MA: A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Kenneth Weene is a teacher, psychologist, and pastoral counselor by education. Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica Clutching at Straws, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Bewildering Stories and A Word With You Press.
Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum are published by All Things That Matter Press.
Welcome, Ken. Tell us more about your background. I’m interested in how being a psychologist and a pastoral counselor have helped shape your writing.
KW: I’m a psychologist by training and worked in that field for years. I’m also an ordained minister. You will find echos of both psychology and ministry in my novels, but I guess that’s obvious when you see Memoirs From the Asylum as a title or the cover of Widow’s Walk.
MA: Have you always wanted to write novels?
KW: I always wanted to write. Retirement has given me the opportunity to pursue that goal. I started with and continue a combination of poetry, short fiction, novels, and even some non-fiction. However, novels are especially fulfilling because they allow me to create a world and explore its truth.
MA: With at least two of your titles finding their inspiration in your career, did you base any characters in them from people you’ve met or worked with professionally?
KW: Clearly Memoirs From the Asylum is rooted in my professional career and is set in the state hospital in which I did part of my training. However, the characters are more drawn from my life than my professional contacts. I know that may sound a bit strange, but there it is. I took the people from my life (including myself) and wrote them large.
Widow’s Walk is actually more connected to my professional experience. The idea came from a family with which I worked. People sometimes ask me which of the characters in Widow’s Walk is based on me; they always think they know the answer. Their guess Arnie Berger, the protagonists love interest, a college professor. Not so. The home health aide, Jem, is my alter ego in this book.
MA: Are your stories character driven or plot driven?
KW: I write literary fiction for adults. Both books focus on language and character more than plot. That is not to say they lack plot, only that I start with the love of words and of people in their creation. I do have another novel ready to come out; it’s a conspiracy novel and much more plot driven.
MA: Tell us about your protagonist(s).
KW: In Memoirs From the Asylum there are three protagonists, an unnamed narrator, a catatonic schizophrenic (Marilyn), and a psychiatric resident (Buford). The narrator and the resident are both drawn from my own character. Their stories draw in different ways on my own biography. I started the book with the narrator, who is tormented – among other things – by his cousin’s suicide. My cousin, his death. The family madness is my family’s. Buford’s connection to me is perhaps simpler to understand: me as therapist. One major difference: my wife and I are still very much in love, and she is extremely supportive.
Marilyn is drawn from some strange place that has no real world corollary. I imagined her full cloth from my sense of what catatonic schizophrenia must be like. A couple of people who have experienced psychotic breaks tell me I did it quite well.
MA: So what’s next? I assume with your extensive writing credentials that you have something planned.
KW: I have two other novels finished. One is the conspiracy novel I mentioned above. The other is a set of interconnected short stories based on the characters who make their home in a bar in Albuquerque. I should mention that this book, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town is set as far from my personal experience as I could get.
I have another novel under way. Set in New England and very meditative in form except for the science fiction inserts from the protagonist’s writing career. I hope to finish this one at The Writers’ Colony, where I will be spending a three week residence this fall.
MA: Thanks, Ken! I appreciate you stopping by. I want to point my readers to your website where they can learn more about you and your stories: http://www.authorkenweene.com