TW:How did you get started writing? Any specific influences?
JPH:Probably from a direction diametrically opposed to just about every SF writer. I had read some SF as part of a general mixed reading diet, but it was not something "special." I graduated and worked as an electronics engineer, later a sales exec in scientific computer systems with Honeywell and DEC. By my mid 30s I was doing an interesting job, meeting scientists in every discipline, traveling a lot--a pleasant experience in those days--and making good money. Life was comfortable, challenging, and prosperous, and I had no particular desire to want to change.
Then I saw the movie 2001. Loved the technical authenticity, the Strauss waltzes, and the idea of a scientific mystery being uncovered on the Moon. But the ending ruined everything. I didn't understand it. The next day at the office I was still complaining about it. To shut me up, someone said something like, "If you think you can write something that makes more sense, why don't you do it?" I said I would, and the whole thing ended up as an office bet that I couldn't write an SF book and get it published. I stole Arthur's plot idea shamelessly and produced Inherit the Stars, and the bet made me 50 pounds on top of the payment I got from Del Rey (1977). To show how green I was, I'd never heard of Ballantine Books (the manuscript found its way to New York via DEC's SF buff, whom I met at a sales conference in Cape Cod in 1976), didn't know who Judy-Lynn Del Rey was when she wrote offering a contract, and I wasn't aware of SF conventions.
DEC shipped me over to Massachusetts to mange their scientific division's sales training program, and I continued writing more books as a hobby (Genesis Machine, Gentle Giants, Two Faces of Tomorrow, Thrice Upon a Time). At the end of 1979 I decided I liked it and went full-time.
TW:What are some of the best perks of being a science fiction writer?
JPH: The freedom of working where, when, and how you choose. It took me about 10 years to become aware of the rut I'd been living in--even with the lifestyle I described above, which was more free and varied than many.
TW:Do you have any favorites among your characters?
JPH: Vic Hunt and Chris Danchekker, I suppose, since I've known them the longest. Then there was Danchekker's cousin Mildred, who took over parts of Mission to Minerva (coming from Baen in May 2005). She wasn't supposed to. It wasn't her book. But neither I, nor Hunt, nor her cousin "Christian" was able to control her.
TW:What was the first SF story you ever read?
JPH: I have absolutely no idea. Possibly Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. Or maybe H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds. There was a magazine called "Fantastic", or something similar, that I remember vividly, a hand-down from my older brother, but I don't recall any of the authors.
TW:Who are some of your favorite non-SF authors?
JPH: William Shakespeare, Leslie Charteris, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Sinclair Lewis, Flann O'Brien, Laurence Sterne.
TW:Who would you like to see play your series hero, the Knight, in a movie?
JPH: An earlier Michael Caine; or maybe Hugh Grant.
TW:What invention or scientific leap in understanding would you most like to see made in your lifetime?
JPH: Velikovsky vindicated.
TW:If you could go back to one incident in all of history to watch as a spectator what would it be?
JPH: Completion of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
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