Welcome back to Part Two of Confessions of a Reviewers’ interview with Kenneth W Cain.
In tonight’s segment, Kenneth gives his thoughts on his new collection, Embers, and gives you some more general information about himself. He will, of course, also be taking on The Ten Confessions.
It’s Wednesday so go grab a coffee and a bun and sit back, and most of all…..enjoy!
CoaR – Moving on to Embers, what is this all about for you? What did you want to achieve with it?
KWC – My primary goal is always to write a better story, so that’s what I hope I’ve achieved most. But also, I’d had my sights set on a reputable press. Sure, there’s some level of validation that comes with finding a good home for a book, but really, I wanted to know my work was worthy of that. I couldn’t be any happier landing where I did, with Joe and Crystal Lake Publishing. It’s been a great experience all around.
CoaR – Reading through it, I couldn’t help but feel the stories were all connected in a way but at the same time all individual. Was this intentional?
KWC – I haven’t tried a themed collection yet but may do one in the future. We’ll see. But yes, I think that connection is there, though slight. I’m glad to hear you picked up on it, because it is intentional. I wanted to show a range of emotions while keeping an overall dark atmosphere. The stories do move into one another, though I wouldn’t say it’s always obvious.
CoaR – These stories are all exceptionally dark but with an underlying feeling of pure emotion. You tackle some issues such as someone who is quite clearly a Nazi, a young girl watching an abusive father etc. Is this a case of taking nasty situations and turning them into stories or just as they pop into your head?
KWC – Let’s see if I can answer this question in a different way. One day, I’m sitting at the beach and a toddler goes running by, laughing his head off, splashing in the wake. The boy’s mother follows the boy, walking slowly, taking big steps behind him. The next wave comes crashing on the shore and blindsides the boy, knocking him into the sand, and starts drawing him out. The mother hesitates, watching her son’s struggle, but not reacting for what feels like three seconds to me, but is actually no more than a split second. The boy rights himself and goes on with his fun, and the mother follows, ever guarding of her child. But my mind in that instant sees that hesitation and wonders why. I guess my stories are just that, examining those moments when I see them. Obviously, there’s the supernatural part to the story, the part I likely haven’t been witness to (though at times I have), but these things click. So, it’s often an emotional connection I feel. And sometimes there’s a deeper point to it all. This started becoming obvious in my last collection Fresh Cut Tales, and I’ve been pretty tuned into it ever since.
CoaR – There are twenty-five stories in this collection, some harking back to old creature features, some set in a dark future with sci-fi elements and loads depicting the darker side of life. Where the hell do you get the ideas from?
KWC – I love those old creature features, so a lot of those in the collection address nightmares. I’ve always had such vivid dreams, and many of those creatures are created there. I’m also a daydreamer, too, so I spend a lot of time in my head. I think my fiction focuses on the darker side of life because it’s there, and this is me attempting to make some sense of it all. Sometimes, that’s easy, and sometimes it’s far more complicated. But, as in my example above, I’m always well aware of even a split-second hesitation. Sure, what’s going on in my head at the time is likely far from the truth, or at least I hope it is, but something happened there I didn’t like. My mind tends to hyper focus on those moments and eventually we have the makings for a story.
CoaR – There is one story in particular in this collection that I really hope you turn into a novel. Do you ever write a story as a short and think about pulling it and developing it into something else?
KWC – I do, and have considered that with a few short stories. I’d be curious as to which one. If I had to guess, I’d say Valerie’s Window.
The first book I wrote started out as a short story. I didn’t like the story, so it ended up in that folder I discussed above. Eventually I ended up taking a thousand words or so from that short and turned it into These Trespasses. Oddly enough, it’s likely when I get those rights back to that trilogy, I’ll probably rewrite the books into novellas with the intent of expanding on that world some. More and more that’s starting to feel like a need rather than a want, so I’m anxious to dive back in, especially now that my skills have grown. I feel I can do those characters some justice.
CoaR – It wasn’t Valerie’s Window by the way.
CoaR – Can you tell us if any of the characters in your books are based on people you have come across in your life or maybe even yourself?
KWC – This is an odd explanation, because in a way I’ve met most of these characters. Well, not always in person, but in those vivid dreams I spoke of above. Sure, there are a few based on actual people I know or have met. Sometimes it’s just something you see, like a crooked smile or a twinkle in their eyes, some feature you connect with. These are characteristics unique to all of us, but some people you meet have such unusual or fascinating facial features, you can’t help but think of them when you’re writing.
CoaR – Who would be the authors you would give the credit of being your influences and who do you just not “get”?
KWC – You like to hope that’s a positive lesson, but there are those that don’t ring so well. My reading likely tends to circle around those most authors gravitate to: King, Hill, Poe, Barker, Jackson, Shelley, and the like. There’s too many to name. As for who I don’t get, I’m not sure there is anyone I’d classify in that way. I’ve come across books I haven’t fully enjoyed and perhaps gave up on, but I’m not sure it’s the author so much as the story in those cases. But I like to give everything the best chance I can, reading through as far and long as I can before I ever give up. I couldn’t even name the last book I didn’t make it through. As I said, I’m looking to learn something, so I often push to the end.
CoaR – What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
KWC – The promotion. Everything I do behind the walls of my house is the easy part. Putting myself out there is the hardest for me, mostly I think because I’m my worst critic. So, I always have to force myself to get out there and market myself, but it isn’t easy.
CoaR – What would your ultimate wish be with your writing?
KWC – To write a story that resonates as well as Joe Hill’s Pop Art or Ken Liu’s Paper Menagerie. Those are both such great stories. They’re beautiful and endearing and strange. They really hit on every note for me, so I’d love to write a story to that level of expertise.
CoaR – What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
KWC – I usually work on my reef tanks, tending to corals and such.
CoaR – What’s coming in the future from Kenneth W Cain?
KWC – Well, Joe has another collection of mine in the works entitled Darker Days. But I’m working on piecing together yet another collection, and I should be shopping around two novels and a novella soon. I also have a novelette I’m currently shopping around entitled, A Season in Hell, which is a favorite of mine.
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
I never look at things that way, so it’s difficult to answer. For me, every author out there is a respected colleague, and nothing less. So, I’ll just aim high and say Stephen King because he’s obviously the guy you need to unseat from the top of the hill, yes?
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
Oh boy, that’s tough. Like I said, I look for the lesson in everything, so there’s some level of appreciation to all of it. I’m a big fan of Koontz’s Odd Thomas books, but one of those wasn’t the greatest. I forget which but I think it was the second in the series.
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
Quite a bit actually. I often pull from real-life experience. So, you’ll see my paranoia of tight spaces quite a bit, since as a young boy when I found myself stuck four blocks under the town in a sewer drain. Obviously, I worked my way out of that situation, but that fear of tight spaces resurfaces a lot. I also used to smoke twelve years ago, so you’ll see that pop up, as it was one of the hardest things to give up and still haunts me to this day.
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
I don’t know that I ever really look at scenes from another book or movie and think to steal it them. Maybe I see something I want to take in another direction, though. For instance, the first idea for The Chamber sparked from that opening scene in the movie Saving Private Ryan, where the man is addressing a grave. So, there’s some connective tissue there, but the scene went in an entirely different direction.
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
I’m not one to leave bad reviews, especially like that. The idea of it bothers me, because if it’s that important, then have the sand to say it face to face. Too often these days, it’s so easy to say something bad because we no longer have to say those things face to face. It’s a cop out. So, if it’s really that important, why hide from it? Own up to it and put that review under your real name, I say.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
There’s a lot I’m not proud of. Like I said, I was a bit of a troubled boy early on due to the bullying. Before I left Chicago, I actually pulled a seat out from under one of my bullies as he was about to sit down. He got pretty banged up over it, and I’ve always felt bad for that.
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
I think I’m most proud of having children. I see myself in them, and seeing them achieve success makes me most proud.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
Being somewhat of a nervous person (though people likely don’t notice), I have a bad habit of sticking my foot in my mouth. It’s my absolute worst quality, one that I’ve long worked on. So, I’ve become good at apologizing for it.
9 What is your biggest fear?
Death. It’s something I’ve been working on.
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would need to get off your chest?
That I drink too much. I’ve recently taken steps to change that, though. I think a lot of it came of not being on the right medications for a few chronic illnesses I have (what doctors are now calling Lyme’s-induced fibromyalgia and migraines). Now that everything’s more under control, I’ve not needed to self-medicate for the pain. I even joined a gym recently.
Well, unfortunately that’s it for the interview.
I am sure you will all agree that you know, nearly all there is to know about Kenneth W Cain.
I want to personally thank Kenneth for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer everything we threw at him.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow night for Confessions review of Embers!
Thanks again for visiting Confessions of a Reviewer!
Kenneth W. Cain first got the itch for storytelling during his formative years in the suburbs of Chicago, where he got to listen to his grandfather spin tales by the glow of a barrel fire. But it was a reading of Baba Yaga that grew his desire for dark fiction. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and One Step Beyond furthered that sense of wonder for the unknown, and he’s been writing ever since.
Cain is the author of The Saga of I trilogy, United States of the Dead, the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales, and the forthcoming Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. Writing, reading, fine art, graphic design, and Cardinals baseball are but a few of his passions. Cain now resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.
And for more about Kenneth, visit his site or find him on social media: