Please join me for a peek into the mind of Ken Weene, a New Englander by upbringing and inclination who now lives in the Southwest. Ken is a teacher, psychologist and pastoral counselor by education but describes himself as a writer by passion. His short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, The Santa Fe Literary Review and many more.
Welcome to Book Blather, Ken.
1. As a former teacher and school counselor, my former students often appear in my books (identity changed to protect the innocent). You are an author and a therapist. To quote Stephen Colbert, will we find truthiness in your novels?
Besides being drawn from imagination, my characters are drawn on former clients and students, my family and friends, of course myself, casual acquaintances and people about whom I have learned indirectly. I watch people and ask myself, "How can I use this one or that?"
The truth of a character is not, however, in its source but rather in the effect the character has on the reader. If the reader feels that they have met somebody and gotten to know that person, then the author has created true truthiness.
Just the other day I was in a roadside restaurant in Oklahoma. At the next booth was a fellow who helped me create a character I needed for my newest novel.
Character study – Wade Quimby
Wade haunted Franklin’s for he had no other real purpose. Sitting three tables back on the left, always towards the door. The banquette’s bench had long known the outline of his seat. His tenor voice gave proof of local accent as he helloed those who came and went. They would set beside him and chat on cars, and trees, and this and that.
“I bought three hens from Lucille. Made stew, potatoes, beans, some corn; whole thing in a tomato sauce. More tomatoes than I can use this year. Gave some to Judson for his wife to stew. Ever have her succotash? The best around. Always takes the county fair.”
After speaking, he’d work his jaw as if a dog worrying a bone. Wade worried conversation – never leaving just going round and round until he’d picked it clean. Then another friend and the topic could begin again. They came and went, but Wade remained, sipping coffee, expecting Carla to come by - round and round with her pot to top his cup of black. He never paid, seldom tipped. “Character,” Franklin said. Neither Tom nor Carla knew quite what he meant, but she filled his cup.
“Use tomatoes in your chicken stew the acid tenders her right up. Those older hens, the one’s don’t lay no more, they’re tough old birds. Ey-yup.
2. Your video trailer for Memoirs from the Asylum is creepy yet fascinating. Did you create it yourself?
I have three trailers for Memoirs, but I didn't create any of them. My son did one, Book Candy Studios did one, and I must admit I forget who did the third. I also have one for Widow's Walk which a friend and my son did. I have to admit that I can't even take a photograph properly - keep cutting off those heads. A few years ago I was at a family fun park with my at the time nine-year-old grandson. These folks asked if I'd take a picture of them. I said I was too kind to do that, but I'd let the boy do it instead. They were taken aback until they say the beautifully framed shot he came up with. Me? Like I said, no heads.
3. All Things That Matter Press publishes you. In their mission statement, they say, “We seek to publish a book that helps the author share himself with the world.” Do you feel your books reveal your true, authentic self?
I think my novels are good writing and good reading. They raise important questions, questions with which I wrestle and with which I think we should all struggle. Widow's Walk is about religion, spirituality, love, and sexuality. Memoirs From the Asylum is about freedom, choice, and fear - not just any fear, but the real terror that lies at the heart of bad choices.
My next novel, which will be out soon, is Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there's one in every town. It deals with the notion of home and family.
None of the three is autobiographical, but all three are certainly in part about me - about what I believe is essential and true in order to be human. Each is, however, a work of fiction, which means that the reader can take away (or add in) whatever works for that individual.
4. You’ve written novels, short stories and poetry. If you had to choose one form of expression, what would it be?
Words. They are my medium. The use to which I put them may vary, but the love I have for them doesn't vary. And I am obsessed with voice. The narrator of each piece (including the presumed speaker of a poem) is very real to me; I want to capture that specific voice. I’ve shared the poem below to illustrate what I mean.
I cut blue hydrangeas
and one white for your innocence,
left them by your door, and fled.
You did not know they were from me,
which didn’t matter as I imagined
you gathering them in your arms.
I envied the vase in which you placed them,
the table they graced, the window through
which the sun touched and warmed them;
for they were close to you.
For those who prefer listening to reading, I have added two links below the story. One is to a chapter from Tales From the Dew Drop Inne and the second to a poem. Links to spoken words:
In the Army, a story: http://soundcloud.com/kenneth-weene/in-the-army Holocaust Rag, a poem: http://soundcloud.com/kenneth-weene/holocaust-rag
5. What’s next for you?
As I mentioned, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there's one in every town will be released soon. My agent is currently working at placing a conspiracy novel about New York City in the year 2000; it is called Times to Try the Soul of Man. Then there is the novel from which I shared the excerpt above. It is named The Stylite. Stylites were ancient Greek aesthetics who sat on pillars from which they preached and on which they fasted and meditated. As I write these comments I am at The Writers' Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where I have come to work on that novel. Is it comparable to sitting on a pillar? No, thank goodness, but it is a great place to work.