Kenneth Weene is a New Englander by birth and disposition. He grew up outside of Boston and spent his summers in Maine. Although he lived for many years in New York and now resides in Arizona, Ken has never lost his accent nor his love of the northeast.
Having gone to Princeton, where he studied economics, Ken went on to train as a psychologist and to become an ordained minister. Over the years he has worked as an educator, pastoral counselor, and psychotherapist.
Married to Roz Weene, artist and jewelry creator, for over forty years, Ken is a strong believer in the joy of love.
Kens writing started with poetry, and his poetic work has appeared in numerous publications most recently featured in Sol and publication in Spirits, and Vox Poetica.
An anthology of Kens writings, Songs for my Father, was published by Inkwell Productions in 2002. His short stories have appeared in Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, and The Santa Fe Literary Review.
In 2009 a novel, Widows Walk, was published by All Things That Matter Press. All Things, which has also just published Kens second novel, Memoirs From the Asylum.
Tell me a bit about yourself. Where were you born and where do you call home?
I’m a New Englander through and through. I grew up in Massachusetts and Maine. Even though I spent almost my entire working life in New York, I still feel that Down East connection. Now, however, I enjoy the dry heat of Phoenix, Arizona.
Tell us your latest news.
At my age one avoids the latest news as it may be ones own obituary. However, I can share that I’ve been working on a movie script; it is for claymation or animation and is for kids. Lots of songs and animals and elves. I’m also researching a new novel, Red and White, reflecting some of the Native American experience at the beginning of the twentieth century.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
My wife says most people would be surprised that I’m actually so easygoing and conventional. My writing would belie that, but she’s right. The worlds I create and the characters I birth are not very like me. Now Santa Clause, maybe.
How long have you been writing?
About twenty years ago I started writing poetry. However the more serious side of my efforts began about ten years ago, when we moved to Arizona. Without a busy practice as a psychologist, I had the time to pursue the career that I had always wanted as a kid, being a novelist.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Steinbeck influenced by social sensibility. Conrad helped me to understand the glory of language. Vonnegut put the use of humor and absurdity into perspective.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Three have been published: Widow’s Walk, Memoirs From the Asylum, and Tales From the Dew Drop Inne. Of those my favorite is Memoirs because it helped me to deal with a long-standing trauma, the suicide of my cousin and closest friend. I always say that it took over forty years for that book to be written.
There are two other novels written. Times to Try the Soul of Man is a coming of age/conspiracy theory novel which is at my agent. It will need a special publisher – one willing to go with some facts that are a bit uncomfortable. The Stylite is written; I finished it at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, which is in Arkansas, this past fall. Now it is being edited, which is no small process in good writing. It is unquestionably the most interesting from a writing and style perspective.
For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; Tales From the Dew Drop Inne, how would you introduce it?
Set in a small bar in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne tells the collective stories of the people who make the place their home - people who have not fallen off the social ladder but who are hanging on desperately at the bottom.
It is a tale full of emotion, pathos, and humor. I hope it will leave readers laughing through their tears.
Where did you get the idea to do a collection of short stories instead of a full-length novel?
The idea of interconnected stories that form an organic novel came to me after I read a book published by my current publisher, All Things That Matter Press. It was a series of mystery stories with a common thread that the entire series of stories brings into clarity. I liked the format. Then I wrote the first chapter as a stand-alone short. A friend, also from All Things That Matter, asked me to write a piece of flash, and I figured that I would use the same setting and characters. With two great stories as a start, the book simply took off.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Tales From the Dew Drop Inne?
I did a lot of it in a writing group to which I belong. I had never realized how much people enjoyed my writing – especially my use of humor. Seriously, it was not just a great ego boost but also writing and sharing Dew Drop with that group helped me to see another side of my writing. Until then I had not appreciated my own dark and often ironic humor.
What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
In Tales From the Dew Drop Inne there are a number of outstanding chapters, chapters that still evoke strong emotions in me. Certainly Chapter 6, Picnic, is one of the most powerful. The sheer humanity of the characters, the pathos of those who have nothing but still manage to care for one another. I just cannot get the images of Cal and Ephraim sharing what little they have with Lucile and her ragtag children out of my thoughts.
Then there is In the Army. Who doesn’t feel for the veteran who has given his mind for his country? You can hear me read that short chapter at http://soundcloud.com/kenneth-weene/in-the-army
How did you come up with the title and cover design?
Publishers usually design book covers. However, hard as they tried, the folks at All Things That Matter Press couldn’t come up with a good cover for Tales From the Dew Drop Inne. Then my wife and I tried. She is an excellent photographer and artist, but still no go.
Then my wife suggested I go on line and look for suitable drawings to use. I found a couple and wrote to the artists. Maggie Evans was kind enough to not only write back but, having checked out my writing a bit, also give me permission to use her drawing. What you can’s appreciate on-line is that the drawing provides an excellent wraparound cover. It is the first such cover that All Things has used, but I think given its great appearance that they will do more of those in the future.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Honestly not. If someone sends me one or I get a link to a site, yes. However, searching them out is not my thing. While I want people to love my writing and want to learn from informed criticism, working on the next project and the unending marketing that authors must do are more important activities than reading reviews.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I assume you mean as a writer. I didn’t learn much about writing in school. I read a lot, but most of it was not part of the curriculum. I did attend one writers’ workshop with Ron Rash. It was a week long. Ron told me that my characters had to have enough good in them that readers would want to know about them, would want to read their stories. I think that was very helpful as I began to think more about creating better-rounded characters. I think you can see that in the wonderful characters whose stories play out in the pages of Tales From the Dew Drop Inne. They really are people whose stories you will want to know.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
I try to not lie. I simply convince myself that everything I say is true. More importantly, there is often more truth in fiction than in nonfiction, more to learn from imagination than from reality.
What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?
Nobody ever asks how I learned to love to read. I have to say that is a good story. I asked my father where babies came from. He, as he usually did, said he was too busy to tell me. Since it was clear that I wasn’t going to get the information from him, I decided to read my uncle’s medical books. He was in the army and many of his books were stored in our attic. They were beautiful books, with great transparency overlays, something extraordinary in those days.
I worked very hard to learn the alphabet and started sounding our words. I was good at it, very good. The problem was that those wonderful books were written in Latin; so all my reading did little good in my quest.
I must add that I got married at age twenty-seven. Two days before my wedding, my father asked if I wanted to know about sex. Obviously he was a bit late.
What book are you reading now?
I’m working on my new novel Red and White so I am reading a lot about Native Americans. Right now I am reading Education For Extinction, a history of the “Indian Schools.” I am trying to stay away from reading for pleasure until the research is nearly finished.
What is your favorite Quote?
There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.
I frequently have to remind myself of that quote, which I memorized as a schoolboy. When I find myself being overly nasty, I repeat it ten times, like a good non-Catholic doing penance.
What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
Actually I’ll mention a stage play, 9 Circles by Bill Cain. Performed by a small local company in Phoenix, it blew me away.
Do you have any fun Halloween experiences you can tell us?
Think about my last name. I tell people that Halloween is my family holiday, that it started when the Weene’s left Transylvania and the people ran out into the street yelling, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, the Weenes are gone.” Yes, my father’s family did come from Transylvania.
My personal favorite holiday is Groundhog Day because it just keeps on coming around. However, Sal, the barkeep in Tales From the Dew Drop Inne goes with Buddha’s birthday. I’ll let you read the book to find out why.
Where can readers stalk you?
I’m on Facebook, and the only Kenneth Weene so searching for me is very easy. I accept as many friend requests as I get unless it is clearly somebody who is looking for sexual thrills – my wife wouldn’t mind but I really don’t have the energy at this point – or someone who is a spam artist. I actually interact with my Facebook friends.
I’m also on Twitter @Ken_Weene.
Tales from the Dew Drop Inne" reads like a darkly humorous sitcom. The tone is both heartfelt and deliciously irreverent, showing that one does not need to hate humanity to appreciate the humor of life. Here are tales of drifters, alcoholics, religious renegades, veterans, and drag queens set in pub that is at once a confessional, a circus, and a psychiatric hospital.
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