Friday, November 18, 2011

13 Questions with...Guido Henkel

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
My wife is a phenomenal cook – and I mean, we are seriously talking Iron Chef cooking level here – so she usually cooks herself to treat guests. I know, that you weren’t interested in my wife cooking, but since I don’t cook a whole lot, I thought it is the next best response.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Usually, nothing but water. I’ve sworn off soda altogether. I do like a beer and a glass of good wine here and there, especially to go with the right food or the right company.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Ever since I got a Kindle abut 3 years ago, I have slowly drifted more and more towards reading eBooks. If find the experience every bit as pleasant and noticed that I am actually reading faster on the Kindle than on paper. It also has changed my reading habits, as I am reading more independent authors than I did ever before. In addition, I like the fact that the eBooks don’t take up any space in the house. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to have a nice hardcover or paperback version of certain books here and there, but do I really need to have every book I read sitting around on a shelf?I still do read a good deal of paperbacks and hardcovers, as they still find their way into my library, though, as I visit bookstores or writers conventions.
4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
I like to read a lot of historical fiction, so much of my library consists of period books, ranging in various genres. Some are adventures, others mysteries or period thrillers. In addition I do like to read a good contemporary thriller here and there. I used to read a lot of fantasy but for some reason have lost interest in the genre almost entirely in the past few years. Although I write mostly in the horror genre, interestingly enough, I do not read a whole lot of horror. Occasionally, yes, but not excessively so. I am very selective when it comes to horror and read mostly the material that friends of mine write in that genre, because I want to keep up with their work.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
I’ve always had an affinity to the written word and started writing in my late teens. Not in book form, though, but for computer games. I used to write text adventure games for a number of years, which are like interactive stories in which the player controls the flow of the story by typing command sentences like “Turn over the corpse and look under it” into the computer. After that I moved on to writing fiction for computer role playing games — all stuff that is very detailed and intricate – non-linear, as you have to cover countless eventualities depending on the player’s actions.I always wanted to write linear fiction, as in books, where I could control the experience from beginning to end. It was not until about 3 years ago, however, that I finally decided to give it an honest try. “Demon’s Night,” the first of my Jason Dark supernatural mysteries was the result. I had so much fun doing it that I just kept on writing ever since.

6. What is your writing routine?
I wish I had one. I really do. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day , but unfortunately, my life is filled with so many things that sometimes I simply do not find the time or energy to write at all.I also outline a lot. I found that outlining and planning my scenes out in detail helps me stay focussed and pulls me through a project without getting frazzled and sidetracked.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
To be honest, I think there is no such thing as writer’s block, per se. It is my firm belief that what most people refer to as writer’s block is really just a result of improper preparation. I noticed that in myself. There were times when I did not know where my story was supposed to go. I had not nailed down a scene completely, and as a result I would keep pushing it ahead of me, avoiding to actually write it. I was afraid to make a decision, to commit to something, anything, and as a result I stopped writing and kept procrastinating for endless periods. This happened to me a few times and I noticed that this kind of “block” always happened for the same reason. I did not know what to write. As soon as I sat down and planned out my stories properly from beginning to end, down to a scene level, I was able to avoid these blocks altogether. This way, there is always something to write. Even if I don’t feel like continuing where I left off, because of my planning, I can easily jump to some other scene that excites me at the time.This kind of ability to write out of order is critical, I think, to keep you going. At least, it is for me.Many writers recommend to watch a movie, do something different, get your mind off. While this might be true when you burn out – which is different than a block in my opinion – I don’t think it is a solution for a block. It is just a different sort of procrastination that won’t get words on the paper.Writing requires discipline and the disciplined writer will sit himself in a chair and write – block or no block. There’s always something to write or edit or revise.Now, I have to be perfectly honest here. Though I am saying of this with all this conviction, I wish I could apply myself to these standards sometimes. I guess sometimes it is just easier to procrastinate. :) 

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
I am not sure I have any hidden talents left. I explored most of them quite openly. I wrote, designed and programmed computer and video games for many years. In that industry I explored many of my skills. I programmed in countless programming languages, down to hexadecimal machine code, I wrote stories for the games, I created artwork and graphics for them, I wrote the music, I acquired business acumen running my own companies, the array is endless. It was a well of experience, really.I am a musician also, I used to play in heavy metals bands and I have written and recorded full orchestral scores.I have a knack for languages – to a degree – and speak German, English, French, Spanish, and understand Italian and some Vietnamese. And I am proficient in Latin – or at least I used to be when I learned it back in high school and college.And now I’m a writer… so I’m not sure what else is left. Perhaps the fact that I don’t discuss politics or religion in public are my real hidden talents.

9. What was your best subject in school?
I majored in English and Math, both my strongest subjects, and interestingly, both have continued to be exceedingly important to me. Math because of all the computer games programming I did over the years, and English because here I am, writing books in English. To put that in perspective, perhaps I should point out that English is not my native language. German is. I moved to the US about 15 years ago.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
They do not influence me at all. I write what I want to write. Always have. It has always made me an underdog in anything I did. I’ve always created outside the mainstream. My games have always been catering to a core audience. I was never interested in making something that was popular at the time. It has always been more gratifying for me to blaze my own trail. It is very risky and I’ve been flailed with commercial failures throughout my career, but there is something immensely rewarding in doing what you really want to do, as opposed to what others expect you to do. My Jason Dark books are the perfect example for this also. I am writing long fiction in a gothic horror genre and package it in the softbound magazine format of traditional dime novels. I mean, in this market, you can’t get any more exotic and old-school than this. And I’m paying the price for it, clearly. It might have been easier for me to find an audience if I had written contemporary paranormal romances instead and made them into paperback books, selling them for $9.99 apiece.I did not want that. I wanted a print version that costs only $2.99 and that is not possible with current paperback and print-on-demand technologies. I thought it might attract readers, making the stories more accessible, but I’ve been proven wrong all along. Instead of setting my books apart in a good way – as in getting noticed for being unique and different – I find that instead they are almost shunned, because people don’t really seem to know what to make of it. 
11. Mac or PC?
150% Mac. I don’t even let any Microsoft software near my computer. I’m a hardcore Mac-head. I abandoned the PC about 4 or 5 years ago because I got sick and tired of all the problems and the fact that nothing in Windows works. Never looked back once. The Mac has easily tripled my productivity. Better software, cheaper software, more robust software, better hardware, better performance, better responsiveness, better usability. What’s there not to like? I gladly pay a little more upfront for that kind of luxury and peace of mind.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
Anything can really inspire me. Oftentimes I will just look at a painting and a scene will pop into my mind that could make the basis for a story. Sometimes it is music where a line of the lyrics might inspire me and turn into such a picture in my head. At other times it’s a photograph or a movie scene, and sometimes it is just something someone will say and I ask myself, “What if…?”Literally anything can inspire me and draw these kinds of mental images from me that I constantly use as elements in stories or as entire book premises.
13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Your writing is never as good as you think, and it is never as bad as you think. All writers that I know have moments were they are in love with their writing, and moments where they feel it is all just a dump of crap. It is the one thing all writers have in common, I believe, so don’t worry if you feel the same way sometimes. Just keep at it, write your heart out, edit and revise, and polish it. If you do that, in the end you will inevitably have a piece of writing that you will be proud of, because you put your mind and heart into it and you worked hard on it. You gave it your best shot, and that is what it is all about.

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