Interview With Kenneth Weene:
I’m a New Englander by birth and inclination even though I have lived most of my adult life in New York and now Arizona.
My undergraduate degree was in economics and my doctorate in psychology. (I’m also an ordained minister.) I practiced as a shrink for over thirty years, but now I principally identify myself as an author. I have two novels in print and a third in contract.
Married with one son and three grandchildren, I love travel, theatre, good food, and music.
No, I don’t like long walks on beaches, and I am now too old to be taking care of pets.
How long have you been writing? Did you always desire to make it your line of work?
I wanted to write when I was a child, but I was brought up expecting to go into a profession. My mother always told me that my first name should be Doctor. When I had had enough of the helping profession and started thinking about retirement and life beyond, I began writing – poetry at first but then it just expanded.
Can you tell us about your writing style and your books?
I strive for literary fiction, which means that I craft words and characters rather than plots and actions. This doesn’t mean that my novels lack plot, only that the action is less important than how I tell the story and how fully-drawn the characters seem.
My first novel, Widow’s Walk is about relationships and love, about the conflict between religion and responsibility on the one hand and spirituality and sensuality on the other. This is a book that celebrates faith while questioning how people approach God.
Memoirs From the Asylum is primarily set in a state mental hospital. It is written to convey the power and the chaos of madness. Underlying the novel are questions about freedom and the fears and forces that keep us from being free. As more than one reviewer has pointed out, Memoirs is an existential novel. Many reviewers have also commented that it is better than One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; who am I to disagree?
Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town will soon be released by my publisher, All Things That Matter Press. It is somewhat different in structure, being composed on interlocking stories all of which focus on the men and women who hang out at a neighbourhood bar, The Dew Drop Inne. Many of the stories have a bittersweet quality. This novel asks us to think about what are home and family.
You write poetry as well as fiction, something I do myself. Do you prefer composing poetry to fiction or the opposite?
I write as the muse directs. In the middle of a novel, I might stop to work on an idea for a poem. It is the process of massaging words that matters. Here are two short poems that I particularly like sharing.
He coughs down his multi-hued pills with rancid brew
left day after day in an old unwashed carafe.
Decay is the status of things when life is through
as age prepares for death and final awkward laugh.
He pisses like a mule – rancid with years of sweat.
Too many empty bottles and whores he’s left;
opportunities that he’s missed without regret;
a lifetime of love and friendship long since bereft.
The worm - half eaten - burrows deeper
The robin’s beak is even fleeter.
Regrets the worm that he must eat her;
the apple makes her that much sweeter.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?
Like most writers I draw on life as I have known and experienced it, but not always. The ideas often seem to be voices in my head demanding to be heard. While I usually spend an hour or so each morning at the keyboard, it is when those voices become most demanding that my fingers fly. At those times absorption becomes total, and my wife suffers my inattentiveness.
What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
I hate to answer this question honestly. The biggest challenge is getting readers. Marketing takes so much time and effort. Even when I enjoy doing an interview, a radio show, a signing, or a blog, I can’t help wishing that I had the time to create the next story or to work on that great poem.
What advice would you give beginning writers?
Find others who will listen to you read what you have written and give you honest feedback.
Read what you have created and pick it apart.
Now find an editor to check for the things you cannot see in your own eye.
A final rewrite, and you have something ready to offer to the world – wich will usually reject it.
Who has inspired you as a writer?
I have always read voraciously. Steinbeck and Vonnegut are among my favourites. Whitman, Thomas, Elliot, and Ferlinghetti in poetry. Goodness, so many.
What’s next for you?
I have a fourth novel, a conspiracy/coming of age book, which is currently looking for a publisher. I am taking a few weeks at The Writers’ Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to work on my next novel, of which about a third is done. It is very much a work of literary fiction, but it also has a science fiction component. I hope it will be finished by the end of 2012, at which time I can start the rewriting. Got to love the process!
You can find more about Kenneth at his website: http://www.authorkenweene.com/
And for a taste of his books:
For Memoirs From the Asylum: