I met Hank Garner through our indie author community and discovered that we have a lot in common. When we spoke about doing this interview, I asked him a very serious question. You can see the answer below. I’m glad he answered it in the way that he did for I would probably not have been able to continue with the interview if he would have answered differently.
SB: Before we officially start, I need to ask you a question. You’re on a deserted island (and given that there is electricity, a DVD recorder and a TV [hopefully at least 55 inch flat screen)]. Which of the following would you want to have there: Lord of the Rings extended edition DVD set or Star Wars extended edition DVD set. Don’t say anything wrong now! You don’t want to start the interview on the wrong foot.
HG: So you brought out the big guns right off the bat didn’t you?!? This is a tough question because, and I am about to tell my age, I saw Star Wars in the first grade. As a kid growing up in the rural south, Star Wars opened up my imagination to stories I never could have dreamed of. Also, Star Wars gave us the hope that anyone could become a Jedi (This should also inform you of my opinion of the prequels. (midi-chlorians ???? What?!?!?!?!)
Sometime around the third or fourth grade, I was introduced to The Hobbit. From The Hobbit, I graduated to The Lord of the Rings, which was no small feat for a kid with dyslexia. I kept being drawn into the story of these strange creatures in a strange world that were fighting this battle with ultimate evil while trying to maintain their core values and not lose sight of what they were fighting for. Tolkien then led me into all manner of fantasy novels, and I am still a total fantasy geek.
So, I guess it ultimately comes down to a question of allegiance. Yoda or Gandalf? Gandalf, all day long.
SB: “Yoda, you shalt not pass?”
HG: “Pass, or do not pass, there is no try.”
SB: Perfect answer, haha!! If I may ask, what was your first brush with the writer in you? Was there a moment when it hit you and you realized that you wanted to write?
HG: I have always been a story teller. I would walk through the woods where I grew up with my faithful beagle and dream up stories. I would imagine faeries and dragons and wizards living just beyond a magic portal that was just behind my house. I would only write these things down on occasion, but I would always have a running story in my head. When I got married and we started having children, I would make up stories at bedtime and share with the kids.
I eased into writing over the years by writing a column for my local newspaper and by blogging, but I always threatened to write a novel. Last year my wife and I were talking and I shared with her an idea I had, and sitting in our swing, she helped we work out the plotting of what would become Bloom. I would work on the story and would always come back to the swing and talk through problems I had. Before I knew it, I had become a novelist.
SB: I might ask you for a picture of that swing before this interview is over. Can you tell us a little bit what Bloom is about?
HG: Bloom is about a man that goes through some struggles, like a lot of us do. Huck, the protagonist, comes to the end of himself and is faced with whether he wants to go on or not. Through the kindness of a perfect stranger, Huck is able to see that maybe life is worth living.
I didn’t want to write a story of simple platitudes, because life is more complex than that. Bloom is about how beauty can come out of seemingly random chance. I hope people see that the answers are not always easy, but life is worth living. Bloom is really a story of hope out of despair. There are parts that are not easy to read, I have been told, but I have gotten numerous emails from people that have poured out their personal stories of struggle, and that is what makes it all worth it. Bloom might also have a time traveler. We’ll see if you can spot him.
SB: That sounds like a story worth reading. Having read your short, “The Witching Hour,” I will definitely put this one on my TBR list (UPDATE: Since this article was published I have read BLOOM. It’s awesome! Review is posted right after this interview). You are, like me, still bound to a day-job (that only means we have to work harder to get our books in front of readers). May I ask what you do besides writing?
HG: I am an I.T. nerd for a small non-profit organization. I do everything from network management to video production to website design and coding. In the past I have also been in radio and television production and worked for a musical instrument manufacturer.
SB: Okay, so, you have a full time job. I know you have at least 4 kids. Correct me if I ‘m wrong. When do you find the time to write?
HG: We actually have 5 kids. They range in age from 19 to 10, all boys except for 3 girls. Don’t worry, my wife says that joke is awful, and if you didn’t find it funny, you aren’t the only one.
We stay really busy with everyone’s schedules. All of the kids are involved in theater and after school activities, so I write whenever I can; sometimes on lunch break, sometimes late at night or early in the morning. Luckily, I am not one of those people that holds his work space as sacred. Whenever and where ever I can grab a few moments to get some thoughts down, I try to take advantage.
It also helps that my family are very supportive of what I do. My wife is a photographer, and we try to give each other space and time to work on our respective art. Having a loving, supportive spouse and family is the single most important secret to me getting to do what I do.
SB: I think you just collected major brownie points.
HG: Brownie points are what I live for. 😉
SB: We do indeed, Hank, we do indeed. Let me ask you something else. I have a fantasy phone call. It’s from Peter Jackson. In it, he’ll call me and ask me for film rights for one of my books. Do you have a fantasy phone call?
HG: That’s a great question, you should have a podcast. I don’t have a dream call per se’, but I like to think that Peter Jackson is a hobbit like me. I would love to see one of my stories given film treatment.
When I write, I think cinematicly. Everything begins with a visual in my mind, so I have cast every story in my mind already. One day maybe I will share some of that. I’m sure everyone would get a good laugh.
SB: Okay, the moment Peter calls me, I’ll give him your number and vice versa. Deal? Is there anything you are working on now? Do you have a note pad next to your bed? And who shot JFK?
I am currently putting all my time into my next novel Mulligan. I hope to release it in November. I’m shooting for around the middle of the month. Mulligan is about a man that time travels to three different points in the past. Mulligan develops psychic powers that begin to manifest when he is emotional. Through his travels Mulligan meets some interesting characters, and through his interactions with them, gets a second chance to set some things right. Mulligan also looks at the questions of what it means to be human and what weight our decisions carry.
I have also been working on a middle grade/young adult novel about 2 kids that find a portal to another world hidden in a swamp. There might be dragons in this one.
I have a constant collection of short stories that I am always stewing on as well. I hope to release quite a few in the next year.
As far as JFK, I think we can all agree that the grassy knoll was really a interdimensional gateway that the grays used to take out our beloved president. I also understand that these are not things that most people want to discuss in polite company.
SB: JFK aside (and I can see why your theory on the inter dimensional gateway theory sounds so plausible), there is this quote I have read a while back. For us fantasy and sci/fi writers, it’s one of those quotes that sits high on the geekometer scale. Here it is: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke said it. I wanted to know what you thought of it.
HG: My son and I had a conversation about this a while back, and I think it holds true. Looking back on history, it is easy to see how some superstitions came about from ignorance. That being said, I think it is a constant challenge for people in an era of constant technological change to keep an open mind to advancing technology. I would like to also say that while I understand the desire to explain away everything that is unknown in some scientific way, I also never want to lose my sense of wonder. I like to look at the world and believe that there are some things that I just can’t explain. And I am ok with that. Call it a spiritual longing, or having a child like sense of wonder, I just want to believe that there is more to the world than can be explained. So, no offense to Mr. Clarke, but I believe in magic.
SB: None taken, I’m sure. Do your kids beta read some of your stories? Do you talk to them about your books?
HG: My wife and kids are my first beta readers. They are the ones that I run crazy ideas past. I know if I get the glassy eyed look from them, it is time to move on to another idea. Lol. Seriously, though, I do talk to them about all of my ideas, and they provide enormous amounts of feedback. The middle grade book that I am working on is something that started as a dream. Dreams seem to be where all of my stories begin. So anyway, I start telling Noah, my youngest son about this dream and he lit up like a light bulb. I knew I was onto something then. So I write a chapter and read it to the kids and they let me know if I am on track or not. The same thing goes for the other stories, I can always count on them telling me the truth. The story either works or it doesn’t, and believe me, they are not shy about telling me.
SB: I love when kids are brutally honest. You know exactly where you’re at. There’s nothing better. Hank, it has been a distinct pleasure to chat with you. Any final thoughts before we wrap this up?
HG: Stefan, it has been my pleasure. I would just like to say how very grateful I am to have met so many new friends through this writing experience. I feel like story telling has always been a communal experience, or at least should be. I am thankful that my stories have moved people in some way, and I hope they will continue to do so. I am also thankful for people like you that make this community of authors such a great place to be. Thank you for sharing your gift as well, and thank you for having me.
Here is where you can find Hank Garner in cyberspace (including his podcasts in which he interviews fellow indie authors like Michael Bunker and Nick Cole):
Here is my review of BLOOM:
“I have been eyeing this story for a while, had it on my TBR pile on my Kindle. I regret not having read it sooner. I loved it. The greatest thing about it, for me, was that in the end I realized that it was a love story. It snuck up on me though, as the beginning deals with some darker topics. But true to the notion that the light is reached only by going through the darkness, the story does the same. Garner’s writing is moving at times, funny at others, and deeply satisfying when you reach the last page. We need more of this sort of story. Inspiring and beautiful. Well done.”
Get it here:
And, last but not least, here is Hank’s author page on FB: