please tell us a little
something about your novel."
Henk: "It's apocalyptic/dark sci-fi. I've pitched it to
agents and publishers as "mad Max meets Predator, as written by John
MilSciFi: "Is this part of a large series or
Henk: "I'm well into a series of short stories I will
collect into a book, hopefully by next year. All are vaguely related, but only
in that they all seem to share the same world, more or less. The novel ends on
a bit of a cliffhanger, and although it can be read as a stand-alone work, a
sequel is definitely planned for the future!"
MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this story?"
Henk: "I've had the rough idea bouncing around in my head
ever since I was a teenager. Initially, it was to be a graphic novel. I drew a
number of storyboard pages, had interest from both Paradox Press and Kitchen
Sink, but both companies folded. An interview with DC Comics made me realize a
few things. Both that I could accomplish much more in a novel, and that the big
companies want all the rights, try to push you into commercialization of your
idea at the expense of story, and pay very little!
So, the idea gelled into a solid concept,
I finally sat down to writing it. As an artist, I always loved reading those
books with interior illustrations as a kid, and I decided to do something
similar. Eleven full page interior drawings help bring the story to life, and I
used a painted cover with a logo design that was a throwback to the novels I
loved as a kid."
MilSciFi: "Does science and technology play
an important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it
secondary to the story telling and characterization?
Henk: "I don't think you can really pull of something
believable if the science and technology aspect are weak. They may not be the
central focus of the work, but they are a necessary backbone. I've worked on
cars ever since I was a teenager, including rebuilding three Jeeps, and there
are technical aspects that some of my gear head friends were quick to notice.
My dad is a retired military colonel, and I grew up on military bases, so I've
used the knowledge of my childhood to back up that end of the story. Anything
else I didn't know, I researched. Some of it takes place in Mexico, so I took a week off and vacationed
down there, visiting the Mayan ruins and taking a horde of pictures. I try not
to let the technicalities overwhelm the story, and filling out the profile of
the main character is extremely important in the readers connection to him, but
I didn't want to get any technical aspect wrong that I would get called on
MilSciFi: "Do you have plans to expand upon,
or write other works based on this novel?"
Henk: "Like I said, the novel ends at a bit of a
cliffhanger. I think it tells a full story, but I definitely plan to expand on
it in the future. It's a wild ride, with a number of elements that would well
deserve to be expanded upon in the future!"
MilSciFi: "Most authors we encounter write
novellas/novels, do you write short stories, and if so do you find it a
Henk: "I am writing a collection of short stories now! I
wrote the novel first, and my follow up short story had strict limitations on
the number of words it could use, so that created a bit of a learning curve! I'm
now into my sixth short story, and I feel much more comfortable with the
format. The experience has actually helped me quite a bit, pushing me to
further consolidate my overall vision. I think both what I want to say, and how
I want to say it, have benefitted greatly!"
MilSciFi: "Since time is of the essence for
getting a read up to speed in a short story, do you have a strategy, or preferred
method for doing this?"
Henk: "I know the current, popular style, is to start out
with a bang, and squeeze in the characterization later. I've had more than one
agent tell me (more or less) that it seems to be the "current popular way
to draw in a reader". I disagree. You need to feel something for the
protagonist or you wonted care what happens to him or her! Short stories make
you shorten this process, and force you to distill the important traits of the
main character into a shorter format, but I think no matter what, it's an
important element. I will say, word count being of the essence in a short
story, I tend to leave some of the details revolving around the main character
a little out of focus, not quite as fully explained, but I still try to make
the whole thing as coherent as possible."
MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the
aspiring military science fiction writer?"
Henk: "I've read extensively ever since I was a little kid.
We didn't even have a TV until I was in the 5th grade. As with everything, it
really helps to study the masters. Don't copy them, but try to learn from how
they approach their subject matter. The second important instruction is
research! I remember seeing a Punisher comic, as a kid, and the punisher is
firing a gun on the range. The illustrator draws the bullet flying through the
air, with the shell case still on it! He had obviously never fired a gun, didn't
know how they operate, and made a huge mistake. Don't be that guy! And the
third is, if you really believe you have a good product, work your ass off to
push it! Get it in local book stores, buy magazines and call the editors,
advertise the hell out of it. You might be a literary genius, but no one will
ever know unless you do the groundwork of getting it out there!"
MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influence
in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?"
Henk: "I don't know that I have one sole influence. I've
read so much, that I can name a whole slew of people, all of whom have
contributed in some way to the writer I am today! I love the otherworldly and
claustrophobic feel of H.P. Lovecraft, the sweeping vision of Frank Herbert,
the studious technicality of Arthur C. Clark, the wild inventiveness of Philip
K. Dick, the attention to atmosphere and sensory perception of John Steinbeck,
the dark manipulations of Alan Moore, and I could go on! They all contribute
something, and I find new people every day!"
MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the
most difficult about writing military science fiction?"
Henk: "The technical aspects! Everything has to be right. I
like to describe whatever is in front of my characters in detail, and to do
that accurately, I ask a lot of questions! If a gun is used, I need to know how
it operates, what it fires, who uses it, if a business is involved, how does it
run? What security is in place? The last thing I want to do is make a mistake
that will cause someone in the relevant field to put the book down in disgust!"
MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the
only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking
Henk: "I don't try to stick closely to a genre. It all
involves a bit of otherworldly creepiness, but other than that, I like to run
the gamut. Horror, Thriller, Sci-Fi, they are all fair game. I have way too
many ideas, and the last thing I want is to pigeonhole myself!"
MilSciFi: "Please tell us about your
publisher, and how did you came to choose them?"
Henk: "It all started when horror author Wayne Simmons had
me review a book of his involving zombies and a tattoo artist. I told him I was
writing a book, and a friendship was born! I finished up the book, and then
searched high and low for a publisher. I am a commercial artist by trade, I
attended art school, I've done work for everything from bands to book
publishers, and I was insistent that I be allowed to illustrate my own book.
Many companies had a problem with this, and I turned down more than one
publisher that wouldn't let me do the cover. Andy Remic started a new press
named Anarchy Books, and Wayne Simmons had good things to say and pointed me in
their direction. Andy was very accommodating, liked my script, and the rest is
MilSciFi: "Do you have any other projects in
Henk: "I have various short stories out now as ebooks, but
I want to collect them all into a novel in the future. I'll be doing a new
painted cover and interior illustrations for them, so it might take a while,
but it's definitely in the works! After that, I think a sequel to my first
novel will be the next project!"
MilSciFi: "Do you have any upcoming author
Henk: "I'm a travelling, internationally known tattoo
artist, and I have conventions in Washington DC, Miami, Detroit, Edinburgh Scotland, Liverpool, Hamme Belgium, Breda Netherlands, Columbus Ohio, and quite a few others coming up. I'll
be hawking my book at all of them! This year I attended the World Horror
Convention, and I might do that as well."
MilSciFi: "Thank you, for your time."